Why Do Homeowners Go Solar? A Georgian’s Journey Starts with a Single Panel

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Homeowner Profiles: A PV Solar Report Exclusive Series

In this series, we profile homeowners around the country who have gone solar. We interview a range of homeowners to gain insights about their motivations for going solar, what factors they weighed in their decision, and how they went about choosing a solar provider. 

If you know homeowners who have gone solar and would like to share their experience, email us at admin@pvsolarreport.com.

It’s April in Georgia. A beautiful sunny day. A bit chillly, for spring, but that doesn’t affect the function of the solar panel that Mark Keifer and Andrea Redman have powering the light in their shed. After the storms and power outages this winter, they had considered getting a generator for the house. But those are so expensive, not to mention loud and bad for the environment. So they tabled the idea. In addition, every time Andrea went outside to the storage shed in the dark, she thought about putting a light in there. They checked to see how much it would cost to run electricity to the shed. “It didn’t seem worth it for such a small area,” says Andrea. “So we were putting it off.”

As this was going on, Andrea’s family in Jamaica was going solar. “My uncle did it about a year ago,” she says, “and my parents just got set up.” She says that solar is becoming more popular in Jamaica.   

DIYer Mark started looking up solar panels online, and the rest is history. “I thought, I could get a panel just to power the appliances for a few hours a day in a power outage,” said Mark. But the more he looked into it, the more he realized he could kill two birds with one stone. “I could set up a small system to provide daily light for the shed, and use it as a backup for the house in emergencies,” he said.

After careful planning and research, Mark settled on a 50 watt max/hour 2.7 amp monocrystalline panel from Renogy. “I chose the 50 watt panel for its portabliltiy,” Mark said. “I wanted this to be multipurpose.” His system can be easily moved, set up, and operating within 10 minutes. He chose a 35 amp/hour battery. And he found it all on Amazon.

They started with a 1200 watt Whistler modified sine wave inverter, purchased after a frigid winter. Atlanta faced crippling snowstorms and multiple power outages, although Mark and Andrea did not lose power themselves. “I assessed that amount as the bare minimum we would need to run the important appliances like the freezer and sump pump, as well as the wifi, computer and TV.” 

His advice for the homeowner? “Do your research.” Mark says the project is not that difficult to do, but “you have to be reaslistic. Know that what you want to accomplish is going to cost a lot more and use a lot more batteries and panels than you would think.” He says that if you keep your outlook realistic, “it’s really not that bad. It just talkes some time to think it through, and do your research. You need to realize that it’s not just the panel and the battery, there’s a lot more that goes into it.” Mark advises not to skimp on the cables, which he describes as “the veins of the system,” or the fuses. “You don’t want things to burn down,” says Mark. “Just because it’s the sun, doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. You have to have respect for it.” 

Mark did his own research online. He found forums and consumer reviews helpful, as well as videos on YouTube and instructables.com. SolarHacks.org and Lifehacker.com were also helpful. When he got started on the project, his young son helped him build the storage compartment. “He thinks it’s pretty cool.” Mark and Andrea think their kids probably know more about solar and renewables than they do. “They learn about all of it in school, along with recycling.” They have some solar toy kits as well, so this is not new to the children.

Mark says using solar power “does make one aware of just how much energy you waste. When you have to recharge after you use the energy, you start walking around turning off lights, using energy-efficient light bulbs, things like that.” 

“I’d tell people to go for it. It’s a lot of fun.”

Mark and Andrea needed some additional power. And the sun was right there, in their own backyard. An observation Georgia Power has finally made as well.