Everything you need to know about going solar

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A number of friends have asked me for information on going solar. Rather than keep sending the same emails about it over and over, I thought I’d consolidate the information here.

Should you go solar now or wait?

Solar is getting cheaper all the time. So some people wonder if they should wait to go solar till solar prices drop more or solar technology improves.

Do you want to wait to start saving money? If you want to save now, the answer is No.

Solar is a mature technology. Going solar now means you’ll save on your power bill, and your savings will keep increasing as power prices go up. Some great rebates and incentives are in place today to encourage clean energy adoption. Those incentives won’t go on indefinitely, and some are already ending. In some places, net metering is being eroded (for more on net metering, see the PDF linked below). So now is the best time to go solar and save — save on your energy bills and help save the planet.

Okay, you’ve decided not to wait — now what?

Some general information on going solar:

  • You can learn a lot of what you need to know in this Solar 101 (PDF) and this presentation (PPT). (Here are downloadable versions of the Solar 101 and the presentation.) Just don’t try contacting a MyDomino energy savings concierge, because MyDomino closed in June 2017.
  • Get several quotes and compare. Slide 17 in above presentation shows an easy way to do this. You need to compare $$/watt, not total price. And note that the price of solar has come down since we made the PDF, and at this point likely also since the PPT.

Information specific to the San Francisco Bay Area:

  • Good installers I know in the area — you can tell all these folks I sent you:
    • Luminalt: Woman-owned local SF company, really good, trustworthy people. Jeanine and Noel Cotter run it. They are both super awesome, and they run a great company.
    • Cinnamon Solar: Barry Cinnamon is a real solar pro and industry veteran. They’re based down the peninsula. He’s gone in to San Francisco for two friends who needed maintenance on their old systems, something that wasn’t going to make him money — but he knows the value of good service.
    • SunWork: If your average electric bill (just the electric part, not gas) is $100 a month or less, I highly recommend SunWork, a local nonprofit. SunWork works with people who have low bills, regardless of income. Because they’re a nonprofit, they’ll give you a better price than anyone. And they’re good and reliable, have been around a while, and will even let you help with the installation if you want. Ask for Reuben (the founder) or Mike.
  • Another local (but larger) company is Sunrun. They offer an affordable energy storage option, and I think you can get it with a lease.
  • To get your power bill history, sign in to your PG&E account, go to Usage, and click the Green Button. That will download two spreadsheets with your usage and billing info: one for gas, and one for electric. Only the electric one is relevant, of course. You want to get your average over about a 12-month period.

3 thoughts on “Everything you need to know about going solar

  1. Kenneth T.

    Thanks for the information…

    Do you have downloadable pdf/ppt files for off line reading? – I can view them when I’m connected to the internet but can’t when I’m not.
    Well, not from my phone anyway.

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