Hawaii Homeowner Saves Thousands with Solar Power

In September 2008, my power bill was $625.79. When I opened the bill I just about blew a gasket, and out of pure frustration I began thinking about how to reduce this massive monthly payment. I changed out all the light bulbs to CFL. I went from three computer monitors to two. I lowered the […]

– a Guest post by Tony Kawaguchi

In September 2008, my power bill was $625.79. When I opened the bill I just about blew a gasket, and out of pure frustration I began thinking about how to reduce this massive monthly payment.

I changed out all the light bulbs to CFL. I went from three computer monitors to two. I lowered the temperature on the water heater by about 20 degrees. But those steps were nothing compared to what I found available right on my roof.

After contacting multiple solar power companies, I found one that offered to finance the cost of a solar water heater, and even a photovoltaic system, at a mere 2% interest rate until it paid for itself. I knew about the the 35% Hawaii State tax credit, and the 30% Federal credits, but this near free financing made the decision easy. I put the 2 solar water panels and 9 photovoltaic panels with converters onto my home, for very little money out of pocket.

The panels were installed in 2 stages in October ’08, and as you can see, my power bill was cut in half within the first full 30 days of use!

It helps that we live in a very sunny part of Oahu, just East of Diamond Head. Even here in Hawaii, the amount of sun you get throughout the year can vary quite a bit, depending on the location. Areas like Manoa and Kailua, that are often overcast, might have trouble producing as much power as my house does. Sunny Hawaii Kai and Kapolei do great, especially in the winter.

To make the purchase even easier (read: cheaper), I got 3% financing, to purchase two solar hot water systems for low-income families (found by the solar contractor) that would pay me a low monthly payment equal to the financing.

So I received the 65% tax credits on the two water systems, which actually exceeded what I paid up front, by quite a bit. In essence I am getting free money from the government. I made sure to run this by my CPA, whom I was glad to find was already familiar with type of solar power financing for lo- income families. It’s a great tax advantage for me, and a great cheap hot water system for two low-income families.

Fast forward 1 year, and I was so pleased that added 9 more PV panels to bring the total to 18, lowering the power bill to $153.27 in September 2009! That’s a difference of $472.52 a month! Add to that the fact that for 2009, the Federal Tax credit for solar power is no longer capped at $2000, and the savings just add up even faster. I also purchased yet another hot water system for a lo- income family, bringing my total to three systems on other people’s homes, and two on my own.

Here are the 18 PV panels:

Notice the bars hanging out of the left side. Those are for the addition of  future panels.

It will probably take 36 total panels to get off the grid, and maybe even sell power to my neighbors. Fortunately, I have a very large flat roof. (Bonus – the panels even protect my roof!)

This is the Sunny Boy converter, installed by Mercury Solar:

The installation took about 4 hours, and sits next to Hawaiian Electric’s meter, which now spins a lot slower than it used to. I’m looking forward to the day it never spins at all!

Here is a close up – you can see that the Sunny Boy has produced 2908 kwh (kilowatt hours) over the last year, most of it with just 9 PV panels. With my current 18 panels, I am producing about 16 kwh a day now:

More great news – the PV system alone has saved 4944 lbs of CO2. Save money, save the Earth!

Think of all the carbon that won’t be entering our atmosphere, and thus, the oceans. The greatest danger of carbon emissions may be the acidification of the oceans, which leads to the death of massive amounts of sea life. That means – Goodbye food chain!

So, by saving Co2 emissions, I get to save money and help the ocean as well!

One last benefit of solar power is the added value to my home. Imagine if you were a buyer, comparing two similar homes in Hawaii, and one of them allowed you to have almost no power bill. That monthly savings would be a huge factor in the value you would see in that home. Very few homes in Hawaii have PV today, but many have solar water heaters. It really makes sense for every home to a solar water heater, as almost every family will be able to recover the cost in under two years.

About the Author:

Tony Kawaguchi lives in Oahu and normally blogs about Hawaii real estate.

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2 Responses to “Hawaii Homeowner Saves Thousands with Solar Power”

  1. gary jones
    October 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    Do you know if solar backpacks work to power a laptop? has anyone reading or writing for this blog ever used one? I’m travelling to NE Africa in a couple months and need some way to power my laptop while travelling in remote locations. I’m looking at solar backpacks http://www.growandmake.com/100-organic-cotton-hemp-messenger-travel-bags-backpacks/100-organic-hemp-backpacks-messenger-bags . any feedback would be great.

  2. Anna
    October 15, 2009 at 3:04 pm #

    Gary, you might want to check this page on solar laptop chargers: http://www.findportablesolarpower.com/portable/solar_laptop_charger.php There is a bag which carries and charges laptops, and I think I have seen a backpack that does this as well but I would need to find it. I don’t have personal experience with these, thought there should be some helpful reviews on the individual product pages.

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