When you go into an auto dealership, you’ll never hear a car salesman say ‘NO!’ when you pick out the car you want to buy. If you want one of their cars, and you have the financial wherewithal to make the purchase, they’ll get the paperwork ready in a hurry before you change your mind. But purchasing a solar energy system for your home is not the same thing. There are times when the installer should say, ‘NO!’
Why do you want an installer who will tell you ‘No!’ The answer is simple; you want to work with a solar energy system company that is focused on providing its clients with properly installed and cost-effective equipment.
There are times when a home just isn’t right for a solar energy system, at least, not on the roof. And there are reasons this may be the case, including:
- Orientation of the Home: A home can use a solar energy system on its roof if that home has a roof with usable space facing from 90-degrees (due East) to 270-degrees (due West). Here in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, as with the rest of the United States, we are in the Northern Hemisphere. Even at the height of summer, the sun is still oriented more to the South. Putting solar panels on a roof facing North is a waste of time and money.
- Workable space on the Roof: If there are ridges, gables and/or dormers on a roof that break up free area where solar panels can be installed, this can represent a problem for installing a solar energy system. Additionally, different ordinances in different areas call for specific setbacks. For instance, you may be required to allow from three feet to 18 inches from the edge of the roof or peak to the solar panels. This is to allow room for firemen to walk if there is a fire. The setback reduces the workable space available for solar panels. Generally, you want a flat, workable area for at least 10 solar panels.
- Condition of the Roof: It doesn’t make sense to install solar panels on a roof that will require replacement within a few years. The solar panels have to come up to replace the shingles. A responsible solar energy system installer will definitely say, ‘No!’ if the roofing is too old.
- Trees and Obstructions: If there are trees or other obstructions that block the rays of the sun, they also block the effectiveness of the solar energy system. A system needs to be reasonably efficient for it to be practical.
Of course, if these factors require an installer to say ‘No!’ when you want to put solar panels on your roof, it’s possible they could mount the panels on the ground, if there is an unobstructed area to do so. But, otherwise, a reasonable solar energy system installer will say ‘No!’
An installer responsible enough to say ‘No!’ when the conditions merit such an answer is also a solar energy system installer who will do a quality job.
Act before year’s end to maximize federal tax incentives
The pandemic will end. It may not seem like it right now but, trust me, it will. When the coronavirus is past us, we will get back to normal. Imagine if your new, post-COVID normal included solar energy panels on your roof.
Federal tax incentives are not scheduled to end. But, at the end of this year, they will shrink a bit. Translation: you have just over four months to take advantage of the current higher tax incentives.
What you really want to take advantage of are the UV rays that are bombarding the roof of your home and doing nothing more than making the shingles hot. Imagine the rays of the sun warming the lining of your wallet.
This has been a crazy year. It’s been a rough year. However, people with foresight look upon times like these, and situations such as this, as opportunities. How can you make the most of the situation?
If you emerge from the coronavirus with a solar energy system turning the light of the sun into energy you’ll really have accomplished something. For some people, looking back, the most they’ll have to say about the pandemic is, “I watched every episode of Harry Potter 10 times.”
The thing is that, with streaming, they can watch Harry Potter as many times as they want after the pandemic. But on January 1, 2021, the federal tax incentive will fall from 26 percent to 22 percent. That represents opportunity lost for those who wait too long. It’s four percent of tax benefit for those who act now – who don’t allow the pandemic to put them in a hole and keep them there.
The sun shines as brightly during the pandemic as it did before the virus and as much as it will after the virus is past. With a solar energy system, homeowners can virtually cut the cord from the big utility companies. Then, when they watch Harry Potter, or any other programming they want to see, they won’t be giving their money to the utility company to operate the television.
You’re preparing to put a solar energy system on your home’s roof, or maybe you already have solar panels up there, and you’re thinking of adding a battery backup system, too. This way you can really ‘stick it to the man’ – the utility companies that relentlessly demand energy payments from homeowners and businesses here in Northern Illinois or Southern Wisconsin. But, maybe, you shouldn’t spend your money quite yet.
For some who install a battery backup system with their solar energy system, the goal is to completely cut the cord from the malevolent utility company. Of course, along with total energy independence, they also assume to save more money. If they research the idea before they jump in, they’re liable to decide it’s not such a good idea after all.
A battery backup can help in a power outage. However, considering the cost (and we’ll get to that below), this only makes sense if you live in an area that has frequent power outages. Even then, there’s a far-more cost-effective alternative – a generator. A generator will make more noise. You also have to add gasoline. But it will cost dramatically less than a battery backup system tied into your solar energy system.
Others believe that, by adding a battery backup system, they’re taking the final step to eliminate their carbon footprint. Wrong again. Instead, since your solar energy system won’t contribute as many kilowatts of extra energy it produces to ‘the grid,’ the grid will have to make up that difference. The carbon is produced anyhow. This brings us back to the question of cost.
Without a battery backup tied into your solar energy system, you’re contributing more electricity to ‘the grid’ and receiving credits for that electricity. The difference is significant.
The cost of a battery backup system added to your solar energy system can add 25-percent to the cost of the overall system. This is because it’s not as simple as running some wires to a battery.
The battery backup system requires considerable additional electronics and engineering. It needs to balance loads to match demand at all times. It needs to be setup so the battery is never overloaded by house loads or overloaded by the solar energy system. And it needs to be setup so it won’t send electricity into ‘the grid’ when there is a power outage where it could kill a line worker trying to fix the problem with ‘the grid.’
The negative aspects of a battery backup system include the complexity of the system, increased maintenance requirements, increase costs and decreased credit savings. Here is a rough breakdown of the costs you can expect with and without a battery backup system:
When tied to ‘the grid’ and using a battery backup, you may spend $6 to $10 per watt. If you have a battery backup but you’re not tied to ‘the grid,’ expect to pay roughly $9 to $15 per watt. But, with a solar energy system that is tied to ‘the grid’ but doesn’t have a battery backup system, you’ll probably spend $4 to $6 per watt.
There’s never a bad time to have a solar energy system on the roof of your Antioch home. If the solar panels are up there, they’re soaking in the sunlight and turning it into energy. Correspondingly, they’re casting a protective shield over your wallet.
One of the best times to collect solar energy with your Antioch solar panels is the summer. In the summertime, the days are longer. There’s more sunlight and more opportunities for your solar panels to do their magic.
June 20 is the longest day of this year. No, it’s still 24 hours. But in the Northern hemisphere, where you’ll find Antioch, it’s the day with the longest period between sunrise and sunset. On this glorious day, the sun rises at 5:17 a.m. and sets at 8:34 p.m. That means we have 15 hours and 17 minutes of daylight.
Following June 20, each day gets a little shorter. But, not to worry, we have an entire summer of extended daylight to enjoy. This is the kind of thing that will keep your solar panels busy and your wallet happy. Of course, that depends on whether you have a solar energy system on your Antioch home.
If you don’t have a solar energy system, maybe you should consider getting one.
If you need any additional incentive, consider that you still have access to Federal Solar Tax Credits that you can use to defer 26 percent of the cost of your solar energy system against your 2020 taxes. If you wait until next year, that figure drops to 22 percent. Additionally, those having a solar energy system installed on their home can recoup 30-40% of the total cost from state incentives.
To summarize: now is a good time to have a solar energy system installed on your Antioch roof because:
- Federal and state programs designed to reduce the costs of installation
- You can reduce your utility bills
- Reduce your dependence on the utility companies
- Take advantage when daylight’s burning
Those people considering the installation of a solar energy system on their home or business may want to get busy and have the system installed now. Federal tax incentives are decreasing and, for residential purposes, going away completely.
Federal solar tax credits, known as ITC, or Investment Tax Credits, have helped to increase the annual growth of solar energy systems by 52 percent since ITC was enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. But 2020 saw a reduction in the size of the credit from 30 percent to 26 percent. Next year, they’ll drop to 22 percent.
The Energy Policy Act was set to expire at the end of 2007 but was extended multiple times. No such extension has occurred yet and, after falling to 22 percent in 2021, they’ll fall to 10 percent for commercial solar energy systems after that and are set to expire for residential projects after 2021.
While ITC has helped to promote the installation of solar energy systems, the program has also saved homeowners and businesses a lot of money over that period of time.
The program works by allowing a homeowner or commercial entity to claim a tax credit on their federal taxes based on the cost of installing a solar energy system. If, for instance, using the following example, the solar tax credits work this way:
- $20,000 – cost of installing a solar energy system on the roof of a home in McHenry County
- $5,200 – eligible tax credit based on ITC
- $4,500 – homeowner’s tax liability for 2020 tax year
- $700 – unused portion of tax credit, which the homeowner can roll over to the next tax year
After the 2020 tax year, however, those numbers will change. Instead of a $5,200 tax credit, the homeowner would only be eligible for a $4,400 tax credit. In 2022 and beyond, a commercial installation will allow for a $2,000 tax credit. A residential installation will provide no tax credit at all.
To be eligible for this year’s 26-percent tax credit, construction of the solar energy system must begin this year.
For those who are leasing their solar energy system, or have a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement), they are not eligible for the tax credits at all. Only the owner of the system can use the credits. This is generally true for state and local solar energy incentives, too.
This was to be the third year in a row that Paul LaBarbera, a leading authority on solar energy and CEO of Johnsburg-based Magitek Energy Solutions, was to present a solar energy symposium at the McHenry Public Library. Due to safety concerns over the Coronavirus, however, the event has been canceled.
“This event is a great way for people considering installation of a solar energy system to take a crash course on what to expect while making the most of the going solar,” said LaBarbera. “Considering the pandemic we’re facing, and the risks that entails, it didn’t make sense to go ahead with the seminar.”
The event was scheduled for April 22 at the library. In the two previous years, the opportunity was well attended.
The Seminar generally covers how solar systems work, components of a solar energy system, types of systems and manufacturers, financial governmental incentives, and how to find a reliable installer. This year, it was also to include discussion of the pros and cons of owning a solar energy system over leasing a system.
Considering how well it’s been received in the past, LaBarbera stated that he expects to conduct the seminar again next year. In the meantime, those who have questions about GOing SOLAR can contact LaBarbera by visiting the company’s Website at www.magitekenergy.com, sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and by following the company’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Magitek-Energy-Solutions-Inc-207296759303423/.
A solar energy seminar at McHenry Public Library will provide information for those considering GOing SOLAR. Paul LaBarbera, a leading authority on solar energy and CEO of Johnsburg-based Magitek Energy Solutions, is the presenter for the event. This is the third year that LaBarbera will conduct the solar energy symposium.
The event will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 22 at McHenry Public Library. Attendees can come earlier and take a tour of the solar panels installed by Magitek Energy Solutions on the roof of the library.
“For someone considering installation of a solar energy system, it’s essential that they educate themselves first,” said LaBarbera. “You don’t want to get a solar array on your roof and then discover you didn’t make the right choices getting it there.”
As in the past, the seminar will cover topics including: how solar energy systems work, components of a solar energy system, types of systems and manufacturers, financial incentives provided by governments, and how to find a reliable installer. Discussion will also include the differences – pros and cons – of owning a solar energy system or leasing a system.
“There are significant differences between purchasing your own solar energy system or leasing a system,” said LaBarbera. “The latter may seem attractive at first blush. But, if you dig a little deeper, you may find that it’s not what it’s cranked up to be.”
LaBarbera said that, with tax incentives and grants, those who install solar energy systems on their home or office can expect to see a full return on their investment within five or six years.
Those who wish to attend can register for the event by calling the library at (815) 385-0036.
Since the panels with most solar energy systems are mounted on pitched roofs, the idea of clearing snow from your Antioch solar panels is generally not the best idea. How to get at the solar panels and accumulated snow is a risky business in the best of conditions. But, since snow and ice can create dangerously slippery surfaces, the hazards of going up on the roof to clear away the snow are dramatic.
Fortunately, the sun works to melt the snow from your solar panels the same as it works to provide the elements of energy when there is no snow. Even when the temperature is below freezing, the sun will melt and evaporate snow.
The process where snow evaporates into a vapor is called sublimation. Actual melting of snow when the temperature is below freezing occurs when the snow is in contact with surfaces that are above freezing though the air temperature is below freezing. In either case, the snow is diminished by the effects of the sun.
One of the nice things about solar panels is that they are mounted on an angle. As the surface of the panels warm, melting occurs at the bottom of the snow pile. Imagine trying to ice skate on the side of a mountain; your skates will hit the surface and you’re off in a hurry. What this means, in terms of your solar panels, is that, with a little help from the sun, the snow will slide off the panels long before the snow completely melts or evaporates away.
Let’s assume, however, that your solar panels are mounted on the ground or that you’re one of those creative people who come up with a safe way to reach the snow on your roof-mounted solar panels. The real answer is ‘DON’T!’
That’s right; don’t sweep the snow from your solar panels. You could damage the solar panels on your Antioch roof. Even if you don’t damage the solar panels, you could void the warranty on the panels. In either case, the economic solution is to let the sun do its thing.
The sun will remove the snow in a reasonably short period of time. Besides, on those other days when the snow wasn’t on the solar panels, your solar panels were accumulating energy credits through NET Metering where the energy company provides credits for energy your solar panels produce but you don’t use. This is when NET Metering dividends pay off.