Here’s My Go Solar Story, and How I Can Help You Go Solar

Are you fed up with rising electric utility rates?

Imagine how much higher they may be in the future if you don’t take action to Now Go Solar!

solarRainbow0201_502x252

They say there is a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. Well now I have photographic proof. This rainbow ends right there on my solar panels, which are as good as gold!

When I first moved to San Diego in 2009, my electric utility costs were manageable enough. Even then I wanted to go solar. There were two reasons I did not do so at the time, neither of them very good.

First, it just didn’t quite make economic sense to jump into it at the time — or so I thought. At the time my electric bill was actually pretty low, compared to these past couple years.

Boy, was I wrong in waiting! Each year since I arrived in 2009, we’ve seen our electric utility rates steadily increasing. Not only that, but in the past couple years we’ve also seen an increased need for air conditioning in San Diego. The global warming naysayers can say all the nay they want, but ask any resident of San Diego County if our summers are getting warmer, and for longer periods of time. Many schools and offices throughout the county, that never had air conditioning, are now sensing the need.

The second not-so-good excuse for not going solar 5 or 6 years ago, was that my significant other felt that, “solar panels are ugly!” Personally, I think solar panels are beautiful. But keeping peace in the family carried some weight in that costly decision to delay.

In retrospect, I have to tell you that in all the years I’ve been driving into my driveway, I cannot once recall paying much attention to how my roof looked. Its a roof. It serves a purpose of keeping the rain out of the house. But from my living room, or anywhere else in my home, I have no view of my roof to judge whether it is ugly or not.

What WAS ugly, however, were my electric bills. They got uglier and uglier every time a new one arrived.

Another thing is that in all these years, not once have I ever seen my neighbors across the street admiring my roof. Not once have any of them ever said anything to me about my roof’s appearance. Now if they want to stare at my roof for any reason, that is up to them. But I should not govern my decision to install solar panels or not, and the expense of my energy, based on any thoughts my neighbors may have on the appearance of my roof. If or when your neighbors contribute to your electric bill, then you may want to give them some control over what appears on your rooftop. Until then, it is pretty much none of their business.

Again, what got ugly were my electric bills. Over the 79 months between purchase of my home and my installation of solar, my average monthly electric expense went from half a hundred dollars, to several hundred dollars — sometimes even over $400 per month.

Based on our electric appetite, the investment in solar will pay for itself within about 6 years. If you factor in the coming increases in electric rates, the payback will be even shorter.

SDG&E has a remarkable history of raising rates. In the 15 years between January, 2001 and November 2015, the utility’s base tier electric rates increased by nearly 300%. That is equivalent to a compound rate of over 8% per year, with no end in sight.

Do you think that is bad? Well, hold onto your seat! In that same period SDG&E raised its top tier rate by nearly 500% — the equivalent of over 12% per year.

500% Electric Rate Increase 2001 to 2015

As I researched the increasing cost of electricity in San Diego, the picture became clear. My energy cost inflation would not stop unless I stopped it. I had to find a better way to energize my home. The solution was easy, and as obvious as the sun in the sky. God bestows the gift of sunshine upon us each and every day! In that sunshine is an inexhaustible supply of FREE energy. All we need to harvest that energy is readily available with a remarkably affordable investment in solar panels.

When I opened my November SDG&E bill, with the previous month’s electric expense exceeding $320, I made the decision. The time for research and shopping was over; the time has come to Now Go Solar!

Over the previous several years, I may have wasted a lot of my dollars. But I didn’t waste my time. During that time I had studied the solar energy industry extensively. After buying out my friend’s interest in my home in June of 2015, I was then free to install solar. Between then and that fateful day in November, when my $320 electric bill arrived, I had been shopping for solar.

I had a parade of literally dozens of solar sales people come through my dining room, making a dizzying display of sales proposals. I gained quite an education on the topic during that time. I learned some from what these sales people told me, but even more from sorting out the differences between the various proposals, and the discrepancies among their respective stories.

Having become fairly knowledgeable on the subject, in fact, several of the sales people who visited my home commented that I know more about solar than them. That was certainly true. What I found was that half of the people who were talking to me about solar did not know what they were talking about. The other half were actually lying to me!

Several solar companies even proposed that I should go to work for them. But I’ll be frank. Most of those companies left me feeling I didn’t want to do business with them, much less go to work for them.

I found a company that agreed to install the system I wanted, the way I wanted it done, at a fair price, and in a timeline that was better than anyone else had promised. The system was installed to my specifications, not what the company I bought from was accustomed to selling. My expectations were met, as they actually did what they promised to do, when they promised to do it. That was, of course, praiseworthy.

But I purchased my system, and I had it sized adequately to meet 100% of my anticipated electric needs, now and into the future. That company’s normal practice, however, was to sell what are known as Power Purchase Agreements, where they typically only covered a portion of their customer’s actual demand. Worse, they typically sold that agreement with an energy cost escalator of 2.9% per year. Most of their customers were talked into systems where the homeowner did not receive the 30% Investment Tax Credit. Instead, the financing company claimed ownership of the system, in order to capture the tax benefits, while the solar customer was left with a lower electric bill — but one that is certain to rise nearly 3% per year, or more.

Such plans did benefit the consumer with a lower bill, but while making some wealthy investors even more wealthy, and being short-changed on much of the solar energy savings that comes from full system ownership.

There is a place for such programs, but the situations are rear where that approach is more beneficial to the consumer than owning their system.

While I am pleased with the outcome, and am finding that my energy production is on target to meet or exceed my annual electric consumption, as was my intent, I consider my solar experience as a consumer both fortunate and unique. And it should not be so!

The investment in solar makes sense in the majority of households, particularly in areas where consumers are trapped by high energy prices. The electric rates throughout much of California are among the highest in the entire United States. So here in California, for anyone spending more than $1,000 a year on electricity should seriously evaluate the solar options available.

Many homeowners who have had solar installed on their rooftops have not fared nearly so well as me. Large numbers have been misinformed by uninformed sales people. Many have been sold inefficient or inadequate systems, such that they will continue to face growing electric bills over the coming decades.

So here’s what I did. I shopped until I found a solar company I felt I could trust, who would build me the system I knew I needed, and who could deliver it at a fair price within a reasonable period of time. The  owner of that company heard about me from his sales rep, and paid me a personal visit. I was able to tell him exactly how I wanted my system designed, and why, and what I was willing to pay, we made the deal. After discussing my background and experience, this gentleman urged me to come to work for him.

I was not prepared to make such a commitment, however, until I could become comfortable with this company’s ability to follow through and deliver on its promises.

Just the day before, another company told me it would take a month to permit my project, and between 8 and 10 weeks to complete installation. In contrast, this company said they could permit the project with the City and install “next week.” Whoa, what a difference! I was then invited to visit his office and meet some of his staff. I took him up on the offer, and watched their staff architect work with CAD software to design the layout of the solar arrays proposed for my project. Moments later they demonstrated their efficiency by sending another employee to file my building permit with the City.

I was impressed!

Anticipating a rapid approval from the City’s Planning Department, they went ahead and scheduled my installation. I was certain they could not deliver on their promise so quickly. Just days before, a competing company told me their standard process would take 8 to 10 weeks. Other companies had even quoted as much as 3 to 4 months. But these guys did deliver! Before 8:30 in the morning on the scheduled date, their installation crew arrived, along with a delivery truck loaded with my solar panels, racking rails, and boxes of miscellaneous supplies.

Again, I was impressed! They had promised to install “before Thanksgiving,” and they pulled it off. They reduced a process that would have taken their competition two months or longer, to just a few days.

This is a company that I can work with, with professionals who know their craft and management that delivers on promises.

So, I accepted the offer of employment, but on my own terms. I was brought up in a family of entrepreneurs with a customer-oriented commitment. I told Garrett that I would not work for his company, but that I would be pleased to work for his customers.

I expressed my interest in working for his future customers in much the same way as I had worked for myself to negotiate and implement my own solar energy project. If I could work as a free agent, remaining free to represent my customers to negotiate great deals, and pass the business along to other contractors if they could do better by my customers, then I would be honored to work with him.

He smiled and we shook hands on that deal. He’s confident in earning my business, and that of any customers I send his way. Based on my own experience with him and his company, I share that confidence. However, I owe no allegiance to any particular contractor. If I believe another vendor would be a better fit for any given situation, I will readily make that recommendation.

So, if you have any interest in going solar, now or in the future, please get in touch with me today, so I can help you make this important decision. Shop around all you like, but touch base with me before you sign any solar installation contract. I expect my experience in shopping for my own system may be valuable to you.

Please use the information request form on this page, so we can get started on your solar project.