Renewable Energy!

The plan has always been to restore the house to it’s former glory, while incorporating some modern luxuries (indoor plumbing, integrated networking, electricity, massive Ritz-inspired walk-in shower, etc). One of the early priorities, especially for a gigantic house like this one, was to get some less destructive power sources set up. We wanted to start with solar; but, despite the plethora of facebook ads for Solar Panels, this was actually way more difficult than it should have been.

The whole process is suspicious and I’m still not 100% convinced it isn’t/wasn’t some elaborate scam (despite the panels being turned on and producing energy for several months now)

I filled out one of those obnoxious forms online that certain industries (insurance, solar, etc) demand before they give you any sort of quote. And immediately (we’re talking minutes) I started getting multiple calls per day trying to sell me solar.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Well, aside from being fairly fishy in style, the calls all ended the same way: none of them would come out and do an in-person solar viability evaluation without my having several months worth of electric bills for them to examine. Seeing as how I did not live here yet,* and the electric hadn’t been used (or even turned on) for years at this point, this was a big problem.

Fun fact: they require electric bills because their big sales tactic is that you can “replace” your electric bills with your solar panel loan payments – not the environmental pros of producing solar power.** I get it but they are alienating the eco-conscious customers that should be their base.

Eventually (months later!), one of the telemarketers agreed to come out and check out the house (roof), even though I still didn’t have any electric bills.

So here’s the process, start to finish:

  • Receive 15,000+ calls from a variety of solar panel vendors, only to be told I had to wait for multiple electric bills to come through (i hate wait)
  • In mid-October, I convinced a randomly chosen solar panel vendor to actually come out and take a look so I could get the damn things installed before the end of the year (aka, tax credits!)
  • A salesman came out a two weeks later (end of October), glanced around the house, and tried to convince me that his solar panels would eliminate my electric bill. His math didn’t add up, but I eventually convinced him that I wanted the panels (primarily) for environmental reasons, so he eventually stopped the hard sell – long after he’d made the sale.

Side note. I opted for the top-rated high efficiency panels. My theory is, (when possible) it is best to pay extra for a better product. Basically, if I am going to shell out 30k on (okay) solar panels that will produce Y kwp of solar power, I should spend 36k on really good panels and produce Y+30% solar energy.

  • The salesman left and I proceeded to hear nothing for weeks. I had no idea what was going on, if it actually had been a big scam, or if they were just really bad at communication.***
  • Eventually, I heard back (they had been busy getting permits, etc) and find out that they scheduled the install without telling me. Thankfully, the timing worked out anyway.****
  • On/around December 1 they installed 26 panels on the south-side of my brand new roof.
  • It took another few weeks for them to set up the power, get the inspection, and turn the panels on — but by December 20th we were generating power via Solar!
  • 2+ weeks later and their app still didn’t work (to track the panels’ production). Cue the lack of communication for which this company (and possibly the industry) should be known… but they did eventually get it sorted out. By early January the panels were fully operational and I was able to track at what rate my shiny new panels were producing electricity out of thin air (sunny air; thin, sunny air).

I am glad we went solar.
I really am. The environmental and financial benefits have already made it worth it.

I’m even happy we went with Empire Solar – the installation went smoothly and they did a fantastic job (in both form and function; we’ve had a lot of compliments on how nice the panels look), and they are generating loads of electricity most days.

I feel like the entire solar industry is borderline fraud – the marketing, sales, pricing, contracts… not to mention the electric companies and their constant attempts to essentially steal the power generated by peoples’ panels. NYSEG in particular is incredibly shady on exactly how they will ‘credit’ me for my panels’ over-production in the summer.


I just wish that the industry was not so gross. Facebook ads across the solar spectrum claim things like:
“NY will pay you $5000 to go solar!” — or —
“Eliminate your electric bill with no-money-down solar!”

The solar installation company pockets the ‘up to $5000′; your electric bill will never be eliminated (at least in NY) because of the way they break down the cost – the electricity source expense can be reduced or eliminated, but the service charges, delivery fees, and other immutables that make up roughly half your bill will stick around forever. And there are limits on the amount of tax credits you can grab each year, so now I have to wait until next year to get the remaining $.***** Like I said, industry-wide they border on fraud/scam.

But I’m still glad we got the panels.

So now we are producing electricity daily, at decent efficiency levels (at least for winter), and they have reduced my electric bill by about 30-40% (which, with a $700+ bill,*^ is no small chunk of change!); the panels look great and are helping me feel less bad about our excessive electric use.*^^

All in all, a truly negative process with a well-rounded positive result.

*Even after we moved in I couldn’t figure out how to read the meter, so we kept not getting any electric bills… great for a while, brutal when I finally got one šŸ˜‰
**My electric bill is still huge. But hopefully that changes with some upcoming heating upgrades…
***I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the ecologically friendly power companies are terrible at communication. Note to self for future industry to disrupt…
****In fairness to Empire Solar, they did put me in touch with their customer service specialist who was a little better about being responsive – in time, at least, if not in content. Hence the fact that I had no idea that they were going to install the solar panels until like 2 days before they showed up.
*****And if I get Geothermal HVAC this year, it means that tax credit will be sparsed out over even more years.
*^Half of which is “delivery fees”, not the cost of electric.
*^^At the moment, the excess is in the form of keeping my family from freezing to death… with Spring around the corner, I’m hoping that our excesses can be minimized šŸ™‚

Side-side note – apparently my town has greatly reduced the ease/ability for the residents to install solar panels (good thing I got them done when I did!).
I’m really bummed about this and plan on being more involved in town decisions. Not sure how, but that’s my vague plan.

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