Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Remembering GM and Chrysler

The recent news about the government takeovers of GM and Chrysler has me in a bit of a melancholy mood. I'm thinking of my grandfather too, who passed away Christmas last.

In the 1950's not everyone had central air conditioning. In fact, most didn't. The most recent breakthrough for home comfort was the oil burner and the ability to get rid of (or convert) that coal-eating beast in the cellar.

Not long after that came the advent of central cooling for homes. Americans had enjoyed cool movie theaters, restaurants and department stores for years now, but the entry into the home has been somewhat slow.

Now, most credit Willis Carrier for the dry summer comfort we enjoy in our homes today and that would be only somewhat true. Ol' Willis was an engineer. And as engineers are wont to do, he liked figuring out the big stuff.

And so it's here where my thoughts of GM, Chrysler and Grandpop come together. You see he was quite good at selling his comfort wares. And proud too.

Proud to tell his customers that his company offered the safest, most reliable systems available to this new industry. Proud because he sold GM and Chrysler.

You see, in the 1950s, America was proud of her industry. And Grandpop was proud. That's why he sold GM Delco oil furnaces and Chrysler AirTemp air conditioners.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Solar Buyer - Beware

I read with great interest Diane Mastrull's Sunday, May 10th Philadelphia Inquirer column; "Solar power - for rent"

In it she explains that solar, even with the available rebates and incentives, can be prohibitively expensive for many people these days. She then goes on to explain how a small company is offering to pay this upfront cost in an effort to "raise a bumper crop of solar panels across Philadelphia's rowhouse rooftops."

These types of agreements, while new to the Delaware Valley, have existed in various forms over the years. While helpful, there are pros and cons to them. It is important that people know the consequences of 'renting' and may be better off saving their shekels to put down on their own system instead.

The type of agreement described in the article is typically known as a "Power Purchase Agreement". They are commonly used in situations when non-taxable entities like schools, churches or governments want the benefits of solar.

Simply put, a third party pays for the solar installation. As such, the building owner does not 'own' the system and cannot participate in the tax credits or depreciation.

In some cases (like the one described in the article), the leasing company receives all of the available incentives (rebates, RECs) and basically becomes the utility by forging an agreement with the building owner to purchase power from the leasing company (usually at significant savings) for a fixed period of time. At the end of that period, the system usually becomes the property of the building owner for a payment as agreed at the inception of the lease.

While leasing (Power Purchase Agreements) can be helpful, it is important to understand that they are most useful for nontaxable entities to take advantage of credits they would normally not have access to.

Taxable entities must understand, however, that using these types of agreements can strip them of their rights to the kind of incentives that make alternative energies attractive. Consequently, they would likely be better off tapping sources of loan funds or simply saving the money to invest in solar in the future.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fast Response Even Faster

I know it's hard to believe, but 2 weeks ago we were in summertime weather. A lot of air conditioners were breaking down in South Jersey.

Thankfully, people were able to count on Runnemede Plumbing Heating Cooling & Electric

Here's a nice note from a homeowner in Mount Ephraim:

Thank you so much for responding to our call as fast as you did on Saturday. Our central air broke late in the day and with the outside temperature increasing over the weekend we needed your help and expertise right away... My husband and I were able to sleep comfortably, and so did our Golden Retriever Harley who was panting frantically earlier throughout the day...As homeowners we will continue to use Runnemede Plumbing Heating Cooling & Electric because we need a business, and service such as yours we can depend on to help us with the unexpected. Go Big Red R! Thank you once again.

With office hours Monday through Saturday 7am - 10pm, TheBigRedR is definitely the place to call with your home service needs; who wants to take off from work in this economy??

But then there's Nogginhaus.

With Nogginhaus, the air conditioner's problem would have been identified and fixed before there was a breakdown. No hot Saturday afternoon. No worry about a hot, miserable night. No panting Golden Retriever.

Fast response even faster.