Water & Energy Conservation

Inspiration For Drought Tolerant & Native Landscaping:

Tips from the LA Times

The LA Times has done a great job of cataloging a number of articles about both drought tolerant and native landscaping.  We invite neighbors to share their experiences here, but in the meantime, please see the very helpful series of articles here.




Go Solar: An Experience Shared by Neighbors

By Stephanie Savage & Mike Swischuk

Here is some info on our PV system based on our recent experience.

We recently designed and built a new house and wanted a PV system. So far, our PV system experience has been great, and with two months of the system running we have a nice credit on our meter. There are many factors to consider when getting a system. We have listed a few things to consider below.

Lease or buy

We bought the system because, based on our calculations of our typical energy usage. the system would pay itself off in 6.5 years at current DWP rates, factoring the LADWP solar incentive program and the federal tax credit. The warranty of the equipment is 25 years, so we are looking forward to years of free and clean energy. Leasing has its advantages too. It might be good to have a solar contractor look at your house and see if it would be advantageous, because the leasing companies have thresholds for their benefit.

What equipment to get and layout

Panels: Go for leaders in the industry. We used Solar World Protect 270 Watt panels. If you are limited on roof area, it is best to go for more wattage. The type we got will resist impact, like hail. Look at warranties too.

Invertors convert DC to AC: So single inverter or micro-inverters? We chose Enphase micro-inverters as opposed to a single inverter. With micro-inverters if one fails then the rest of the system still runs, whereas  if you use a single inverter then the PV system stops working until it is fixed. Also a single inverter is a large piece of equipment, depending on your PV system size.

Solar Meter: You will have a solar harvesting meter on your house in addition to your house meter. There is DWP criteria for height requirements, an accessible 3’ x 3’ flat pad in front to read the meter & a guardrail.

We have two arrays, see photos. It is best to put as many panels on the roof as code will allow to make it worth doing; however, with existing roofs there are a lot of variables (vents, etc.). We think that our PV system will meet 90% of our energy needs; however, our house is very energy efficient (Tier I Green Building).

Since our house is new construction, installing the mounts and conduit was easy. If you are planning to re-roof your house, you might want get the solar work going at the same time. Of course, all of this work will have to be done with permits as the mount attachment and electrical work will need to be inspected.


We filed for LADWP solar incentive program (SIP) when we submitted our building plans in 8/2013. The DWP was giving 75 cents / Kw at that time. The rebate is 30 or 35 cents now. The DWP paperwork is a significant amount of work. This should done by the installer who obtains the permit. We did the paperwork. You do not want to do this paperwork. The federal tax credit will be filed the year that the system is in operation, and the credit is 30% of the system cost.  We will see what happens with that credit.

Licensed installers and monitoring systems

We chose Precise Solar 818-240-1737 (a spin off from Precise Air, our mechanical contractor), and they designed the layout, pulled the permit and did a great and very neat job. We also have a Internet-based monitoring system that we enjoy watching.  There are lots of contractors doing solar installs now so look at a few licensed contractors and do your due diligence. You can also find installers on the Go Solar website.


Both LADBS & LADWP will do inspections on the PV system.

What you get

Our system is 5.13 KwDC (19 panels x 270 watts), so far the best output we have seen is 4.28 KwDC, but sun angle, clouds, smog, and dirt all reduce the optimal condition. It is best to think of the PV system as an appliance that will earn money and provide clean energy. No other appliance does that.


Stephanie and Mike are both architects practicing in Los Angeles.