The Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA) is celebrating National Energy Awareness Month (October) with the Illinois Solar Tour. The state-wide tour will take place this Saturday, October 1st, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., and will highlight over fifty Illinois homes.
This year, the tour includes Greg and Wendy Vichick’s home at 4039 Lawn Avenue in Western Springs (also recently notable for being a chicken test case.)
Greg Vichick knew their home would be perfect for a solar panel system. “We believed we were a good candidate for solar panels because a portion of our roof had an unobstructed southern exposure that received plenty of sunshine," he said.
When Vichick started to follow through and look into solar energy options, he researched a list of contractors provided through the Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA) before settling on Solar Service of Niles.
“We joined [the ISEA] to learn more about different solar applications and what might work best for us,” he said.
With the variety of options available to consumers, Vichick was careful to evaluate which system would work best for his home. “They [Solar Service] had extensive experience in installing solar systems and they were very helpful and responsive to our questions as we went through the process of deciding exactly what we wanted and would work best given the location and layout of our house,” said Vichick.
With solar installations costing thousands of dollars, Vichick was able to offset some of the expense with some government incentives, “For us, the Federal tax credit and State rebate paid for about half of our system.”
Last year his installer, Solar Service, asked Vichick if he would like to be part of the tour. This year will be his second year to participate and share with consumers how his system works to offset energy costs.
Vichick has experienced substantial savings on his electric bills, “After two years, we estimate that the panels have reduced our Com Ed bills by 40-50%.” With that savings Vichick estimates it will take 12-15 years for the system to pay for itself.
Because of Vichick’s particular set-up, his family is still subject to the occasional power outage, “An alternative configuration could have helped avoid disruption from a power outage, but it would have been a less efficient set-up due to additional equipment, batteries, etc.”
Overall the system has worked out well for the Vichicks, “So far it [the system] has been maintenance free. It has been two years and there has been no maintenance required."
Brandon Leavitt, Owner and President of Solar Service, says solar is easy and basically maintenance free.
“There is no regular maintenance required,” he said. “It’s the least complicated system in the home, and easy to understand.” Leavitt also highlighted another benefit, “The panels are strong enough to protect a roof from hail damage, and wind-loaded for winds over 100 mph.”
According to Leavitt, systems can cost between $10,000 and $100,000—but, the minimum system required to produce electricity to a home would cost around $20,000.
Still, Leavitt maintains these systems are more affordable than one might think, “With the 30% federal tax credit, and the State’s matching rebate of 30% cash, a homeowner can have a lifetime of electricity for $8,000.
Vichick summed up his solar experience very simply, “It's always fun to watch your electric meter go backwards.”
The Illinois Solar Tour is a free and self-guided event. System owners and installers will be available on Saturday, October 1st from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to answer questions about harnessing the power of the sun and wind to fuel homes and businesses.