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Los Altos, California Home Solar Installation - Gerry L.'s Story

Gerry Lawrence of Los Atlos, California describes his home solar panel installation experience with REC Solar as part of our Go Solar! series.      

What went into the decision to install a PV solar system? For Gerry and his wife, the need for solar panel installation was clear - the amount of energy they used for their Los Altos home was very high and their monthly bill was averaging $350 per month and reached $700-$800 per month in the winter months.  Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) charges high volume users a greater per kilowatt-hour rate than lower volume users (based on "tier system"). Gerry found himself in the highest tiers.  Economically, solar installation just made sense.  Additionally, the home had ideal roof size and faced the optimal direction for generating power.

How Gerry chose a solar installer. Gerry's decision to go with REC solar was also an easy one. He began his search for a solar installer the same way as many people - filling out a few forms on the internet.  He had 4 estimates completed, all of which were close in cost.  Initially REC installation was slightly higher, but he was able to negotiate a lower price.  "That was good, because I really didn't want to go with anyone other than REC."

The reason Gerry was so fond of REC was because of the technology they use for the inverter boxes (the equipment that converts your solar electricity into usable energy).  While all of the other companies use multiple micro-inverters, REC uses one, larger inverter box.  It is more reliable and requires less maintenance than  micro-inverters. And if something goes wrong with the inverter down the line, you can simply replace the one box instead of having to remove panels from the roof. 

What was the installation process like? The installers were reliable, knowledgeable, and easy to work with.  It took 3 days for them to complete the 20 panel, 4.6 kilowatt installation. 

How were the rebates handled? REC took care of the California state and PG&E paperwork.  Gerry received some help from his accountant with the federal rebate.  After rebates and incentives, Gerry paid $15,600. It is estimated that through energy savings it will pay for itself in about 5 years. With a lifespan of 20-25+ years, it is an excellent investment.

The energy savings. The solar project was complete and functional in April, 2011, 2 months before our interview.  In the first month, not a particularly sunny month, he generated 24% more electricity than estimated by the solar installers.  In the second month, another cloudy and rainy month, he produced 16% more electricity than estimated. Gerry is excited to see how much energy he will produce over the summer. 

Gerry’s recommendations for Going Solar. “If you consume a lot of energy, it's a no brainer." If PG&E charges you a top-tier rate, it makes sense economically due to the relatively quick return on your investment.

Read about other individuals' experiences going solar in the Los Altos area!

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