Being from Long Island I have one of the most expensive electricity costs in the entire country.  My average is right in line with the linked article from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  After fees I pay .21 cents per kilowatt hour (Kwh).  For comparison purposes my rate is about double the national average.  As such, the idea of solar panels has always intrigued me.  I can admit that my intrigue has much more to do with the saving money aspect and much less to do with the environment.  Knowing myself I know I would never actually pull the trigger on a $15,000, $20,000 or even $30,000 system.  The crossover time just always scared me.  Then I was introduced to Vivint.

How Vivint Works

I am not a salesperson for Vivint and my information is coming from my research and a sales meeting with a local branch manager.  They turn my roof into a power plant, putting up panels on their dime.  As explained to me, zero out of pocket cost from me.  I then buy power from them at .15 cents per Kwh.  An automatic savings of 45%.  If my house doesn’t produce enough power I then just buy what I need from my local power company (which I am doing anyway at the exorbitant amount highlighted above).  They would then keep my federal credit of $7,500 and I get to keep my New York State Credit which I believe is $500 per year for 10 years.

Thereafter I would have a 20 year lease with them.  If I needed to do repairs on my roof then it would only be $500 to take down everything and put it back.  If I moved the next people would have to agree to keep it up for the remaining period, or it would be a sliding scale as to the cost to break the lease.  I don’t have any plans on leaving but I wanted some type of number, so I pressed the salesman for an example.  So given, the size of the system being installed (multiple roofs, 30 panels) it would be about $15,000 to remove it in year 7.

In addition to the length of time issue the only downside (and it is such a small downside) is that if solar ever becomes cheaper and I could install my own system to have full access to zero cost energy I would still be stuck in a 20 year lease.  This downside is me really reaching, but it is a risk and tiny compared to the length issue.

My Experience with Vivint So Far

I am very early in the process, and as explained below I am not even sure I am going to go through with it, but so far it has been a positive experience.  The sales person I am working with is professional, courteous and responsive.  The materials they have presented are very clear which is nice when making such a big decision.

Calculating My Benefit with Vivint

As explained the decision is based almost entirely on money, and as such, I need to do some calculations (much like i did when I calculated how much money I would save converting from oil heat to gas heat).

KwH Pure PSEG Cost
Jun-131123 $              235.83
Jul-131123 $              235.83
Aug-13901 $              189.21
Sep-13901 $              189.21
Oct-13655 $              137.55
Nov-13655 $              137.55
Dec-13917 $              192.57
Jan-14917 $              192.57
Feb-14642.5 $              134.93
Mar-14642.5 $              134.93
Apr-14646 $              135.66
May-14646 $              135.66
Jun-141038 $              217.98
Total  $2,269.47


As compared to the Vivint Solar System:

Estimated Solar ProductionSolar PriceRemaining PSEG cost Total Cost
Jun-13809 $            121.35 $        65.94 $         187.29
Jul-13904 $            135.60 $        45.99 $          181.59
Aug-13865 $            129.75 $          7.56 $          137.31
Sep-13690 $            103.50 $        44.31 $          147.81
Oct-13420 $               63.00 $        49.35 $          112.35
Nov-13289 $               43.35 $        76.86 $          120.21
Dec-13202 $               30.30 $     150.15 $          180.45
Jan-14198 $               29.70 $     150.99 $          180.69
Feb-14404 $               60.60 $        50.09 $          110.69
Mar-14565 $               84.75 $        16.28 $          101.03
Apr-14874 $            131.10 $     (47.88) $            83.22
May-141,030 $            154.50 $     (80.64) $            73.86
Jun-14809 $            121.35 $        48.09 $          169.44
 $      1,785.93


So in the end I would be saving $2,269 – $1,785.93 = $483.54 per year (or $40 a month).  Trust be told that is a pretty rough $40.  One, it depends on both costs being constant which we know traditional energy companies are going to keep increasing rates while the solar rate is capped at 2.9%.  Two, assumes those solar projections are in line with reality.  If my home produces less my $40 will exponentially decreases.   To be fair, I would also get a $500 credit for 10 years from NYS, but that doesn’t feel the same as money in my pocket.

I am going to write the company, but I don’t know if I am going to take a 20 year lease to save $40 a month.  What if the next homeowner doesn’t want the system?  What if I have a roof problem? $500 removal fee wipes out one year of savings.  Seems like there is an easier way to save $40 a month.

Am I missing anything? Do you have a similar system?