Willowdale family goes green, sees red

Government rebates, promise of future savings make decision worthwhile

Luling resident Anne Moyer never considered herself a “green” person, but in-depth research into the benefits of renewable energy has caused her to reconsider.

Now, Moyer and her family are taking on what she calls the “world’s most expensive science fair project.”

Moyer is investing around $37,000 into green energy products, including solar panels, a thermal water heater and cellulose insulation. She hopes that the installation of those products will drastically cut down on her energy bill, while also giving her a chance to help the environment.

And since Moyer is helping the environment, both the state and federal government will help her finance those renewable energy products in the form of a tax rebate.

“The state gives a tax credit of 50 percent to people who are installing solar systems,” Moyer said. “The federal government also has a $2,000 tax credit.”

Louisiana, which only began offering the credit this year, gives an amount equal to 50 percent of the first $25,000 of the cost of a solar system, including installation. The federal credit of up to $2,000 for the purchase and installation of residential electric and solar water equipment was established by The Energy Policy Act of 2005. Next year, the federal government will give a tax credit equal to 30 percent of the system’s cost after the Energy Policy Act was renewed in the bailout plan.

“This effectively means that in Louisiana, if you can swing the initial cost, you can get about 80 percent of the cost of your system paid for,” Moyer said. “I would just have to wait an additional year to claim all my tax credits.”

Moyer has already purchased and installed the solar thermal water heater, which will rely on the sun’s radiation. Solar water heaters utilize a solar collector, which absorbs the thermal energy of the sun’s rays and transfers the heat to the water in the storage tank.

The solar heater cost Moyer $8,000, plus an additional $1,000 in plumbing.

“Although the sales rep advertised that a regular water heater is about 75 percent of your gas costs, we really haven’t seen that percent of savings in the two months the new thermal heater been in service,” Moyer said. “We’ve seen only about a 40 percent reduction.”

Moyer has recently installed a solar panel system, which will use photovoltaic cells made from silicon alloys to turn sunlight into electricity. Solar cells can convert up to 22 percent of sunlight into energy.

The 450kW system that Moyer purchased will run $25,000.

“It’s an expensive process and I know that not everyone has the means to do this,” Moyer said. “In fact, only six companies in Louisiana sell and install solar systems, so they can charge what they want.”

Moyer says the tax credits do make it more worthwhile, especially next year. However, financing for solar systems is hard to come by. Federal programs through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are available, but basically involve refinancing a home. The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources also has a state program called HELP to assist individuals who are making their homes more energy efficient. However, it requires financing by qualified banks.

“To my disappointment – upon investigation – there is only one bank, a credit union that requires membership, in the entire state,” Moyer said.

Despite the initial cost, the system can pay for itself down the road.

“The solar panels will supplement the power from the Entergy grid because they will tie into the feeder line,” Moyer said. “If I’m not using the power, it will feed back into the grid and I’ll get a credit for the solar power I return into the system.”

Entergy will also install a digital meter into Moyer’s home at no cost to the family.

“The solar panels should supply about 30 to 40 percent of our power needs,” Moyer said.

In June and July, Moyer’s power bill averaged around $288. In August, that amount jumped to $330. She hopes solar power will help her knock that cost down.

To make sure all that energy doesn’t escape, Moyer has also installed cellulose insulation, which is an alternative to fiberglass. Cellulose is “green” since it is made of 80 percent post-consumer recycled newsprint. This insulation provides greater resistance to air leakage than fiberglass because it is made from wood fiber, which is densely packed.

“The contractor, Green Bean Insulation, did a phenomenal job, and after the insulation was installed, my attic temperature went from 120 plus degrees to 85 – even during the heat of the day,” Moyer said. “I have definitely realized a 20 to 25 percent savings in my electric bill due to this change.”

The cheapest product the Moyers had installed were compact fluorescent light bulbs. Those bulbs are more efficient than regular bulbs because of the different method they use to produce light. Regular bulbs create light by heating a filament inside the bulb, which wastes a lot of the energy used to create the heat. A fluorescent bulb, on the other hand, contains a gas that produces invisible ultraviolet light when the gas is excited by electricity.

Packs of three bulbs cost between $15 to $20, but they last five to 10 times longer.

“Going green is not something I ever really considered doing, but I always thought about it,” Moyer said. “I just think it’s the right thing to do. This has really stretched my finances, and I hope I made the right decision.”


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