Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Solar Panels & Worms

Well our solar panel drama continues. Shortly after I posted my last entry, I found out (through the Vendor's FACEBOOK page) that they were actually mistaken in advising us that we would be eligible for the treasury grant. So we are back to relying on the IRS to reimburse a bulk of the cost of our solar panels.

We have reviewed the IRS code and language, and can see where our vendor gets their opinion, but the conflicting information from other vendors and web research still makes me very nervous.

Even more irritating is that we STILL do not have an installation date. After I sent the sales rep a nasty email a few weeks ago and CC'd the President of their company, they gave me a "tentative" date of April 20th. I would think that since that date is now only 3 weeks away they should be able to confirm it now, but they are avoiding my contact efforts.

For the record, our vendor is Astralux Solar and I do not recommend them.

On a more positive note, the worms are working out well. We made a bin for them using blue storage tubs and have 2 pounds of worms (aproximately 2000 of the little guys) working away on coffee grounds, wilted lettuce, egg shells, the Financial Times, and all kinds of other goodies. It took a couple of days to get it stabalized and we did have some odor and runaways at first, but the bin is virtually odorless now and when you open it to sift through it, you can't even tell that they are working on old moldy table scraps.

So, in summary: Worms = Highly Recommend; Astralux = Stay Away

Also, we're expecting a baby "any day now", keep posted or check the baby blog for more information!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Solar Panel Update

We've had a little bit of stress around the solar panels lately. First of all, they STILL are not up. It appears that our vendor did such a good job at signing people up and taking advantage of the changes in the laws back in November that they are buried in orders. I am a little stressed about this for two reasons: (1) I'd like to be able to take advantage of as much sun as possible!! (2) I really don't want to be dealing with strangers on my roof around my due date and/or with a newborn at home.

I tried to raise a fuss about the install date, and the only progress I made was to learn exactly where we stand on the waiting list...we are number 28. They claim to install an average of 2-3 homes per week, weather permitting. So that means we're probably about 7 weeks out. With 6 more weeks till the baby's due date. Apparently, that is too far away for them to put us on a calendar so we have to keep on waiting.

The second major stress factor has been the tax credit. We were fully sold by this company on the belief that the 30% tax credit is taken "off the top". In other words, we calculate the benefit from the total cost of the system. However, in our research and conversations with other vendors, we've come to believe that the credit is actually supposed to be taken off of the net cost--the amount you paid after rebate. This discrepancy results in our out of pocket cost for the system more than doubling.

For a while, we were really worried about what to do. We considered scrapping the contract all together. We also considered going through with it and then protesting after the installation was complete. We thought about fulfilling the contract and then complaining to the Attorney General about the false advertising that has made our vendor a lot of money. We thought about filing our taxes with the misinformed advice that the vendor had given us and just risking it. When it came down to it, we still really wanted the system. We felt like we'd been duped.

Then last week we were saved (again) by the bad economy. One of the inclusions in the economic stimulus package is a treasury grant for solar installations. This would replace the 30% tax credit that was passed in last year's bail out bill. And it clearly states that the grant is based on the total cost of the system (the top number, so to speak). Yippee!! Now we don't have to worry about the IRS, the language is clear, and the money will be made available faster.

I'm still not tickled with the vendor. I bet they were pretty relieved to see this pass, as they had to have been sweating just a little about all of the questionable tax advice they were giving.