A few years ago, when we were replacing our aging and faulty heating system in our home, we decided to spend a bit more for a heating unit that was more efficient than others but it is also one that could “easily” be connected to solar panels, should we decide to that route. For the past six months, the “solar panel energy collection” idea has been percolating on our minds. We’ve been consulting with one regional organization that provides a “neighbor to neighbor” co-operative element — folks help folks with their projects, and then the cost of installation gets reduced. It’s a great concept.
But we have come to be a little wary of the group. They have blown off meetings, leaving us hanging around waiting for hours. The quotes we received were not for the kind of system we wanted. When we chat on the phone, we are not even confident they have our files in front of them. A friend with some inside knowledge of their work on one particular site questioned the quality of the installation and the claims they had made to the homeowner. We also are not all that confident that the payback over time is what they promise.
So, we tried another route.
Yesterday, we chatted with a plumber we’ve worked with over the years, and he also does solar installations. (He also installed our heating system, so he knows it inside and out). He was surprisingly and refreshingly frank about the situation, telling us that it makes no sense right now to use solar for the home heating system but it might make sense to consider the hot water system, with a lot of caveats about savings and water use and more. He’s going to draw up some estimates for us, but … we seem to be leaning away from solar right now. It’s not often you get a plumber being so honest, and risking losing a job. I respect that in him.
To be blunt: while we want to do our part as a family to cut down on energy consumption, we want to do things primarily to save money.
We don’t have the kind of disposable income (three kids, the oldest moving into high school, college costs around the corner) to invest in things that don’t have a tangible cost savings, no matter how good it would make our “green” side feel. We feel sort of sad about this latest direction of the solar idea, though, since we did have this vision of our house with solar panels and being more self-sufficient. Maybe more tax breaks and incentives down the road will make such a project doable. Maybe not.
For now, our energies are going into more traditional upgrades of the home. The solar panels can wait.
Peace (in the sun),