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The Mast-Head: Cutting Costs

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 13:05

It may be too soon to crow, but the $13 home electric bill I received this week could be the start of a happy relationship between me and the new solar panel array on my Amagansett roof.

My attempt to lower costs began about a year ago when I saw East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc boasting on Facebook about how new solar panels had cut his power bill to just about zero. That was it for me, and I phoned for an estimate. The project was delayed a few months while the installer and I hassled over whether my entire roof needed replacement; the system went online at the beginning of August.

For some reason, PSEG-Long Island bills appear around the beginning of the month, so there could be several weeks to wait before I would know the result. Then the bill for $13 came in, and I ran around the office showing it to everyone. Normally, the cost has been about $200 to $250 a month, so this was a big deal.

In fact, according to PSEG, in September to date, our household used less electricity than we made, representing a 118-percent reduction from September 2018. The $13 on the bill was for our use of the utility’s power system and a bit for taxes. And this week we apparently kicked 17 kilowatt-hours back into the grid.

There is a lot for me to learn. In the winter, when the sun is lower, the panels’ efficiency might be sharply cut by a nearby oak tree. Already on cloudy days, the output is lower. Will this mean I will be going around the house turning off lights when it rains? Time — and the utility bills — will surely tell.