Interview with Solar + Heat Pump Customer Trent Welch: “I saved more money than I thought I would!”
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We love talking to our customers to learn the back-story of solar. What got them interested? How is their system working? This month, we feature Trent Welch. Trent is Sales Manager at GC/AAA Fences in Dover, and recently installed solar and a heat pump at his home (and the business is consider their own systems!). He has a year of data on his system now, which he was kind enough to share with us.
Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background and what got you interested in solar?
I am 43 years old and live in York Beach, Maine with my wife Katie and three kids Josie, Shea and Jack (one out of college and now on her own, one in college and my son is in high school). We have lived in our home since 2008. By no means am I a “homesteader living off the grid type”, but we try to do our part. It’s clear our actions have an impact on the environment and it’s become more mainstream to implement “green” changes to one’s lifestyle. This started with the obvious – going all organic in my yard and garden, installing simple pull down solar shades on the South end of the house and basic conservation efforts, like turning off lights that aren’t being used. It’s much easier to not use the electricity in the first place, no matter how it’s produced!
4-5 years ago I realized that my roof was very well positioned for solar panels. I started to research the idea and eventually found my way to Revision Energy for a solar consultation. I loved everything about it but with two kids about to enter college I was looking for a financial arrangement where I would end up at net zero cost after electricity savings. At the time, the numbers just didn’t add up, so the project was put on hold.
So what made you decide to go from solar ‘curious’ to solar customer?
About four years after my first inquiry with Revision, I heard that the solar craze was causing prices to drop drastically. I decided to inquire again and a few things had changed in my favor.
First, the price did indeed go down (actually, it was about the same total project budget, but I got more production as the modules were more efficient – my roof could now hold a 3.6kw array rather than a 2.8kw array). Second, the new mini-split heat pumps were gaining popularity (and my house is perfect for it) and actually ended up being a more financially advantageous change than the solar. Third, Revision now works with a specialty bank for low interest fixed loans to finance these types of projects. This was huge because I was (and still am) in the midst of the previously mentioned tuition payments.
It certainly took some time and attention, like any home project, but I was able to install the solar array as well as a 15,000 btu Fujitsu mini-split heat pump for zero dollars out of pocket.
Awesome. So, how’s it worked out so far? Has everything been to your expectations?
The solar panels worked out very closely to what I was told for electricity production. The heat pump definitely exceeded expectations. I was told that it would handle 100% of my heating during the “shoulder” heating months and then I would need my backup (propane) to help with the two coldest months.
The reality was that I used my back up propane heat for exactly ONE night, looking back I could have toughed it out and gone for ZERO. Considering the record breaking February we just had, I am thrilled with this. The added cost of electricity to run the heat pump ended up being a fraction of what the propane would have been, and the heat pump performed well even during extreme cold. As with anything new, it takes some time to understand and tweak it, but what a great system. It’s also a 15,000 btu air conditioner – I don’t use that much but it’s nice to have.
My one year anniversary of going on-line was March 8th, 2015, so I have some hard numbers to talk about. In choosing to finance the system and incur some finance charges, I actually expected to be at a slight deficit in year one – instead, I was $104 in the positive! This is a result of saving more money than I anticipated by reducing electricity AND propane costs. I also made a bit of money selling off my old propane heater on craigslist. While this is encouraging, what is even more exciting is that this savings per year will only stand to increase as the cost for propane and electricity rises in the future – my savings will improve proportionally.
Of course, the most important impact of the PV system was in reducing over 3.2 tons of CO2 emissions from electrical plants since going online. We also used about 560 fewer gallons of propane (which works out to an additional 3.5 tons of CO2 emissions avoided!). Overall, it’s a huge win, for both our family finances, and the planet.