‘Green’ savings not so hot in January

Willowdale woman rates green energy process 6 out of 10 - but would do it all over again

March 25, 2009 at 11:19 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Willowdale resident Anne Moyer stands in front of her solar “control center.” Moyer and her husband, David, spent $37,000 on green energy products to make their home more cost effective and environmentally friendly. So far, the savings have been minimal,
Jonathan Menard
Willowdale resident Anne Moyer stands in front of her solar “control center.” Moyer and her husband, David, spent $37,000 on green energy products to make their home more cost effective and environmentally friendly. So far, the savings have been minimal,
It has been two months since Luling resident Anne Moyer and her family invested $37,000 into green energy products to make their home more cost effective and environmentally friendly, and so far, the savings have been minimal.

But that has a lot to do with the time of the year that the system was installed.

“I can’t say that I saw much difference in the first month,” Moyer said. “The reason for that is that in January, the sun exposure we get in Louisiana is at its absolute lowest for the year.”

The money that the Moyers invested went into green energy products such as solar panels, a solar water heater and cellulose insulation. However, they will get a lot of that money back because the state gives a tax credit of 50 percent to residents installing solar systems and the federal government also has a $2,000 tax credit.

The first month the solar panel system was in operation, it generated about 150 kw hours, which translates to about $25 on an electric bill. The second month, the panels knocked off close to $35.

“Last week, with all the beautiful, sunny days we had, I was generating about 15 kw of power per day. That corresponds to close to $50 to $60 a month in savings,” Moyer said. “As the days get longer and it gets warmer, that number will continue to increase.”

Moyer said that the solar water heater seems to be taking about $35 to $40 a month off of her gas bill and she expects the cellulose insulation to take off $30 to $50 a month -depending on whether or not her family uses a lot of air conditioning.

Even though the system is installed now, there were some problems with getting everything up and running in the first place. The vendor who installed the solar products, South Coast Solar, didn’t think they needed a permit, but was told by the parish in early December that one was indeed needed.

“They actually had to make up a ‘miscellaneous’ permit for our use, which is understandable because solar installs are new and they weren’t sure what to do,” Moyer said. “Then, after the permit was submitted, the parish told South Coast Solar that they needed an act of sale document, which was provided by me to the permit office on Jan. 6.”

After all that, the permit office then decided the Moyer’s system needed an electrical inspection. Her system was finally powered up on Jan. 15.

“There were also a few other surprises, such as having to get my panels insured, but most of the problems I experienced are probably not going to be issues for anyone getting them installed this year, as the companies selling this equipment are now much better prepared and educated,” Moyer said.

Because of her experiences, Moyer has started a Web site called greenenergyfaq.com. The site will provide resources on green energy and will also be a place to exchange ideas about moving a home to renewable energy sources.

“I just got the site up and running an am still working on roll out, so it has not gotten a lot of traffic,” Moyer said. “Hopefully, that will change soon because there is a definite need for this kind of information.”

Before even having the Web site, Moyer got some feedback from neighbors and others in the community.

“In general, it has been a good conversation topic and people are definitely interested,” she said. “The cellulose insulation I have in my attic is probably the most interesting thing to people because it’s one of the most cost effective things you can do.”

Cellulose is “green” because it’s made of 80 percent post-consumer recycled newsprint. This insulation provides a greater resistance to air leakage than fiberglass because it’s made from wood fiber, which is densely packed.

Moyer rates the process of going green a 6 out of 10, largely because the cost makes it a tough sell and Louisiana solar companies are still going through growing pains. But Moyer said it’s something she would “absolutely” do all over again.

“I think I would have researched the process a bit more, but I’m happy about doing something sustainable and I’m excited to have the opportunity to help others who are interested in the technology but just don’t know where to start,” she said. “I’m hoping my Web site, which includes a blog and forum, will make that task easier for the next person.”

The Herald-Guide will check in with Anne Moyer again after things heat up in the summer to see how much money her family is saving by using solar power.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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