You know the old television ad line, “I liked it so much, I bought the company?” That’s not quite what happened to Scott Gordon, but he was so impressed with the company that helped him go solar, he ended up working for them and is now the president! Talk about an endorsement for solar power!
Even people who went solar as recently as a few weeks ago are sometimes still the first people in their community to go solar. Yet despite going solar all the way back in 2006, Scott still wasn’t the first member of his HOA to add solar panels to their roof. A neighbor beat him by two years, doing so in 2004. “They blazed a trail,” said Scott, “which was good because early on, HOAs could often have issues with adding panels to roofs. It just takes that first person, and then it’s much easier.”
With no worries about being allowed to add solar to his house, Scott had to investigate what solar
options were out there. He’d just finished watching the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and “it scared the crap out of me. I started looking for solar options the next day.” Unlike today, when there are far more solar installers, plan options, and third party websites (like this one) to help a potential consumer, Scott had to dig deep to find the information he needed.
“It was really difficult back in 2006,” he explained to us. “I called and called, and finally was able to get two people to come out to my house.” Though he thought both options were good, Scott connected with the HelioPower representative more strongly, and ended up going with their bid.
That’s worked out nicely for him, both in terms of the solar power array, which is eight years old and
counting, with only an easily-fixed broken fuse to deal with, and in his own career, which saw him take a sales job with HelioPower. As noted above, he’s now the company president, and very active in helping others with their decision to go solar, including a few articles for this site.
Just because he really wanted to do his part for the environment didn’t mean that Scott skipped out on ensuring it would be right for him. One of Scott’s biggest concerns was how drilling holes into his roof might impact on its weatherproofing. After all, what’s the good of saving money on your electric bill if you’re using that savings to pay for water damage? “I never had a concern about the technology. I have a tech background, and I understood the concept of solar energy pretty well. I was worried about leaks.” After the HelioPower representative explained the roof sealing process, Scott was confident it would work out, and moved forward. “Eight years later, the roof has held up with no problems.”
After that hurdle was cleared, Scott had another consideration: Cost. “When I went solar, there were no leases, you either paid cash or took out a loan.” Fortunately, it was easy for Scott to finance his
installation, and his repayment strategy was a smart one that he was kind enough to share. “I took the
savings from my electric bill and applied it directly to the loan each month.” When he got the Federal tax credit, the difference he paid to the IRS also was applied to the amount he’d borrowed. “I used all that money to pay it back.” Scott mentioned this took discipline and willpower, since it meant not being fooled by having “extra money” until the loan was paid off. But by holding firm, he was able to invest in his house and achieve his desire to lower his bills and improve the environment without stretching his budget. After five and a half years, Scott was able to start pocketing the savings.
As he closes in on ten years of solar power, Scott does have a few funny stories. One includes the
placement of his inverter. After his monitoring system alerted him to the fact his inverter was shutting off routinely, Scott investigated the issue. It turned out that the nearby dryer vent was sending particles of lint into the cooling fan of the inverter which clogged the screen and caused it to shut down from overheating. “It looked like a lint trap,” Scott said, and now he cleans it out regularly. “If you do nothing else, get a monitoring system. It is absolutely worth it.”
Scott’s extensive time with his array also finds him potentially busting some of the myths that are
associated with solar panels. “They’re supposed to degrade over time, but I’m not finding that to be the case. In fact, my highest output year was in my fourth year, and I’m on pace to have another one of my highest years.” He’s looking to change inverters, to see if that improves panel output, and has even stopped washing them regularly, finding that the improvement in performance is minimal compared to the work involved.
Our final conversation revolved around panels, since we’ve heard about the potential need to swap
them out over time. Scott thinks that the key might be in the quality of the panels themselves, meaning that just like any other major purchase, you often get what you paid for. Spend a bit more on the front end, and panels built to last will give you high quality for years to come. “Sharp and Mitsubishi and other Japanese panels are all high quality. LG and Hyundai are also very good. The rest can be a mixed bag.” This echoes the sentiment of others we’ve provided, who while not naming names, also said that it was worth paying extra to get better panels. It’s Scott’s opinion that the panels themselves may even be more important than the inverter used with the panels.
Not everyone will get so involved in solar that the end up working in the field after installation.
However, it’s easy to agree with Scott’s feeling on the subject of adding solar panels. “I wanted to do my part to improve the world for my kids.” Both at home and in his work life, we’d say Scott is doing just that.
Last modified: November 5, 2014