Valerie Mates
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Valerie's Solar Power FAQ

On Facebook, you can see photos and a description of my solar project.

Here is Google's Project Sunroof. Enter an address to see an estimate of the costs and benefits of solar power at that house or business. (This is seriously cool, and it takes just a few minutes to look up a house. Seriously, try it!)

Homeland Solar is the company that installed my system. They are local and did good work!

Here's info about the Federal solar tax credit:
It says the credit is:
30% for systems placed in service by the end of 2019
26% for systems placed in service in the year 2020.
22% for systems placed in service in the year 2021 or 2022.

The City of Ann Arbor says that when you get solar panels, the State requires them to re-assess your house. This means that my property taxes will go up -- I am not sure by how much, but I have heard that it is large. But I have also heard that a state law is expected to pass by the end of the year to stop reassessing people who get solar power.

My system produces more electricity than I need. The extra power is sent out to the grid. The law is about to change, but for now solar projects get "net metering," which means that the power company will credit my account for the power I produce at the same rate that they charge me. (So if my panels send 1 KWH of power out the grid, I get credited with the cost of 1 KWH of electricity.) The rate will decrease substantially soon, but because my project was done before the deadline, this rate is locked in for ten years.

My system has an enormous battery in it. Almost nobody does it that way, but I wanted it. The battery can do some powering of my house when the grid is down. It also powers my house overnight while the panels are not producing electricity.

One thing about solar power that nobody mentioned to me before I got it: The equipment inside my house, when it is producing power, makes a high-pitched squeal-buzz noise that is a little annoying. I am mostly used to it now, but if I had it to do over again, I think I might have tried to find a more-remote part of the house to locate it in. I'm not sure that all solar installations do that or if mine is special. It may be one of those noises that is too high-pitched for a lot of adults to hear. So it may not be an issue for other people who get solar power. But I would have liked to know about it ahead of time, so I figured I should mention it here.

Most solar power systems cost around $8K to $12K. After the 30% Federal tax credit, that's more like $6K to 9K. There are companies that make loans to cover solar projects.

Before solar, my electric bill averaged $150/month. That comes to $1,800/year, or $36,000 in twenty years (spent on electricity!!!). My solar panels should be enough to power my house, day and night, for a goodly chunk of the year, plus I have some extra capacity, because I plan to get a plug-in hybrid car and then use solar power instead of gas (except for on road trips) -- so I'll also be saving money by not needing to buy gas for that car. The solar panels should last 20-30 years. If they last 20 years, and if I don't need much electricity from the grid, and if the cost of electricity stays the same, then I should save $17K by having solar power. And, over the decade after that, if the panels are still going, I should save another $18K. So if all works right, that will be $35K saved. In theory, the only cost for electricity should be at the times when I need to draw power from the grid, such as when it's very cloudy or when the solar panels are covered by snow. For the first ten years, that should be offset by the power company giving me credits when my panels send power into the grid. Anyway, that's the theory. Time will tell if it works out that way.

When I was learning about solar power, I joined a Facebook group called Michigan Solar Users Network. It was helpful to read about other people's thoughts and questions, and have people who I could ask questions to, before I made the leap.

I got solar power in May of 2018. It took my power company (DTE) ten months to figure out my bills. My solar installer was super helpful with getting this straightened out -- I really appreciate the folks at my installer. They were under no obligation to help straighten out the billing mess, but they did, and were super nice about it.

April 2019 updates: I really did get 30% of the cost of my solar power back on my Federal taxes, which was lovely. And the city of Ann Arbor did re-assess my house. I know that's going to cost me more in taxes, though I don't know yet how much more.

Last updated: April 28, 2019

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Valerie, January of 2023
Valerie - January, 2023