Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Going Solar

Dale Matson

I have been concerned about the environment for many years and have guided many major life decisions accordingly. I designed and built a passive solar underground home in Wisconsin in 1980 that required no air conditioning and three cords of wood from our property for heating in cold months. 

This is not to say that I am a fanatic about environmentalism. I am certainty not a radical environmentalist. I am as much a hypocrite about the environment as the next person. I drive a Tahoe, which is no gas miser to say the least.

Some events have come together to get my attention about solar energy for our home. First, we are retired and made an effort to pay off our debts prior to retirement including our mortgage. The problem is that we use enough energy with our lifestyle and home that we are in the 4th tier of costs for our PGE bill during the summer months. This is expensive at about 38 cents a KWH. PGE sends us a monthly graph of our energy usage and we are average for our size house. Our energy costs are our biggest monthly expense. Being retired, we want to keep our monthly expenses down also. Energy costs will not be going down.

Solar energy is not practical for everyone and depending on your geographical location, home roof direction and shading, it may not be a good investment. Additionally, there are different plans available like leasing or buying the solar system. Most solar installation companies can use your electric bill to do an audit to see if solar is worthwhile. We are fortunate to live in Fresno California, which is the 7th sunniest city in the U.S. We don’t have solar panels on the south facing part of our roof but the west is acceptable and facing the backyard so the street view of our house has not changed.

There is another thing we considered and I would call it the “moral factor”. We do use a lot of energy that has to be produced using fossil fuels. By including solar energy we offset much our draw on limited fossil fuels. Additionally, we contribute less to air pollution indirectly by the power company not having to produce as much energy.  This is money we put into our home that will increase the value of our home also. In other words, it is simply a good investment for us to go solar.


One feature of the installation that I particularly like is the monitoring that allows us to go on line and see hourly what the system is producing. We have 40 panels that require two inverters. One bank of panels produces less because, it is shaded by a neighbor’s tree and our chimney for a part of the day. Obviously November is not the best month for solar since the days are much shorter but I really like watching our electric meter go backwards.

Graph Showing Energy Produced

No comments:

Post a Comment