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Dothan family sees benefits of using solar power
News reporter | Posted: Saturday, November 7, 2015 12:30 pm
The Dodge muscle car in the garage notwithstanding, Joe and Jill Schneider have always been fairly environmentally conscious.
Their other car is a Prius, by the way.
So it just made sense when the Schneiders decided to install solar power for their hot water heater in their Dothan home a few years ago. During the summer months, very little electricity is used to heat their water.
Last year, the Schneiders decided to take the next step. They installed a series of solar panels on their roof and have seen their monthly electric bill cut in half.
“All we were thinking was that we just wanted to cut down on our electricity use as much as we could,” said Schneider, a Nebraska native who retired from the Army and moved to Dothan several years ago.
Schneider said the investment in solar power has exceeded his expectations. However, he said he did not realize the difference it made until a glitch in the system took it down for about a week a few months ago.
“We were without it about a week and we could really, really tell the difference,” Schneider said.
While roofs with solar panels are still quite rare in Dothan and the Wiregrass, increased efficiency, decreased startup costs and a renewed green movement are all contributing to more homeowners becoming interested in using solar power.
“You’re seeing more demand. You’re seeing more people enquiring, especially for battery backup,” said Craig McManus, owner and operator of Affordable Solar Hot Water and Power LLC. McManus installed the Schneiders’ systems.
“The panels have gotten better, more affordable,” McManus added.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, 1,393 megawatts of solar power was installed in the second quarter of 2015, for an overall total of 22.7 gigawatts of capacity, enough to power 4.6 million homes. Residential installations increased nationwide by 70 percent when compared to the same quarter the previous year.
The Schneiders have had solar hot water for about five years and added 3200 watts of solar energy potential last year. The panels are installed on the south-facing roof of the home and translate the sun’s heat to power. If it is not needed at the time, the power can be stored for future use.
On a sunny day, Schneider said the solar power can operate most of the home’s major appliances.
“The electricity can go out in my neighborhood and I would never know,” Schneider said.
Schneider said he believes the system will pay for itself in about 10 to 12 years. McManus said several factors determine the amount of time it takes to recoup a solar investment, including the age of the home, type of system and other factors.
McManus said one of the most important factors is making sure the home is energy efficient.
“It’s a must,” McManus said.
McManus said he can perform an energy audit to find energy inefficiencies. He said fixing the inefficiencies will help get the most out of a solar energy system.
Schneider received a 30 percent federal tax credit for his solar investment. The available credit is currently scheduled to drop to 10 percent at the end of 2016. Practically no state incentives exist.
A handful of homes in Alabama have enough solar power to actually provide electricity back to the grid. The electricity provider pays the homeowner a few cents per kilowatt hour.
Schneider, however, said financial savings wasn’t the primary reason for the move to solar, but the smaller electric bill never hurts.
“We would eventually like to get to a point where we do everything solar,” Schneider said.
When the neighborhood has power failures, their lights, TV, Fridge, and essential appliances keep running from the batteries and solar panels .
A solar electric energy system we installed for a home in Montgomery AL