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Solar Case Study – Jon Womack

Avatar for Ben Zientara
Written by
Published on 12/16/2014
Updated 12/18/2014

Jon Womack wanted to make sure that the home where he is going to retire had all the elements he wanted, including solar power. Comparing the investment to other large purchases, such as a car, Jon was sure that getting solar power was “the right thing to do” and now joins a few other neighbors in his rural Southern Illinois area as a proud solar power producer.

Retirees have all sorts of worries—rising costs of living, long-term health care, and saving enough for the future. Though he’s not retired yet, Jon Womack was thinking a lot about the future in 2013, and he decided that one of the best ways he can avoid problems in retirement was to lock in energy costs for the rest of his days. Considering that the sun is a free, permanent resource, going solar was the perfect way for him to ensure his energy supply, now and for the future.

“We wanted a place that when we retired has as few bills as possible,” Jon told us when explaining why his family chose to go solar in 2013. “Our home is well insulated, geothermal, and now, with solar, we’re actually producing more energy than we’re using.” Choosing solar meant having to take out a loan to cover the costs, but once the panels are paid off, which Jon estimates could happen as soon as ten years from installation, he’ll pay no money for electricity, and actually turn a profit over the long term.

To offset the costs a bit, Jon took advantage of a rebate from Illinois, which he estimates was about $5,000, and the 30% Federal tax credit to knock $6,000 more off his out-of-pocket costs. He’s quite happy with the array, especially once he added two additional panels, to go from 14 to 16. “They looked like they were missing,” he said with a laugh. On a good day, the system produces 4.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

That’s no surprise to Jon, because he really liked how his installer, Southern Lights, brought in an experienced electrician to ensure that the solar power array would be large enough to meet Jon’s needs. “He came up with a system that would be sure to cover our energy usage, leaving us with only the meter fee to pay.”

Jon also carefully considered the potential risks of going with solar power, making sure to do all the research to understand its benefits and detractions. “I did a search for solar installers and read the information Solar Power Rocks has on costs of installation. The site’s state-by-state guide helped immensely to learn about rebates and tax incentives. We applied and received about $5,000 from the State of Illinois solar incentive program.”

Though Jon is no city dweller, instead residing in a rural home that he noted was “kinda out in the middle of the forest,” he’s still connected to the grid. And being out in the woods means he was free to install solar without any need for approval beyond construction permits. Jon said his area has “an enclave of cool people,” and at least two others who use solar. The coolness extends to Jon’s mother, who is trying to get her congregation to install solar panels on the roof of their church to start saving money!

We asked Jon about whether there were any concerns about the outlay for solar or his experience with adding the panels, but he had none. “Once we have the loan paid off, this is gravy,” said Jon. “Lots of people buy large items with no qualms, like investing in a car. For us, this is just one more investment.” Jon suggests that others think in these terms, rather than just looking at the total cost, when they pursue their own solar path.

Last modified: December 18, 2014

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