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.


Free Solar Energy Consultation

You may get a shock from the costs of adding a battery backup system to your solar energy system

Adding battery backup to a solar energy system, such as this one installed by Magitek Energy Solutions, isn’t likely to provide the cost benefits you’re hoping for.

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.



Safety concerns lead to cancellation of Going SOLAR 101 FREE Educational Seminar & Library Solar Tour

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, sending an email to and by following the company’s Facebook page at:

GOing SOLAR energy seminar at McHenry Public Library to inform those considering solar

GOing Solar Seminar at McHenry Public Library, 409 Front Street, McHenry Wednesday, April 22.

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.

Should you consider removing the snow from your Antioch solar panels?

Should you remove the snow that sits on the solar panels on your Antioch roof? Safety is one consideration but there are more.

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.

Does your Vernon Hills solar energy production shut down for winter? Hardly

Solar panels on Vernon Hills homes will produce energy all through the winter.
It’s comforting to know that he solar energy system on your Vernon Hills roof continues producing electricity even in the winter.

All summer long, the solar panels on your Vernon Hills roof pumped out electricity as you scoffed at the utility company and its costly electric bills. But now, with winter setting in, they’ll have the last laugh of 2019. After all, solar panels don’t work in winter, right?

Wrong! Solar panels do work in winter.

Common logic goes something like this: the sun is hot and the sun’s heat, therefore, plays a role in solar energy production. This thinking goes further in suggesting that snow will impede energy production up on the roof.

The truth is that only one aspect of winter has the greatest impact on solar energy production – shorter days. In Vernon Hills, winter daylight is just not what it was in summer.

On June 20, 2019, the longest daylight of the year, the sun rose at 5:15 a.m. and set at 8:32 p.m. That means that sun was ‘up’ for 15 hours and 17 minutes. On Dec. 20, 2019, the shortest stretch of sunlight this year, the sun will rise at 7:17 a.m. and set at 4:22 p.m. That’s only 9 hours and 5 minutes of sunlight. The difference is 6 hours and 12 minutes. In the days between, the difference fades.

There’s no question that shorter durations of sunlight will reduce the production of electricity from a solar panel array on the roof. But, during those hours of sunlight, even in winter, the solar energy system is still doing its job.

Do the cold and snow reduce solar energy production?

Surprisingly, a drop in temperature doesn’t negatively effect solar energy production. In fact, colder temperatures can improve solar energy production.

If a solar panel is covered in snow, the snow will largely block solar production. But keep in mind that, as it warms, snow will generally slide off the flat surface of a solar array. And when the solar panels are not covered with snow, surrounding snow reflects the UV rays with the potential to amplify the sun’s effects on a solar energy system.

Not to sugar-coat the situation, yes, solar energy production will drop in the winter. But the drop is not as precipitous as you might expect. Your Vernon Hills solar energy production will continue all year round.

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 authority shares expertise at McHenry Public Library

It was a full house last Wednesday, April 24, at McHenry Public Library when Paul LaBarbera, a preeminent authority on solar energy and the CEO for Magitek Energy Solutions of Johnsburg, came to the podium to share his expertise on the viability of solar energy systems as solutions for area residents and businesses.

Paul LaBarbera, the CEO of Magitek Energy Solutions, speaks to area residents and business owners, at McHenry Public Library, who wanted to learn about how to put the benefits of solar energy to use at their home or business.

LaBarbera opened with a presentation about the fundamentals of solar energy and the benefits of solar energy systems. The discussion touched on topics ranging from how solar systems work, the components of a solar panel system, types and manufacturers of solar panel systems, governmental incentive programs and the process of finding a reliable installer.

His presentation was followed by a Question-and-Answer session where LaBarbera fielded questions from the audience of approximately 25 area residents and business owners.

Choosing the wrong installer can lead to problems with a new solar energy system. For instance, will the installer size and position the system optimally or will they sell additional solar panels based on what the installer stands to make on the project? Will the installer properly install the system so that it will stand the test of time and the elements, and will they install the system without creating leaks in the roof?

Attendees also had an opportunity to go on the roof of the library to take a first-hand look at the solar energy system LaBarbera installed there.

LaBarbera said that solar energy systems are great ways to reduce reliance on utility companies and can pay for themselves in electrical savings within seven years or fewer.

It was the second year in a row that LaBarbera has given the presentation at the library.

GOing SOLAR presentation at McHenry Library offers answers for those considering solar

solar energy seminar_McHenry Public Library
Want to know if Solar Energy is a viable option for you? Come out to McHenry Public Library at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 24.

How would you like to learn more about adding value to your home, reducing your home’s carbon footprint and, in the process, virtually eliminating electric bills? That’s what the GOing SOLAR 101: Free Educational Seminar, 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, at McHenry Public Library, 409 Front Street, McHenry, is all about.

Guest speaker Paul LaBarbera, owner of Magitek Energy Solutions in Johnsburg, is one in a very small group of UL Certified PV solar energy experts. He has installed more than 150 solar energy systems including the solar energy system on the roof of the library. That system is saving the library, and area taxpayers, substantial funds on electric utility bills.

The presentation is for those who would like to enjoy the same financial benefits on their own home or office. The presentation will help those who want to know if solar energy is a cost-effective alternative for them.

Along with the nuts and bolts of going solar, LaBarbara will also explain about state and local incentive programs.

“Based on those programs, a full return on installing solar energy is possible within five or six years,” he explained.

Attendees can bring their ComEd bill for a no-obligation estimate.

Those interested in attending should register by calling the library at 815-385-0036.

“If you come by in the day time, the library can also give you a tour of their solar energy system on their roof,” said LaBarbera.

Before you install your solar panels, how’s your roof?

solar panels and roof

The distance between your solar panels and the roof is just one of the critical factors when properly installing solar panels.

Properly installed, your solar array will sit on your roof for decades soaking in the ultra-violet rays of the sun and creating energy that will increasingly allow you to thumb your nose at the utility companies. But, proper installation is key (which makes finding a truly qualified installer absolutely essential). Proper installation starts before the installation begins as the condition of your roof is a critical question before installing solar panels.

A qualified solar energy system installer won’t even consider installing solar panels over a roof that is more than 10 years old. Of course, they’ll also want to inspect your roof for any problems. They’ll want to rectify any problems before they start. A solar panel installer who doesn’t start with this kind of precaution is an installer to avoid.

Once the installation of your solar panels begins, proper installation will include leaving appropriate space between the roof and the panels. Customarily, four inches of spacing is the minimum. On a sunny day, the temperature up on a roof can reach 150 degrees. If the panels were flush with the roof, that heat would transfer through and into the attic.

No fear, no leaks – if solar array is installed properly over your roof

With an experienced and qualified solar energy system installer, the risk of an installation causing leaks is negligible. Paul LaBarbera, the owner of Magitek Energy Solutions Inc., has installed more than 100 solar panel arrays and has never had a leak. However, he’s also been called in to fix the work of other installers which did cause leaks.

There are other qualified solar panel installers. Regardless of who you hire, however, you may come to deeply regret hiring an installer who doesn’t know solar energy, and the installation process, thoroughly. On the flipside, if you hire the right installer, you and your roof will appreciate it for decades to come.