Longtime firefighter and Maryland homeowner finds freedom from the utility company with his solar-energy system
Jon Bruley spent months researching solar-energy systems and he has advice for people going through the same process.
“Do it! Go solar. You’re going to love it. But check with previous customers before hiring an installer. Both national installers I spoke with wouldn’t provide any references of previous clients, but Switch to Solar gladly did,” he says. “Also, be sure you’re getting every incentive that’s out there. There are at least three large incentives you’ll only hear about from reputable installers.”
Jon has had a lot of opportunity to give advice and answer questions about his new solar-electricity system.
After his Switch-to-Solar system was up and running in February, Jon posted online a 12-second video of his electric meter running backwards. And the questions came pouring in.
How much did it cost? How much are you saving? How much electricity are you generating? Why did you go solar?
Jon and his wife Tina, a retired Frederick County teacher, bought their house five years ago. They quickly found it very expensive to heat and cool all 5,500 square feet.
Jon retired on September 11, 2016 from a 28-year career as a firefighter with Fairfax County. As a fire fighter, he served on the elite Virginia Task Force One – one of two teams in the United States sanctioned for international rescue. Since retiring, he’s spent his time since then volunteering with the Brunswick Fire Station Company Five and improving his home.
Solar has been his favorite home improvement project – and his most profitable.
“When I think about the money I could have been saving these past five years, I’m amazed I didn’t go solar earlier,” Jon says.
Every appliance and system in Jon’s house runs on electricity, from the water pump to the clothes dryer. His electricity bills ran very high, with winter being particularly brutal on his wallet. Last February, he paid more than $400 for his electricity, even after converting every light in the house to LEDs.
This February, Jon’s electricity bill was $32, with $16 of that being for taxes and regulatory fees, thanks to his new Switch to Solar system.
“When the meter is going backwards, we receive a credit on our electricity bill. The potential is there for this summer for us to have a negative electricity bill,” Jon says.
Jon’s education in solar began at work.
“I attended a short course in what firefighters should know about responding to calls at houses with solar installed.” He says. Jon then did some research on his own. He learned about the many different kinds of solar panels and inverters and the various levels of efficiency. And he learned owning versing leasing or signing a power purchase agreement was the best way to go solar.
So when a salesman for a national solar installer approached him at a local hardware store, Jon was open to getting a proposal.
Unfortunately, the national installer wasn’t as well versed in the solar technology as Jon was. Consequently, the salesman wasn’t able to answer Jon’s basic questions about solar power.
Jon also was horrified with the type of system the salesman was pushing him to sign a contract for. The proposed system offered trivial levels of efficiency for double the number of panels he needed. So he would have paid for twice the number of panels he needed while getting half the benefit with this proposal.
“I then started looking for a reputable installer, so I asked the firefighter who led the course I had taken for a referral. He put me in touch with Switch to Solar.”
When he contacted Switch to Solar, Jon learned about the more than $14,000 in solar incentives the national company was going to keep as part of the proposal.
“The company said the system was ‘free,’ but it was anything but,” he says. “They wanted me to pay for many more panels than I needed and put them where they wouldn’t get much sun. And they set it up for the monthly lease payment to increase over the years, all while keeping my incentives.”
The incentives he has received for his Switch to Solar energy system have been a thrilling surprise.
“I got a $11,600 refund on my federal taxes,” he says. “Maryland emailed me this week letting me know of the $1,000 they’ll be sending me. And I earned $1,700 dollars for carbon offsets.”
The national installer would have kept every cent of those incentives had Jon signed their contract.
“Thankfully, I found Switch to Solar to design and install my system,” he says. “The co-owner Chris was able to easily answer my questions.”
Switch to Solar worked with Jon to design a 12.48 KW system that gave him more than 70 percent efficiency. The company set up the system to maximize southwest exposure and the efficiency of the panels.
Jon loves tracking the amount of energy he’s generating with the real-time monitoring system Switch to Solar set up for him.
“I’ve produced 49.05 KW so far today,” he says one May afternoon around 1 p.m.
“I’ve been telling my friends what a great investment this has been and about the incentives and how much I’m saving in electricity,” says Jon. “I tell them call Switch to Solar and see what they can do for you. And I tell them I will recoup the cost of the system within five to six years because of all the money I’m saving on electricity. I saved more than $500 in the first two months alone.”