L Streets North resident Weston Brown didn’t install solar panels on his roof for environmental reasons. He saw it as an investment.
Brown spent $25,000 on the panels four years ago, “but the economy was in the pits,” he says. “You could make over $150 a month for six or seven months. You couldn’t earn that kind of money if you invested $25,000 in stocks.”
He’s talking about the money he made through an energy buy back program, which paid him for solar power generated by his house. Before the panels, Brown paid $400 to $500 a month on his summer electric bills.
“And that’s just my wife and I, no kids running in and out, and keeping the drapes pulled,” Brown says. After the panels, however, “I got credit for everything I produced subtracted from my bill. The neighbors were spending $400, $500, $600 a month during the summer months, and I was spending $150.”
Energy buy back plans have evolved over the years, and of the companies that offer such plans to Dallasites now, Brown feels TXU Energy has the best offer. Through the program, the energy created by the solar panels on his house are first used to power Brown’s home. When his home isn’t using all of the solar energy created, it goes back into the grid, and TXU tracks and credits him for that energy.
It’s a lower credit than it used to be, he says, more like $40 or $50, “but it still helps,” Brown says. “I mean, everything helps.” His summer electric bills now hover around $70 to $80, with winter bills more like $30 to $40, he says.
The energy overhaul of Brown’s home began with a tornado that came through 10 years ago and forced him to replace his roof, he says. He paid a little extra to install sheets with aluminum on one side to reflect sunlight away from his home, plus added a “blanket” under the roof for extra installation. Around the same time, he replaced all of the windows in his circa 1959 house with low-E glass, which also reflects sunlight.
“All that stuff helps. Our house is more thermally efficient,” Brown says. “You’ve got to spend some money to save money.”
He says his roof “is not the very best” for solar panels. Brown lives in a one-story home with a peaked roof. Oak trees shade the front, so the panels are on the back of his roof, which aims west, and they generate the most energy between noon and 3 p.m., he says.
“If somebody had solar panels [that received sunlight] from 9 in the morning until sun goes down, that’s the ideal situation,” Brown says. “A flat roof would make out pretty good because the sun is hitting directly on the panels all day long.”
Even though Brown doesn’t have the “ideal situation,” he doesn’t have any regrets about installing the solar panels.
“I would do it again,” he says.