To some, Keith Grubb is known as the father of Jordan and Hunter Grubb – pharmacist at Nuckolls Drug and Carroll County Deputy.
Others know him as the vocal big guy at Carroll County football games and in many other capacities. But now, the Hillsville man has taken on a new identity – the solar guy. Ever since installing 31 solar panels on his home and garage, people are coming out of the woodworks to ask Grubb about going green.
“Everywhere I go now, people are like, ‘Hey, aren’t you the solar guy?’ People I don’t have a clue how they know me have asked me that,” Grubb said with his trademark hearty laugh. “I went to my dentist and he had driven by the house and he had questions. And everybody’s questions seem to be the same. And that is, who put the system in for you and what did it cost you? People want to know about it so I thought this must be a pretty big deal.”
Grubb said he has always been fascinated by solar energy but has always been a little timid about going forward. When he contacted AEP and learned he was using 25,000 kilowatts per year, he decided it was time.
“It turns out we are energy hogs. So when I contacted Patrick (Feucht) at Baseline Solar, he asked me what kind of system I was looking at. Was I interested in being off the grid and having this larger system with batteries or was I interested in a system that produces roughly half?” Grubb said. “The number one thing that we as consumers have got to do is conserve, and you have got to look for ways that you can reduce your usage. You are going to pay less ultimately with whatever you do – whether it is with AEP if you went solar or not. And you are going to really accentuate the savings once you do solar. Right now I am producing more than I am using, so I would be getting credits for usage.”
In total, Grubb went with a system that fitted 17 solar panels to his home and 14 more panels to his garage. He also added an option for a smaller unit that helps cool his attic, in turn cooling off his house and ultimately reducing his power usage even more. His first monthly electric bill just recently came in since installing the system and Grubb said the amount due for the month was only $41.49 – a whopping $221 savings from the $266.93 he owed in the same month last year.
He encourages others to go green as well, but warns to be careful with things you may see on Facebook or other online avenues stating AEP can connect you with solar power for no money down.
“That is clickbait. If you click that it populates over to where you will be contacted by a group of solar folks, you will get private messages, emails, a lot of things about solar. Some of them are true, most of them are not. There is not any kind of incentive I am aware of that AEP does with zero down and to switch you over and that they actually work with providers on installing solar,” Grubb said. “How they are a partner is in net metering. When Patrick came for the assessment, he did a Google Earth search of my house all the way to the last thing he had to do was get the permits. He does the installation and all of that stuff and then calls AEP to say we are ready to have the meter switched out. And AEP came and put the meter in. In my case they were very responsive and so they have been a good partner in this. But I would encourage somebody instead of clicking on an AEP link about zero down to use this article and the resources in it to contact a vendor such as Baseline Solar and just start the process. Have them come out and educate you on what is available, whether you need to do a roof mont, ground mount, or whether you want to start small with just hot water.”
Grubb said it is also a popular misconception that most people can’t afford to do solar energy. He said the savings you will have will be proportional to what kind of system you put in and how much you use. Some of the biggest questions he gets asked are what did he pay for his system and where did he get it?
“I have not talked to anybody that doesn’t have a curiosity in doing it or anybody who has done it that isn’t very well pleased in having done it. So I think solar really is for everybody and I think what you have to decide as a consumer is what solar is good for you, not if solar is good for you,” Grubb said. “And then we get to the affordability of it and the tax incentive right now is 30 percent or roughly one-third of what your cost is. Then the vendor will send you an invoice for what your paid for your system. There is one simple tax form when you do your taxes and you get the tax relief that way. Now is the perfect time to do that. There is still that incentive.”
Feucht said now truly is the best time to move toward solar as the tax relief incentive is set to start declining after 2019. Grubb said most solar energy systems give you back about a 9 percent annual return on your investment. Considering that, most people would make that money back in a little over a decade, depending on usage.
“If you are out here looking for a place to invest your money, you are not going to do any better than that anywhere you put any money in anything. The market right now is roughly 2 to 2.5 percent return on most anything you could invest in, so solar is a three to four times return on investment as opposed to what you could put your money in,” Grubb said. “Now, if you are out there thinking I don’t have the money to do this, you may because let’s say you have a home equity line and you go to your bank and you can get a 4 to 6 percent interest loan on your panels. Well, you are going to get a bigger return than that on your savings, so you may be able to afford this and just not realize it. And then also you are going to get that tax relief at the end of the year, so to me, this is an absolute no-brainer.”
Grubb said the only downside he sees to his solar system is that it is not portable. Even then, if he does decide to move, he has not only increased the value of his home, but also the potential base of customers interested in his buying his home. He said he chose Baseline Solar because he likes to buy local and Baseline was the most local vendor he could find (the company is based out of Blacksburg).
“I am not going to discourage somebody from shopping around, but should something happen with your system then you need to look at responsiveness and that kind of thing,” Grubb said. “If you call them you will get a recording that says they are out of the office and if there is an emergency they are available to troubleshoot or to come out. I had an issue and these guys came out, it wasn’t even something that was their problem, and they were still very responsive.”
Feucht added there is little to no maintenance required with a solar energy system. There are no fluids to change or no parts to rotate. If something breaks, which happens on rare occasions, the company will come in and fix it for you.
“We have never had a panel fail. We have installed thousands over the decade we have been in business. A few times inverters have failed and we replaced them under warranty. Panels are warrantied for 25 years so these are high-quality products designed for the long term,” Feucht said. “We have never had a roof leak either. I personally have drilled thousands of holes in to roofs and we have never had one leak. If you are going to spend $10,000 or $20,000 for a system, you get something that is really good and works really well and that is what we have experienced.”
Feucht said demand for solar energy has boomed in the last five years. The first five years Baseline Solar was in business, he said he installed about 30 systems. Around 2013, prices began to dive nationally, spurring a large increase in demand. He now installs 30 to 50 systems per year.
“People do want this. We talk to people all the time who are interested in this. There is a lot of unknown about it and that is kind of the, ‘I don’t know anybody who is doing this yet.’ For people like Keith, it works,” he said. “They ask him, it works and it is worth looking at. Demand is booming around the country for solar and if people are interested at all they should give me a call or call another installer. Call somebody and get them out.”
Saving money on electric bills and becoming more environmentally friendly are both major motivations for going solar, but they are not the only reasons, Feucht said. Some people just want to do something to have more control over their own home.
“If you are motivated, if you are interested, at least do an inquiry. And aside from that, you might want to call AEP and see what your usage has been and be more cognizant of your carbon footprint,” Grubb said. “I think at minimum you at least need to do an inquiry to see if this is something that could work for you and also help your carbon footprint.”