HANSON – When former Select Board member Matt Dyer bought his first home, a 1991 fixer-upper on Woodbine Avenue, he knew it needed renovation and updating, so while he was at it, he installed solar panels on the roof.
So far, it’s paying off, with his September electric bill showing a savings of $729 on the year so far. For those interested in calculating potential savings on their home with solar power, a search for Solar Savings Estimator online can calculate the installation cost as well as the estimated savings after 20 years.
The solar panels come with a 20-year warranty, which is about the same as an asphalt roof.
“I love it and I’ve been a really big advocate of it,” Dyer said of the solar panels, noting that there is only one other house in Hanson with a Tesla solar roof. Even with the projections on the cost of electricity this winter, Dyer expects he will finish the winter heating season with a credit on his electric bill.
“Here I thought I’d be the first,” he said of his Tesla panels.
There are a handful of homes with the more common variety of solar panels.
In the year in which he lived in the house before getting the panels, his electric bill was about $50 per month, now it’s minus.
After tax rebates and state incentives, the panels only cost $13,000 so he added the storage battery to his home for the interconnection program. Federal tax programs returned 27 percent of the total project cost – which is going up to 30 percent with the recent federal legislation passed this year, and state tax incentives totaled another $1,000 off taxes, plus, through the MassSave interconnection program for the battery, the state buys back power via check through the battery during peak energy use periods at a rate of $214 per kilowatt.
Dyer also has net metering – on a sunny day, when his meter is filled up and he is producing more electricity than he’s consuming, it goes back to the grid, which is how he ended up with the $729 credit on his electric bill.
While critics of solar power point to widespread power outages during grid failures or storm damage, he explained solar does not really work that way.
He had the system up and running during the Nor’easter that knocked out power for several days. His neighborhood was without power for a week, but he had electricity the whole time and offered his home to neighbors to warm up and charge their phones and other devices.
“I’m trying to show other people that there are other ways to live a 21st-Century life being carbon-neutral,” he said, noting the solar battery provided power for a day and a half, until the sun came out again.
“This battery stores 13 kilowatt hours,” he said. “What that translates to for Matt Dyer – and it’s all about how much I use it and how I use it – for me to live minimally and try to extend it as long as I can, I can get about a day and a half to two days.”
His main furnace also works off natural gas and a wood pellet stove in the living room has reduced the need to use that. He also just bought a pellet stove grill, so he can use that during a power outage rather than the stove, which is an electric one.
“I’m still working on the house,” he said on a recent afternoon. And, while projects like this one can turn into money pits, Dyer found that solar panels not only saved him money, but the roof needed replacing when he bought it out of foreclosure in 2020, so he faced a choice – a traditional asphalt roof and installation of solar panels later.
“My life revolves around the environment,” Dyer, a forester for the state, said. “So I felt this was a great opportunity to show people that I can live off the grid.”
He was looking at between $15,000 and $20,000 on a new roof, with solar panels down the road potentially costing about $16,000 more than adding them during the roof work.
Tesla solar shingles were just starting to roll out at the time, so he looked into them and asked for an estimate, which came in at about $35,000. The price was competitive and the materials used would not look much different than the asphalt shingles he had been considering
“The whole roof just looks like a big thing of slate,” he said. “One of the things about solar that everyone complains about is no one likes to see the panels on their roof for whatever reason.”
Going with Tesla’s solar glass he decided, the house would be more attractive to more people, both from an aethetics as well as a cost-saving vantage point.
While Tesla owner Elon Musk’s political activities create a bit of a conflict for Dyer, he said he couldn’t argue with the price and quality of the product.
“That was my problem going this route,” he said. “But I bought this house as a starter home for $213,000.” The idea is to sell it in a few years as a carbon-neutral house.
Neighbors have already been asking about the panels, if for no other reason than when the panels arrived, Dyer’s driveway was filled with huge boxes. A team of six installers worked on the roof, plus electricians sent to install everything.
“I have a little [carbon] footprint,” he said referring to the pellet stove. “It’s not as large as most.”
Since the pandemic hit right after he closed on the house, while he was still working, he did have plenty of time to work on other aspects of renovating the house. A new septic system went in – which raised the front lawn and required the importation of some large stone blocks for landscaping to the site with the help of his dad.
He has been tracking the progress of the work on his Instagram page.
“There was no flooded basement,” he said. “I’m so surprised that there’s no history of it flooding, there’s no hints of it being flooded. It’s wild, because we have the streams that comes from the ponds and the drainage from Aurthur Court right behind my house – and no issues.”
He built a deck on his vacation. Most people might go to the beach. “We’re still working on it,” he said.