Letting the sun's energy in

Going solar is good for the planet and the pocket book, and is not that difficult to do according to Verdugo Woodland resident Robert Hess.

Hess and his family's decision to go solar was not initially based in the financial benefit but because it seemed like the right thing to do.

“We really didn't think we would save that much,” he said.

Hess is environmentally aware and was motivated by the idea that the future can only be changed by those who take steps in the right direction. He wanted his children to have this green lesson as well.

He and his wife Grace discovered they had many options when they began searching the Internet for companies that supply solar power.

“It really wasn't that hard to find a company to help us go solar. The difficult thing was what company to go with because there were so many,” he said. “We sent out an email to a baby sitting coop we belonged to and found that a man who lived in Glendale near us named Jim Cahill who worked for Solar City.”

Cahill is regional operational director for the company. Hess never met Cahill but felt comfortable with the fact that he was a neighbor.

“We found out that the initial cost was about $18,000 after state, city and federal rebates to purchase the unit,” Hess said. “That was a lot of money.”

He found that the company offered a leasing program which, for the size of the unit he required, would be $23 a month.

“That was much more reasonable,” he said.

The company worked closely with the city of Glendale and the rebates offered for going green were passed on to Hess through the lease.

“From day one we have been saving an average of $75 a month on our bill,” he said. “It was so easy.”

“It's not free power,” said Jonathan Bass, spokesperson for Solar City. “But it can save a 10% to 20% on an average electric bill.”

Hess has become very knowledgeable about energy consumption and said he has been impressed at how the city and company worked together.

“I had to work with four or five different sets of people in the company and with the city and it has all been pleasant and professional,” he said.

His children, Sophia and Nicholas, are excited about going solar and are learning about how the sun is powering their home.

“It's great,” Sophia said.

“You can't see the [panels],” Nicholas added.

Hess said that was another positive surprise about the panels. At first he thought it would be obvious with large panels covering the roof.

“But we put it in the back of the house and to the side,” he said. “You can hardly notice it from the front of the home.”

The money saved has been another pleasant surprise and has made the Hess family a solar advocate to their friends and neighbors. Hess looks up and down his neighborhood.

“See all these homes could have solar power,” he said. “Even the ones with trees shading the roof.”

The family has invited friends and neighbors to their home tonight to look at the solar system and tries to convert some energy consumers to the sun's power.

“It is so easy to do. Much easier than we thought and you feel like you have done something good for the Earth,” he said.

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