A place in the sun: Installing solar panels isn’t just a fad


Warm-up: In the two months since it was installed, Mary Kelly's solar panel has already helped lower her electric bill. Warm-up: In the two months since it was installed, Mary Kelly’s solar panel has already helped lower her electric bill.

Mary Kelly counts on the sun to brighten her days. Not in the way you might think, though. The Charlottesville resident had solar panels installed on her Lexington Avenue home in October and now, sunny days mean she’s whittled her electric bill down to almost nothing.

“I’ve been an outdoor enthusiast for years,” Kelly said. “I do a lot outdoors, and I feel passionate about preserving the outdoors for generations to come.”

Mary feels her home’s solar panels have helped change the earth for the better. And she’s right, according to Sigora Solar’s Andy Bindea.

“This is becoming increasingly popular as we see more discussion about climate change and energy dependence,” Sigora’s owner said. “People see this is not a phase—solar energy really works.”

How? Simply put, solar panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity that’s compatible with the voltage in your home. Recent technology means panels are less expensive than when they became popular in the 1970s (along with pet rocks and mood rings), and they’re certainly more efficient. Plus, they’re more attractive.

“They used to look kind of like horrible space ships on top of peoples’ homes,” Bogdan Bindea said, recalling when solar panels were pitched higher than Mariah Carey. Now most are flush-mounted with the roof and, with black backing and frames, they look more like black glass. “We can easily convince most HOAs that they won’t be an eyesore.”

Installation can take as little as a day (depending on the job), and panels usually make a significant difference in electric costs. How much varies on the house but experts say they can always help homeowners save on power bills. Mary Kelly agrees wholeheartedly, and loves that she’s offsetting greenhouse gases too.

“Sunny days have taken on a new meaning,” Kelly said.—Lynn Thorne