Solar panel-tax return-audit update

It occurred to me last night that I’d never updated on this.  We got notice a couple weeks ago that “the audit is complete and the file closed”.  Which appears to be legalese for “ok, you passed, this time, don’t screw up again”.

For anyone reading this consider this your warning.  If you install solar panels (or other tax rebated forms of energy production) remember to keep all your files for it in the same place!

Don’t get me wrong, we mostly had saved the paperwork, repeated in multiple spots.  Part of the problem was that what the audit paperwork called a couple things and what the title on the actual forms said wasn’t quite the same, and I ended up having to call into to the auditor to make sure I had the right stuff.

The other problem was that we couldn’t find proof of how much we actually paid.  I know we got receipts, but god be dammed if I could find them!  So that meant tracking down the checks with the bank.  SHOULD have been fairly simple.  But the one bank account that we’d used, we ended up closing a year later.  So we no longer had access to the account online to just go back and pull up the checks.  It necessitated a trip to an actual branch for Husband, which is difficult on his schedule, to actually talk to someone who could check his ID and do a search.  Then we hit computer problems.  Not our computers, the bank computers.  The third and final check was paid out at the end of Sept of that year, and for some reason the bank’s system was refusing to access that month’s info.  It took several weeks, and several trips, and several phone calls, to finally get a copy of that check.

So here’s your warning!  When you pay for the panels, SAVE the RECEIPT with the rest of the paperwork.  And while you’re at it, get a copy of the canceled check(s), and/or your credit card statement showing the charge, and save that WITH the receipts.  Trust me, it’ll come in handy!

As for us, we made EXTRA copies of everything, including all the checks, and tucked those copies in with everything else.  Cause if I’m reading the tax paperwork right, the Fed’s have another 4years in which to decide to audit us too…..

Arista Power-review in progress

I’m a little frustrated so bear with me.

Back in 2012 we had solar panels installed.  Arista Power, out of Rochester NY, was the installer.  Admittedly likely not who we’d have chosen had we done the picking, solely due to the fact that there are closer installers, but we were getting the panels done via a Solarize program and weren’t given a choice.  Despite that fact the install was done smoothly and we were quite happy with the whole process and the installing company.  Everyone was professional, great to work with, courteous of us and our dogs, and the equipment has functioned perfectly since.

I had a brief contact with Arista’s Installation Coordinator a year ago (March 2014), a check up on the system and to find out how much power it had produced.

Monday, July 20th, 2015, Monday of last week, I received a letter from NY state advising us that we were being audited for claiming the solar system on our taxes.  Not a particularly huge surprise, the system had resulted in a huge refund for us that year.  But frustrating since it was 3yrs after the fact.  Especially since I’d swear I included all of the requested paperwork with our taxes.  But I sat down and started digging through files to find stuff.  Found most of it, but came up short on a couple pieces, one of which turned out to be mis-filed and I eventually found it.  The other piece I needed is proof of how much we paid the installers.  A phone call to the auditor’s office confirmed that an invoice from the installer showing that we paid X amount on X date would be sufficient.

In the week and a half since then I have emailed Arista, both via the individual email address I had from when the install was done, and via the “contact us” on their web page.  I’ve left three voicemails, one on the voicemail of each of the two people I had contact with as part of the install and one on in the general mailbox.  I tracked down the names of their executive team and sent emails to what should be their email address (one of which bounced, but the others appear to have gone through no problem).  

I have received zero response.

This morning I filled out the “I want a quote” form, we’ll see if that nets me anything.

I realize this is their busy season, but in this day and age email and voicemail can be checked from any location (and I know from chatting with both the sales guy and the install guy that they DO check them from anywhere).  Even if they don’t have a secretary to man the front desk and handle basics in the office, and I can’t imagine they don’t have someone in the office to handle that sort of stuff.

My next step is to send a signature required return receipt letter to them, to see what that nets me.  And I’m seriously considering driving out there.

In the mean time we’re making progress on tracking down proof of payment ourselves.  Turns out part of the problem is that we had a different bank account then, which has since been closed.  I think we can track down the info ourselves just fine.

But this whole process is not giving me warm fuzzies about what’ll happen if we ever need repair work done.  Or if we have to replace the roof/shingles on the house for that matter, which will happen eventually, we’d need the installer to come out and remove the panels, and then put them back on after the roof is done.  And though I’m sure that any decent solar installer could manage the process I’d certainly prefer to have the original folks handling it.

Edit: The CEO finally contacted me Friday July 31st.  Now to see if they can produce the paperwork I need!

I’m having one of “those” weeks…..

It could be ever so much worse, but still.

The last 5 days in a row we were predicted to get rain, potentially a lot of it.  We got a sprinkle once.  Looking at the weather map it looks like there were actually storms, but they ended up going around my immediate area somehow.  For 5 days in a row.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m thrilled that the yard has finally dried up enough for me to mow completely.  But it also means that I’m having to water the garden…..

Monday in particular was extra “interesting”. 

Monday we received a notice from the state that we were being audited due to our claim of getting solar panels put up in 2012.  We have 30 days to provide them with the paperwork to prove the claim or they’ll cancel the refund.  Never mind that I included copies of almost everything they’re requiring with the tax paperwork……So now we’re digging through files and muttering rude words as we discover that this or that piece of paper didn’t get filed properly.  We’ve got it all, but it’s still frustrating as heck.

After spending an hour digging through files and getting frustrated I went out to go spend an hour or so in the garden since I find that generally calming.  Keeping the volunteer clover from taking over is pretty much a constant chore anyway, and after the discovery of the giant zucchini hiding under the clover in that tire I’ve been trying to work my way around the various beds to at least thin the clover enough to be sure I don’t have to many other surprises waiting for me.  Everything was going smoothly till I grabbed a specific clump of clover in one of the cantaloupe tires.

There are yellow jackets nesting in that particular tire.  Under that specific clump of clover.  Immediately adjacent to a ripening pumpkin and a still growing cantaloupe.

And yup, I got stung.

Today’s Wednesday and I’m still swallowing the max dose of benadryl in order to keep the swelling down and itching from driving me crazy.

I hate using general insecticides in the garden.  I have, after much work, finally managed to have enough pollinators in the yard to ensure proper pollination of everything.  And the last thing I want to do is kill them.  But I’m not going to try to work around a nest of stinging insects either, even if we didn’t have family who’re allergic.  ESPECIALLY when the nest is immediately adjacent to two growing fruits that will have to be picked before TO much longer.  I picked up a bottle of concentrated permethrin, and have already treated the nest area once.  I’m being extra careful to ensure it doesn’t get onto any flowers or the like, but I’m still not happy about it.

I’m just hoping the rest of the week goes a bit smoother…….

Solar Panels update

When we first put in the solar panels I’d intended to try to update here regularly with what our energy production was.  Yah, that didn’t happen.

But here’s a screenshot of the lifetime graph for our energy production as of this morning:

spupdateI’d have to go dig through the files to tell you exactly how much thats saved us in costs from the power company, but I can tell you that in the summer our bills, even when we’re running the central air, are pretty close to half what they were before.  Keep in mind that the upstate area tends to be very cloudy, we don’t get a whole lot of very sunny days here in comparison to the rest of the continental USA. However that side of the house gets very little shade.

We’ve got a few more “around the house” projects that need to be done in the next couple years, important things like putting gutters on the house so that the rain will stop screwing with the foundation, and then we’re going to look at adding to the number of panels and adding a battery backup system.  Our goal is to eventually be able to use this as a backup generator that doesn’t require us to stockpile fuel.

Solar Power

So in our first 7 days of having the solar panels on it rained at least some every day….but we managed to generate 47.7kWh anyway, so I’ll take it.

What we blew our budget on this summer

(if you click on the picture to see it big you’ll see a face peering out the door trying to figure out what I was doing)

The install finished last Friday.  Today the power company came out and swapped out the meter for one that will role backwards, and we turned on the panels.  Course, its raining today, with a pretty heavy cloud cover.  But they’re pulling in some power anyway, just from the ambient light.  Currently the monitor says 30-31wh per panel.

Right now this is just a standard grid tie system.  Eventually our intention is to put in a battery back up system, but that’ll have to wait a couple years probly.

I’m going to try to make this a regular thing, to report on what we’re getting for power in (basically the sort of thing I was trying to find when doing my own research). 

In that spirit, here’s the upfront information on this:

This is 16 250w Solar World Monocrystalline panels, with 16 Enphase micro-inverters.

Full cost, including labor: $18,000

NYSERDA 2012 incentive:-$6,000

County incentive: -$2,000

Our upfront cost: $10,000


Federal tax rebate: -$3,000

NY state tax rebate: -$2,500

Our total cost after tax rebates: $4,500

Solar power

I posted, way back shortly after starting this blog, about a company called Clarian Power, which was attempting to produce less expensive, “plug n play,” solar and wind power systems for the average consumer.  Their products were decidedly interesting and I’d been keeping an eye on them for a while.  They were hoping to have product on the market by the end of this year.

So, today, with all the news about “green power” companies going under I decided to hit Clarian’s website to see if there’d been any updates.  Except the website has changed.  The link now auto redirects to which doesn’t have any information on it except a “contact us” button.  I can get around that new front page by typing in and see the originial website, but there’ve been no updates.  Well, that’s not cool, but hey, I was following their Facebook site, and now that I think about it there haven’t been any updates from that for a while either, but lets go check.  Except there’s no Facebook site any more either.  Under either the Clarian Power name, or the Clarian Labs name, and its not listed as a page I’m following any more.

Well f*ck.  Hit Google, nothing really comes up there either.  Links to past articles about the solar and wind projects, an article about a “new” project (dated a few months ago), and thats it.  Nothing about this being one of the companies thats closing, nothing.  So I don’t KNOW that something bad has happened to them, but the lack of anything anywhere is not promising!

One of the Google ads just now…..

….was for the GE Ecomagination Challenge  which in turn reminded me of this company: Clarian Power

If you’ve not heard of them take the time to look over their site.  They are attempting to make solar and wind power (complete with backup system) available at a reasonable price to the average consumer.  Instead of a single solar panel that you pay a fortune for that then requires either signifigant electrical know-how or a paid professional, they plan to offer to the public an easy to install “plug-n-play” solar panel and wind turbine setup that requires minimal extra know-how beyond basic tool handyness and ability to follow instructions.  Still not CHEAP, but much more reasonable than the current standard setups currently on the market.  They hope to have at least some product on the market by the end of this year.