As I mentioned in an earlier post, I felt some in the solar industry were really, really shady. Luckily, my experience with Lumina Solar (and Matt) on Friday helped change my opinion of everyone in the industry. I had a really good meeting with him for about 90 minutes, and I think I could have talked shop with him all day if we had the time.

Some things you need to consider when getting solar that no provider had mentioned to me, up until this point…

  1. The tax credit thing. It’s late October. By the time any installer puts in the system, it’s going to be 2022. So the tax credits go after install, not at time of purchase. I would not get my tax credit until 2023 when I file my 2022 taxes. This changes a LOT, as I was planning on doing a refi with the house AFTER the installation and tax credits came in
  2. Many have relented and sold me batteries only after I had to convince them why I wanted it. Matt listened to me and offered two Powerwalls. It was by far the most costliest system, but he also explained that with my needs, the batteries can only take so much juice from the panels, and then can only support a bump at 21 amps when things like the sump pump kick on. Meaning, everything I needed the battery for would not be supported under the other designs. I’m a math guy and took a lot of this watt/amp stuff in physics in college, so I at least understand this at the 50,000 ft view.
  3. Because of the timing of this, had I done this 2 months ago, my plan A may have worked. That is, to try and get cash price for an unsecured loan at perhaps 5%, then pay off part of the loan with the tax credit and refi the house. Due to how late in the year it is, he showed me lots of different options. He showed me the loan calculators which showed the up charge on the loans for the unsecured loans – the lower the rate, the more principal. The lender gets a good chunk up front. This was COMPLETELY TRANSPARENT and gave me a lot of trust in him, where others were very opaque and just tried pointing me towards a monthly payment number.

I have an estimate coming to me from Trinity on Monday, but their salesperson was trying to warn me of the cost of the battery. Again, people trying to sell me NOT buying the battery. What the sales people don’t understand is I’m pretty good with numbers and finance, so THEY are concerned about a shock number that scares me away. BAD MOVE, PETE. Give me the sticker cost for the price of the system, show me how finance options change the price and why, and provide me a system design that meets my needs.

One thing Matt went over is that with one battery, there’s only so many solar panels that can be running at the same time to juice up the battery. Something like 25. Meaning, if my solution was 32 panels, then 7 of them would not be hooked into the battery at all and would run on a separate but parallel system. Meaning, the batteries can only take so much at a time, and just because you add more panels, you can’t juice up the battery faster without voiding a warranty. Matt came up with a solution that covers 116% of my energy costs. By far, the best so far. So many have been focused on meeting my exact needs, for a 100% replacement, no one has been listening to my requests for more power than I need. The idea is that we may get an electric car or two down the road in the next 5-10 years with everyone else. If there’s extra, I can sell it back to MetEd, and get credits.

This is why sadly, I have to eliminate Solar SME at this time. Why? They came up with a good solution through Energy Sage, but they didn’t have a battery added. I worked with their sales guy and he added a battery to the quote. I then got to a point where I wanted a sales person to come out and talk with me. Check the roof, kick the tires, and ask me about my needs. The mistake Solar SME did overall was tell me they would not send someone to my house until I signed a “non-binding contract”. I told them, “I’m not signing anything until I talk to a sales person”. They said they don’t do that, but might make an exception. BAD MOVE, PETE. If you are trying to sell people $30,000-$100,000 worth of goods, you need a face and person someone the buyer can talk to and ask more specific questions. The “non-binding” agreements was THE CONTRACT. Tried to slip that one past me. Again, BAD MOVE PETE.

FATALITY

My system I like…

What Matt at Lumina designed was based off of my needs. I have a 16 month old and a 12 month old. Those reading thus far are probably part of my PM community and understand clearly what’s going on with inflation. A big part of me sees energy costs skyrocketing over the next 25 years. My electric usage of 13,800 KwH at $150 avg per month I see doubling inside a year or two, and inside 10 years, perhaps 3-5x from here. The idea with the solar is you can have a fixed energy cost over the next 25 years at today’s energy prices while everyone else gets the inflation hit from the power companies.

This system designed comes in at producing like 16,500 KwH in the first year. This is 116% my need as the design said. I know I can sell extra back to the grid, and I get credits for my extra and every March or so they cash me out and it resets. This is a lot of extra power, but these things also degrade over time, so my hope here is that over the next 25 years, I do not need one kWh from the power company. I’ll still get a base bill of like $8-$11 every month from MetEd, but not sure how that works if my credits are a lot more. This is MORE THAN I NEED, but given I work from home and am in the tech industry – and may buy electric cars down the road, I like extra room to grow my power needs. Once and done for 25 years. No need to go back 5-10 years from now and try and add and retrofit.

With the battery, I had some more education with that. I was focused solely on the math with the kWh, but not the juice that it can take or dish out at once. Meaning, when the AC or sump pump kicks on, there’s a spike in amps. If you cause too much of a spike, it can trip your battery and you are down. I had initially sough a solution through Solar SME for an $11,000 9.6 kWh battery, but the problem was my needs of the freezers, sump pump, refrigerator, and electric for the timer/settings on my gas oven would not be met. Even a powerwall with 13.5 kWh would not do it. And, only 25 solar panels could feed into a Powerall. He talked to me about 2 – but the first thing I thought was sticker shock of $400 per month payments and said no. Matt worked up many different financing options for me, and I found that I can have my cake and eat it too, for $250 per month.

Battery

I went into a much longer discussion on this in my last post, but I wanted to revisit this. Most people who have solar are people who like green stuff and want to replace their $150 electric bill with a $150 solar payment. I get it. But I’m 20 layers deeper on this than most people.

I have written a lot about inflation since perhaps January 2020, right BEFORE COVID and the stimmies. I started stocking MAD food here in February 2020, again, before lock downs. When the great TP incident of 2020 happened, I already had a year supply while all of you were scrambling everywhere.

So why a battery? Here are some big picture bullets….

  • Food. I have some freezers and refrigerators with quarter cows, half pigs, etc. Pretty much at any given time, I like the idea of 1 years’ worth of food here for the family. I might draw more down on this at times, but re-stock perhaps twice a year. Anyone who understands inflation – when it gets severe, you start to see people buying a lot more than they need, which causes supply chain issues and shortages. Many articles are starting to just cover this in the MSM. I’m about 20 months ahead of most of you in planning. IF I have power outages, I do not want my food to spoil.
  • Cooking. I have a gas stove and range with a microwave. I also have a fire pit that I can cook on cast iron and a propane grill. IF there’s power outages, my oven doesn’t work, nor does the microwave. I have a 16 month old.
  • Sump. My mother lost her house in Agnes in 1972. A hurricane parked over PA for 3 days, and she lived next to a river. She was rescued from the 2nd floor by boat. I don’t live near water, but I am almost done finishing my basement. IF we have sustained rains for many hours with a hurricane, my sump pump goes nuts pumping water. If power fails, the sump doesn’t work and my basement could fill up. I want to ensure I have enough power to sustain a sump pump during these events.
  • Price ceilings. IF we are in a situation where you see crazy high energy prices, you also may see “price ceilings” to combat those evil, greedy oil people. The idea here is that energy companies won’t sell this stuff at a loss, so they will have to reduce production. This leads to rolling blackouts. How long? In Venezuela, I had heard you might get power a few hours a week, at best. I don’t think we are getting there, but you can see rolling blackouts in CA the last decade or two when power usage increases – and the green energy they do have cannot handle the needs. Price ceilings could lead to a day or two at a time with no power, which can spoil all of my food.
  • Grid issues. Imagine there are rolling black outs. Most people that bought solar think they are fine, they will just produce and not take from the grid. When the grid shuts down, you cannot produce solar – as it mimics someone working on a downed power line in your neighborhood. IF you are on battery, you will take from your battery overnight and produce solar during the day and feed it into your battery. The grid could be down for days and you would not know. With a solution of perhaps 27 kWh, I could probably run my bare essentials for a day or more. My daily usage is 38 kWh on average, but this is having the computers, TV, toaster, dishwasher, and AC on. In a grid-down situation, I can perhaps produce for a day off of my battery – but remember, every time the sun comes up, I’m producing.
  • Generator. So many people wanted to talk me into a generator. IF the grid goes down, you can use a generator fueled by gasoline or perhaps use a Generac one tied into your home running on gas power. It flips on and then you run on natural gas until the grid comes back up. In my future, I am concerned about energy bills at 3-5x and rolling black outs. Why would I want to run my electric on natural gas if the cost of it is 5x today? I am not someone that is going out in the middle of a hurricane to try and plug in a generator and fill it with 5 gallons of gasoline – then figure out how this powers specific appliances while NOT electrocuting someone fixing a downed wire? Also – in that scenario of 3-5x energy bills, how much is gasoline costing to power that generator? How many hours do I get from it?
  • Cyber. While this is a remote possibility, I do have a master’s degree in cyber security and while we have an increasingly digital society, risks increase for cyber attacks to our grid. Look what happened to the pipeline a few months back. Imagine if my electric company was hit with a ransomware attack for $1b and there’s no power for a week? This is the extortion part of cyber. But many don’t consider things like logic bombs that could be ticking time bombs waiting to go off. Imagine a coordinated attack from a nation-state against us. At MMDDYYYY a nation state has a cyber logic bomb to attack our power grids, at the same time using hypersonic missiles to take out satellites. While this could lead to WW3 and solar might be the least of my issues, cyber warfare would include disruption of our power grid. How are we building things like tanks, guns, and bullets with factories with no power? So if I can isolate myself from this, great. Likelihood may be low, but still something to think about.

Costs

I am pretty sure I’m going with Lumina with their solution. Remember that free $139,000 I talked about? That’s going to come down a bit. Had I done all of this two months ago, maybe. But let’s look at some things here.

The giant system with 116% power and 2 Tesla powerwalls comes out to be about $80,000 at 1.99% with the unsecured financing baked into the cost. Meaning, they add something like $10,000-$13,000 to the base costs, then give you lower APR. You could do cash costs on credit, but with this unsecured loan you are looking at 5.7-7.5% which gives you higher monthly costs. I’d do this option IF I was going to refinance it into my home loan in a few months.

When you count the tax credits of 26%, this then takes the final cost to $60,000 over 20 years at 1.99%. This is about $250 per month.

But Nate, this is ADDING $100 to your electric bill per month? Yeah. Kinda. But not.

I think I’m going to proceed with the refi on the house as well, and take this from a 2.99 over 20 to 2.5% over 20. Because of crazy inflation, my house value has appreciated substantially. Meaning – if I do a refi now, I eliminate $70 per month of PMI.

Using an amortization tool here, you can take a look at what I’m seeing.

This has the $1263 payment (without taxes and insurance) going to $1,185. This is about $80 less. Meaning, if I refi my house with this, I reduce my mortgage payments by $150 per month.

Total expenses of mortgage ($2000) and energy ($150) now is $2150.

Total expenses of new mortgage ($1850) and solar ($250) is now $2100. SRECs will be about $50 per month as well, maybe a little more with 16,500 kWh produced. Takes that down to $2050. $50 less per month doesn’t seem like a lot, but let’s look at the bigger picture as energy costs increase over the years in my high inflation scenario.

So here’s the big picture – I believe my energy bill over a 25 year period through Met Ed would average $350 per month. While it’s $150 now, it could be $500 in 25 years. Let’s just say AVG of $350.

Energy bills from met ed for 25 years would be $350 x 12 x 25 = $84,000. Mortgage would be $2000 x 12 x 25 = $480,000. So if I do NOTHING, my costs over the next 20 years are $564,000.

If I do this with solar, my monthly costs are $1850 for the mortgage and $250 for the solar with the $50 SRECs per month. This total over 20 years is $492,000. With this, I’m also looking at the end of this to be owning the silver in the solar panels – which actually could have a very nice recycled value at the time.

Overall, this savings looks to be about $564,000 – $492,000 at 72,000. This means over 20 years, that’s $300 more per month in my pocket. But there’s one aspect here you are missing. This essentially has me buying the solar system and batteries with this, so for my $300 savings, I get a free $80,000 system I use. Now, I’m paying for it – BUT if I was consuming electricity over those 20-25 years, I have nothing to show for it. With this system, these things may be good for 40-50 years. Warranties at 25 years for just about everything.

So – on Monday I think I will make up my mind and talk with my wife. But what this LOOKS like, is someone is paying me $300 per month to take their solar panels, allowing me to make extra money by producing extra power, and allow me to have battery usage as insurance to protect my family, my food, and my home from water damage.

Your mileage may vary, but this is starting to look like a really, really good idea.