Common Misconception: Solar is too expensive and I can't afford it.

Reality: After a Gulf Power rebate and tax incentive, a $21,000 5Kwh system is now $5,000! Can you afford a $5k loan that will pay itself off with electricity savings? I'm saving $150/mo and after adding an additional $100/mo, I will have the loan paid off in 18 months. Check out the Stats!

I hope you can find my solar panel experience useful and maybe even decide to take advantage of the rebates available! I have 6 kids, 1 income and managed to get it done. After all, I'm paying around $5k for a $21k system, with the lowest electric bill possible, an extra $30k value added to my property, and the loan pays itself off with electricity savings!

Getting Started

  1. First of all, review how solar works.
  2. You will need to find out if your electric company offers rebates/incentives for solar power. Lucky for me, GP (Gulf Power) allocates $435,000 per year towards Solar PV incentives through the year 2022. GP incentives begin 9 a.m. Central Standard Time (CST) on October 1, 2021.
  3. Check out your electric bill for the past year and see what your average usage is per month. This will help you decide on the system you want installed. Generally, you want a system that covers at least 80% of your usage. You don't want a system that generates too much electricity, because you don't get paid for it. Here is the calculation to figure out what size system you need:

    Quotes(Annual KWh Usage) / (365 Days/Year) / (Average Peak Sun Hours/Day) / (Derate Factor) = Array Size (kW)Quotes

    These are my numbers 3 years ago: 13915 kwh / 365 days / 5 hrs / .8 derate = 9.5 Kwh system
    These are my numbers now after 2 years of home improvements: 10309 kwh / 365 days / 5 hrs / .8 derate = 7 Kwh system.

    My choice was the 5Kwh system. Even though I have a large household and an older house, I still have more improvements to make. If you have a newer house and a smaller household, you may not need to do anything.
  4. Contact your electric company and speak with an energy representative. They will provide you with a list of Solar companies that have worked with them in the past. The solar company handles the entire process, from completing the online application, surveying the land, installation to final inspection. I selected the company that I felt the most comfortable with: American Solar. Mention Mike from solar.stathistory.com!
  5. Contact your solar power company of choice and setup a meeting/consulation. They will provide you with specs on their systems available: These are the American Solar specifications.
  6. Once your application is approved, you will need to figure out how to pay for the upfront costs. You can do this several ways:
    1. Get a home improvement loan. Reel Green offers an Advantage 20 program with terms up to 120 months, up to $25,000 and rates between 6.95-9.95%.
    2. If you have the cash in savings, pay for the system outright with a cashiers check or get a share loan at 1-2%.
    3. Get a home equity loan, if you have any left. Rates may be higher.
    Within 4 months of installation and final inspection, you will receive your rebate/incentive check.
    After the final inspection, you can file your taxes. Once you receive your tax rebate, you will have paid off 75% of your loan already.
    Click here to view the solar panel loan payoff charts.
  7. The only thing left to do, is make sure you are home to assist the installers and be home for the final inspections.
    Check out the following links:
    1. The entire history from calling American Solar to receiving my tax rebate
    2. Notes that I kept during the entire process
    3. Pictures during and after installation
    4. Stats on solar output, forecast vs. total production, GP bill and solar panel loan payoff

Last Updated: 8/28/2013