Brian Willever's bill from Florida Power & Light was $7.05 in May. The month before, $3.79...
That's Willever's payoff for spending more than $60,000 — after tax credits and expected rebates — to install a solar water heater, 51 solar panels and foam attic insulation in his three-bedroom Greenacres home.
Until they made the major home upgrades last year, Willever and his wife paid about $350 a month for electricity. Willever, 43, is a pharmacy student and former retail manager; his wife, Maria, is a pharmacist.
They initially forked out $100,000 for the work, received more than $30,000 in federal tax credits and are hoping the state keeps its promise to deliver another $10,250 in rebates for the solar systems. An interest-free loan from the contractor helped delay some of the expense for a year...
The home improvements could pay for themselves in 11 years, if electricity prices increase at a 4 percent inflation rate — or even sooner if electric rates increase by more because of rising fuel costs.
State regulators in 2007 made it easier for customers with renewable energy systems to connect to the utility's grid...
Homeowners who opt to buy solar energy systems say they do it in part because they can add value to their property, and unlike new countertops or floors, these upgrades pay for themselves before the house is sold.
Ed Grant in Davie said he bought 22 solar panels, a solar water heater and an energy-efficient pool pump in June 2010. His average monthly electric bill dropped to $291 from June 2010 to May 2011, from $473 the year before. He spent $37,000, received a federal tax credit of about $11,000 and is hoping the state will give him a rebate of about $10,000. A state rebate program for solar water heaters and panels is closed, and the amount of the rebates hasn't been settled yet.
If the rebate comes through, Grant said he will have spent $16,000 to receive an average annual savings of $2,184. He equates that to a tax-free yield of almost 14 percent, something that's "pretty hard to do" these days.
Justin Hoysradt, of Jupiter-based solar installer Abundant Energy, said Grant's not the only one looking at the numbers that way. Hoysradt's company installed Grant's system.
Many "see solar as a better alternative than some of their retirement plans," he wrote in an email. It "controls the cost of their energy, which [typically] rises outpacing inflation."
Willever is so proud of his "carbon neutral" home that he wrote to U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, about it. The congressman plans to visit Willever's home on Monday as part of a series of energy-related events he's attending this summer...
The manufacturer of his panels estimates they'll last 40 years, although they'll produce less electricity by then.
"My goal is to be off of any type of fossil fuel," he said. To that end, he and his wife bought a battery-operated lawn mower and have ordered an all-electric Nissan Leaf car.
All of the work at his house was intended to help the environment and to support local contractors, Willever said.
"This is the only planet we've got," he said.
-Excerpts from a 9/5/2011 article by Julie Patel of the Sun Sentinel... & video