Why I bought ANOTHER Volt.

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…. the 2013 Volt ….

On November 30th I was driving my 2013 Chevy Volt in Tampa and a random Dodge minivan turned into my lane and messed up the entire passenger side of my car. My Volt had 130,000 miles on it, and the Kelly Blue Book value was about $3,000, so when the other driver’s insurance offered me $7,500 for my old Volt I jumped on it.

Even if I sold my 2013 Volt privately I would never get $7,500 bucks for it, even before that accident, and the accident was not my fault, so why not get a newer car?

I did NOT expect to be car shopping 3 weeks before Christmas, but it seems the universe has a different plan altogether. For a hot minute I considered going back to a full gas powered car, simply because all the electric cars with a 300 mile range cost over $30,000, and I was trying to spend LESS than $20,000, out the door.

I test drove a 2015 Infiniti Q50 that was listing for just under $20K and I really liked it… but then I was talking with my girlfriend and she made a good point: “A luxury car is all about EGO, get another Volt and charge it off the solar on your house.”

I had test driven a 2nd generation Volt back in 2017 (my 2013 model was first gen) and I really liked it. So…. I found a few used 2017 Volts for sale across Tampa and went out to check them out. Brand new these cars go for over $30,000, but there were several used 2017 and 2018 models for sale in the low 20K range.

Yesterday I got a 2017 Volt at Dimmitt Chevy in Clearwater for just under $20,000 including all the tax and tag fees. It has a leather interior, 32,000 miles, and rides like a Lexus. My 2013 was very smooth, the 2017 is even smoother, quieter, faster and it holds a 50 mile full electric range vs. about 30 miles on the 2013 Volt.

The Volt goes into gas mode after the charge is exhausted, which means I can charge at home each night, but gas it on a longer road trip. BEST of both worlds, really.

Which brings us to the huge snorting elephant in the room…. why the hell did GM discontinue this model? The Volt is honestly a GREAT car, super reliable, rides nice, performs like a car with a V-6 engine…. AND I can use either gas or kilowatts.

If the Volt was made by Toyota it would outsell the Prius hands down. I owned a 2009 and 2011 Prius, both cars were slow and dopey compared to the Volt. Put any Prius driver in a Volt for just ONE DAY and they would not want to go back.

I think GM is being really shortsighted in getting rid of such a superlative model like the Volt. I’m glad they offer the (full electric) BOLT, but I feel like the dual fuel Volt still has a place in the car market.

Maybe I’m just different, I have a solar array on my roof that cost as much as a used car, 2 motorcycles in my garage, and a citrus tree in my backyard. I also went on Shark Tank for a frickin’ balloon company, so there’s that.

As for now?

I’m gonna drive this 2017 Volt another 150,000 miles or so and get a nice used electric car with a 400 mile range sometime in 2024…..

20191206_073141_resized… the 2017 Volt ….   same color was NOT intentional, but my other options were white.

-Ben Alexander

December 2019

 

 

A tale of 2 wheels…

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650 cc Kawasaki Vulcan S on the LEFT and Honda CB1000r on the RIGHT………..

I bought my first motorcycle when I lived in Taipei back in 1995. It was a 125cc  Taiwanese made Sanyang, with 4 speeds. I had no training and no one told me how to ride, I just rode out into the chaotic traffic endemic to Taipei and figured it out.

I almost died every. single. day. No traffic rules in Taiwan back in 1995, and hundreds of scooters, motorcycles and crazy taxi drivers at every intersection!

When I came back to the states after in Taiwan I found an old rusty 1978 Honda Hawk with a 400 cc engine and rode that bike from the 1990’s until about 2015, when I sold it on Craigslist. I was always impressed with the reliability of that bike, when I sold it the damn thing was 37 years old and still burst to life with 2 or 3 kicks on the crank.

Honda really knows how to engineer a motorcycle.

They don’t make motorcycles with kick-starters anymore. If you lose battery power those kick-starters will get you home without changing out the battery.

Fast forward to January of 2018. I had just finalized my divorce, college was already funded for both my daughters… so I decided to purchase a Honda CB1000r. The CB has a liter engine, with a close ratio six-speed shift. It revs to 14,000 rpm and goes like a scalded cat. When I’m merging onto the freeway it’ll be at 125 mph by the end of the ramp and 145 mph very soon after.

Any motorcycle with a 1,000 cc engine is too fast for a beginner. In the first few months of ownership I was very careful about learning how the Honda handled and how it felt on the road. An engine that powerful demands respect, an inexperienced rider would be dead in a month on a machine that fast.

I’m also a full gear type of rider:  helmet, boots, ballistic jacket, gloves… I even have a pair of riding pants lined with Kevlar! I recently saw a guy pulling wheelies on the freeway on a sportbike… he had a t-shirt and jeans on, no helmet. That dude is gone as soon as he goes off that bike at 80 mph.

Below: CB1000r….  gotta love that one sided swingarm set up on the rear wheel!

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This past summer I got a little blue (250 cc) Yamaha for my daughter Grace:

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Grace drove her Yamaha around the neighborhood, then took the local motorcycle safety course and earned her motorcycle endorsement…  On our first long distance ride Grace ran her Yamaha off a country road and high-sided in some grass. She was OK, but that experience shook her up so much she did not want to ride again.

Grace was wearing full gear when she flew off her Yamaha, so she walked away from the accident with only minor scrapes and bruises, thank God!

Riding motorcycles is dangerous, especially for first timers, but I learned how to ride when I was 21 years old, in crazy Taipei traffic, so I figured Grace would be ok if she had a slow bike, took the safety course and wore full gear. Guess I was wrong.

An old saying among riders:  there are 2 types of bikers; those who’ve crashed and those who are gonna crash!

I wiped out on my Sanyang on the streets of Taipei a bunch of times, then later on my 1978 Honda here in the USA. These were minor crashes that taught me major lessons. I’m a safer rider now because of all that road experience going back 24 years.

I fixed the broken parts from Grace’s crash and my girlfriend started to learn how to ride the Yamaha. The bike has a low seat height, it shifts easy and the 250 cc engine is pretty easy to manage, so that type of bike is easy for a new rider, especially one smaller in stature. The smaller engine equates to lighter motorcycle as well.

I would recommend that all new riders learn on a lighter and slower motorcycle.

This past week I was selling solar to a client and she showed me a 650 cc Kawasaki Vulcan in her garage. It only had 120 miles on the odometer (never been dropped) and she could no longer ride it due to her bad back. She was asking $4,000 for it, and when I looked up the same bike for sale on they were all selling for $6,000 to $7,000 new…

I had made a decent commission off that solar sale, but I already had 2 bikes……

My girlfriend bought the little Yamaha, so I used that money towards the Vulcan.

Love my new Vulcan, it has a low seat height, is nicely balanced, has a smooth shift and ride, and plenty of power from zero to 100 mph. I’m going to hold onto both bikes for a long time.

2 motorcycles is kinda excessive, but both are paid off, and the registration fees are only a few bucks each year. Some people are into boats or old cars, I figure that my motorcycle habit is not as expensive and takes up less space around my house.

Ben Alexander

11/24/2019

Withlachoochee River Electric and Solar on my Home.

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Withlachoochee River Electric Cooperative (also known as WREC) is an electric company that services customers in nine Florida counties just north of Tampa.

Tampa Bay Solar has installed many residential solar arrays in the WREC footprint in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.

Like most electric companies in Florida WREC is a net metering utility, which means that WREC customers can bank kilowatts with the utility and use that power at a later date. This is done via a bidirectional meter that is installed by WREC after your rooftop array has been installed and passed county inspection.

WREC charges a $32 monthly connection fee that all customers have to pay, even if 100% of your energy comes from your solar array.

The bidirectional meter is normally installed a few weeks after the solar array has passed county inspection, in some cases it has taken WREC longer than a month to install the bidirectional meter, but in 2019 they seem to have corrected this issue.

How do I know all this cool stuff?

I’m a WREC customer with solar on my roof, and I’ve helped several hundred WREC customers go solar!

Ben Alexander

Director of Sales

TampaBaySolar.com

 

The Future Of Energy?

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The state of Hawaii has more solar per roof than any other state. Since Hawaii is an island with no indigenous fossil fuel resources the state is forced to import fuel to power up the electric grid. Fuel costs drove up the price of electric, so Hawaiian homeowners adopted rooftop solar in a big way.

Solar energy production begins around 9AM, peaks at noon then diminishes until sunset. This poses a challenge to the engineers who manage the power grid, and in Hawaii Tesla has stepped forward with large battery banks that store solar during the day and redistribute the power at night.

What happens when 50 million homes all over the United States get rooftop solar in the next 20 years? Where will all that energy find storage? One solution might be to use electric cars as portable batteries during peak daytime solar production from 10AM to 3PM.

By 2030 there will be millions of full electric cars in use across the United States, and most of those vehicles will have a battery capable of storing 200 kilowatts. The average home in Florida uses about 50 kilowatts per day, and most drivers will use less than 25 kilowatts per day to power their commute, so it makes sense to use electric cars to store energy across the grid.

The existing electric companies could change their business model from the current “generate and delivery” dynamic to a more advanced “move energy from solar to cars to homes” model. As a consumer I would not mind paying a small monthly fee to the electric utility if I was able to move energy from my rooftop solar to my car and then back out to the wider energy marketplace.

Imagine an app on your phone that lets you sell the kilowatts stored in your car back to the grid based on demand at that moment in your area. Perhaps your park your car at work in a high energy-demand area, you could program the app to sell 20 kilowatts back to the grid, leaving enough charge in your car battery to get you home.

Of course, most homes and buildings will also have a large battery back-up capacity in house.

As solar goes up on homes and buildings around the globe the cost of electric will eventually drop to peanuts and the large electric companies will no longer be able to stay competitive using coal and natural gas plants that need to be staffed and fueled up.

The power grid will always be there, but the business model will shift over time.

The electric companies will probably have to outsource the technology to make this happen, so there is a billion dollar opportunity for the firm that develops this integrated technology and then sells it to the operators of the power grid.

-Ben Alexander

Director of Sales

TampaBaySolar.com

TECO and Solar on my Home.

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TECO is an electric utility that services a four county footprint in and around Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay Solar has installed many residential solar arrays in TECO’s local footprint, mostly in the city and Tampa and the surrounding Hillsborough County area.

HALF of all the electricity distributed by TECO comes from coal burning plants that pollute the air we all breathe.

Like most electric companies in Florida TECO is a net metering utility, which means that TECO customers can bank kilowatts with the utility and use that power at a later date. This is done via a bidirectional meter that is installed by TECO after your rooftop array has been installed and passed county inspection.

TECO charges a $18 monthly connection fee that all customers have to pay, even if 100% of your energy comes from your solar array.

The bidirectional meter is normally installed a few weeks after the solar array has passed county inspection, in some cases it has taken TECO longer than a month to install the bidirectional meter, but in 2019 they seem to have corrected this issue.

I’m very familiar with TECO because I’ve helped several hundred TECO customers go solar since 2017!

-Ben Alexander

Director of Sales

TampaBaySolar.com

 

Going Debt Free with Greentech.

This is the solar hot water heater and photovoltaic panels on my roof:

front of roof

For the last few years I’ve been teaching the “Go Debt Free” class at my church in Land O Lakes. Since 2014 I’ve personally paid off over $300,000 in debt, which is really my only qualification to teach the class!

My best student paid off $100K in debt within 2 years of taking my class.

The word “mortgage” actually comes from the French word “morte”, meaning death…. so your mortgage is really a “payment unto death”. It doesn’t have to be. You can pay off your mortgage in your 30’s or 40’s if you’re intentional about it.

I’m proud to say that my recurring monthly expenses are one third to one half my income, since I’m paid on commission which varies from month to month. My debt had been a combination of 2 mortgages, business loans, credit cards and car payments. The combined payments on $300,000 in debt was a crushing $4,200 per month. Ouch.

So what does green technology have to do with going debt free? Isn’t green technology far more expensive than standard technology?

Let’s look at cars for a minute.

When the Toyota Prius hit the market 18 years ago it cost $25,000, far more expensive than a $18,000 Toyota Camry LE model. The Prius got 48 miles per gallon, the 4 cylinder Camry got 28 miles per gallon. At $3 dollars per gallon over 100,000 miles the Prius owner will spend $6,200 on gasoline while the less efficient Camry driver will spend $10,700 at the pump.

Buying a new Prius does not make sense, but when you research the prices of a 3 year old Prius versus a 3 year old Camry (with similar mileage) the prices evened out. Most USED car buyers will own a car until it hits very high mileage (this is financially smart). As used cars you can get either model with 50,000 miles for about $16,000. Assume that you drive both cars for another 150,000 miles at $3 per gallon… the Camry driver will spend a whopping $16,000 at the pump, while the Prius driver will only part with $9,300 for gas.

What does green tech have to do with paying off debt? Take the $6,700 you will save by driving a Prius and pay down the mortgage on your home, or put that money in your child’s college fund, or just evaporate one of your credit card balances.

Most people don’t look at small recurring costs as huge long term costs. Who knew that a Camry uses $16,000 in gas over 150,000 miles? We just pay it and don’t think about it because we don’t think there is another option.

There is another cost in your life that most people are blind to because they feel powerless to get rid of it. If you own a home and pay $200 per month for electricity that’s $2,400 per year, well over $26,000 over the next decade when you factor in rate hikes and inflation.

A $150 per month electric bill is $19,000 over the next decade….

Most people think solar on your roof is far more than your electric costs. Not true since panel prices hit grid parity in 2016. A solar array that will generate $26,000 over the next decade (that’s a 10.5kW system) will cost you less than $18,000, even if you finance it. The array will evaporate a $200 per month bill and replace it with a $165 per month payment.

When the system is paid off in the next 6 years you will only pay a small monthly fee to the electric company. Currently the TECO fee is $17 per month, Duke energy’s fee is only $9.

The solar on my roof here in Wesley Chapel lowered my bill by $200 per month, $2,400 per year… my payment is only $135 per month because I put money down on the system.

Even after my solar pays for itself it will add value to my home. The panels have a 25 year warranty, so they should last decades. I’ll get my money back 3 or 4 times if I don’t move.

A few years ago I bought a 2013 Chevy Volt that runs on electricity only for the first 40 miles after a charge. This means that the solar on my roof is charging my car for FREE. The Volt only uses gasoline after the electric charge is exhausted, so there are many days when I use ZERO gasoline.

Consider your finances if you never spent another cent on gasoline… especially when gasoline goes over $4 per gallon. Some people spend $300 per month on gas alone. What if you used that $300 towards the principal on your mortgage?

By putting solar on my roof and driving a plug-in electric vehicle my costs for electricity and gas will be at least $15,000 LESS over the next decade. If I sell my home I’ll get a higher market value because of my array on the roof, especially as electric cars become more common.

You get what you focus on, you are less likely to take on silly debt when you are moving towards a debt free lifestyle. Read some Dave Ramsey books, get a notebook and start writing down your total debt numbers… as you get rid of debt your stress level will go down and you’ll find financial peace.

Ben Alexander / Sales Director for Tampa Bay Solar 813-391-3895    

Everyone asks me this.

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For the least 2 years I’ve been helping homeowners go solar all over Tampa Bay. One of the questions that I get all the time is:

“We’re in Florida, why don’t we all have solar yet?”

Here are some factors that are holding back solar in this state:

  1. People still think solar costs an arm and a leg. NOT true. Solar is cheaper than your monthly payment to the electric company. My bill went down $200 per month, the payment on my system (on a 4% loan) is $165 per month. I also got back a $7,000 tax rebate for getting a system on my home.
  2. Some folks think the ROI on solar is a million years. Again, the ROI (return on investment) for the solar array on my roof is just under 7 years. If you get a quote for a solar array and the payback is longer than 8 or 9 years you are being overcharged!
  3. What about my roof? Solar has been around since the 1980’s, if panels caused leaky roofs there would be NO solar industry. My company uses Iron Ridge roof brackets. These brackets are rated to 150mph CAT 5 hurricane winds.
  4. Plain old regressive thinking. Some people still own a flip phone, some folks like to churn their own butter. There is always resistance to new technology, even if using the old technology is more expensive.
  5. Some folks think the HOA will block solar. Not true, FL state law states that the HOA has NO SAY in whether you can put solar on your roof. This law is easy to find via Google, you do not need any clearance from your HOA to install solar, if they tell you otherwise they are breaking the law.
  6. We have a ton of renters in Tampa Bay. If the renter pays the electric bill the landlord has zero incentive to invest in solar. Landlords will spend the smallest amount to money to charge the highest amount of rent, so solar does not make sense.
  7. Credit challenges abound. The main financing option that I use requires clients to have a 700 credit score or higher. Many people are mired in debt, with a credit score below 700, and they have trouble getting financing for a system.
  8. Last but not least, a lack of long term thinking. Many people look at the monthly cost of solar and never think about the long term costs. If your TECO bill is $150 each month that’s $1800 per year and nearly $20,000 over the next decade when you factor in inflation and rate hikes.

Just as consumers were afraid to buy the Toyota Prius 15 years ago rooftop solar will become common place in the next 5 years. As more homeowners see solar going up in their subdivision they will talk to their neighbors and hopefully call me!

Ben Alexander / Sales Director for Tampa Bay Solar 813-391-3895    

Solar if you have Duke Energy

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Duke Energy is an electric utility that services 7.4 million customers from Florida to Indiana.

Tampa Bay Solar has installed many residential solar arrays in Duke’s local footprint across Tampa Bay, from up North in Citrus county and as far east as Polk County

Like most electric companies in Florida Duke is a net metering utility, which means that Duke customers can bank kilowatts with the utility and use that power at a later date. This is done via a bidirectional meter that is installed by Duke after your rooftop array has been installed and passed county inspection.

Duke charges a $9 monthly connection fee that all customers have to pay, even if 100% of your energy comes from your solar array.

The bidirectional meter is normally installed a few weeks after the solar array has passed county inspection, in some cases it has taken Duke longer than a month to install the bidirectional meter, but in 2019 they seem to have corrected this issue.

How do I know all this cool stuff?

I’m the Director of Sales at Tampa Bay Solar, and I’ve been helping homeowners in Duke’s service area go solar since early 2017.

-Ben Alexander

TampaBaySolar.com

 

 

 

3 Reasons Electric Costs will Rise in Florida!

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If you own a home in Florida and you don’t have solar yet you might want to consider the cost of electricity over the next few years. Electric costs are going to go up in Florida, for the three reasons:

#1. 900 people move here every single day. This is why residential construction is booming in this state. In 2018 Pasco County issued building permits for $800 million dollars in new residential construction. All these people will use electricity, and the electric company will have to build additional generation capacity. Those costs will be passed along to the consumer.

#2. By 2020 there will be over 40 different plug-in electric vehicle models offered for sale in the United States. Electric vehicles use anywhere from 20 to 30 kilowatts of electricity per day… the average single family home In Florida uses 50 kilowatts per day. This means that a family with 2 plug-in electric cars could double their electricity usage. Again, this increased demand for electricity will drive up prices.

#3. On a national level 35% of our power grid is fueled by natural gas. As of 2019 natural gas prices are at the same price per therm as 1999. Part of this low price is due to the discovery of massive natural gas deposits 7,000 feet deep in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. Low natural gas prices will eventually climb, not only from global demand but also because the Marcellus Shale gas deposits are finite. As natural gas becomes more expensive so will the price per kilowatt.

So you have more people using electricity, powering up more electric cars, while the cost of making the electricity is rising due to higher natural gas costs!

These factors make solar a great option if you own a Florida home with high sun exposure on the roof. At current electricity prices your solar array will pay for itself in 7 years. Solar also increases the value of your home at resale!

No one wants to buy a home with a $300 monthly electric bill, and it looks like that will be a reality for many Florida homeowners (who don’t go solar) over the next decade.

$300 per month is $3,600 per year…. $36,000 over the next decade. Most residential solar arrays are less than HALF that cost.

And I know that because I’m….

…. Ben Alexander

Director of Sales

TampaBaySolar.com

 

 

Compare yourself to THIS person.

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In reading Jordan Peterson’s book Twelve Rules for Life I was struck by his fourth rule:

“Compare yourself to who YOU were yesterday, not to who someone ELSE is today”.

In my work in solar sales I visit beautiful homes all the time, and many homes are clearly much more expensive than the humble home I reside in. Most of my clients are married, and when I run their credit and ask them their household income sometime I’m shocked by the number… especially those folks who are earning over $400,000 per year as a couple!

What you don’t know is how much debt other folks are holding, you might see a neighbor driving a new Mercedes but they won’t tell you about their $700 per month lease payment. The same goes for that gorgeous million dollar home that’s propped up with a $950,000 mortgage balance!

We compare ourselves to others on social media as well, when folks post pics of cars and vacations… and then I look out my window at my humble little 2013 Chevy Volt…

But when I compare myself today to where I was a year ago a very different picture emerges. That Chevy in my driveway is PAID OFF today, but still had a loan balance one year ago… my solar team was just getting started a year ago… my income this past month was far higher than January one year ago…

My house is far closer to being paid off today compared to my mortgage balance one year ago. By comparing my 2019 self to my 2018 self I have a clear idea where I’m headed. Both guys are still single, but the 2019 version is more confident, more comfortable with dating, etc.

This concept of comparing one’s present self to past self is very useful in detecting decline as well. Do you weigh more today than you did before? Do you have more debt? Is your income lower today than it used to be? Is your health declining from lack of activity?

I was unhappy with my body weight after Christmas and started fasting 16 to 20 hours each day. Here I am about five weeks later and I’m a little thinner and feel better already. I know that I merely have to stay on track to hit my target weight of 175 pounds and then STAY at that weight.

Look at where you are today and compare yourself to where you were a month ago, a year ago, maybe even five years ago. If there is something you’re not happy about take action now, today.

Ben

February 4rth, 2019