Judy Sykes and her husband, Ray, always knew their electricity bill was higher than average because of a large freezer they have in their garage for business.
But in the last 20 years, their bill kept getting higher despite the recent installation of a smart meter by Southern California Edison, which Judy said was supposed to lower their bill.
"It was supposed to help, but I didn't see it helping," she said.
The couple now pays about $350 a month. Realizing that their bill would only get higher, the Sykeses decided recently to look into installing solar panels. Judy said she became especially motivated after her sister-in-law installed panels at her house and stopped paying an electricity bill altogether.
The Sykeses took advantage of a program exclusively offered to Huntington Beach residents by San Diego-based Sullivan Solar Power. Once it's installed, the Sykeses will end up only paying $30 a month for electricity.
"It's wonderful," Judy said. "It's great. I love it. I was ecstatic. I'm going to save over $300 a month."
The program is available in Huntington Beach until July 30 and offers residents the chance to install a solar system, with nothing to pay up front and still receive a rebate, said Dustin Urquhart, Sullivan's manager of business development.
Urquhart said his company, which recently opened an office in Irvine, currently offers the rebate program in Huntington Beach and Murrieta. Similar ones were previously offered in Irvine, Temecula and San Diego.
"This program offers homeowners an opportunity to have a solar system installed on their home, save energy, save on electricity bills, while promoting a sustainable future and receive an additional cash-back incentive for signing up with Sullivan Solar Power," Urquhart said.
Huntington Beach residents have various options to choose from: They can buy the system, lease it and pay a fixed monthly fee for the 20-year duration of the contract or pay the lease amount up front and lower the monthly payment or eliminate altogether. On average, the lease bill is only about $100, but Urquhart said it all depends on how much electricity and how many panels each home needs.
The Sykeses chose to lease the system and pay the amount up front. They're paying about $17,000, Judy said.
"We're pre-paying our electricity bill," she said. "It's still way, way cheaper."
So far, 12 residents have signed up for the program, according to Urquhart.
The system is installed by Sullivan at no cost to the residents and operated and maintained for free for the duration of the lease. The number of solar panels installed varies from one residence to another.
Judy said Sullivan will install 24 panels on the roof of her house after the program ends July 30.
Urquhart noted that the program is not for everyone and makes sense only if the customer's electricity bill averages at around $150 or more. Those customers are the ones who will see the most benefit and end up paying half or less of their previous cost if they pick the lease option, he said.
For more information on the Huntington Beach program or to contact Sullivan, go to http://www.hbsolarprogram.org.