Glenn links to an article at Extreme Tech by author Loyd Case, where the author discusses the results from a home solar power system that was installed a year ago. He is generally pleased with it, since now he only pays for about 1/3 of the electricity that he used to.
Fine and dandy and good for him, but I was taken aback when I got to the part where he reveals just what his yearly cost happens to be. Now that he has the solar power system installed, it is down to $1,460.73. And he thinks that is great news!
“That’s my power bill for twelve months.”
So what was it before the fancy new sun-stealing gear was installed?
“…our annual power cost for twelve months prior to installing solar power was $4,430.”
You know, I pay less than $1,400 a year for both gas and electric combined. And I don’t have a solar power system installed.
There are differences in our lifestyles which would naturally drive Mr. Case’s consumption up, though. I live alone, while he has a wife and children all under one roof. I have one PC which I use for about 2 hours a day, while he and his wife both use their computers to work out of their home. My house is a modest cape cod style with a basement, while I bet he has square feet to spare.
But I do live in a more northern climate than Mr. Case, and it can get mighty chilly hereabouts when compared to San Francisco. In fact, if the average temperatures for San Fran as listed in that last chart are correct, I doubt I would run either my furnace or air conditioning more than 60 days out of the year if I lived there. Here in Columbus, there are only about 60 days out of the year when I don’t have either the heat or the cooling switched on.
And, of course, are there more sunny days in San Francisco than Columbus? According to this chart, there are an average of 105 cloudy days in San Francisco as compared to 190 in Columbus, Ohio. Almost twice the number. Not really shocking.
All of those factors are significant, but they don’t tell the whole story. Is there a big difference in energy costs between the places we live?
Actually, there are. According to this chart from the Energy Information Administration, a kilowatthour sells for $0.1031 in Ohio, while customers are charged an average of $0.1438 in California.
That is just the average for the state, though. It wouldn’t surprise me if the people living in and around San Francisco were paying a lot higher than the state average.
Bottom line is that the solar energy system Mr. Case installed reduces the power he draws from the grid down to about the same level I use. This is pretty impressive, but it would certainly be more impressive if he had to deal with the same extremes in temperature that I experience.
The system Mr. Case bought went for $38,000. Considering his savings, it will be more than 12 years before it pays for itself. At least it will, as long as it continues to function without any costly repairs or replacement parts.
I think Mr. Case’s system is a worthwhile home improvement addition, but only for homes in his own unique circumstances. The fact that he enjoys a climate that is mild compared to the one I experience, he enjoys a significantly greater number of sunny days, and that his energy costs are about 40% greater than mine, means that there aren’t too many people around my neighborhood who should bother paying the big bucks for a similar system.
(Cross posted at Hell in a Handbasket.)