Customer Review: Boston Homeowner Goes Solar for Clean Power at a Lower Cost

A Next Step Living® Customer Success Story

Boston homeowner Alison Felix knew that she wanted to do her part to save energy, reduce the carbon emissions associated with her power use and save on her utility bills. What she didn't know back in 2012 was that Next Step Living® would help her accomplish these goals within just months, by installing an unobtrusive array of solar panels on her roof, ensuring a supply of up to 2.5 kilowatts of clean power at a rate that won’t rise for 20 years.

Felix's introduction to emissions-free electricity came when she noticed a crew installing solar panels on the home of one of her West Roxbury neighbors. That’s when she learned that Next Step Living works with Renew Boston and community group West Roxbury Saves Energy to educate area homeowners about solar power and to bring that clean energy to as many homes as possible.

“I wanted to be environmentally conscious,” says Felix. “But I always thought that solar panels for a house would be inaccessible, really expensive and complicated.” Felix wanted an affordable way to go solar but didn’t want to act as general contractor for the project, which requires the skills of installers and other tradespeople as well as approvals from the city of Boston and Eversource, her utility company.

"I recently compared bills from last year to this year, month-to-month. I’ve saved 25 percent overall."

Alison Felix

Buy, Lease or Prepay?

Next Step Living was conducting information workshops in the area, so Felix and her husband-to-be attended one on a spring Sunday. “The Next Step Living representatives took our address and determined that we would be a candidate for solar given the orientation of our roof and how much sun it gets.” Solar panels are most effective on south-facing roofs with unshaded area.

Felix then scheduled a free visit at her home with a Next Step Living solar advisor to further assess it. “The representative looked at my home and my electric bills and pulled together an analysis of my current patterns to see how solar would fit into our power usage.” Felix’s home is modest in size at 1,374 square feet, and the roof is partially shaded by trees. But there was still enough sun exposure to install 10 solar panels that could generate up to 2.5 kilowatts of electric power. Most residential solar systems produce between 3 and 6 kilowatts.

After a detailed discussion with her Next Step Living advisor, Felix decided to install a solar power system. From among the purchase (with or without financing), lease and prepay options available to her, Felix chose to prepay. Under this arrangement, she agreed to buy the power generated by the solar panels for the next 20 years, but leave the purchase and ownership of the solar installation to SunRun, a Next Step Living partner.

“I opted to pay $7,000 up front for 20 years of solar power,” says Felix.  The solar advisor showed her how that is equivalent to less than she’s currently paying Eversource for the portion of her power use that solar replaces.

Cutting Utility Costs and Carbon Emissions.

How much electric power do those 10 solar panels generate? And how much does that clean energy reduce Felix’s electric utility bill? “It does vary monthly depending on weather,” says Felix. “But I recently compared bills from last year to this year, month-to-month. I’ve saved 25 percent overall.”

Of course, Felix’s house is still connected to the power grid for those times when her electric use exceeds what the solar array is generating. If it’s sunny, it’s possible that her solar system will produce more electricity than she’s using at the time; in that case, her solar power is automatically reserved at Eversource, reducing her monthly bill.

Felix also enjoys the satisfaction of knowing that her rooftop solar system is preventing the emission of about 3 metric tons of climate-changing carbon emissions each year. That’s like taking a fossil-fuel burning car off the road for the next 20 years.

How does her cozy home look with those 10 panels parked on top? “My solar panels are on the back of the house,” says Felix. “They’re really tucked away, so you’d have to look for them to notice them.”

(Editor's note: Starting September 1, 2015, Next Step Living® has partnered with leading solar installer NRG for its customers’ rooftop solar needs.)

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