Solar Savings

I’ve always been hopeful for the day when solar energy would be affordable for my family and no longer be considered an “alternative” to coal generated power. I was totally psyched when I found out about an effort to purchase solar panels in “bulk” through my neighborhood organization dubbed Solarize NE (Portland that is…here’s the Oregonian article). It’s very much a DIY effort and there are a series of workshops to inform residents about net metering and other solar lingo.


Through a bulk purchase, residents can expect a 25% discount and when you tack on tax incentives, a 3-kilowatt system would cost you about $3500. Depending on the system you install, you could have a return on your investment in just a couple years. Tax incentives can vary by state, but you can save up to 80%! Interestingly, I just happened across an article about how solar energy has become so widespread in California that there is a legislative bill trying to put a cap on net metering (solar energy sold back to the utility.) This would be a big disincentive for families looking to save money and live green. Alas, most parts of the country don’t have this problem yet.


I met for my home consultation with the Energy Trust rep this past Friday (on my Flex Day) Our meeting turned out to be pretty brief, because it turns out that roof simply doesn’t work with current solar panels (the Victorian style is a hipped gambrel roof with multiple steep angles). I was told that you need at least 200 square feet minimum for a cost-effective solar system. It’s really too bad. She calculated that after state/federal tax incentives, a 2.5 kw system would cost us only $1,788. 

The silver lining is that she still thinks that a solar water heating system might fit on our small roof angles. There are also incentives water heating systems, since they typically suck 14-25% or your household energy use. An electric system saves 1,800-3,000 kWh/year, and would save you $150-300 in energy costs per year. With current incentives and credits the return on investment would be about 10 years. I’d obviously want to look into the specifics of our household bill to make sure these estimates match, but it could be worth looking into.

Has your family looked into solar savings? 

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Sustainable Family Finances  The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

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