Just received our latest electricity bill from Southern California Edison. Our total charges for delivery are $1.77, which is applied to a current credit balance of just over $200.00. Now that we’ve returned to bundled service from SCE, which means we are totally on a net energy metering account, we are consistently producing more energy than we’re consuming. I have been keeping close track of our total expenses since we had net metering fully enabled and I’m projecting we will save approximately $2,000 over last year’s bill. Think about that. This includes the amount we pay each month on the lease of the solar panels which, since we use a lot of energy, is a large system and is more than some people we know ever spend on a month’s worth of energy.
Some of our savings can be attributed to our being a bit more proactive in cooling the house in the evening and morning by opening up the windows and doors, and using an inexpensive box fan to pump the cooler outside air into the house before buttoning up as the temperature rises. Also, we’ve set our thermostat a bit higher in the Summer months, and have learned to be comfortable with an occasional high temp of 78 or even 80 degrees in the house.
Our two biggest expenses in terms of energy consumption are the pump for the swimming pool filter and our old, not terribly efficient air conditioner. We can’t do much about the pool, as we kind of would like to keep it and there’s nothing we can do to change the need to filter and circulate the water. So the pump remains a drain. I have tweaked the timing so it turns on after the Sun has reached an elevation that generates enough electricity to nevertheless keep our meter running backward, and turns off when the Sun is too low to be of much effect.
Actually, during the Summer I experimented with different settings on our thermostat, which ran the gamut from cooling the house early in the day to take advantage of the abundance of solar energy our system was generating, and waiting until the inside temperature reached 78 degrees before switching on the A/C. Thanks to SCE’s online tools, I was able to track performance on an hourly basis and, by paying attention to the vagaries of the weather as well, I was able to fairly accurately determine what settings made the most sense in terms of production and conservation.
Another aspect of our particular situation is where our house sits relative to the path of the Sun. I don’t think we could have planned it any better if we could have picked the entire house up and planted it facing the perfect angle. Prior to installation of our panels, I’m pretty sure our house heated up far more quickly because of its placement. Now, not only do we have the maximum amount of energy produced by the two sets of panels, but I’m reasonably convinced we benefit as well from the fact the panels also shade the roof and absorb a fair amount of the heat energy as well, meaning the house heats up far slower than it used to.
I have to give kudos here to the company that designed and installed our system. They took into consideration our historical usage and the location of the house and the angle of the rooftops relative to the path of the Sun, and designed a system to provide the bulk of our energy needs. In fact, the system is efficient enough to offset whatever energy we use when the Sun is down, e.g. lights (most of which are CFLs, LEDs, and other fluorescents), TV, computers, etc. That company is Real Goods Solar, one of the first to enter the business and one that is local here in SoCal.
All things considered, I’ve concluded this was a very wise choice for us. Not only do we get to play a role in conserving energy, but we also save a rather substantial sum over what we had been paying for our overall electricity costs. I recommend you consider whether your overall energy consumption, coupled with the amount your house can produce based on its location and conditions, warrants the installation of a system. Not every home will benefit, but I’ll wager a considerable number will find the savings worthwhile. I seriously urge you to consider the alternatives.