Going Solar: Our New Love for the Sun

By the Kabat Family

In early Spring, 2016, our family began the process of going solar! It wasn’t until October of that year, however, that our 28 solar panels were in place on our roof and turned on. The wait for our panels was excruciating at times; a very slow but steady process. But now the end result amazes us almost every day! To say we have a new appreciation for the sun is a big understatement.

Our panels have an almost complete southern view and zero shade. They provide all of our energy, plus extra energy that we sell to Xcel, for eight months of the year. All of that excess power goes to a local energy grid, which in theory is meant to help others offset their energy costs. We do not pay an energy bill from May to October. Starting in March, we watch our bills slowly decline to nothing. Then in October, we watch the bill go back up again thanks to our cold Minnesota winters. We jokingly say we don’t mind global warming so much – the more sunshine, the more power we produce. However, one of the reasons we chose to go solar/sustainable energy is to help protect the Earth and our environment.

We were given a few programs to follow our energy usage. One of the programs goes to usage within the last 10 minutes and as far back as to the start of our production! The programs have been educational in figuring out which appliances and various items in our home are the real “energy suckers”. The oven, the clothes dryer, the garage door opener and our sump pump are a few of our big energy hogging items. Typically, our family of four uses around 1 kWh (kilo Watt hour) of energy steadily throughout the day with a few spikes. On a very nice, hot, no cloud summer day our system will bell curve up to producing on average 6 kWh. This summer on those “bell curve days” we made more power than we needed for around 10 hours per day! It really is amazing to see how much energy we don’t use! Our stats for July 2018 are as follows: We made/sold almost $50 worth of power! BAM!! We made over 1 MEGA watt of power–we are so over the kilowatt here.

Time Logged July 1 at 12:00 AM through 9:27 pm on July 31!
Energy Used 841 kWh (approx. $109.30 used)
Energy Generated 1.20 MWh (approx. $155.99 saved)
Net 359 kWh sold (approx. $46.69 earned)

Our family has taken other steps to use less energy. We rarely use our air conditioning since we found out that running fans uses less energy. We have gone back to using a clothesline for drying our clothing during the summer months. We are looking into a plug-in hybrid car as our next vehicle purchase. We live in Chisago County, which has become known in some circles as the Solar Energy Capitol of Minnesota. Many other families around us have taken the step to go solar too. It is fun to share stats and compare notes with friends. At our son’s elementary school, out of around 400 students, seven families and one teacher (who lives in Wisconsin) have solar panels on their homes. The entire school Chisago Lakes School District has solar panels and has invested in sustainable power.

We made a decision early on to not be shy with the cost, the process, the installation and eventually with the savings and the science of it all! Our solar panels are the best home improvement project we ever invested in. We also feel good knowing we will always have a sustainable energy source.

An example of a bell curve day-with a few spikes of use (the red). Peak falls between 5 and 6 kWh. This picture is from October 2017

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