Sunday, December 20, 2009

Be The Change

(Note: This post is a departure from the regularly-scheduled content of this blog.)

Here's the present we got ourselves this year.

It's not quite active yet, as we're waiting on the county to inspect it (hopefully next week), Xcel Energy to come out and switch out our meter with a net meter, and then Standard Renewable Energy can come out and flip the switch. With the rebate offered by our utility, and the Federal Tax Credit, SRE predicts we'll break even in about three years. (I think that's a little optimistic, as they assume a 10% increase in rates each year which I think is a little high, so I'm guessing it will be closer to four-and-a-half years.)

It's sized to provide between 95% and 100% of our electricity needs, although SRE says that most folks start reducing their usage once they have the real-time usage monitor in place (plus we installed a solar attic fan, which should reduce our air conditioning use, which will reduce our electric use further). We anticipate that as Abby gets older we'll start using a little more electricity, but we were shooting for about 100% of our needs. (Unless and until plug-in cars come along, in which case we could possibly add on to the system.)

If you live outside of Colorado, considering check with your local utility to see what incentives they might have (or contact SRE if they operate in your area). If you live in Colorado I'd suggest you contact SRE and they can provide you with information (whether your utility is Xcel or someone else). Xcel is currently in the process of reducing their level of rebates, but that is partially offset by the cost of the panels themselves continuing to decrease. The sooner you start, the higher your rebate and the sooner your break-even point is likely to be.

And, yes, we have one of these as well.

We've had it since April of 2006 and our lifetime miles per gallon is approximately 47.8.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Update 12-23-09 (from 31,000+ feet - free wifi on the plane!): @ScottElias asked for some charts and graphs in the comments. Here you go (click on the images for a larger view). Once my system is up and running, I'll see if I can track historical info on usage and periodically post that as well. Note some of the assumptions they build in - like a 10% per year increase in electricity costs - which as I said previously I think is a little high, but this still gives you an idea.


  1. Good on you, Karl!

    I have to say, though, in passing that 47MPG is laughable in England. My last car (a Vauxhall Astra) did over 70MPG and my current people carrier (Ford Focus C-MAX *easily* does 45MPG.

  2. @Doug - Yeah, but it's a start on this side of the pond.

  3. @Doug - Do you know what kind of emissions that Ford Focus C-MAX has? Looks like it's going to be available in North America in 2011.

  4. you go karl fisch...

    geo metro since 91...50 mpg.
    1 problem... no back seat... not a family car.


  5. Very cool Karl! The thing that amazes me is the payback time. Even at four and half years, that is a huge improvement. Last time I looked into it, the payback time was 10-15 year. Have you looked into geothermal heating?

  6. Nice! I like the departure. Since giving up our car in August of this year, I’ve clocked approximately 290 km running to work and 1,650 km biking to and from work. I’ve also saved about $5000 in car-related payments. I think more and more people are getting the "think globally, act locally" idea.
    Way to go!

  7. That is awesome, Karl. It is my dream. You might want to check out a Curt Blank's solar powered home website...he is a total green energy nerd and posts real time data about his home's energy output on his website: . He is a friendly guy-I even talked to him on the phone back when we lived in Milwaukee and were thinking about installing a 6 KW system. Perhaps you could publish such data here at the fischbowl. Last thing I'll say is a bit of commentary on many people are skeptical about it and always ask questions like, "when will it pay of itself?" Do we ask these questions of other capital investments we make (new boiler, central air, automobiles, etc)?? Unlike these capital investments, a PV system actually WILL pay for itself at some point in time. Way to go. Way to be the change!

  8. Crud. My Prius only gets 44.2. You beat me again. ;0)

    Now, are you composting? Going meatless? Lemmeknow when you get really serious. ;0)

  9. Very cool, Karl. I'd be interested in seeing a break down of how exactly this improvement pays for itself over time. You know - maybe some cool graphs or something. ;-)

  10. @bnuebel - We haven't looked at geothermal, have you?

  11. @Matt - that's an impressive website. I don't anticipate providing that level of detail but, once I'm up and running, I'll see if I can easily gather historical data or not.

  12. @Will - It's never enough for you, is it? :-)

    We've looked at composting, but haven't pulled the trigger yet. We do only average about 1 bag of trash a week, which is significantly less than our neighbors. Especially in the summer, as we leave the cut grass clippings on the lawn instead of bagging them (trying to reduce our lawn area some, too). We also mow with a zero-emission (at our end) rechargeable mower.

    As far as meat, we've reduced, but I doubt we'll eliminate. We average about 3 meatless dinners a week. Breakfast is meatless, and lunch is often meatless for my wife and daughter. I do have lunchmeat (usually turkey) pretty much every day on my sandwich, but it's a relatively small amount (those really thin slices, probably about an ounce a day). So, less of a footprint than many, but still room for improvement.

  13. In fact I did look into geothermal a couple years ago. I talked to a few companies and had some discussion with my real-estate agent about it. The technology had a lot of room for improvement, and the price had room to come down. The tax incentives are not as nearly as big as they are solar. The payback time was about 10 years at the time. I conclude that it was not the right time yet. I do have some family that has done in the Midwest. They told me the money they save in heating, pays for the AC in the summer.