Is that solar energy system company willing to say ‘No’?

solar company willing to say no

This roof has room for a sufficient number of properly oriented solar panels. Some homes don’t and an installer has to be willing to say ‘No!’

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.

 

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Deceitful solar installers taking advantage of consumers and government incentives

unethical solar energy companies
The solar panels spread haphazardly across the north side of this roof is an example of the unethical approach of some solar energy companies in McHenry and Lake Counties.

When done right – sized, located and installed properly – a solar energy system is a great way to reduce your reliance on utility companies and, eventually, to achieve energy independence at your home or office. State and federal governments know this and provide incentives to further inspire home and business owners to ‘go solar.’ There are companies and individuals who are abusing the incentives and the customers they’re supposed to serve.

These calculating companies have a focus on selling Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) and or leasing solar PV systems for the sole purpose of profaditing on the government tax credits and state incentives. Paul LaBarbera, the owner of Magitek Energy Solutions, Inc. and one of the leading authorities on solar energy in the Midwest, stated that responsible solar companies focus on ensuring that a home or business owner’s system is optimized to provide the most energy and the greatest return on the investment in the system.

One of the problems is that these deceiving companies are using up incentives offered by state and federal governments to install systems that are not very efficient. In fact, some of their installations constitute outright fraud. This is particularly troublesome when they convince home or business owners to lease solar energy systems or sign a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement). The solar energy company reaps the benefits of all the incentives because they actually own the system.

“These companies are chewing up incentives with poorly conceived system designs,” said LaBarbera. “You’ll see systems they’ve installed that are facing north. North facing systems will produce as much as 50-percent lower output per panel. They’re also installing systems where trees or other structures shade the solar panels and significantly degrade their efficiency and financial practicality. The state and federal governments are paying for these poorly designed systems and the companies are taking advantage of the consumers, too.”

The government provides a certain amount of funds for incentive programs. When the first allocation level of funds is used up, another level is available, but at a lower percentage of incentive to the consumer. Companies abusing the system will slap solar panels randomly on a roof with a focus on collecting the highest amount of incentives rather than designing the system to have the highest efficiency.

“They’re not only taking advantage of the government and the consumer, they’re also taking advantage of other people who would use those incentives properly,” said LaBarbera.

But let’s say you’re still considering a PPA or lease. Why wouldn’t you – after all they’re free, right? Wrong! With strings attached, ‘free’ solar panels are hardly free and hardly a good idea. It sounds so easy. Why shouldn’t you allow that company to come over and install its solar panels on your roof?

There’s an old saying that “there is no free lunch.” Homeowners would do well to keep this in mind when considering the offers of companies that offer ‘free solar panels for their roofs.’

The promise is that you can lease solar panels or purchase the power generated from the solar panels and save the cost of installing solar panels. But a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) or leasing solar panels comes with strings attached that homeowners would do well to consider. For instance, companies offering ‘free’ solar panels are quick to point out the state and federal tax incentives and grants available for installing solar panels on your roof. But, if you’re leasing the panels or sign a PPA, who really receives the benefits of the incentives and grants?

The answer is that the companies offering ‘free’ solar panels reap the benefits. It costs that much less for them to put the solar panels on your roof as they become the middlemen in your home’s electrical grid.

If you purchase solar panels yourself, you receive the benefits of tax incentives and grants. They reduce your investment and shorten the amount of time it takes before your savings have paid for your solar energy system. Once you’ve reached that point in the equation, the electricity produced by your solar panels is yours. You don’t owe anyone for it – not the utility and not the middleman who installed so-called ‘free’ solar panels on your roof. But there are other strings.

With a PPA or leased solar panels on your roof, you’re dealing with someone else owning that equipment. It’s as though they’re the landlord with a contract, that covers everything, from the roof down. Keeping in mind that a typical contract is 20 years, it begs the question: what happens when you decide to sell the house and move?

What happens is that you have a landlord who needs to be appeased. That means you have to purchase the solar energy system yourself or convince the new homeowner to: A. purchase the solar energy system from the landlord or, B. sign up for the remainder of the contract. This makes the presence of solar panels on your roof a potential sticking point in negotiations to sell your home.

On the other hand, if you own the solar panels on your roof, your solar energy system increases the value and appeal of your home. Even though they’re paid for, you’re still receiving money back from your investment.

And what about the cost of the lease or PPA? If electrical costs go up, your payments will go up. You may find yourself paying more for the electricity overtime than what you started paying. But if you own the solar panels, you don’t have to pay the increased cost of the utility’s electricity you’re not using.

And what about the quality of the installation of the solar panels. Based on the agreement, these ‘free’ solar panel companies have demonstrated a less than optimal approach to installing solar panels on their tenant’s roofs.

We live in the Northern hemisphere. Where solar panels are concerned, this means that the Southern exposure of the roof is the most efficient placement for solar panels. Eastern and Western exposures can have some value but the Northern exposure is of such low value that it’s not reasonable to place solar panels on that portion of a roof. And yet, the ‘free’ solar panel companies are doing just that. They even place solar panels on roofs where trees and other obstructions will block the sunlight thereby reducing the value of those solar panels to nearly zero.

Many homeowners who purchase solar panels will finance the installation. The payments are generally less than or equal to the leased payments for energy from someone else’s solar panels on their roofs. The financed payments will end. Unless you remember to cancel at the end of your contract, the ‘free’ solar panel payments will go on indefinitely.

Solar energy is a great alternative, but watch out for solar energy scams

solar energy scams
Solar energy is a great idea but you do have to watch out for scam artists.

A Website dedicated to exposing scams writes that solar scams are among ‘the biggest scams around’ this year. CBS News did a story July 30, 2018, that includes a section about solar energy scams. And they’re right. They are scam artists working the solar energy front to separate honest consumers from their money every day. In spite of the scam artists, solar energy is a great way to save money, cut the cord with energy companies and do something to protect and preserve the environment.

Unfortunately, when there is a good idea, and that idea is popular, people who want to break the rules and cheat their way to your hard-earned dollars come out of the woodwork. Those scammers see opportunity in the solar-energy market.

Some people are so eager to rush in and do something for the environment, while reaping the benefits of solar energy, that they aren’t sufficiently cautious with their money.

With solar energy, you can generate your own energy and reduce or eliminate the utility bills that show up, like clockwork, in your mailbox each month. And, there are government incentives and tax breaks that encourage consumers to take the plunge and go solar. But, that’s one way that the scam artists work on the good intentions of consumers.

Advertisements, often seen on social networks, will over-emphasize the incentives and tax breaks available to homeowners who have solar panels installed on their roofs. And when they come out to install the solar panels and hook up the solar energy system, with their focus on scamming consumers, the quality of their workmanship is often sadly lacking.

Protect yourself from scammers when shopping for solar energy products and installation

Like any purchase, the more you educate yourself, the better prepared you are to make a wise purchase and the less susceptible you are to scam artists. This is all the more important when making a major purchase, such as installing solar panels on your home.

There are strong emotional motivations for ‘going solar.’ But you don’t want your emotions to dominate your solar energy purchase. You want to take a good look at the company you hire to install your solar panels and connect your solar energy system. Are they an established company in your area? Do they have solid references – people you can talk to about their experiences with the solar energy contractor?

You want someone who can give you the story straight and without hype – someone who knows solar energy intricately. The right contactor will share the pros and the cons and will tell you up front what you can actually expect when you convert to solar energy.

A legitimate solar energy contractor knows that the benefits are great enough that solar energy will generally sell itself. The contractor doesn’t have to dazzle prospective buyers with nonsense. If solar energy isn’t the right fit for someone, it’s better that they find out and wait until it is right. There are more than enough people who will truly benefit from ‘going solar’ that truth is always the best approach.

Community Solar: the truth about this option?

community solar

What is the truth about community solar?

(July 21, 2018) The concept was great. For those who found solar unattainable, community solar offered a way to buy into a larger community solar energy system. If a property is surrounded by trees making solar impractical, the home or business owner could purchase solar panels, as part of a community system, equal to the number of panels needed to offset their electrical usage. If that person’s solar panels represented 5% of the solar panels in the community system, they would receive 5% of the system’s electrical production to offset their electric bills.

They also received all the benefits of private-solar-energy-system ownership, including tax credits and state incentives without needing to maintain the system or provide space for the system. But, community solar has taken an unforeseen turn since the concept was introduced. Rather than marketing community solar for joint ownership, developers have pushed the systems to electrical consumers on a leased basis. Instead of selling panels, the developers are selling subscriptions to access the large energy systems.

By leasing, the developers retain ownership of the systems. They also receive all of the incentives, including federal tax credits and State Renewable Energy Credits (SREC). In return, all the lessee receives is the power equivalent of their needs at a discounted rate. That discounted rate usually works out to a reduction of 20% compared to what they normally paid.

The only advantage for the subscriber is that they avoid the initial investment to buy into the community solar system. That’s it.

Leasing solar energy may seem like a great deal but you may want to take a closer look before signing a customary 20-year contract. That’s two decades where the subscriber won’t have the advantage of federal tax credits, SRECs or writing the system off on their taxes.

When purchasing a solar energy system, once the cost of the system is recouped, the owner of the system is essentially reaping the benefits of free electricity delivered by an indiscriminate sun. The same is true when someone purchases panels in a community solar system. But, with a lease, the developer enjoys the post-installation-cost advantages.

The way to see community solar, as applied by developers today, is to Think Timeshare. There are commercials offering ways to defer a timeshare owner’s loss when they want out. In the future, the same commercials may run for those stuck in community solar leases that sounded a lot better when the subscriber first signed up.

Sincerely,

Paul A. LaBarbera

President / CEO

Magitek Energy Solutions, Inc.

Carefully choose installer for solar array

 

The addition of a solar array to your home or office is a wise investment that, over time, can pay for itself, and all the more quickly when energy prices go up. Once you’ve made the decision to consider a solar array installation, however, it’s essential that you continue to approach the idea with wisdom and foresight. A bright idea can turn out badly if it’s not carried out properly.

There are three initial issues to consider when you decide to install a solar array on your home or office:

  1. The price
  2. The quality of the equipment
  3. The quality of the installation

A solar array is not a DIY kind of project. It requires someone with experience and the proper skill set. You need someone who is trained and experienced installing solar arrays. A certified solar array installer will help you to maximize your investment. They’ll help you to choose the best possible array for your money – an array that fits your requirements. Then, they’ll make sure it’s properly installed.

Proper installation includes installing the array with the best exposure to the sun so that it achieves the maximum efficiency. Proper installation also means that they’ll install the array without creating the kinds of significant problems that haunt people who weren’t so careful when they chose someone to install their solar array.

What could possibly go wrong? A lot. Along with proper exposure of the solar array, it needs to be installed according to all applicable codes and ordinances. The electrical work requires an actual electrician. A solar array is not like a microwave – something you just plug into the wall. If the solar array isn’t wired properly, you risk that it won’t work, that varmints or weather could damage the wiring, or even that it could cause a fire.

Most solar arrays are mounted on roofs – actually attached to the roofs. Anytime you attach something to the roof, if it’s not done properly, using the right equipment, you risk causing leaks. A small leak is a nuisance, at first. Over time, however, it could cause serious structural damage.

Bissett Toggle Bolts_know your solar array installer

The solar array covers a significant area. If you mounted it upright on a boat, the wind would move the boat. In other words, it would serve as a sail. Houses aren’t built to move with the wind and no one wants a sail on top of their house. Cantilevering or propping the panels will accentuate this effect.

A Certified Installer will install your solar panels so that the wind, even with a significant storm, can’t use the panels as a sail. Otherwise, with extreme winds, the panels could pull the roof off the house or the panels could break loose from the roof. In either case, it’s a costly problem.

In the Northern climates, winter brings snow. A qualified technician will take into account the weight of possible snowfalls so that your roof, and solar panels, can bear the load.

Flashing comparison_know your solar array installer

 

The question, of course, is ‘how do you find that Certified technician to install your solar array?’

You need to do some investigating. You’ll want to check with the Better Business Bureau. Be careful of certifications, though. There are organizations that claim to certify people who install solar arrays. However, with some of them, anyone with $3,000 can obtain a certification, whether they’re qualified or not. It’s better to check around and ask for references. It doesn’t hurt to get a second quote, too.

Look for someone with the UL certification. The UL requirements are far and above those of any other certification body. They require a minimum of five years of experience as an electrician, five installations, and an OSHA 30-hour certification. Also, make sure that at least one of the people actually doing the installation have this certification. Many times, someone from the company may have the certification, but the people doing the actual installation do not.