As a hard-working mom of six kids (and expecting a seventh), Jessica Bolanos knows a thing or two about saving money – and not just for her family. She spreads the wealth-saving love to families across the L.A. area.
As a representative for GRID Alternatives, a non-profit solar installer and solar advocacy organization, Bolanos has helped about 400 families in L.A. save thousands of dollars a year on their electric bills. She helps homeowners on a fixed income get free, energy-saving solar panels installed on their rooftops.
She canvasses neighborhoods, distributing flyers and making presentations about going green with GRID. “I enjoy meeting families and talking to the community about this awesome, one-of-a-kind program,” says Bolanos, an outreach coordinator in East L.A. “It makes me proud when I am able to assist a family in getting solar that will save them 50 to 90 percent off their electric bill.” The savings enable families to put more food on their tables and plan for vacations and college, she says.
Solar systems can cost thousands of dollars if purchased from for-profit companies, but are free through GRID. Eligibility depends on household size and taxable income, and the cutoff annual salary in L.A. is $64,900 for a family of three. Families must live in and legally own their home. Roofs must be in good condition (GRID’s corporate partners sometimes donate funds and labor to help with this).
Bolanos walks homeowners through the entire process and assists with paperwork. The number of panels installed depends on whether homeowners opt for third-party ownership with a GRID-approved partner or a homeowner-owned system. An 11-panel system might save the homeowner $32,568 over its lifetime. Installation is provided by community volunteers working with trained construction supervisors, and homeowners are asked to provide lunch, if possible, and access to a bathroom.
After each system is installed, Bolanos meets with families to ensure they understand their new system and electric bill. “We share experiences and build a friendship,” she says. “I feel like I lead them to a great future for themselves, their family and their community.”
For more information, visit gridalternatives.org.