Solar Panels For Home – 1 Year Later

Solar Panels For Home – 1 Year Later


Well, the time has finally arrived. Some of you have been asking for an update
on my solar panel system, and I’ve finally passed the one year mark. It was actually back at the beginning of October,
so I’m a little late, but better late than never. Let’s take a look at how much energy my
system has produced, how much I’ve saved, and if it met the estimate my solar installer
predicted. I’m Matt Ferrell. Welcome to Undecided. So if you haven’t seen my previous videos
on my solar installation, I’ll include links in the description. But to give a quick summary, I live in the
Boston area and have been documenting what it’s been like living with a 9.49 kW solar
panel system in a colder climate. My house has a few challenges. If you live in the northern hemisphere, it’s
best to have a southern facing roof to maximize your solar production, but my house is oriented
more east-to-west. That’s why I have panels on both sides of
my roof. The second issue is that my roof is relatively
small. And finally, I have a fair amount of trees
on the western side of my house that start to block the sun in the mid-to-late afternoon. Even with all of those challenges, the more
efficient panels available today are still able to provide me a significant portion of
the power I use over the year. Before I jump into some of the year-end results,
one important factor that gets brought up a lot on my solar panel videos is the high
energy use some of you see in my numbers. I do use a lot of power, but it falls right
in line with the national average. Getting solar panels helps to address the
power generation side of the equation, but the other half is reducing the amount of power
you use. I just published a video on that topic last
week, so be sure to check that out if you’re interested to see some of the things I’ve
been doing to address that. So we had our solar panels turned on on October
4th, 2018. All of the numbers and data I’m going to
share stretch between that date and October 3rd, 2019. Over the course of the year we had two short
periods where our system went down due to a faulty shut off switch: once in January
and the other in April. All in we lost 8 days of production, so not
too bad. Ever since the switch was replaced the system
has been rock solid. The production amount across the entire year
played out exactly like we expected. There’s a sine wave looking pattern that
emerges, with the lowest production happening in the dead of winter in December, and the
most production happening in July during the summer. What I found most interesting was that we
saw a pretty quick spike in production in March, and a pretty dramatic drop in October. It wasn’t as gradual as I was expecting. [I use a Sense energy monitor on my home],
so I can closely track our energy use in addition to our solar production. We average around 875 kWh each month, so if
we layer on our usage line on top of our production line, you can see we’re not meeting our
full needs. This was known going in. Our goal was to offset as much energy as we
could with our solar production … given our home’s specific challenges. And in that regard we succeeded with about
a 54% reduction in our grid electricity use. Our solar installer offered a 10 year production
guarantee with yearly estimates. If our production doesn’t hit the 95% mark
of those estimates, they’ll pay out the difference. All in we’ve seen 6,688 kWh produced in
the first year, which comes in just above their 95% estimate or 6,615 kWh. We actually hit 96.4% of the best case scenario,
which is higher than I was expecting. In fact, in my 9-month update, I thought we’d
fall just a little short of the installer estimate, so I’m glad to be wrong with that
prediction. For the days we missed because of the technical
issue, I averaged out the 4 days before and 4 days after each outage to try and estimate
what we might have seen during those days. In January, we were averaging 5.3 kWh/day,
so probably missed out on 21.2 kWh. And in April, we were averaging 19.3 kWh/day,
so missed out on 77.2 kWh. As disappointing at that is, it’s probably
about $25 of electricity we lost out on during that period. If I add those missing Watts back into the
grand total, we probably should have seen something like 6,786 kWh for the year, or
about 97.8% of the best case scenario. I’ve stated this before, but my goal has
been to reduce my reliance on the grid as much as I can, and to do so in a financially
responsible way that works for us. So where did we land financially this past
year? Well, my wife and I are pretty happy. We used to average $212 a month for our electric
bill and now we’re averaging $97.80 a month … and that’s also with adding an EV to
the mix. If you look at this graph that shows the year
before solar compared to the year on solar, you can see exactly how much our electric
bills have shifted. Obviously, it follows the same sine wave trend
as the solar production, so there’s a big drop in our bill right around June and July. You can see that in June we actually had a
negative balance on our electric bill. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my
wife stood in the living room laughing out loud when she showed me the bill. Year over year, we saved $1,489.86. Right in line with the $1,500 estimate I was
projecting in my last video update. In Massachusetts we have full net metering,
which means any overproduction we put into the grid gets fully wiped off of our kWh used. In essence the grid acts like a battery for
us for production and cost-wise. That might not be the case where you live. So how does all of this work out with the
cost of the system as a whole? I’ve gone into great detail on this in previous
videos, so I won’t recap all of the details here, but it worked out like we hoped. Our system cost a total of $29,609, which
has 25 year warranties on the panels and micro-inverters, as well as a 10 year warranty on the workmanship
and production from the installer. The Federal solar tax credit allowed us to
recoup $8,883 of the cost. And not to go off on a tangent, but I get
a lot of comments about my “neighbors paying for my solar panels” … that’s not how
the tax credits work. It’s a credit on your tax burden for the
year that you claim it and isn’t that different from being able to claim your children as
dependents in order to increase your tax deductions. The money you get back comes in the form of
a tax refund because you’ve overpaid taxes for that year. Depending on your situation, you aren’t
guaranteed to get the full 30% back in cash. In any case, our final cost works out to $20,726,
which we have in a 10 year solar loan. We’ve been working on paying that off as
quickly as we can, and have actually paid it down by half already, so our interest on
the loan should work out to be pretty low when all is said and done. Aside from a recent big lump sum we sent,
we’ve been paying $200/month on the loan. We also receive SRECs for the amount of solar
we produce, which amounts to $126.22 a month for a total of 10 years. In case you don’t know what SRECs are, [they’re
solar renewable energy credits] that are paid out by the electric companies. Electric companies are required to achieve
a certain amount of renewable energy in their grid system, so SRECs are an incentive to
increase the number of people contributing to that renewable goal. Not every state has an SREC market, and the
value varies region to region. When you average out our monthly electric
bill savings, we’re saving $114.20 a month. Add together the SREC and electric bill savings
and you get $240.42, which means we’re coming out a whopping $40.42 ahead each month right
now. (Yes, my wife is planning to retire early
on these savings.) I know solar detractors may point to that
as proof that this wasn’t worth it, but if you look long term, those numbers change
quite a bit. It’s only $40 right now because we’re
still paying off our loan at $200 a month. But at the rate we’re paying this off, we’re
hoping to have the loan gone within a couple of years. The $1,500 per year electric bill savings
will work out to $15,000 in savings in the first 10 years alone. And that’s assuming that electricity prices
won’t increase, which they will. They’ve increased 15% over the past 10 years,
which is about $0.02 per kWh per year. But that varies depending on the region. Even without SRECs, we’d achieve breakeven
on the solar panels in 13-14 years. But with SRECs we’re looking at a payback
period much shorter than that. The SRECs and electric bill savings over 10
years work out to $30,146, which means a breakeven in just under 7 years. However, we have the interest on the solar
loan to contend with. But as I mentioned before, we’re paying
it off much faster than the 10 year loan, so the total interest should be a couple thousand
dollars. We’re on track to breakeven in a little
over 8 years at this point, which is right in the ballpark of what we were expecting
before we got the panels installed. And this is on a system with a 25-year warranty,
which should be able to last well beyond that. Yes, there might be maintenance costs here
and there down the line. And yes, if I have to replace my roof, it
may cost a few thousand dollars to have a solar installer remove and replace the panels
for me. But just looking at the total savings in electricity
from year 10 – 25, once the SRECs are gone, we’re still talking about $20,000 – $25,000
in electricity savings … if not more. Everything from year 9 onwards should be pure
profit for us, so having to spend a little money here or there to maintain or replace
our roof is a drop in the bucket overall. And this isn’t even counting the positive
impact solar panels have on your home’s value. If you finance and pay for the system yourself
and don’t lease it, adding solar to your home actually increases your home’s value
by 3-4%. You’ll often see about $4 per watt of the
installed solar panel system added to your home’s value. While I’m not counting on that for my system,
it’s nice to know that I should be seeing a sizable increase on my home’s value on
top of the electricity savings. I’ve stated it on previous videos, but my
goal was to get as much energy as I can from a renewable and sustainable resource, and
do it in a manner financially that worked for us. And on that goal we’ve succeeded so far. Right now there’s only a small savings month-to-month,
but as soon as the panels hit breakeven the system turns into a profit maker each and
every month going forward. It also doesn’t hurt that my car is mostly
charged with sunlight. If you’re interested in going solar, I strongly
recommend checking out Energysage for research and articles. It’s a completely free service that has
great write-ups and reviews of different solar panels, inverters, and solar tech that can
be useful no matter where you live. But if you live in the U.S. and are interested
in going solar, you can get quotes from installers by using my Energysage portal. You can plug in your information and request
quotes from solar installers, which all get funneled into your EnergySage account. You don’t have to worry about getting flooded
with phone calls. It makes it easy to compare installers, cost
estimates and energy production quotes in one place. And installers also have customer rankings
and feedback, so you can find a reputable and good quality installer. I’ve used it myself, that’s how I found
my installer, so I can vouch for how well it helped me through the process. I’ll continue doing these solar panel updates
as things move along. I may be getting a Tesla Powerwall at some
point down the line, so will absolutely cover that if and when it happens. Let me know if you have questions you’d
like to see me cover. And I’d love to hear what your experience
has been going solar? Jump into the comments and let me know. I hope you found this video useful. If you did, be sure to give it a thumbs up
and share with your friends because it really helps the channel. There are some other ways you can support
the channel too. Check out my SFSF Shop for some cool Tesla,
Space X, science, and Undecided shirts. There’s also other links in the description
for some great gear and discounts. And as always, an extra big thank you to all
of my Patreon supporters. Your support is really helping to make these
videos possible. Be sure to check out my Patreon page for additional
details about joining the crew. And if you haven’t already, consider subscribing
and hitting the notification bell to get alerts when I post a new video. And as always, thanks so much for watching,
I’ll see you in the next one.

41 thoughts on “Solar Panels For Home – 1 Year Later

  1. Be sure to check out the related videos I made note of in the description for more information. And if you're looking for solar, I strongly recommend checking out my Energysage portal: http://bit.ly/undecidedsolar

    This is an affiliate program I'm taking part in, so if you end up getting solar through an Energysage approved installer, it helps to support the channel. I used Energysage to find my installer and really loved the service. Even though the installers are US only, the articles and reviews Energysage has on their website are worth checking out for international viewers.

  2. My monthly consumption is 90kWh in a 2700 sq ft apartment with 5 people excluding hot water and heating , but still 10 times as much??

  3. Hey Matt,. I plan to install a 6.9 kilowatts system. Should be done anytime between now till the end of the year. It should produced about 35 to 40 kilowatts a day and my daily consumption is about 20 to 22 kilowatts. The extra kilowatts are banked for rainy day to offset. I should have little to no bill. I am a little surprised u still have a small monthly bill. Why undersize your system. Is it better to undersize or oversize?

  4. Are you heating your house with solar power? If not how much of a system would you need… Is it even possible to go completely solar in cold climates….

  5. Thanks for sharing!

    It might be because you’re a huge Tesla fan, but why didn't you go with SunPower due to the limited roof real estate? SunPower panels (newer models) are a little over 22% efficiency (415w) vs Hanwha 18.7% (315W), the panels Tesla sells. Therefore, you would get a larger KWh system with fewer panels or a larger system with a full roof.

  6. You will not have "full net metering" from your utility company for 25 years. They will switch over to paying you a wholesale rate – like 0.03 per kilowatt hour. That will dramatically change your break even calculation. It will depend on when they do it.

  7. Hi Matt,

    I'm shocked. I just got my elektricity bill and it was 1139kWh.

    For the whole year!

    (Disclaimer: I live in an appartment building (about 600sf) in Germany, rarely use my appliances, don't have an AC, but I do have an electric tankless waterheater.)

  8. I always love the production of your videos. I hope your channel reaches a million subscribers because the quality is already there.

  9. Matt, it would be interesting if you did a video analysing your power consumption and identifying how much power each appliance consumes over a period. Here in the UK the average is about 20KWh/day. My house is off grid and extremely efficient and comes in at around 4-5KHw/day including hot water. I'm planning to drop that to about 3KWh/day with a hot water heat pump next month. It is surprising what you can achieve if you work at it.

  10. I recently turned on my solar system 3 months ago (I maybe live near you) and using the same equipments as yours, only I have less panels. You data is very helpful to me that I can use it to predict the power my system can generate. We don't have SREC but SMART, not sure how much difference is that, do you have any information about it? Last night, the channel 6 news just talked about solar panel fire risk in MA and they suggest owner should do maintenance on the panel, but not sure how, I think that might be a good topic too.

  11. One thing to note (since I'm currently going through it myself). On the topic of the additional home value with solar added, this really depends on the area due to comparable properties that the appraiser can use to justify market value. In my case, even though I live in South Florida, there aren't any recent property sales in my area with similar solar systems. I'm currently in negotiation with the appraisers to find a way to include this addition.

    Also, it's interesting to note the difference in estimated production based on latitude. I'm at approximately 27N and my system of very similar cost (but no SRECs for me) is estimated to produce 15.5 kWh per year! We decided to try to offset our entire electricity needs plus the current Model 3 we own and future reserved Model Y. We're just waiting for the final permission to operate from FPL. Can't wait to turn the system on!

    Thanks for your recap! I did find it interesting that you are planning on paying down the loan early when it's possible to reinvest that money instead at likely higher than 7% return. I'm assuming you're in a similar position to us with a 4% 10 year loan. Cheers!

  12. Wow, I feel pretty fortunate living at a lower latitude (SF Bay area) and having a south facing roof and no snow. Installing an 8.25kw system today and it's expected to generate 40kWh/day average over the year (50kWh during June and even 30kWh/day during low sun Dec/Jan). Total cost $22.5K before incentives. Figure my payoff is 4 years with incentives and 6 years without.

    Matt – can you share any tools (spreadsheets/macros/websites/etc) which you used for tracking/modeling your solar info? Thanks for the videos!

  13. Awesome data after one year. FWIW: I find when someone busts my chops over the payback period for my solar panels, I tell them it's better than money they spent on gutting and replacing a kitchen.

  14. Like you Matt, I have a East-West roof, and I live in the Seattle area. My system is a bit bigger 17kwh. My system was turned on right after July 4th of this year. So far so good, November is a big drop off month. I will keep this video for future reference. Great stuff, please tell me why you are going Tesla walls? Are you expecting the big drop in price soon? Pairing EV with solar is great, not sure about Tesla walls at this point thought.

  15. I live in Kansas. Right now the electric company charges solar homes a higher rate than non solar. No state rebates either. Electric companies don't have to buy back power you produce. Sad.

  16. I have about a 7KW system and just had my roof repaired today. I had the electricians come by yesterday to remove the panels and they will be back tomorrow to reinstall them. It cost me about $5000 to have them remove the panels, and reinstall them. Thankfully my insurance is paying to repair some roof damage, so as part of my settlement, they cover the removal and re-installation of the panels.

  17. For those that might not know the 20-25 year guarantee on the panels is also for 80% generation capacity and since panels manufactured even 30 years ago are projected to still give like 70% at 30 -40 years age there is real profits to be made. A few years ago i read that there was a research panel on Tokyo university's roof that were still going strong at 95% efficiency approaching 40 years in use!
    https://cleantechnica.com/2011/12/27/solar-panels-creating-electricity-for-much-longer-than-20-years/

    https://cleantechnica.com/2011/12/08/solar-power-less-expensive-than-analysts-purport/
    https://energyinformative.org/lifespan-solar-panels/
    https://www.concordmonitor.com/old-photovoltaic-nh-solar-14270530

  18. 6.5kW of panels into a 5kW inverter, north facing in Australia. 9.5MWh generated in first year. On track for 6 year payback…..

  19. Thanks for the update video! Your earlier ones helped me to decide to move forward. My family had a 10kw array installed on my garage’s south facing roof, zero shade. It went online 8/23/19. Since then the panels have generated 3900 kwhr. This is 101% of the power we use and our electric bill has dropped >90%. In Ohio there is monthly cost to be connected to the grid, that’s all we are paying. The installed cost was $24,000 or about $16,000 after tax credit. There is no meaningful market for RECs here, so that’s not helpful. We are looking at a payback of about 7 yrs.

  20. Next time Simone tells you your neighbor's paid your #solar panels remind them you pay for their #GASOLINE. Since #taxes are #subsidizes #oil and #gas companies.

  21. Awesome! Love seeing that clean energy!
    It would be interesting to see the difference between your production curve, and the production curve from someone in the South with the same sized solar array.

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  23. Absolutely Amazing, I enjoyed it a lot!, See this New Album 'Monish Jasbird – Death Blow', channel link www.youtube.com/channel/UCv_x5rlxirO-WKjLIyk6okQ?sub_confirmation=1 , doo check 🙂

  24. I didn’t hear the interest rate on the loan. Did you consider just not paying more than the minimum payment? We got a loan in Feb at 2.99%. At that rate we’re paying minimums forever.

  25. For the Solar ITC (Investment Tax Credit) it starts stepping down from 30% in 2020 to 26%. Also the ITC Credit can be carried over from year to year if you cannot claim the entire credit in one year, unlike the EV Tax Credit. Also the ITC counts for a system entire cost even including Power-wall cost. You also get to claim the credit if you add Power-walls to a existing solar system.

  26. Why is the system so expensive (29,000$)? With my local solar installer it costs bit less than 10,000$ for 10kW system, including installation and taxes (25% VAT), and you can still get up to 40% tax refund.

  27. You may want to rethink your idea's of how tax credits work. Your causing people to support your roof in the same way you are supporting people with kids.
    To explain;

    You are not sending in an extra ($8,000 X tax rate). But the government still spends that ($8,000 X tax rate). So they raise taxes for everyone to cover the ($8,000 X tax rate). Sure that's a small amount if it was just you, but when everyone gets tax credits then it becomes a large amount. Now, given your specific governments efficiency rating that's likely going to be more like ($11,000 X tax rate) that everyone has to pay back for you.

    I'm not against tax credits. Use them if you got them but it's simple math and not magic money from the sky.

  28. Hi Matt. Love your videos. Since you drive BEV instead of ICE, your fuel cost are much lower that the average homeowner. Can you estimate your average vehicle fuel cost?

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