Lots of folks wonder about solar, but few take the plunge. We did, twice. With the once 30% Federal Renewable Energy Tax Credit, and about 30% Duke Energy NC Solar Rebate Program, our cost was significantly off-set. But even with all the credits and rebates, we found out how critical it is to choose a good installer.
Not Our First Solar Power Rodeo
About four years ago, before the NC Solar Rebate Program was available, we invested in a small solar battery backup system. It’s not a large system, only six panels, and enough battery power to run our refrigerator and a few small electronics like computer, television. In extended outages, we’re able to keep the basics powered without running the generator continuously. But a portable gasoline generator still gets started to run our deep-well water pump, hot water heater, electric stove, and other energy hungry appliances. The trouble with this first system was the installer. It literally took about five months after the completion date they set themselves to complete the project, it was never configured correctly, and there was never any follow-up. The installer vanished.
Duke NC Solar Rebate Program is a Game Changer
Once the NC Solar Rebate Program was introduced, along with the tax credits, installing a grid-tie solar system was a no-brainer. We began shopping to add another, larger solar system. After scouring local solar installers for several months, obtaining quotes, shopping online wholesalers, responding to online ads, we settled on Renewable Energy Design Group in North Carolina. They were referred by some folks locally here in our neighborhood, and referrals always seem to be the most reliable place to find good contractors.
Before we decided on R.E.D. Group, some other unscrupulous solar companies lured us in. We’ve seen… and clicked on …the facebook ads from other companies saying ‘no cost’ or ‘free solar’. That’s just not true. We had other local companies come give us quotes… all at 20% higher cost with indefinite install times and unclear information. But R.E.D. Group seemed to have the most up front, low pressure, educated quotes. They always treated us with respect, returning calls and messages promptly, answering questions directly. And when it came to the contract, there was nothing we found misleading.
On Top for Price, Estimate and Integrity
From the very first contact, it was a great experience. My initial point of contact, Adam, was knowledgeable and communicated on a consistent, timely basis. While many other sales folks insist on telephone or in person visits, Adam was happy to work mostly by email. One of the owners, Christian, designed the new grid-tie system with our existing system in mind. When it came time to install, Brandon led the team. They were even able to complete our install a few weeks early!
Grid Tie Savings, What are the real numbers?
In February 2019, R.E.D. Group installed a 7.3kw system at a cost after Duke rebate and tax credit of about $8100.00. In our first year, we saved about $750 off of our normal electric bill from Duke Energy. This would mean it would take 10.8 years to pay off. However… our system is producing an estimated 10% less because of some trees that cover several panels for about 1/3 of our sunlight hours. That means after we have trees cut, we estimate payoff will be about 9.5 years to pay off. Not so bad, considering there’s a 25 Year Panel Warranty/ 12 Year Inverter Warranty… it means after the payoff period, energy will be completely FREE for the remaining 15 years or so left of the warranty.
Did I Mention Great Service?
In February 2020, our system suddenly went blank. The cool SolarEdge real-time monitoring app indicated it wasn’t producing power. After reporting the issue to R.E.D. Group, during a weekend and by email, one of the owners responded before business hours the following day. He was on-site within 48 hours to check out the problem and determined it was a bad inverter. Within a week from then, their great electrician Brandon was on-site and replaced with a new inverter sent from manufacturer. It was surprisingly quick service, didn’t costs penny more because it’s still under warranty.
Want solar? Act quick, federal tax rebates currently expire soon!
If you’re looking to get a solar system, this is a perfect time. Federal Renewable Energy credits are being reduced.
- 26% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2019 and before 01/01/2021
- 22% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2020 and before 01/01/2022
It looks like the Duke Solar rebates are done for 2020, but I think you can still install this year and claim rebate next year. The process is a little ambiguous, but it all worked out for us.
It was a tough call, there are many great installers in the area… but Renewable Energy Design Group was at the top of our list. And I speak from personal experience with other solar installers in the area. If we were to do it again, we’d do this grid-tied solar system with R.E.D. Group.
Renewable Energy Design Group