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Harnessing the sun: One family's adventure into solar

Murrieta residents Don and Tonia Jackson were growing tired of not knowing how much their energy bill would be from month to month, especially in the summertime.

“Our electric bills ranged from $220 in the winter to $400 in the summer,” Don said. “That was with hardly using the air conditioning.”

Like many Southwest Riverside County residents, the Jackson family grew used to phone calls, door flyers, and door-to-door representatives selling solar power. According to Southern California Edison, telemarketing is a common tool used by many legitimate businesses to sell goods and services.

“As with any large purchase, SCE encourages our customers who are considering solar to be a wise consumer, study their options, and research any provider or contractor they are considering doing business with,” states the SCE website.

Questions on rebates, government incentives, and regular monthly savings made Tonia see the light with regard to making a solar switch, but making the decision to go solar was difficult for a skeptic like Don.

“(At first) I felt it was not worth the money and would not be beneficial to our home. We had quotes from different companies a few years prior for 20-year leases,” he said. “I didn't feel like taking out a loan to finance the solar due to technology rapidly changing and the leasing of solar didn't seem practical due to being in a 20-year lease and not knowing if I would even be in my home in 20 years.”

A chance meeting with a Horizon Solar representative made sense to the family both at the right time.

“We were selling an item on Craigslist and my wife began talking to the person that was purchasing from us, and found out he worked for a solar power company,” Don said. They began asking questions about solar power, and the company for which he worked. Tonia liked him immediately and wanted to learn more about Horizon Solar, while Don just wanted to learn more about the benefits of going solar.

“He was knowledgeable, and we just had a casual conversation, about his feelings about solar in general,” Don said. “My wife felt comfortable with him and set up an appointment to discuss solar options.” Once they compared their high monthly bills with what Horizon Solar was offering, the switch made sense.

From their initial visit to installation, the process to install solar panels took approximately three months, due to permitting and signoff from Southern California Edison. After that, the work went quickly according to Tonia and Don.

“When everything was approved, the installation took about two days,” Don said. “We were not home during the installation process nor did we need to be because all work was performed outside. The installers were timely and kept us informed through the whole process.”

The Jackson’s experience with Horizon Solar’s installation went so smoothly, Tonia wasn’t even sure the workers had been there.

“The neighbors said they couldn't even hear any noise from the workers,” she said. “When I came home I couldn't even tell the panels were installed until I looked closely.”

Don agreed and commented how the workers painted the conduit to match his home as best as possible. The Jacksons had a two-day installation with 30 panels installed, along with two battery packs.

“I am very picky when it comes to wiring and things looking aesthetically pleasing,” Don said. Pleased with the install, the Jacksons are even more pleased with their new electric bill, which Tonia said was immediate.

While many plans were available to them, the Jackson family selected a 20-year lease of $159 per month. According to Don, SoCal Edison charges $200 per year in an annual fee for solar usage. Still, the Jackson family’s average electric bill has leveled out. They agree that their house is cooler, and they can run their pool filter for longer stretches of time without a negative financial impact.

“Our monthly electric bill charge is anywhere from $1 to $1.75,” he said. “You can’t beat that.”

Leaving lights on, the pool motor running, and using appliances during the day is no longer an issue for the Jackson family.

“I can’t believe it took us so long to make the switch,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you want to save money?”

There is a free seminar including dinner at Pala Mesa Resort on August 27. Go to to register.

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