MAIL: Solar Payback


I have some feedback about article “What are You Waiting For?” (“From the Crew,” in HP159). Are you serious to suggest in the article that homeowners should refinance or get a second mortgage to install PV on their homes? For a 15- to 20-year payback? So, at best, it’s a break-even deal? (That is, if no cost is incurred during those 15 to 20 years for repairs.) Financing a PV system makes no sense as long as the local power plant is running.

A local solar installation company is advertising a 3 kW system installed for $12,000. You could spend half of that to have the average home superinsulated with spray-foam technology and save that 3 kW, summer and winter. The best way to reduce our energy usage is not use it in the first place—conservation, conservation, conservation.

A lot of your articles covering installed PV no longer show the cost of the installation. What gives? No matter how you juggle the numbers, PV systems defy common sense for someone living in southern Indiana (me). Passion for the technology can never override common sense. 

What are we waiting for? I guess for the power to quit coming out of the wall.

Jock Stucki • Evansville, Indiana

Many folks look at the situation quite differently: Why pay the utility when you could be paying off your system at the same rate? Instead of giving your money away, at the end of the term you own your energy production.

But I am in full agreement that investing in energy savings is sound, and the financial payback occurs in exactly the same way as investing in a PV system. Home Power recommends that reasonable means to save energy be the first step, and only then does it make sense to take the next step of installing a renewable energy electric system.

We hope to start working with authors to get the real data on their system costs. But I think you are mistaken that installing RE does not make sense economically. 

Michael Welch Home Power senior editor

Comments (5)

cmhshark's picture

What about the increased value of your home? With the 30% Federal tax credit, if a PV system increases the value of your house by 70% of the PV system payback is immediate.

Ray Jorgenson_2's picture

I find the people asking this question are the same ones putting up vinyl siding & "replacements windows' (payback 60+ years?), and believe insulation will 'rot your house'. I've actually experienced this! And the same ones never question what the 'payback' is on a large SUV or Mercedes.

Michael Anceravige's picture

Oh and besides the best Bank interest rate I have seen is a mere .075% Solar returns are much higher!

Michael Anceravige's picture

Well i look at my Solar Endeavors as "My Hobby". When one put things into perspective just think how much a person can put into their Hobby! Some have race cars. some are collectors. So Solar is n different if you take in that perspective, but this perspective pays off, and keeps paying off.

Judy Merry's picture

I compared my Solar PV with the joy of buying a new car or leaving my money in the bank where it gets .5%! I am so satisfied with my payback. the Feed in payback sure beats the bank. Some people get more joy in driving a new car.. but not me.

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