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Solar Panels For Home - 1 Year Later

Feb 27, 2020
Well, the time has finally come. Some of you have been asking for an upgrade to my

solar

panel system and I finally passed the one

year

mark. It was actually early October, so I'm a little late, but better late than never. Let's take a look at how much energy my system has produced, how much I've saved, and whether it met the estimate my

solar

installer predicted. I'm Matt Ferrell. Welcome to Undecided. So if you haven't seen my previous videos about my solar installation, I'll include links in the description. But to give a quick summary, I live in the Boston area and have been documenting what it's like to live with a 9.49 kW solar panel system in a colder climate.
solar panels for home   1 year later
My house has some challenges. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it's best to have a south-facing roof to maximize your solar production, but my house is oriented more east-west. That's why I have

panels

on both sides of my roof. The second problem is that my ceiling is relatively small. And finally, I have a good number of trees on the western side of my house that start to block the sun in the mid to late afternoon. Even with all of those challenges, the most efficient

panels

available today can still provide me with a significant portion of the energy I use throughout the

year

.
solar panels for home   1 year later

More Interesting Facts About,

solar panels for home 1 year later...

Before we move on to some of the year-end results, one important factor that comes up a lot in my solar panel videos is the high energy usage that some of you see in my numbers. I use a lot of energy, but it's in line with the national average. Getting solar panels helps address the power generation side of the equation, but the other half is reducing the amount of energy you use. I just posted a video on that topic last week, so be sure to check it out if you're interested in seeing some of the things I've been doing to address it.
solar panels for home   1 year later
So we turned on our solar panels on October 4, 2018. All of the numbers and data I'm going to share extend between that date and October 3, 2019. Throughout the year we had two short periods where our system shut down. shut down due to a faulty kill switch: once in January and once in April. In total we lost 8 days of production, so it's not that bad. Since the switch was replaced, the system has been rock solid. The amount of production throughout the year was exactly as we expected. A sine wave pattern emerges, with the lowest production in the middle of winter in December and the highest production in July during the summer.
solar panels for home   1 year later
What I found most interesting was that we saw a fairly rapid increase in production in March and a fairly dramatic drop in October. It wasn't as gradual as I expected. , so we can closely monitor our energy use in addition to our solar production. We average about 875 kWh each month, so if we put our usage line on top of our production line, you can see that we are not meeting all of our needs. This was known from the beginning. Our goal was to offset as much energy as possible with our solar production...given the specific challenges of our

home

.
And in that sense, we achieved a reduction of approximately 54% in our grid electricity use. Our solar installer offered a 10-year production warranty with annual estimates. If our production does not meet 95% of those estimates, they will pay the difference. In total, we have seen 6,688 kWh produced in the first year, which is just above their 95% estimate or 6,615 kWh. In fact, we hit 96.4% best case, which is higher than I expected. In fact, in my 9 month update, I thought we would fall a little short of the installer's estimate, so I'm glad I was wrong on that prediction. For the days we lost due to the technical issue, I averaged the 4 days before and the 4 days after each outage to try to estimate what we might have seen during those days.
In January, we were averaging 5.3 kWh/day, so we probably missed 21.2 kWh. And in April, we were averaging 19.3 kWh/day, so we lost 77.2 kWh. As disappointing as it is, we probably lost about $25 worth of electricity during that period. If I add those missing Watts back to the overall total, we should probably have seen something like 6,786 kWh for the year, or about 97.8% of the best case. I've said it before, but my goal has been to reduce my dependence on the grid as much as I can and do it in a financially responsible way that works for us. So where did we get to financially last year?
Well, my wife and I are very happy. We used to average $212 a month on our electric bill and now we average $97.80 a month...and that also includes adding an electric vehicle to the mix. If you look at this graph showing the year before solar compared to the year with solar, you can see exactly how much our electricity bills have changed. Obviously, it follows the same sine wave trend as solar production, so there is a big drop in our bill around June and July. You can see that in June we had a negative balance on our electric bill.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that my wife was left in the living room laughing out loud when she showed me the bill. Year after year, we saved $1,489.86. Right in line with the $1,500 estimate I was projecting in my last video update. In Massachusetts we have full net metering, meaning that any excess production we put on the grid is completely removed from the kWh used. In essence, the grid acts as a battery for us in terms of production and costs. That may not be the case where you live. So how does all this relate to the cost of the system as a whole?
I've gone into great detail about this in previous videos, so I won't summarize all the details here, but it worked as we expected. Our system cost a total of $29,609, which has a 25-year warranty on the panels and microinverters, as well as a 10-year warranty on labor and production by the installer. The federal solar tax credit allowed us to recover $8,883 of the cost. And I don't want to go on a tangent, but I get a lot of comments about my "neighbors paying for my solar panels"... that's not how tax credits work. It's a credit on your tax burden for the year you claim it and is not that different from being able to claim your children as dependents to increase your tax deductions.
The money you receive comes in the form of a tax refund because you paid too much tax for that year. Depending on your situation, you are not guaranteed to get the full 30% back in cash. In any case, our final cost comes to $20,726, which we have in a 10-year solar loan. We've been working to pay it off as quickly as possible, and in fact, we've already paid it halfway, so our interest on the loan should be pretty low when all is said and done. Aside from a large lump sum we recently sent, we have been paying $200 a month for the loan.
We also receive SREC for the amount of solar energy we produce, which amounts to $126.22 per month for a total of 10 years. In case you don't know what SRECs are, they are paid by electricity companies. Power companies must achieve a certain amount of renewable energy on their grid system, so SRECs are an incentive to increase the number of people contributing to that renewable goal. Not all states have an SREC market and the value varies from region to region. When we average our monthly electricity bill savings, we are saving $114.20 per month. Add up the SREC and the savings on your electric bill and you get $240.42, which means right now we're making a whopping $40.42 each month. (Yes, my wife plans to retire early with these savings.) I know solar naysayers can point to this as proof that it wasn't worth it, but if you look at the long term, those numbers change quite a bit.
It's only $40 right now because we're still paying off our loan at $200 a month. But at the rate we're paying this off, we expect to pay off the loan in a couple of years. Savings of $1,500 per year on your electric bill will translate to $15,000 in savings in the first 10 years alone. And that's assuming electricity prices don't increase, which they will. They have increased 15% in the last 10 years, which is approximately $0.02 per kWh per year. But that varies by region. Even without SREC, we would break even on solar panels in 13 or 14 years. But with SRECs we are looking at a much shorter recovery period.
SRECs and electric bill savings over 10 years amount to $30,146, which is a break-even point in just under 7 years. However, we have to deal with the interest on the solar loan. But as I mentioned before, we're paying it off much faster than the 10-year loan, so the total interest should be a few thousand dollars. We're on track to break even in just over 8 years right now, which is right in the ballpark of what we expected before installing the panels. And this is on a system with a 25-year warranty, which should be able to last much longer. Yes, there may be maintenance costs here and there in the future.
And yes, if I have to replace my roof, it may cost a few thousand dollars to have a solar installer remove and replace the panels for me. But just looking at the total electricity savings between years 10 and 25, once the SRECs go away, we're still talking about $20,000 - $25,000 in electricity savings... if not more. Everything from year 9 onwards should be pure profit for us, so having to spend a little money here or there to maintain or replace our roof is generally a drop in the bucket. And this is not even counting the positive impact that solar panels have on the value of your

home

.
If you finance and pay for the system yourself and don't rent it, adding solar power to your home actually increases the value of your home by 3% to 4%. You will often see around $4 per watt of installed solar panel system added to the value of your home. While I don't count on that for my system, it's good to know that I should see a considerable increase in the value of my home in addition to the electricity savings. I've said it in previous videos, but my goal was to get as much energy as possible from a renewable, sustainable resource, and do it in a financial way that worked for us.
And we have achieved that goal so far. Right now there is only a small savings month to month, but as soon as the panels break even, the system becomes a source of profit every month in the future. It also doesn't hurt that my car is charged primarily by sunlight. If you are interested in solar energy, I highly recommend checking out Energysage for research and articles. It's a completely free service that includes great articles and reviews of different solar panels, inverters, and solar technology that can be useful no matter where you live. But if you live in the US and are interested in solar energy, you can get quotes from installers using my Energysage portal.
You can enter your information and request quotes from solar installers, which are funneled into your EnergySage account. You don't have to worry about being inundated with phone calls. Makes it easy to compare installers, cost estimates, and energy production quotes in one place. And the installers also have customer ratings and reviews, so you can find a good quality and reliable installer. I used it myself, that's how I found my installer, so I can attest to how well it helped me through the process. I will continue to make these solar panel upgrades as things progress. I may get a Tesla Powerwall at some point, so I'll absolutely cover it when it happens.
Let me know if you have questions you'd like me to cover. And I'd love to know what your experience has been with solar energy? Jump into the comments and let me know. I hope you found this video useful. If you did make sure to like it and share it with your friends because it really helps the channel. There are also other ways you can support the channel. Check out my SFSF store to see some cool Tesla, Space X, science, and Undecided t-shirts. There are also other links in the description for great gear and discounts. And as always, thank you very much to everyone who supports me on Patreon.
Your support is really helping to make these videos possible. Be sure to visit my Patreon page for additional details on how to join the team. And if you haven't already, consider subscribing and hitting the notification bell to get alerts when I post a new video. And as always, thank you very much for watching, see you in the next one.

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