This guest post was written by Alex from Mutilate The Mortgage. Alex is giving away a few free gifts just for Little House In The Valley readers to help you pay off your mortgage in under 10 years at www.MutilateTheMortgage.com/gifts

One time a friend was over at our place and we were both walking down the back path which goes past my power meter. As he walked past it he did a double take and shouted out to me.

What!?? Hey, how come your power meter is going backwards????

It was the middle of the day and nothing much was running inside the house so with our solar panels producing more power than we were consuming our meter was running backwards (as it does almost every day at some point).

I had to explain to him that we hadn’t “hacked” our power meter or done something illegal, it was just our solar panels being awesome and sending power back into the grid.

This blew his mind that we were actually selling power back to the power generators and making money from it. He’d never heard about it before and a few months later he got an even bigger system than we have and has been getting “credit” power bills ever since.

Bills, Bills, Bills

Ah bills. Everyone hates getting them. They’re like emotional bombs in the mail.

You think it’s something interesting and cool, but then you see the companies logo on the front and just die a little inside.

Whenever I see one in the mail I instantly think “aww man… who wants to steal my hard earned money NOW!??“.

However we’ve had a 1.5kW solar system on our roof for well over 6 years now (the one in the picture above) and buying it has been one of the best financial decision we’ve ever made (paying our mortgage off in 6.5 years was the best decision!).

Instead of being annoyed I actually enjoy opening our power bill. I get to see how much pollution we’ve saved, how much energy we’ve imported/exported and best of all, I get to see how much the power company owes ME.

That’s right. They owe ME money this time round!

Here are two of our own personal power bills, the one on the left is from when we just moved in and had no solar on the roof. On the right is our latest power bill. We regularly see bills like the one on the right. It would actually be higher if we didn’t also pay our gas bill with those credits.

Before-And-After

Yes, that “Cr” means they owe us $64.22 😀

And that’s the power of going solar. You help the environment, save yourself thousands of dollars, protect yourself against rising power prices in the future and also take a critical step in preparing your home for the future. On top of all that, L.A. pays for every kWh that you generate and send back into the grid, so you see the savings right from day one.

Grid-Tied Solar Systems can be a bit expensive up front, but the cost is usually recouped over a few years and then you have an asset that not only continues to make you money, but also increases the value of your home if you ever sell it in the future. In one piece of research, it was found that 85% of people said having solar panels on the roof adds value to the home. Three quarters of renters even said they’d pay an extra $10 a week for them!

Solar And Small Homes

Being connected to the grid while having solar panels on your roof is referred to as having a “Grid-Tied Solar System” and it’s basically a financial no brainer to get at this point, especially if you live in one of the six U.S. states that have Feed-In Tariffs (California, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington). When you combine this with small homes it makes even more sense!

Given the biggest power costs for most homes is their heating and/or cooling, small homes can benefit even more as they normally have very small footprints and thus take far less energy to heat/cool. They are normally big enough to fit a 2kW solar system (or more) on their roof which will substantially cut into your electricity bill. The end result is your house might only use 5-10kWh’s a day in electricity but produce 7-10kWh’s on a sunny day providing all your power needs.

Solar power makes for a fantastic companion as it also compliments a value that is core to most small home owners, helping the environment.

In the US, coal is still a significant part of the energy mix that’s used to produce electricity. Owning a small home obviously helps the environment to begin with but when you then add on solar it takes it even further, eliminating the burning of fossil fuels that produce the majority of the energy the house uses. All this whilst instantly saving you money on your power bill and actually making you money over the long run.

How often do you get paid to save the environment???

But it gets even better!

It differs from state to state in the US, but as an example, in Los Angeles they provide a one-time payment to customers who purchase solar rooftop systems. According to the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, “As of July 20, 2015, the SIP residential rebate level was… $0.30 per watt“.

This means that if you were to install a 3kWh solar system you would get a Solar Incentive Rebate of 3000 * $0.30 = $900. Not bad!

Power Production

So how much will your system produce you ask? And how big should I go?

Well this varies depending on a number of factors such as if your panels are shaded by a tree or aren’t facing the “best” direction or if they’re a cheap brand that isn’t as efficient. However as a quick guide, if your system is setup in LA and isn’t shaded at all, you can expect something around 4kWh’s per day, per kW of solar panels.

So if you have 1kW of solar on your roof, on average over the course of the year you should produce about 4kWh’s per day.

If you have a 3kW solar system, expect about 4,380kWh’s/year or 12kWh’s per day.

This is of course an average and your production will vary with the seasons. So on a cool summer’s day with the sun shining you might produce 15kWh’s with that 3kW system. But on a cloudy winters day it might be more like 6kWh’s.

To get an idea of what real life solar systems output based on days, months, seasons and sizes etc, a fantastic website is PVOutput.org. Here you can search through the huge community of solar systems and see what they produced yesterday or any day. There are ones in LA, Australia, Spain, everywhere!

Step By Step

So how do you get solar panels on your roof and start saving huge amounts money?

In LA, they have a (relatively) simple step by step process:

  1. Initiate the Meter Installation Process
    The meter installation and interconnection process is performed by the LADWP’s Service Planning Group. To begin the process, you will need to fill out the online form available at Request a Solar Meter. This will create an Interconnection Work Request Number (WR#).
  2. Begin the SIP Rebate Application
    Submit a rebate application online through PowerClerk. By submitting a completed application, PowerClerk will automatically reserve the rebate amount for your solar power system, using the current incentive level
  3. Install your Solar PV System
    Once a customer or contractor receives an Interconnection Agreement approval email, they may proceed with the installation of their solar system. You can look up and find solar installers in California here. After the installation is complete, contact the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) for the permit inspection and to obtain a final permit.
  4. Connect and Energize Your Solar System
    Once the contractor completes the construction of the solar photovoltaic system and receives a final permit from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS), the applicant must contact LADWP Service Planning at (213) EMPOWER or (213) 367-6937 to complete the interconnection process and have a net meter installed. After the net meter is installed, the customer or contractor will receive an email notifying them that they have Permission to Operate (PTO) their solar system.
  5. Get Your Solar Incentive Check
    Once the net meter is installed, the applicant must submit the Incentive Payment Claim Request in PowerClerk to claim their incentive rebate. LADWP will review your paperwork, verify the solar system installation, and mail you your incentive payment.

Today photovoltaic solar arrays have well and truly come into the main stream. As an example, China installed over 7GW of it just in the first quarter of 2016. That’s about 30 million individual solar panels in just 3 months! Many other countries are charging ahead too including Australia, which has solar panels on roughly 25% of all homes already.

The main reason for this is as old as time – money. It’s what makes the world go round and if you have the roof space available, now is the perfect time to fill it to the brim with solar.

So do you have solar already? Shout out your system size and how much money it’s made you in the comments.

Are you thinking about getting solar? What’s stopping you? If you have concerns leave a comment and we’ll help you out.