Why Do Homeowners Go Solar? Diversifying Investments in Colorado


Homeowner Profiles: A PV Solar Report Exclusive Series

In this series, we profile homeowners around the country who have gone solar. We interview a range of homeowners to gain insights about their motivations for going solar, what factors they weighed in their decision, and how they went about choosing a solar provider.

If you know homeowners who have gone solar and would like to share their experience, email us at admin@pvsolarreport.com.

Jim Hoffmeister is a veritable solar enthusiast. The engineer and small business owner didn’t know much about solar until 2011, when he and his wife Marcia looked into a system for their home. But now he’s a firm believer that solar can change the world, and actively shares his own experiences so that others might follow his example. 

Hoffmeister grins every time he talks about his solar panels. I met the Boulder, Colorado resident late last month at a talk about net metering that was organized by Environment Colorado and the Sierra Club. Hoffmeister also testified as a concerned citizen before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), arguing that the current net metering program should be expanded. “It is a big mistake if the energy associated with rooftop solar is not valued,” he said. 

The Hoffmeisters looked into solar for their home in 2011. Many of their retirement investments were yielding low returns, and they considered solar to be a creative, responsible way to diversify their investments. So they sold off a CD and paid up-front for a PV solar array. 

They participate in Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards program – a net metering program that pays solar customers 11 cents per kWh sent into the grid. Jim was eager to show me his electricity “bill” for January: an IOU for $110.33! The checks arrive every three months. The whole system will be paid off in slightly over ten years, because Xcel’s program is a 20-year guarantee for existing customers, regardless of policy changes. 

The Hoffmeisters have a perfect roof for solar, and they went big. Their 12.5 kW system is made of 52 Solar World 240 watt panels, using Tigo Energy microinverters. Jim says he loves the whole system, but especially the Tigo energy maximizer, which tracks the system’s performance in real-time. In fact, anyone is invited to visit the guest portal website for his house’s array. Check it out! 

It took about six months from the time the Hoffmeisters started thinking about solar until the system was up and running in October, 2011. Using a consultant, they got bids from Namasté Solar, based in Boulder, CO, SolarCity, and City Electric, also based in Boulder. Hoffmeister says the bids were all comparable, but City Electric is a small business like his own, and so he went with them. Permitting and installation took about six weeks. 

Then, about a month after his panels were turned on, Jim got a call from Tigo – which monitors its customers’ arrays. The array was malfunctioning due to defective microinverters. Tigo paid for the complete replacement of all the faulty parts, which were also installed by City Electric. Jim was impressed by the great customer service. He wants to add more panels to the array, but can’t because size is capped at 120% of average electricity usage according to PUC regulations.

There’s one other tip homeowners in snowy climates should know. According to Jim, “I have special snow shovels that are made just for clearing snow off solar panels, and after it snows I’ll probably be up there – to my wife’s consternation – pulling the snow off the panels so they can start working again.” He doesn’t want his panels to miss out on even a day of sunlight. Usually, though, it only takes a day or two for the panels to slough off the snow on their own, and there is special glass being developed to reduce this time even more.