They say everything's big in Texas and that includes air conditioning bills.
As Alameda, California residents, we didn't have an air conditioner in our home. The climate was mild enough that we did not need one. In fact, I chronicled the modest energy improvements that we made to our home whose costs we recouped over a 5-year period.
- A Modest Proposal: Results of My Home Energy Audit
- A Modest Proposal: Improvements based on My Home Energy Audit
- The Continuing Benefit of the Dollars and Cents of My Home Energy Audit
Now that we have a home in Texas, it's time to consider energy improvements to new our dwelling. As our home was built by Lennar in 2018, it already has the latest in energy efficient appliances and insulation; however, unlike Alameda, the climate in Cypress (northern Houston area) is dramatically warmer in the summer months, so we do have an air conditioner. In fact, we have two of them — one to cool the upstairs and another to cool the downstairs. In addition, we'll have a pool and spa where we'll need to run electric pumps as part of cleaning and operation. So we decided to investigate solar.
My first experience with solar was in 1982 when we bought a solar hot water heater for our first Arizona home. The cost was $1,800 but with $1,700 of federal rebates, the out of pocket was only $100. My how times have changed!
- I started my solar search by visiting SolarReviews.com and supplying my name, contact information, and address.
- I immediately started getting calls and emails. Many of these happened while I was attending Autodesk University in Las Vegas, but through the miracle of mobile phone technology and Outlook calendars, I was able to schedule these appointments for when we would be in Texas.
- Two vendors decided to visit us at our Texas home and make proposals. Despite repeated calls to Tesla Home Solar, talking with someone and leaving my contact information each time, no one from Tesla ever contacted me.
- We selected a SunPower system with Freedom Solar Power as our solar solution provider. My wife and I were impressed with the equipment as well as Energy Consultant, David Altuna's presentation.
Freedom Solar Power's proposal included:
- 15,120 watts of power
- 42 SPR-X22-360 AC panels (each is 360 watts with 22.2% average efficiency)
- 42 SunPower Factory Integrated Micro-inverters
- 1 SunPower Invisimount Racking system
- 1 SunPower Monitoring unit
Freedom Solar Power uses code-compliant electrical equipment, gets all of the required building permits, and obtains homeowner association approval. The panels and racking system are rated to withstand 140 mph winds in the event of a hurricane. Freedom Solar Power warranties the equipment and installation for 25 years.
The environmental stats for our system include:
- 13.4 tons of CO2 is the annual carbon offset.
- That's the equivalent of 535 trees cleaning the air for 1 year.
- That's the equivalent of saving 1,379 gallons of gasoline.
- Over the lifetime of the system, that's a savings of 34,464 gallons of gasoline.
At this point, the project is in the design stage — being configured specifically for my roof.
I must admit that a 3D view of my roof would make it easier to envision where the solar panels could be placed, but this is the sheet supplied by Lennar. I do appreciate the accuracy of the information provided by this sheet though.
With applicable discounts, the total cost will be $52,920. We are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit of $15,876, so the out of pocket costs are estimated to be $37,044. We are only able to afford this from the proceeds of the sale of our California home. The hardware should provide 80% of our energy needs, so the forecast is that we will be able to recoup our investment in 10.5 years. In the event that climate change makes Texas even hotter, it won't take that long. Regardless of the time it takes, we will be able to run our air conditioner guilt-free every summer. Around Cypress, I see T-shirts that read "Don't California my Texas." All I can say in reply is "Sorry." Hey, did I just "Canada their Texas?" At Autodesk, sustainability is in our blood.
Solar energy is alive in the lab.