Do you think that the cost of going solar is too high? For many families, paying for seven to ten years of electricity up front can be cost prohibitive even though such an investment pays huge dividends over time. New solar specific finance products are being introduced into the marketplace to ease the cost burden, but these vehicles do nothing to reduce system cost, instead they are designed to make the cost more manageable by spreading it out over a period of time and can be of great benefit to the homeowner who wishes to go solar AND preserve capital. Although leasing and more innovative and superior financing products like PPAs (power purchase agreements) are becoming available to consumers (in addition to traditional financing), the question of how to reduce overall system cost remains paramount.

What if I told you that I could save you up to 50% on solar photovoltaics (PV) for your home? What if my methodology was simple, cheap and easily implemented? What if my tactics required little or no sacrifice on your part? If you’re interested in saving some serious cash on your solar power system, read on. I know my strategy works because I implemented it on my own house prior to going solar.

You can visit my system here:

When I became interested in going solar in late 2006, I began by using one of the many solar sizing calculators available on the internet. After some trial and error, I soon discovered that I would require a 6KW system to satiate my monthly appetite for 1,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity. The first quote I received for a 6KW system was $56,000 before incentives. Even with a $14,000 California rebate and a $2,000 Federal Tax Credit, $40,000 was a hard figure for me and my wife, Daryl, to swallow and about $20,000 more than we were prepared to spend.

Undeterred, I was committed to making solar work for my family, within our budget, and with 100% elimination of our electric bill. This is how I did it:

1. I changed 30 incandescent light bulbs to Compact Fluorescent (CFL) –
Savings = 250 kWh/month or 25%
Note: Make sure to buy “soft white” bulbs (unless you like ‘blue’ light). I like N:Vision 2700 Kelvin (soft white) CFLs for standard light fixtures. For canned lighting I prefer Philips dimmable CFLs since they brighten faster than GE. Home Depot & Walmart both have an excellent selection of CFLs. New CFLs don’t flicker on or buzz and the quality and variety of light is vastly superior to generation one CFLs. So buy confidently!

2. I reduced the time on my pool pump by 1 hour/day from five to four hours.
Savings = 50kWh/month or 5%

3. I turned off an electric water heater and bar refrigerator for our guest room (except for when we actually have guests)
Savings = 100kWh/month or 10%

4. I placed all electronics on power strips and I turn off power strips when not in use (Google: Bye Bye Standby). Electronics include televisions, dvds/vcrs, computers, peripherals, stereos, amps, aka Home Theater Systems — all of which use ‘standby’ power when ‘off’.
Savings = 50kWh/month or 5%

5. I now wash clothes in cold water with cold water detergent and let the dishwasher ‘air dry’ dishes (turn off the “quick dry” feature and save 50% on each dishwasher load).
Savings = 50kWh/month or 5%

The total cost of these efficiency measures – $135
Total reduction in power consumption – 500 kWh/month or 50%
New Solar System Price – $35,000 ($23,000 after rebate and tax credit)
Total Savings = $17,000

While your mileage may vary, addressing energy consumption habits up front will make a solar power system much more affordable as compared to buying/financing a system designed to generate ‘wasteful power’. In other words, energy efficiency eliminates wasteful power consumption and therefore you’ll get significantly more bang for your solar buck by reducing your appetite for electricity prior to going solar.

I turned $135 into $17,000. I then put that $17,000 down on a Ford Escape Hybrid. How will you spend your savings?

Editor’s Note: Photo is of Scott Gordon residence and his solar power array system