Nowadays, utility companies in some states are required by law to provide a portion of their energy from renewable energy sources…..ie solar, wind, biogas, hydropower. This means they have to produce renewable energy themselves or they can purchase it in the form of a credit ….or be fined. This has given utility companies incentive to buy solar energy from YOU…their customers. With these incentives, does that mean solar is right for you?
Questions You should ask your Solar Representative:
4. What is FIT and can I get it to help fund my solar package?
FIT stands for Feed-In Tariff. FIT is an energy policy that guarantees monthly payments to anyone that produces renewable energy like solar energy.
FITs are designed to offer stable revenue streams through long-term purchase contracts, …SO they will send you a fixed payment every month depending on how much energy your solar panels produce. As of now in most states, you cannot accept the FIT and any grant. You must choose one or the other.
5. When and how are FIT payments made?
If you use the same company that supplies your electricity to pay your Feed-In Tariffs, hopefully they will do both at the same time...So instead of getting a monthly electric bill, you will hopefully get a check because your FIT contract and solar production will cover any monthly utility charges. You can alternatively appoint an agent to collect your tariffs for you
6. Who pays for FITs?
The suppliers pass on the cost of the Feed-In Tariffs to all their electricity customers.... so the bottom line is that all customers pay for renewable energy!
7. Is there an end to the FIT?
Yes, the utility companies are only obligated to work with the FIT up to a certain amount of energy produced (a limited amount of households will be signing up for FIT), so yes, you could miss out on a great deal!
8. Are there financing programs available?If so, what happens if my panels stop working and don’t produce the energy promised, do I still have to pay the bank?
Yes, many solar contractors have banks lined up to loan consumers the $30,000 for solar packages. Yes, you still have to pay the bank no matter what, it’s a loan, no different from any other loan.
Make sure you understand that there may be unforeseen problems with your roof, but your loan is still due. So you may want to wait to solarize if you do not think you can pay for roof repairs.
9. Will the electricity that my solar system produces pay for the price of the solar package?
- Depending on the amount of sun that your roof will produce, you have the opportunity to pay for your package and even get paid at the end of the month.
- Is your roof angled properly for optimal sun collection?
- Do you have a large roof?
- How old is your roof? Your roof must be able to handle the weight of the solar panels.
10. Does your contractor promise/guarantee a certain rate of electricity for every solar panel installed? …yes this can be done.
Sometimes your contractor will guarantee your electricity produced, which is perfect, because then you could calculate the fixed rate at which your bill/loan will be paid…if promised, make sure it shows up in your contract.
If your solar system is not guaranteed to produce electricity at a certain rate, then ask who supplies the micro inverters for the solar panels so you can check them out at bbb.org. Make sure that the manufacturers have a reliable support record/system for when you need to get in touch with them if a panel stops working….if your microinverters aren’t working, then your panels aren’t working and you won’t get paid by your electric company.
11. Who is responsible for the upkeep & management & repair of the solar system package (panels, transducers, the structure of the roof that the panels are attached to)
Make sure the contract shows that your contractor is responsible for the whole system and it’s upkeep…this keeps everyone happy. If anything goes wrong, God forbid, you do not want to have to learn every little detail about micro inverters and how they work.
12. Can you back out at the last minute for unforeseen problems?
Make sure that in your contract, you have the option to back out of everything if you flunk your roof inspection, or during installation if ther is a really large construction charge that no one had forseen…even your loan.
13. If the neighborhood birds choose to use your solar panels for target practice, who is responsible for cleanup.
The home owner is responsible, but in general, your solar panels will be OK. The energy production degradation will be minimal compared to the price of solar panel cleaning.
These are only a handful of questions that we asked about Solar, please let me know if there is something else you would like to know and I will do my best to find the information for you.
I like being green. I like being organic because I like the thought of my family eating food without pesticides. I like pollution restrictions because I like being able to breathe clean air without coughing… and drinking clean water without getting sick. I like the idea of every household being able to generate their own electricity (if they so choose) without polluting mother earth (yes I said it …. MOTHER EARTH). How else would you describe something that gives everything and expects only respect in return?...and maybe plant a tree… or make a call or two on her behalf around earth (mothers) day…April 22nd.
In 2014, the United States generated about 4,093 billion kilowatthours of electricity. About 67% of the electricity generated was from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum).US Energy Information Administration Each fossil fuel comes with it’s own toxic problems…
The carbon dioxide and other pollutants that come with coal and it’s uses can be seen in the air we breathe at the power plant. You can read more at: the cost of cheap coal. Oil spills kill marine habitats, birds and humans. Some pollutants associated with natural gas development are: momscleanairforce
Exposure to benzene can cause skin and respiratory irritation, and long-term exposure can lead to cancer and blood, developmental and reproductive disorders
Long-term exposure to toluene can cause skin and respiratory irritation, headaches, dizziness, birth defects and damage the nervous system
Ethylbenzene can cause irritation of the throat and eyes, and dizziness and long-term exposure can cause blood disorders
High levels of xylene exposure have numerous short-term impacts, including nausea, gastric irritation and neurological effects, and long-term exposure can negatively impact the nervous system
Exposure to n-hexane can cause dizziness, nausea and headaches, while long-term exposure can lead to numbness, muscular atrophy, blurred vision and fatigue.
All of these reasons and more pushed our family into looking into solar energy for our home.
Solar Energy Savings:Right now, you can find packages, rebates, tax credits and other incentives that support solar energy. Government agencies, utilities and others have offers to help reduce the cost of installation and upkeep. You can find some of the savings information for your state at: renewable energy savings. I will discuss these in my next blog because it’s a lot of information.
It is a lot of information to go through: I’m not going to sugar coat this for you, it’s a lot to think about… Will I be able to afford this?.. Will the system produce enough electricity for my house to cover the cost?.. Is there too much shade in my yard? Is my roof able to support the weight of the panels?.. Is my roof up to date?.. Once up, will the birds decide to use my house as the neighborhood target range and block all of the sun out with bird droppings?.. These are all great questions, but that’s what the company reps are for. They will take a look at your roof and review your electric bills, check out the shade, check out the sun position compared to the roof, go over costs and federal incentives and MORE!!!. We had a really nice representative visit (from Direct Energy) and explain everything to us. He gave us his card and told us to call whenever we had questions. That was a month ago, and he’s still picking up the phone and responding to every email. In my next blog, I will give you the answers to these questions and more. If you have questions that you would like answered please email me or use the comment section.
I think I'm going to go crazy if I have to go one more store to buy outdoor Christmas lights. I do not like change, and I've been having a hard time accepting these "new and wonderful" LED Christmas lights. They just don't have the same look. The best way I can describe it is that even though they are "brighter" they are not "warm and cheery" like the traditional incandescent lights. It just looks cold, dark and depressing when I see some of these houses.
Let's talk money... Yes, the amount of money spent for lighting up LED's is much less than incandescent bulbs. On the other hand, you are paying way more for the string of lights up front. I could see how this is cost effective if you decorate the majority of your house, but if it's a couple of bushes, are you really saving that much? I've only had my outdoor LED lights for 3 years now, so I can't say. If they last me a couple decades then I'd say it was a good investment. The truth is, they just haven't been around and out for that long yet to truly determine if they are money savers.
Back to my issue, I just don't think they are as pretty. Specifically the multi-colored LED lights. They have replaced the warm pink bulb with cool purple, and all of the bulb colors are so deep and intense that it doesn't give that warm Christmas feel. My solution is that I opted for white LED lights with a little bit of red sprinkled in.
Here's my issue with white LED lights... Not all whites are the same! If you're a first time buyer, don't just grab a box that says white, plug them in at the store! There is cool white, classic white, and warm white. If you are looking for that warm traditional glow, you are going to be disappointed with the cool white and classic white. The closest match is the warm white.
Another discovery... Many strings of LED lights look cheap. I realized why... Incandescent bulbs had a glass covering to go over the filament because it gets hot. Since LED's stay relatively cool, they have cheap plastic coverings. Light diffuses differently through glass vs. plastic.
My Christmas wish: I am hoping that as they continue to improve the look of LED Christmas lights, they switch to a glass covering instead of plastic, and they work on softening the colors. I would be devastated if these dark, cold looking lights were my only option as manufacturers make less and less of the incandescent Christmas lights.
What are your thoughts? Money aside, do you prefer the look of LED lights or Incandescent?
By: Queue Murphy
Once again, I went way over my mileage on my lease. I do not like leasing vehicles. I tried it again this year and once again, I have gone way over my miles, even though I purchased extra. I do much better when I purchase vehicles. I now have to pay $0.20 cents a mile overage, which means I have to bring a check to the car dealer when I turn it in – and believe me, they count on that income!
The average person owns their vehicle for 11 years. I have been known to get my vehicle (Chrysler Town and Country) up to 287K miles over 11 years. I am a road warrior. We are a family of road warriors – we love to hit the big road and travel! Being a family of our, airfare is not in our budget.
I do have friends and neighbors that are able to keep their mileage below 12,000 a year – I don’t know how they do it, but they do! Those families have been successful at leasing and get a new vehicle every 2 years, but they always have a car payment. I could do so many other things with that money besides paying a car loan – travel, new clothes, massages, chocolate….mhmmm.
I found a great site by Consumer Reports that explains that someone like me and my family should purchase vehicles instead – and that is what I am going to do in a few months when I have to turn this monster in. As it is, I am purchasing a used car from my dad and parking this one for two months so I don’t rack up any more miles – all while I make a hefty $350 a month car payment – YUCK!
With leasing a vehicle, you only pay back the vehicles depreciation (how much it declines in value), that is why your payments are lower than a loan for a purchase. With a purchase loan, you are paying for the cost of the vehicle plus interest. Once a new vehicle leaves a car lot, its value declines significantly. I plan on purchasing a used vehicle just for that reason.
Here is the consumer report website and it’s a very good barometer to help you determine whether or not you should buy or lease: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/12/buying-vs-leasing-basics/index.htm.
Our blog next week will discuss various type of loan options for vehicles – which they also discuss in the consumer reporting link.
Are your tires bald? Do you have a noisy bumpy ride? Are you doing the shimy-shimy shake when driving without the music? Were you declined your inspection sticker because there are cracks and bubbles where rubber should be?
Well it sounds like it’s time to go tire shopping:
Studded, studless, noise reduction, longevity, fuel economy, all season or winter/summer tires and highway driving… all must be considered when searching. Just recently, I went to get my annual car inspection. Like most years, I waited until the last minute, I pushed a lot on my plate and figured that I could wait until a couple days before.
..because I have a perfectly new working car?...NO!
..because my car always passes inspection?...NO! There’s always something that needs to be fixed.
..because it’s easy to pin point the exact car part (tires this time) that I want to buy in minutes once I am told that I need it?…NO I say!!! HA!
Infact, my Honda Odyssey needs new tires atleast every other year. So I am boggled as to why I am so boggled about when I need new tires after a car inspection. In the past, I didn’t have a lot of time or options to shop much because my tires were so bad that it was dangerous for me and my family to drive on. Silly too for me to let my tires go since I’ve been working on cars since I was little.
Picture this: 1972 family station wagon…open hood…just as much room under the hood as there is in the car for passengers…kids sitting under the hood looking into the engine with enough room for them to put their legs in, sometimes even standing with our feet on the ground….watching dad/relative/family friend work on whatever has broken this time. Can’t do that anymore for many reasons. Yes I’m a lot older and bigger! But I’m talking about cars and how they’re made. You need a professional garage yourself to work on most cars just to change the oil or light bulb.
This year was different, I had 30 days to fix the problem…YEAH!!! The place I went to was wonderful, they gave me a list of tires that they recommended and a package deal that included rebates and a gift certificate. I had 30 days to look, and I did myself a favor and scheduled an apt with myself a week later to start looking for the perfect tire that wouldn’t wear or tear in just a year.
This is what I found out:
- only to be used in winter,
- outlawed in some states because they can really tear up the road.
- Is being phased out more and more because studdless are better in winter than ever before.
Sometimes you have to compromise: noise for steering tightness, fuel economy for noise, so find out what is important to you.
ALL SEASON, WINTER Difference:
Which tire you choose depends on the weather you drive in and road conditions. All season tires are not designed to handle extreme winter conditions like trekking through snow or driving on ice. All season tires are designed to offer a combination of benefits from summer and winter. All season tires won’t give the same amount of extreme grip and sharp handling of a summer tire. If you are purchasing winter tires, make sure you remember to change them back in the spring, because winter tires work poorly otherwise.
Look up the UTQG number: the UTQG treadwear indicator numbers are the manufacturer ratings for treadwear and how long they believe the tire will last. The numbers range from 0 to 800, 800 being the best. Each brand has their own interpretation of the UTQG rating, so brand comparison might not work with UTQG….to be used as a recommendation.
Reduced resistance (low rolling resistance) and sidewalls that reduce heat can lower your gas bills at the pump.
Sometimes you can get a package from the tire shop that may include rebates, mounting, balancing, tire removal, gift certificate, high mileage lifetime warrantees, hazard insurance.
If you’re traveling, you can get a new tire anywhere they are located. Even if they don’t have a dealer, they will reimburse you. If you are located any where in the new England area and/ or north America with the harsh winters and infrastructure deteriorating, you really want to have this insurance (or something like it for example AAA roadside service) Road hazards are defined as pot holes, debris, nails, wood, and other hazards found in the road. Curbs, sidewalks, and stone walls are not road hazards. My recommendation is to get AAA because of the fine print on most hazard insurance packages. See link for more information: http://repairtrust.com/tire-insurance-myths-and-facts-about-road-hazard-policies/
Lifetime: Usually this warrantee is for abnormal wear and tear or non-repairable defect in workmanship/materials. To make sure that your warrantee is in good standing; rotate tires every 6k miles and check alignment once a year…and make sure you keep the proof of purchase for these services rendered or the warrantee is null and void. Make sure you read the fine print.
Best time to get new tires would be fall, as the tire wears out, dry traction increases. http://auto.howstuffworks.com/buying-selling/cg-tire-buying-tips.htm#page=2
Check out your tire company: Try BBB.org , yelp, reviews online. If they have no information, try your neighbors recommendations.
Fuel Efficiency, how to choose truck tires:
Tire prices and reviews:
By: Queue Murphy
Why do we have to opt-out of our banks, insurance companies, credit cards, selling our information? We need to put a stop to this in the US. Europe does not allow this! I keep getting all of my accounts sending me information yearly that they will share my info unless I call them and tell them not to - why do I have to do this yearly? We need to contact our State reps and Congressmen and women to put a stop to this!
By Queue Murphy
The newest thing for insurance companies is collecting your data. Based on what I just described above, do you really think insurance companies want to collect data from your vehicles, bills, homes, etc., for your own good? While they promise benefits to you, they are actually gathering evidence against you so they do not have to pay your claims. They have recently forced trucking companies to place cameras in the faces of their drivers 100% of the time while they drive – if the companies did not comply, they would be dropped. The data they are collecting is being used against their drivers and auto owners who file claims against trucking companies.
Again, insurance companies are not your friend. They want you to give them money, they want to keep your money so they can invest it and make more money - and they want to find evidence to help them do so. Insurance companies also get your data to create a profile on you - they want to see how sensitive you are to price changes - they sneak up your rates by doing so. Most companies will not admit they are doing that! California told insurers to stop! Farmers Insurance, Nationwide and Allstate do it! Ohio and Maryland are banning this - New York may soon join! Here is a great article by NPR on just that! http://www.npr.org/2015/05/08/403598235/being-a-loyal-auto-insurance-customer-can-cost-you
Other countries do not allow their personal data to be used like the United States does. If a company gathers data from someone in Europe and they want to use it for something else, they need to get the permission in writing. In the US, they do not have this restriction! Your legislators have allowed insurance companies to get to this point. Insurance companies have a very powerful lobby – they give money to politicians to allow policies like this to be in place! Insurance companies are businesses who want your money – nothing more! Do not allow insurance companies to keep taking us down this path! Demand that your legislators take away all the power the insurance companies have over us before we get to a point of no return!
By: Queue Murphy
The Liberty Mutual commercial talks about ‘accident forgiveness,’ and states that ‘everyone makes mistakes.’ Yet Liberty Mutual is one of the most notorious companies for denying claims. We had them for over 30 years and their motto was more like – ‘give us your money and don’t call us when you need us.’ One time my husband was painting on a ladder in the living room. He fell off the ladder and the paint bucket spilled all over the rug, walls, stairs, and furniture. When we called them to make a claim, they stated that my husband was a ‘falling object,’ and they didn’t cover falling objects!
Our rental home recently was flooded and by the time we found out, the floors were ruined, the walls and ceilings had caved in and everything inside was destroyed. State Farm was our insurance company on the property. They only covered the losses after we had a friend, who dealt with restoration recovery services, meet with them and demand they honor their contract. They paid for the repairs, contents and then dropped us like a rock. We had paid for that policy for over 10 years – but that didn’t matter, again, the same motto –‘give us your money and don’t call us when you need us.’
When we tried to get insurance from someone else, they looked us up on the insurance CLUE system. This system is used by insurance companies nationwide. Whenever anyone makes a claim, or even inquires about a claim, it is placed into this system, and held against you. It is the system that reads your credit reports and paints a picture about you that may or may not be true. One company told us that statistically, people with lower credit scores tend to file more claims, so if you happen to lose your job, for a while, are late on a bill payment, your insurance rates will be higher. Your legislators allow this, by the way. Insurance companies find all kinds of ways to hold things against you – so they don’t have to pay the claims, they charge you more and they can deny you coverage.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to see what insurance companies are publishing about you! Here is a website that helps you get that information – make sure you get it before you apply for insurance of any kind, or even call your insurance company for an inquiry – they will use information against you! http://www.insurance.wa.gov/your-insurance/tips/clue.html
More to come on how insurance companies are only out for their bottom line in the next excerpt!
Unless you are a do-it-yourselfer or a builder or a contractor, I recommend that you get a home inspection before you buy that dream house.
Just remember that the home inspector is usually someone that doesn’t specialize in any one part of the house. The inspector is someone that will find something that can possibly be a problem. Once the inspector thinks they have found a problem, you need to find a specialist. So it doesn’t end at one home inspector.
Occasionally your inspector will offer special perks with their inspection. One of the perks my inspector offered was listing any appliances in my potential home that may have a recall. He found the manufacturer contact number and listed the model/serial number. I was so excited about this perk that was offered on the website, I was thinking, wow, we could just get new appliances if they were listed…..not really understanding that the recalls fix only the part that is faulty…over tired, stressed and not thinking things through.
Please note also that the appliances that are in the home fix only the problem, so even if your appliances are on the list, they may just be too old to work in general …so don’t get your hopes up that you will get an appliance that will work like new if it’s on a recall list…if it looks like it’s on its last legs, then you’re probably going to have to replace it anyways.
You can search each appliance for recalls at : www.cpsc.gov
Please note that your inspector whomever he or she is, is only human, so they will probably miss something, they will do their best, but you have the final word and eyes on the home you are buying…be present and watchful. Unfortunately, you will not be able to pull up carpeting to find out if there was something that was covered up, or knock a hole in the wall to make sure there has not been mold damage. My inspector had me sign an agreement that stated:
We cannot assure you absolutely:
We can assure you: