Solar Panels – The Safest Investment You Can Find

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I’ll admit it. To some people I sound a tad biased, believing as I do that photo voltaic solar panels are the greatest thing to bless humanity since the Scots discovered whiskey. But think about it, they actually are! These things have no moving parts, save the little electrons that get knocked off their seats by photon bullies from the sun. Then they produce electricity by running around, trying to find another place to sit. Okay, that’s a simplified version, but you probably get the idea.

Everybody should own a few of these little gems and put them to work. After all, once paid for, the little slaves will work for you for free. They don’t whine or try to form labor unions. You don’t have to provide food for them, or shelter, or a 401k! They just keep producing electricity day after day after day. In addition to the ones that serve my home, I bought two used solar panels that were made in 1980, almost 30 years ago. They are still hard at work, lifting water from an 80 foot well to a 2,500 gallon storage tank. I have never heard a single complaint out of either one!

My wife and I have made use of solar panels for years. Since 1998 we have lived happily off the grid. Achieving this state of bliss was not cheap. In fact the cost was significant. But since we installed the system, we have not paid PG&E a single farthing! Makes a man almost gleeful. And, I don’t want to keep all this joy to myself. I want more people to do this. But not the way we did. There is a better way.

Lately, more and more families are installing what is called, a “grid tie” solar system that connects to the electrical grid. In this system they are either contributing solar electricity to their home or the grid, or they are drawing electricity from it, the extent of which is determined by the size of their system or whether or not the sun is shining. If their system is big enough, it is quite possible to make your electric utility meter turn backward when the sun shines. Unlike our situation where we have no connection to municipal utilities, these people don’t bear the cost or maintenance of batteries. The grid is their battery. Sweet!

When explaining the workings of our system, there is one question that invariably comes up. I’m sure folks with grid tie systems are asked the same question too. It is, ” How long before I get payback?

The short answer is, the minute you flip the switch. The immediate return is the feeling you get of taking control of your own energy needs. It is a terrific feeling. Then, too, there is the feeling of pride from making a minor contribution to the war on climate change through your reduced use of fossil fuel.

But what most people really want to know is, “When will I get my money back?” They seem to want to know if there is a particular time when they will have recovered every dime invested.

If that’s true, then their question begs another one. Do they plan on selling the panels? Since they most probably do not, the answer is complicated. In fact, their may not be an answer. After installing their solar electric grid tie system, they will immediately begin to enjoy a return on their investment in the form of reduced or eliminated electricity bills. This is real money and could be compared to what is received as dividends from securities. And these dividends will continue to grow as the cost of energy grows.

A return of their investment would occur only if or when they sold their home. Of course they could sell their panels separately. But, why sell? Like the stock market, one should be investing for the long term. But unlike securities held in the stock market, one might not ever be inclined to sell or trade solar panels. This investment will not appear to go down in value. They do not seem to wear out! The energy savings are not only regular, but should grow with time. With this in mind, investing in a grid tie solar electric system may well be one of the safest investments one could find. A wise choice in this time of economic uncertainty!

Richard Douse is a north state resident who lives as energy-efficiently as possible, including using solar power.

Richard Douse
Richard Douse lives with his two favorite ladies: Tammy, his wife, and Ann Margret, his cat.  They live off the grid in a home they built themselves.  They grow their own food because they don’t trust corporations doing it for them.  Douse thinks of himself as a liberal.  He believes liberals are blue-collar folk who know how to work and think for themselves.  He believes that what we do, individually and collectively, in the next 10 years will determine whether civilization continues - or goes away.
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7 Responses

  1. Avatar Kathleen says:

    We are one of the folks in Shasta County who has solar and is on the grid. We installed it 6 years ago, when we retired, for both personal and political reasons. We also have an e meter.. We weren't able to purchase all the panels we wanted but with the ones we have, our bill yearly is about $45. Prior to solar our bill was closer to $200 per month.We are so happy with our investment. We have met and exceeded our goals. It is one of the few investments, right now, that keeps on giving.

  2. Doni and I installed a 2,500 watt photo voltaic system on our house when we built almost 4 years ago. The solar installer that we used agreed to teach me to install the panels to help keep installation costs down. He inspected my work to be sure it was done correctly before the county did the final inspection.

    Our only regret is that we didn't put in a larger system. It works perfectly and has cut our electric cost in half. We plan to expand our system in the next year. This will cover almost all our electric costs.

    Particularly if you're on P.G.&E. service, it pencils out quite nicely.

  3. Avatar burt arnold ,Eugene, says:

    Solar Water heating gives so much more return for the cost than PV. Each 1 deg F put into a 400 gal water heat storage tank or taken out is about 1 KWH of preheat for water heater or for HOUSE heat. A 150 sq ft flat plate water heating panel area will often here put 10 to 30 deg F (or KWH) a day into heat storage of about 2 to 3 gal per sq ft of SOLAR WATER HEATING PANELS. A BTU heats a pint 1 deg F- a gal has 8 pts. 400 gal x 8=3200 pints. a KWH (3220 btu) = heat of 1000 watt heater for 1 hr. What does it cost to get 30 KWH a day from PV. You can build one large water heating area ( 8 X 20 or big as possible) best covered by corrug Fiberglass and copper tubing on alum surface with bead of 100 % silicone.

  4. Avatar Douglas Hvistendahl says:

    For northern climates, evacuated tube solar collectors are better for hot water than flat plate. Two years ago, they cost twice as much, and put out twice the net heat. Since then, the price has been dropping!

  5. Hi There

    My name is Abdul I am a UK citizen, but I do have investments in Guyana South America.I am contemplating installing Solar panels for electrical Energy..Between 8 to 10 Kw energy.

    The system will be installed as such..where by part of this energy, will be used to supply energy Via some Inverters to supply energy directly during the Day.

    Part of the energy will be used to charge a set of battries Via the Inverters for power during the Knight.

    Please supply me with information how many panels will be required and the accesories too. Also the approx: total cost..The consignement will have to be shipped to Guyana South America..All payments will be made to you from the UK

    Thank You

    Abdul Samad

  6. Avatar Andi says:

    I am writing this email on my computer with energy supplied by our 15K system. Expensive? yes. Worth it? yes! We are tied into the grid. This is our 3rd year on it and we will probably end the year with a minus bill to PG&E. Too bad they don't pay for the energy we supply over what we use. That's right — there is no payback from PG&E when you don't use all of your electricity. A fact we were unclear about when we installed our system 3+ years ago.
    Another caution if you are on PG&E: We converted our gas heating system to electric, using our rebate to pay for it. PG&E sends out monthly statements with a year end total, plus or minus. That first year we were on electric heat for 1/2 the year. At our end of year (May) I called PG&E to ask them to make an adjustment because of our conversion to electric heat a few months before.
    I waited until then because of the confusion reading the bill (in fact, it still confuses me though it has been simplified). So I figured I was owed about a $1,000 credit on our $2,000 end of year bill. Well, guess what? PG&E told me that I should have known that any reduction in my bill wouldn't go into effect until I notified them. Now, how should I have known? Well, there is about a trillion page policy manual that says that and so I should have known! And know what? I hadn't read it all!
    I contacted the Calif. PUC, PG&E's "regulating" agency and they, those great gurus, quoted PG&E's manual to me and said to forget it – no $1,000 credit for me. Who's in who's pocket? Grrrr
    Broke my heart – and my wallet – but paid it. Last year we had a small bill we had to pay PG&E but I think we've got it down and won't have to pay anything to Pacific Greed and Extortion this year.
    How do we use so much electricity? We life in the country, we have two wells. a swimming pool and landscaping. Our house is about 3,000 sq. feet so air conditioning cuts into the sunny days. The last summer we bought our electricity from PG&E our bills were averaging $700 a month.
    But we are doing our part for the environment and for our grandchildren.

  7. Avatar jp says:

    Hello Sir,

    Enjoyed your article about solar panels. I'm currently looking into having one installed at my home in San Francisco. And doing the homework to get as much info about solar panels is just not easy. There are literally myriads of info out there. And sorting through it has been a challenge. Where do I begin?

    Thanks to your article, I'm encourage.