07:00 PM

Is Solar a Good Fit for Me?

I’m all about energy efficiency.

I adhere to the “Golden Rule of the Thermostat” by keeping my home’s thermostat set at 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter to save energy.

I turn lights and fans off when exiting a room, and I never wash clothes or dishes unless there’s a full load. I keep my blinds mostly closed in summer to keep out the sun and mostly open in winter to welcome in the warmth. Almost all my appliances are newer, energy efficient models, and my home’s thermal envelope is snug with sufficient insulation and weather stripping.

So, with all of that in place, should adding solar panels to my home be my next step in achieving a truly energy efficient lifestyle?

I’ve done some research, and I’ve done the math, and I can report with no remorse that, at this time, the answer for me is “no.”

In one of his “Ty Talks” at jacksonemc.com, TV host and home expert Ty Pennington discusses solar power as the most common approach to using renewable energy. I’m all for solar energy, as long as it doesn’t break the bank — that is, my bank account. In his discussion on “Renewable Energy,” Ty gets straight to the point as he breaks down the viability of installing solar panels at a home in order to harness renewable energy.

“Installing solar panels is just a piece of the puzzle,” he says. “If you haven’t taken basic steps like using energy efficient appliances or making sure your home’s thermal envelope is good and tight, you won’t be able to achieve the true energy savings with solar panels.”

Energy efficient appliances? Check.

Good and tight thermal envelope? Check.

Next, Ty says to consider the age of your roof before installing solar panels because placing them on an aging roof would not be a wise financial decision. When it comes to installing solar panels, roofs should be less than five years old.

Hmm. My roof logs in at one year past its advertised maturity of 25 years, and I’m feeling good about how well it’s holding up. Installing solar panels could compromise my aging roof.

“How’s your home’s access to the sun?” asks Ty.

My home has a fair amount of shade on one half, but not so much on the other. Half-check?

Finally, Ty gets down to the nitty-gritty: Cost versus savings. “Currently,” he reports, “it’s still fairly expensive to install solar in your home.”

Costs for solar systems include installation of the panels and the power storage necessary for energy captured from the sun. While the cost has decreased over the years, it’s still expensive, priced at several thousand dollars for a basic system.

“Right now, for many of us, the personal investment we’d make is not enough to produce enough energy savings to pay back the cost,” Ty concludes.

Case closed. With my aging roof, half-shaded house, and the pricey cost to add solar, I won’t be installing panels anytime soon.

Even so, there is a way I can support renewable energy without the expense of putting panels on my roof. Jackson EMC is involved in several projects that, when fully operational, will supply 25 megawatts of solar energy, enough energy supply to 4,2000 households annually. Jackson EMC members who wish to support renewable energy can purchase a 150 kilowatt-hour (kWh) block of power for $4.50 a month.

Sign up, and you’ll support solar and other renewable energies as you make a positive impact on the environment without busting your bank account — or your roof tiles.

Jackie Kennedy has worked with Georgia’s electric cooperatives for 25 years, producing newsletters, press releases and articles about the industry or energy-related matters. She is the author of People, Power, Progress: The Story of Jackson EMC, published in 2013. In her blog, she grapples with a variety of energy efficiency topics.