Our Journey into a Solar System

We’ve been talking about a solar system for a long time, but never got serious enough to gather bids.  After having 2 black outs in December, in Utah, and the power being knocked out at the kids school, I knew this was the right time to gather information.  Here is a bit of what I found out.  Maybe it will be helpful for you.

There are a lot of different companies to work with, and frankly you can do it yourself.  I’m pretty handy, but not handy enough to work with this stuff.  I know my limits, and solar systems are out of my reach.

I contacted 3 different companies to get bids.  They all asked what my average monthly bill was, and 2 asked me to send them a copy of our power usage.  I found this on the power company website.  This gave the companies the information they needed to estimate the number of panels and the cost.  Of the 3 companies, 2 were able to give me a bid within 3 days, 1 came to our house to answer all our questions, and 1 still hasn’t followed up… which means they’re out.


What is your purpose?

Before we can decide what to do, we had to decide why we wanted the system in the first place.  Did we want a backup power system, or did we want just want lower bills and use the grid to be your back up?

 Batteries – If you want a back up power system for your house, you’ll need to buy batteries, which are expensive. Like $16,000 – $30,000. YIKES!  Consensuses is that Elon Musk and his super powered, brilliant, brain has developed the technology to bring the cost of batteries and power walls for the house down.  The only problem is it’s still in the works.  The cost should come down in 2017 – maybe.  You can get a battery system to back up the circuits that power things like your furnace, a/c, refrigerator or freezers.  This option would be cheaper, but still pricey.  At first I thought, well if the sun is shining I’ll have power even in the grid is down.  Not so.  If the power is out for the neighborhood, I’m out to.  My local power company said its too risky to be feeding power into a grid that is down, so they would shut off homes with solar as well.  The only way I would have power in an outage is to draw from batteries in my house.  Both companies we talked to said they could set up the system now and fit the batteries in the future if we chose to.

Feeding the Grid – When you have solar panels, you are likely going to produce more power than your house needs, which means you will likely feed the grid and build up a credit with the power company.  That way you can draw power from them on cloudy days and not have to pay extra.  The down side is, the credit is usually zeroed out once a year.  They don’t pay you for the extra, they don’t cut you a check, and you just lose it.  In other words, it’s usually a use it or lose it credit.  At this point the question is, do you care?  You’ve lived off you own power, you’ve drawn when needed, and you’ll produce more so you’re not out anything.



The permits, the install, and panels, do add up and can get pricey.  For an average system, average house, that spends roughly $150/mo on their bill the cost for the entire system signed, sealed, and delivered is roughly $30,000.  Federal rebates and state rebates can bring down the cost.  The federal rebate is about 30% of cost.  State of Utah rebate is about $2,000.  This would make a big difference in total cost.

You can finance the project between 12 – 20 years bringing the monthly payment to about $150/mo.  This is likely is what you’d be paying anyway, but in 12 years you’re power bill free.

The federal rebate has been extended for 5 more years, so you can do a little each year and take advantage of the 30% federal rebate for the amount that you spend during each taxable year.

It’s a lot of info to take in and consider, but it was helpful for me to get the details.  Now we can decide if it’s the right thing for us.  There is another back up option… generators.  But that’s a post for another day.   Bottom line, if you’re curious, get a bid.  Maybe you too can create you’re own Solar System.


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