Andrew – Rockville, MD

March 7, 2024 Maryland

Andrew – Rockville, MD

System size 12 kW

this post was transcribed from a recorded interview

What got you interested in going solar, and how did you hear about SUN?

I got a letter from Montgomery County about the Solar Switch program. At first I didn’t know what it was, but it was from the county government, and I thought it sounded like something reasonable. I wasn’t entirely sure how it worked, but it seemed like some kind of bidding consortium to make [solar] cost effective. I looked at installing a solar system five or six years ago, and for a couple reasons I didn’t. One was the added complexity; I’m an electrical engineer, so I love electrical things, but I had too many irons in the fire and thought “I can’t deal with this.” The other one, really was the economy of it.So then this [letter] came along and we started looking at it. I thought, “well we have the real estate on the roof, and we have pretty decent geometry.” I was concerned about our shading. In the winter time the sun angle is back behind the trees, but the trees are empty. In the summer the sun is up above the trees in the back. 

After the roof analysis, I thought from a business perspective, it works pretty well. I’m not under any illusions with solar. While solar is great, and it works during the day, there are a lot of plusses as well as minuses. You know you’ve gotta make the panels, you’ve got to mine the stuff…it’s not all just free green energy. But from a business perspective it seemed like a good thing to do. 

I think its a 30 year warranty and they advertise the system life at, like, 40 years. I like those numbers. Its far better than the 15-20 year type arrangement that existed when I looked at it five or six years ago. I’ve lived here for 22 years now, and we don’t plan on moving away. If we ever were to move and sell the house though, its a value add. Who wouldn’t want to buy a house that provides two thirds of its electricity? We’re savers and we live debt free; with the tax break we can live with the system and it was a good deal.

Then with the electricity [savings] I did the math, and what they call their rate to compare doesn’t include all the fees. You divide basically dollars by kilowatt hours and it’s something like 18 cents. I think in the summer it may be more. I’m looking at the last day or so at 30 kilowatt hours and that’s like $5 or $6 a day, which is really encouraging.

As far as your experience with Solar Switch, what are some of the positive experiences you had?

I liked the iterative design process. When I say that, I mean, there was a series of visits with more technical personnel. There was someone who pitched it to me, then folks who flew the drones to survey the roof, then the designer who did the layout. I was able to reach back out to the designer and say “hey, look over here where you haven’t put any panels because you said that part of the roof is shady.” I had one leaning cypress that was leaning way over, and another one that was huge which probably should come out. I said “why don’t I cut those trees down,” which I was thinking of doing anyway, “and then we can put panels over here too,” and that got us from 27 to 30 panels and a larger system size. 

The other one is, when the installers were here, and being able to talk to the installers and discuss where we’d put the conduit. Originally, they wanted to put it in the attic. We have a small attic, and I had done some work in there, and preferred to put it outside. I don’t mind the conduit outside, but I wanted it lower down at the back of the house. They did a good job tucking it in, and it looks very nice. 

I went up there and watched [the installation], and you know, things were very clean and nice. At some point, the roof will need to be replaced, but the roof was installed in 2010 and it’s supposed to be 50 year shingles.

Do you have any feedback that we can use for the next campaign?

Setting people’s expectations about time. If you sign today, it’s gonna be about four months until the install. Telling people “this is why it takes so long” and “if you don’t like it you should talk to your city government.” 

The other thing would be attention to detail on site cleanup. I did find a bag of clips on the roof. Have somebody when the job is done make that extra trip just to check.