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Austin Engineer Looks Back on First Year with Solar

Jerry Barnes is a semi-retired civil engineer and grandfather who moved to Texas with his wife Shelley, a nurse, 12 years ago. After 32 years in Oregon, he was ready to escape the cold, wet winters and to be able to play golf year-round. When two of his sons in Portland put solar panels on their homes, Jerry became interested in the new Barnes family solar tradition.

DECIDING TO GO SOLAR

“We were really impressed not only with Zach but with the whole company and all the people who came out – top quality, really nice, helpful people. It was so easy it was unbelievable. We didn’t have to do anything but hand over the check.”

The idea of solar stayed in the back of Jerry’s mind until he heard a knock on the door one day. Standing on his welcome mat was a door-to-door solar salesman. As his pitch unfolded, Jerry sensed that the salesman was in over his head, and the salesman revealed it was his first pitch ever. Jerry decided to go in a different direction.

Even though the salesman lacked the experience Jerry could trust, the conversation kindled his interest. Jerry decided to get serious about going solar. He did some research online and found Freedom Solar on Yelp. He reached out to schedule a no-obligation consultation in his home with sales manager Zach Stirling. Zach was very well-informed and made a great impression, as did Regan Jung, the site assessor who designed a tailored solar solution for Jerry’s roof. Freedom’s employees treated Jerry and his family with Texan friendship as they shared their solar experience and knowledge.

After the paperwork was done, Jerry got a call to schedule the installation. Putting the solar solution on his roof only took two days. The SunPower panels looked beautiful on his roof. A week later the city inspector came out, the system passed his rigorous inspection, and with the flip of a switch, Jerry stopped paying an electric bill. The whole process was “effortless.”

THE SOLAR ROI

“I think it’s worth it, good ROI. I’m impressed and I’m very happy with it. We haven’t paid a dime in electric bills since the system was installed.”

For Jerry, the Austin Energy rebate and federal tax credit made it hard to say “no” to solar. There are many reasons people consider solar energy. Some folks prioritized the environmental benefits or the boost in the resale value of their home or the financial benefits of the savings. Jerry looks at the financial benefits through the lens of his yearly return. He said, “I get asked about the payback a lot, but for me it’s more about the return on investment because we don’t pay for electricity anymore.” With the utility bill savings exceeding the annual cost of the financed system, he is getting a 5% return on his yearly investment, a decent return with no risk.

ONE YEAR LATER

“We love it. I’m feeling hip and green. Be greener than your kids!”

Jerry’s system was energized on October 25, 2016. With mostly gas appliances, his HVAC is the biggest electric cost. Going solar in the fall, when they weren’t using the A/C as much, meant that he was able to generate a significant credit with his utility over the winter. Even after using his air conditioning through a sweltering summer, thanks to his solar array his family paid nothing for electricity for the full year.

Jerry loves his monitoring system. A year later, he still goes online regularly to check his production, and marvels that he’s paid nothing in electricity this year. The system has been running perfectly smoothly and Jerry is looking forward to years of savings.