Smart Energy Today – Free dinner for a solar panel spiel


The wife and I got a postcard in the mail for a free dinner at McCormick’s and Schmick’s if we listened to an alternative energy talk.  While I’ve never been to a timeshare talk, I assumed it would be similar to this.  Since my wife loves FREE, and I’ve thought about solar (yes, even here in Seattle,) we decided to go.  This post will be about the experience of it all.

We called the number on the postcard and were able to pick our desired date and time.  They had 2 nights and 2 time blocks each scheduled about 3 weeks out.  On the call, they invited us to bring other homeowner friends with us if we wanted.  We didn’t want to be THAT couple that dragged our friends’ to timeshare talks, so we decided not to invite our friends.


Chicken, Salmon, or Steak

They told us to arrive 15 minutes early since the session begins promptly.  There were about 10 tables with 4 chairs per table.  Eventually, every seat was taken.  The crowd reminded me of the crowd you’d see at a casino buffet on lobster night.  We sat first at our table, and eventually a nice retired couple sat next to us.  There were flyers on the table, which I’ll show you here.  The event was hosted by Smart Energy Today.  A waiter came by and asked us if we wanted salmon, chicken, or steak.  The wife chose salmon while I chose chicken (which was a mistake since hello, this is a SEAFOOD restaurant.)




One hour spiel


Our salad was brought out first.  And then for the next hour or so, the presenter talked about the company, solar panels, and home insulation techniques to save you money.  The biggest topic was solar of course.  A couple of nuggets of info for you:

  • Yes, solar will work in Washington.  Apparently Germany has the most solar use, and their climate is closer to WA then AZ.
  • The federal gov’t extended the solar subsidy this year for another 8(?) years, so you’ll get a 30% tax CREDIT (not deduction) so you’ll get the full amount.
  • In WA and the Seattle utility company, we pay about 10 cents per kilowatt used on average (we don’t have nightime drop in rates.  Just a flat rate all day, which sucks for electric car charging.)
  • You can sell back the energy you produce to the utility company at a rate of 12-45 cents
  • Most people will only produce about ~33% of the energy that they need.
  • Let’s say you use 600 kw per month and you produce 200 kw, you then sell the 200 kw to the utility company and then you only pay for 400 kw of usage (and not 600 kw)
  • There is a cap on how much you can sell back to the utility company (YMMV)
  • Apparently in California, there are “investors” who will put solar panels on homes and sell it back to the utility company.  Unfortunately, you can’t do that in Washington.
  • You should recoup your investment in ~7 years.

The company also sold insulation as well as solar powered attic fans, which we weren’t too interested in.  When he finished, our main course was served.  While we were eating, they walked around to schedule “free home estimates.”  They didn’t seem to push too hard on the consultation; plus, we wanted to get an estimate anyway.

Here’s a picture of my chicken marsala, which was delicious.  The wife loved her salmon (not pictured) and the huge piece of cheesecake.  Also at the table were sheets where you could pimp out your homeowner friends.  We decided not to write anyone down, although they were giving a free random drawing of a gift card to the restaurant.  After dessert, we left after scheduling our appointment.






We thought the dinner was great.  There wasn’t a really hard sell.  I think we could have easily skipped the free consultation although we wanted one anyway.  My guess is they get at least an 80% home assessment take rate.  I’ll continue on Monday about our home assessment.

  • With the high cost of the program- and anything sold through a dinner, I was VERY skeptical. We decided not to go forward and spent just a tenth on adding insulation through a contractor we trust. Even so, little difference. We have solar panels that worked out to be free and even those haven’t saved us much, nothing close to what we were told would happen.

    • Miles per Day

      Ah thanks for the data point.

  • Ken

    Wish we owned a house and weren’t stuck renting a townhouse with noisy neighbors. We’re in Denver, TONS of sun here. But home prices have over doubled in only 5 years.