Friday, May 15, 2015

(May 15) I Love Our New Electric Company!

Just got off the phone with the electric company that services our new property, Farmers Electric Coop. Over the past couple of months, dealing with everyone from customer service to engineers, to warehouse personnel, I have been very pleased. They have been super helpful in setting up new service and helping us plan our installation. We have settled the matter. We're going to have electric service run to our Tiny House and have decided to eat the expense of having the line buried instead of running overhead lines between poles. Besides the fact that I can't stand the look of overhead lines, they wanted us to cut a number of treed to widen the drive way to accommodate their trucks. Not going to happen!

I choked at the quote of an extra $4,000 to bury the line but feel it's worth it in the long run. Also confirmed that they won't allow us to run any additional pipes in the same trench as their wire. We had wanted to run a water line from the meter at the front of the property at the same time but that was a no go. They said we could do as we pleased with the trench after our meter, but not until that point. So - they're going to run high voltage (7200v) primary line underground to a ground mounted transformer just shy of the house. Then, we'll have an electrician complete the line from the transformer to the house. The electric company will provide us with a meter box and a meter but we'll have to install a pole to mount the meter and a 200 amp disconnect.

The best news of the entire process was finding out that they have a rebate program for a number of efficiency and alternative energy upgrades. The 2 that we are jumping on are a $1,000 rebate for purchasing solar panels ($2/watt) and a $100 rebate for purchasing LED light bulbs. WOW! A free $1,000 to spend on solar PV. No restrictions on brand, where you bought them, whether you also apply for the federal 30% tax rebate. Just "Here, spend a $1,000 and we'll pay you back!" They don't even have to be hooked up to our house. We can install them and feed the electricity to a secondary building like a shed or a barn. Very flexible and what a deal. With the federal rebates, this means that I could purchase $1,500 dollars worth of equipment, get a 30% fed rebate of $450 and a $1,000 rebate from Farmers EC leaving a net cost of $50.

Farmers also allows net-metering but does not allow for credit production, meaning that you can make as much electricity as you use but they won't pay you for any excess. You just donate that to the coop. The good news is that as a member of the coop, we get excess profits returned at the end of the year in the form of a credit that typically means a free month or 2 of usage. They also will not apply solar production to their $15/mo account fee. I can keep adding panels until we match peak usage and from that point on, we'll have a $15 electric bill. I can deal with that over having to manage and replace off-grid batteries. I have our generator and a handful of deep cell batteries wired into the system to handle any outages so I feel well prepared as we move forward on this.

Now to the task of choosing PV solar panels. I don't want to waste my money on overpriced products but I want to purchase from a company that actually has a chance of being there if and when I need something replaced under warranty. They can all state 25 year warranties but you realize that the 25 years is assuming that someone answers the phone 2 decades from now. A lot of companies have gone out of business in the last 10 years and certainly a lot more will be falling off the radar. The good news is that there are a number of sources that are now at or below a dollar per watt for nice panels. That will leave me plenty of cash to spend on a nice pure sine inverter. I've got until the end of 2015 to qualify for the Farmers rebate and federal rebates don't end until 2016. We'll need to lots of planning to make the best of this and will likely end up buying more than the 500 watts that maxes out the local rebate. I'll post an update as we go! :)

Other rebates that Farmers is offering until the end of the year that we will likely not take advantage of are:
Central AC Tune-Up
Purchase of new Heat Pump AC (2 ton unit or larger)
Purchase of new High Efficiency Electric Water Heater
Installation of Solar Screens (I object to their not offering rebates on window tint. It's much better in most cases than screens. I know - I sell and install both!)
Installation of Wind Generator (we'll examine this again and might put up a small system just to experiment with but we're so heavily wooded that there's rarely any breeze available at a height lower than 60')

Definitely worth calling your electric company or checking their website to see if anything is offered! No sense in passing on free money! :)


  1. Jay & family -- truly enjoying reading your blog. Fantastic step by step account of the journey. Will follow for updates, thanks for reaching out to us too.
    Adam & Karen

    1. Hope all is continuing well for you here at the holidays! Happy New Year!!

  2. I have found the information you have/are providing very helpful and more than interesting. I am starting to embark on my project -- it will be on wheels so that I can move it, but will be larger than an actual width of the 8.5 for RV's -- I will use permits to move it myself, however, I do not move all that often. I am also going to convert my Van to a small THOW. Am glad that your build appeared on Alex's site. Again, very good information and well worth the read.

    1. Thanks for reading! Glad you've decided to make to the move to Tiny! :) I can't wait 'til we're out here full time. We weren't interested in being mobile but I can understand the appeal of it. I agree, the wider the better. Gives you lot's more options as you design and build out the interior. Best of luck and send me some pics as you get started. I'll love to follow the build. :)