Solar Power: One Year

Halloween is a holiday that as an adult I’ve never much liked or gotten into. I’ve liked it even less since we’ve had Tasha, as the constant ringing of the doorbell and knocking at the door along with the concomitant activity of all the kids has her barking steadily all evening. For the past couple of  years we’ve decided that the best thing to do was to have her spend the night at her favorite resort.

solarBut 31 October now has another significant meaning for Terry and me. It was one year ago today that our regional electric and gas utility, Pacific Gas and Electric (commonly known as PG&E), showed up at our door at 7:30 in the morning and replaced our electric meter with a new Time of Use (TOU) meter. This meant that Terry and I could flip the switch and turn on our new solar-powered system.

We’ve been very pleased with our decision. It has reduced our utility bill each month considerably, and I expect that when the calculations for the true-up period, which ends today, are made, we will have a net negative, in dollars, at least, if not in actual kilowatt-hours.

Having solar has engendered behaviors that we did not necessarily expect. Rather than simply having solar to help reduce our electric bill, I felt motivated to ensure we had a negative electric bill in those months when the amount of sunlight and length of the day made that a possibility. The months of May through October are considered the summer season for billing purposes, and weekdays 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. are peak hours. That means if we are feeding back into the grid during those hours we can have a negative electric bill in dollars, even if overall kilowatt-hour usage for the day is positive. That’s because the rate PG&E pays us for electricity during those hours is higher than what we pay them during non-peak hours.

Rather than cranking up the air conditioner as we thought we might as a result of having solar, we have our thermostat programmed so that the A/C doesn’t come on until 7:00 p.m. On especially hot days we’ll pre-cool the house in the morning and turn the air conditioner off at 12:59 p.m.

In a similar manner, we thought we might use having solar as a reason to fire up our hot tub once again. So far we haven’t.

No doubt we did the right thing both from an environmental and a financial perspective. And our behaviors are, I believe, the right thing from those two perspectives as well, even if they aren’t what we expected them to be.



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