We are currently installing solar and wind power on our property, and it’s been a really positive experience. I’ve learned a lot about what not to do in the process! I would recommend solar or wind power to just about anyone. It seems so tricky to choose the right system, find a great deal, make sure you get batteries that will sustain you through the sunless days, and transfer everything over. It can be a little tough if you’ve never dealt with any of these things. Here are some lessons I learned the hard way.
Choosing the System: If you’re going from utility companies to your own power supply, you are going to either have to spend a lot of money or rethink how much energy you really need. If you’re the type of person who always has the TV on, leaves lights on in the day, and uses the dryer like it’s going out of style; you are going to need a big system if you aren’t willing to change. One lesson I learned was that I could cut down on my energy needs by about 50 percent and save around $5,000 dollars. There are some great online resources and calculators to help you figure out how big your system will need to be. Chances are good, it will be expensive if you’re like most Americans. So before you shell out thousands of dollars, rethink your energy usage.
Batteries: The batteries that will store your unused power are the most important part of the system. You need the best batteries you can afford. This is your power through the winter and cloudy days. You need to learn about your area and the weather patterns to determine how much storage you’ll need. If you fall short here, guess who’s going to be sitting in the dark with a flashlight trying to read? Yep; it’s you, so check and then double check. I initially estimated much less than I really needed. You can find used batteries that are in good shape for a discount. I know someone that bought some used batteries from a utility company and saved tons of money.
Finding a Great Deal: I am such a frugal person. I just don’t believe in paying whatever price someone is asking unless I know why it’s being charged. A lot of companies ( I worked in sales) price items high and are allowed to go down, beating their competitors prices. Many people feel embarrassed to ask for a better deal. That’s crazy. That’s how sales work. Salespeople like customers who say, “Look, this is what I want. If you can do it, I’ll buy from you and not the guy down the street.”
I’ve even made my own solar panel before to see how much I could save. The only problem was that they don’t work as well. It powered my TV but I would have to have a yard full of panels to power my home. When you try to find the best deal, look around, tell the sales person that you are looking for the best deal and great quality. Then leave. Let them think about how much they want your business. I guarantee you, you will get a better offer in a couple of days. Make sure and say, “Is that the best you can do on pricing?” Some will say yes, and some will hem haw around, and others will say…”I’ll bet any price you find. Let me be your salesperson!” That’s the guy to go with. He’s hungry for the deal and will do whatever it takes to earn your business.
Transfer Everything Over: To transfer everything from your utility company, it isn’t difficult but you need to make sure you completely understand your system and how it works. You’ll need a small shed or room to hold your batteries and solar equipment. We haven’t gotten this far yet, but I realized that if something went wrong with the connections, panels, or batteries; I really wouldn’t know what to do. I had a friend who’s been on solar power for ten years come and explain it all to me. Before you cut ties with the electric company, make sure you’re ready.
More from Carrie:
Build Your Own Solar Panels: Go Green
Growing a Garden Saves Money in More Ways Than One
Mountain Biking: Peddle to a Healthier Happier You