Solar Harvest

Exciting update! We produced 171% of our daily use yesterday. Can’t wait for summer!

I’m SO excited because we finally got solar panels, IMG_1044and it’s PERFECT timing because it means that we will be operational before the peak season for solar harvest which means our electrical bills will be impacted in a positive way much sooner. Allow me to explain..
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First of all, we waited to get solar panels this long because it never made financial sense for us to make the change. I’ve gotten no fewer than 20 quotes over the last 12-years, and until this year the cost of solar panels had not come down enough to offset our very energy efficient electrical bill of $130/month (this is an average, sometimes our bill was around $100 and sometimes  $160) at a monthly price that was not cost prohibitive.

Now $130/month might not sound energy efficient depending on where you live in the world, but here in Los Angeles that is a below average bill for a home with a pool. Our pool contributes about 50% of our bill so without our pool our bill would be closer to $75/month average. According to one website, the average electricity bill in Los Angeles is $95/month.

You can find out what the average electrical bill in your area is at this website.

You can find out what people have been paying in solar power in your area at this website. Incidentally, the company we went with, Sungevity (here is a coupon code to get $750 off their quote 2360912, get quote at or call 866.786.4255) was at the far left of the bell curve when I entered my information into this site, so they were among the least expensive options.

Around summer time last year, I began collecting quotes again and I found that most of the quotes could meet, or even lower, our monthly cost for electricity. My goal was for us to purchase solar panels and for the cost to equal or be less than our average electricity bill of $130/month. I received 5-quotes and the range was from $101/month to $171/month. Four of the quotes gave me 12 and 20-year loan quotes and one gave me a 30-year quote. This information got me REALLY EXCITED!

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We could have lowered our monthly cost of electricity even more by choosing a lease, however, that would mean that we would forever be paying a monthly amount to somebody and that monthly amount would go up a bit each year, although probably less than then the cost of rising electrical rates.

I wanted an option that gave us as close to a fixed cost as possible, because I find comfort in fixing as many of our monthly costs as possible. It gives me financial piece of mind. I also know that the solar panels have a fully functioning life of about 30-years, so with a 12- or 20-year payoff, you are essentially getting decade(s) of “free” electricity. Also,  because solar panels have so few moving parts, they don’t ever really “break,” they simply loose efficiency over time, so your investment will last longer than even the 30-years.

Of course, the BEST financial return on our investment would have been to pay for the solar panels outright with cash, however, that is not an option we were interested in this time. And in full disclosure, we are paying for our solar panels with HELOC money to take advantage of the tax benefits of structuring it this way, but that is WAY off topic for this blog post. I am not an accountant and you should consult your tax advisor about the most tax efficient way for you to structure this investment in your home.

If you are interested in solar AND in lowering your electrical bills but for someone reason to not want to purchase solar panels, than a lease might be a good option to consider. Here is a coupon code to get $750 off a quote from our provider Sungevity, the code is 2360912, get your quote at or call 866.786.4255.

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To my GREAT surprise we went with the company that provided us the lowest quote, but that wasn’t why we chose them. We chose Sungevity because 1) they have a great reputation as one of the largest installers in California and as Lowe’s hardware solar partner of choice, 2) they had the most straightforward contract and it was not written in a way that solely benefited them, 3) the opportunity to cancel the contract without any cost to us was very generous and 4) they had AMAZING customer service.

Literally working with them has been one of the most pleasant customer service experiences I’ve ever had in my life and that’s saying a lot given that it takes 3-6 months to do the deal with dozens of points of contact with the customer. By the way, here is a great post that concerned us when we were reading one of Sungevity’s main competition’s contract.

Once our contract was signed, we even got a cute box in the mail with the orange sunglasses pictured above and a free CFL bulb. Completely unexpected and delightful…now THAT’s customer service for you.

By the way, AFTER our original contract was signed, Sungevity told us we needed a bigger electrical panel and that they wanted to add 1-more panel to ensure that they met their 100% production guarantee mark, and they did both of these things AT THEIR OWN COST. And when the city inspector came to look at the job he was here such a short amount of time, and when I said, “that’s all?” he replied “when a job’s done right there isn’t much for me to do.” Of course, this made my hubby and I super happy to hear.

And the timeline was amazing…most of our friends who have panels took about 6-months from start to finish, ours was 3-1/2-months.

Okay, so this is why I’m SUPER excited. By getting our system operational BEFORE summer (peak sunshine means peak solar energy production) our system will begin saving us money right away. Allow me to explain. Our monthly payment for our SUNGEVITY system is going to be $91 (yes, the price came down an additional $10 after the initial quotes…AWESOME!), and we have to pay $11 to LADWP to stay connected to the grid. So let’s pretend that our system gets turned on in January which is not a peak production month and let’s say that our system only produces enough electricity to cover 70% of our use. Well then we have to pay $91 to Sungevity, $11 to LADWP and then another $45 to LADWP for the 30% electricity we used that our panels didn’t generate. Ideally you want your system to come online during a peak production period so that you are paying as little as possible to your local utility. So if our system comes online in July, we might pay only $91 to Sungevity and $11 to LADWP and that’s it, because our panels are capable of producing 100% of our electricity needs. They might even produce more which is cool because then LADWP registers the excess as a CREDIT which we can then draw down on during months of lower solar power production.

Here is a coupon code to get $750 off a quote from our provider Sungevity, the code is 2360912, get your quote at or call 866.786.4255.

By the way, a good rule of thumb is that for every $1 you shave off your electrical bill, you will save yourself $5 in solar panels, so you should try and make your home as energy efficient as possible BEFORE you install solar if you want to maximize your investment. Doing things like purchasing the most energy efficient pool pump (this can shave 20-50% off your electrical bill), refrigerator and HVAC system will go a long way if you use those appliances a lot. Insulating walls and attic spaces, which can be done POST construction with blown-in insulations, are also huge energy savers. And of course everyone should be using LED (the best) or CFL (not my preferred choice because of the Mercury issue but more energy efficient than incandescent) light bulbs.

Now it’s time to go shopping for a plug-in electric car…woo hoo!!!

Be a spark in the world!


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Google Solar Power Project

Google has a cool new service called PROJECT SUNROOF that can give you a great quick and dirty estimate of what size photovoltaic system you require (based on your average monthly electricity bill) and what it would cost to lease, take out a loan or purchase outright. This should ABSOLUTELY be your first stop if you are thinking about getting solar panels for your house.  If you hurry, you may be able to take advantage of the 30% federal tax credit on your 2015 taxes (ask your tax advisor about this.) Below is a screen-grab based on my average monthly electric bill.  Be a spark in the world!

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Recipe: Watermelon Mint, Chocolate Mint and Chocolate Spice Popsicles

It’s still super hot where I live, and I was responsible for desserts for a baby shower this weekend, so I decided to make popsicles.  The food being served is Mexican, so I chose watermelon and chocolate as flavors that would complement the food. Plus the watermelon is dairy-free and sugar-free so it’s nice to offer a super healthy option as dessert as well. The recipes below made about 20-watermelon pops and 10-each of the chocolate (so 40-total.) By the way, this is a great way to use up “mealy” watermelon or any fruit where the texture is less than ideal for eating straight.

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For the watermelon popsicles
1-very small watermelon
15-mint leaves

While you transfer the watermelon into a blender, remove any black seeds you see. Blend slowly so you can make sure all the black seeds have been removed, Then add the juice of the lime and the mint leaves and puree until smooth. Fill to 3/4 small drink cups (I use 3-ounce cups). Put in your freezer. Check at 30-minutes and then 45-minutes if they are firm enough to stick wooden popsicle sticks in. Freeze overnight. The next day take a casserole dish and fill with a 1/2-inch of water and put the frozen popsicles in the dish to loosen popsicles. from the cups. Put in cellophane back and twist tie for easy transporation to an event.

For the chococlate popsicles
16-ounces of heavy cream
16-ounces of filtered water
2-bars of Tazo chocolate (one was chocolate cinnamon and the other chocolate chipotle

This recipe is very inexact because apparently I didn’t buy enough chocolate.  Here is what I did (roughly). I put HALF the cream/water mix into a pan with the chocolate cinnamon chocolate.  It was obvious that this wasn’t enough chocolate so I had some chocolate mint hot cocoa mix from Trader Joe’s and I threw in enough of that until you could taste the chocolate.  I put it into a mason jar to cool down and through in some chopped mint leaves left over from the recipe above since the Trader Joe’s mix was giving it a minty taste anyway. Once the cream was cool I followed directions above for making popsicles. The chocolate mint dosn’t really fit the Mexican theme, but I felt like I couldn’t make JUST the spicy version below chocolate since everyone loves chocolate.

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For the rest of the cream and water I though in the VERY SPICY chocolate chipotle. Once it was melted I added straight baking chocolate and a bit of raw sugar until it tasted the way I wanted.  Then I added more cinnamon for a more Mexican feel. When it tasted right I cooled it same as chocolate mint recipe above.

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