Solar 101, Part 2

Apr 22, 2009

My Altadena household has been making electricity since March 27. Our solar panels are almost disappointingly discreet — I can’t help but want everyone to know how virtuous we are. But on the other hand it’s nice to be humble, quietly saving the planet in our own way, you know….

Our new solar panels

Our new solar panels

Solar installation took about two whole days once it got going, allowing for rain and including a day for cutting concrete and trenching an electrical line from the free-standing garage to the panel. Prior to installation there had to be some installation of stand-offs on the roof for the panel supports, and a little re-routing of exhaust vents (which took a couple of days). So it took a week in bits and pieces to install our little system.

When the panels were up, we added a hose on the roof, in order to rinse off the panels every two months and keep them producing at their optimum rate. As our solar friend Shelley pointed out, be sure to wash them down BEFORE they heat up in the middle of the day….

We get sun on the panels this time of year from about 8:30 to 4; we’ve installed a total of 21 panels.

Struts support the solar panels and hold them at the correct sun-catching angle.

Struts support the solar panels and hold them at the correct sun-catching angle.

Oh, the thrill of watching the SCE meter running backward! Eventually our in-house monitoring system will be up and running — everyone says you get quite compulsive about your power situation then — but in honor of Earth Day, I promised to report our early results:

• The most astounding fact is the “pounds of CO2 saved” stat on our outdoor monitoring system. We have saved 622.71 POUNDS of CO2 — if I’m not mistaken that is a very lightweight GAS….

• We’ve generated 366 kwH in three weeks — (we use about 2,000 a month), including 17.34 today (we average 40 a day). Our goal was to generate 40% of our electricity with this system (about six more panels are due to be installed), so we’re doing well.

• Our electrical bill, which covered only about half a month of generation, was down by about $100 from the previous month, though our daily usage this period is greater than the last two years. Last year’s bill for this time period was a little more money, and we’ve used a few less kWh this month than this time last year, so it’s all a confusing mish-mash.

• Our first whole month of generation will be reflected on the next bill. To make things even more unscientific, we traded in our old TV (and my brother-in-law, a frequent guest), and the cost of power fluctuates like crazy, so it may take a year for us to get good comparison numbers. The kWh generated are the easiest to track, but the $ make the most impact — except for that CO2 number.

Happy Earth Day! Eleven years ago I met Jane Goodall and burst into tears. I’d like to think that the chimpanzees are thanking me for living a bit less heavily than I once did.

— Mel Malmberg

Invisible power — the job is done.

Invisible power — the job is done.


People have asked for the name of the contractor — a 12-year-old firm recommended by an architect friend and made up of very knowledgable former utility employees.  Jesse, my project manager, was terrific and the subs (electricians and roofers) were fantastic.  They took care of all the paperwork including rebates, which have increased this year and help make the costs, over the long term, pencil out.  Jesse says they are busy installing residential charging stations for electric cars.

Jesse Marez, B.S.E.E. 
Business Development
Clean Fuel Connection Inc.
Office: (626) 445-1445 ext. 11 
Facsimile: (626) 445 1450 
Mobile: (626) 824 8911
Your Guide to Solar/Photovoltaics, Energy & Alternative Fuels

3 Responses for “Solar 101, Part 2”

  1. Gloria Putnam says:

    Congratulations and welcome to the club! We have had our solar installation running for about a year and can’t believe how much energy it generates. We would like to expand our system, but the contractor we used the first time around was a little bit flaky and difficult to work with. Can you recommend your installer?

  2. Brian L says:

    I have had my Sunny Boy going for more than 5 years now. I took a look at the display the other day and noticed I have generated over 24,000 Kwh. I have no idea the price of electricty anymore due to SCE’s tiered service etc. but I am liking my return on investment. I expanded my system 18 months ago and added an additonal 2000 watts of capacity. I used a small company in Sierra Madre and was quite pleased. I can’t remember the name but one of the partners was the former mayor of Sierra Madre.

  3. Mel says:

    My solar company was recommended by an architect friend and is located in Arcadia, made up of former utility employees. They did the whole package for me, including rebates, which are VERY nice now, so go ahead and add!!

    Jesse Marez was my project engineer, a great guy, all the sub contractors were terrific, knowledgable, etc.

    Jesse Marez, EE
    Clean Fuel Connection Inc.
    Your Solar Energy & Alternative Fuels Co.
    626 445 1445 x11 Office
    626 445 1445 Fax
    626 824 8911 Cell



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