Emerge from coronavirus with solar on your roof

Solar energy system COVID

Imagine that, when COVID-19 is over, you’ll celebrate with solar panels on your roof. Why not?

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.

Find out how to put the cash produced by the sun in your pocket

 

solar installations

Solar installations reach new high; the water is fine for those thinking about jumping in

Solar panels on this roof are an example of how solar installations have reached a new high.
Opportunities for those considering solar installations are reaching new highs.
If you’re thinking about solar, the water is fine.

Residential solar installations reached a record high of 712 megawatts in the third quarter of 2019 while overall solar photovoltaics installations reached 2.6 gigawatts in the U.S. during that period, according to a report from U.S. Solar Market Insight – Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). That brings the total U.S. solar capacity to 71.3 gigawatts.

Clearly, there are people who believe the time is ripe for ‘going solar.’ No doubt, some of these people are among your neighbors.

The attraction of installing a solar energy system on your home or office is obvious; you’ll save on energy costs while reducing your dependency on the umbilical cord with Big Energy providers. The additional benefit is the sense that, while garnering personal economic benefits, you’re sharing ecological benefits.

Some of the financial benefits are available when you make the decision to install a solar energy system on your home or office. There are state and federal tax incentives grants designed to inspire more and more people to ‘go solar.’

Solar incentives can cover 40- to 70-percent of the cost of installations. With Solar Renewable Energy Credits, you even have the opportunity to earn credits for electricity based on solar energy your panels create but that you don’t use.

The point is that this information isn’t lost on others who have made the leap to ‘solar.’ The same benefits are also available to you.

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.

Longer days ahead bode well for Solar PV arrays

Solar panel installation on this roof indicates the homeowner wants to take advantage of the longer days ahead when UV production is up.
The days are already growing longer. More sunlight makes this an optimal time to add a solar array to your roof.

December 21 was the shortest day of the year and, though useful, not the optimal day for solar energy production. As the earth spins, the axis that runs between the poles was furthest at the northern extreme on that day. This makes December 21 the longest day of the year in the Southern hemisphere. But we live in the Northern hemisphere and our shorter days of winter are accompanied by cold temperatures, snow and ice.

The good news is that, from December 21 until June 21, the days are growing longer. Longer days occur as the earth’s axis comes around so the North pole is closer to the sun. As this happens, the weather around here will grow warmer. Summer will arrive and we will have survived another Northern Illinois winter as solar panels are prepared for higher production.

Longer days offer extra helpings of sunlight to feed solar panels

Solar panels collect the UV rays of the sun all year long. But, obviously, shorter days make for fewer UV rays. In translation, the approaching spring and summer promise more of the sun’s energy for solar panels to convert into electricity. That makes this an optimal time of year to have a solar array added to a home or office so that you’ll be ready as the longer days come along.

Through the warmer months of the year, solar panels are likely to absorb more UV rays than you need. That’s not a problem since the utility companies are required to use a tool called ‘Net-Metering’ as an electric savings account for customers who have solar energy systems.

The warmer months, therefore, aren’t just good for an abundance of UV rays providing energy production for use now. The warmer months, with longer days, are also good for building up electricity generation credits for the winter months when the days are shorter.

Solar panels truly are the gift that keeps on giving and giving

solar panels gift

Imagine giving the gift of solar panels to your son or daughter and their spouse. It’s a gift they’ll appreciate for years to come.

That’s true: solar panels are the gift that keeps on giving and giving. Maybe you already have solar panels on your roof. Maybe you’re thinking about putting solar panels on your roof. But, imagine if you could put solar panels on mom and dad’s roof. Imagine if you could surprise your son or daughter with solar panels on their roof.

Due to your gift, for decades to come, they’ll have little or no electric bill to pay from month to month. Maybe you were thinking of buying them a car. That’s a wonderful gift. But, unlike a solar energy system, the purchase of a car won’t enjoy the benefits of government incentives to defray some of the costs. The solar panels will.

Within approximately five years, the savings from the solar panels will come close to equaling your investment to put them up on the roof. And, there’s another advantage to solar panels over a car as a gift for the holidays.

Solar panels require virtually no maintenance. They sit up on the roof quietly producing electricity. Their patience and dedication to chewing up an electric bill are awe-inspiring. From up on the roof, solar panels also add to the resale value of your loved one’s home.

The only real question about the solar energy system you give them is what they’ll do with all that money they would have sent to ComEd or some other utility provider. While they’re saving that money on electric bills, they’ll have reason to think of you throughout the year. Yes, throughout the year – those solar panels are capturing UV rays and transforming them into electricity even in the winter.

Yes, with proper installation, your roof can handle the weight of solar panels – no problem

solar panels on roof

Yes, your roof can handle the weight of solar panels, as long as they’re installed properly.

(Sept. 10, 2018) Can your roof handle the weight of solar panels? Years ago, in this area of Northern Illinois, storms piled so much snow on roofs that a few roofs actually collapsed. People were taking shovels up onto their roofs and shoveling the snow to alleviate the weight. What does this mean to you as you consider putting solar panels up on your roof? Do you need to worry about the weight?

Rest assured, the answer is, No. You don’t have to worry about the weight of solar panels on your roof.

Solar panels, including all the mounting equipment, weigh about 2- to 4-pounds per square foot. That’s the one-square-foot equivalent of putting one of the following up on your roof:

  • A pineapple
  • A small cat
  • A two-slice toaster
  • A two-liter bottle of soda
  • A one-quart carton of soy milk
  • A medium pumpkin
  • A Pomeranian
  • A bowling pin

You can put any of these items up on your roof and not worry, even for a moment, that they might plunge through the roof. But, how much weight can your roof hold? Of course, a solar energy array weighs more than a pineapple. But, the weight is distributed or should be.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), your roof should be able to support 20-pounds of snow, per square foot, before the roof is ‘stressed.’ The IBHS goes on to explain that “10-12 inches of snow is equal to … about 5 lbs. per square foot.” However, if you have “2 feet of old snow and 2 feet of new snow” (4-feet total or 60 pounds per square foot), you could have a problem since the old snow is packed and heavier. But, when is the last time you saw 4 feet of snow on your roof?

Since you don’t have to worry about the weight of your solar panels, it’s nice to know that the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy says that snow can actually help to clean your solar panels (rain does the same thing). Of course, snow isn’t a big concern this time of year.

The real key to the question of the weight of solar panels is the distribution of weight. Properly installed, the weight is distributed across your roof to the extent that weight is never an issue. If, however, someone doesn’t install your solar panels correctly, then all bets are off and you could have trouble with your roof someday.

On the roof or on the ground: where should you mount your solar panel array?

solar panels on the ground

If your roof doesn’t offer an optimal position for a solar array, you can have your solar panels installed on the ground.

You’ve decided to install a solar panel array at your home or office. That’s a wise decision. You’ve taken a big step that will help you to virtually disconnect from the utility grid. Those big electric bills will begin to vanish as though evaporated by the sun. But, making the decision to go solar is only the first related decision you’ll need to make. And, along the way, you’ll need to decide whether to mount your solar energy system on the roof or on the ground.

Once you’ve decided to go solar, you’ll need to choose an installer and a solar panel system to install. If you choose the prior wisely, they’ll help you to make the latter decision wisely. They’ll also help you to make the right decision about whether to mount your solar panels on the roof or on the ground. However, here is a short overview of the questions to consider in making this decision:

Cost: Generally, a roof-mounted solar panel system is less expensive since the substructure is already available – your roof. Often, with a ground-mounted solar panel array, the installer has to build a substructure where they can mount the solar panels. It’s likely that they’ll have to pour concrete footings that are sturdy enough to hold the solar panels, and strong enough that they won’t blow away in a storm.

Appearance: Roof-mounted solar panels are generally less noticeable. They sit up on the roof where people simply don’t often bother to look. Of course, this depends on the position of your home and which side of the roof your solar panels are mounted on. If, for instance, the front of your home has a Southern exposure, your solar panels will sit on the roof above the front door and visible to traffic at the front curb. But, the appearance of a ground-mounted solar array also depends on where you mount the system.

Assuming you want the solar panels to soak up the sun’s energy obscurely – working quietly out of sight – the question is whether you have an out-of-the-way spot on your property where you can have a solar energy system installed. Keep in mind, it needs to be an area where the panels are directly accessible to the sun.

Positioning: How you position your solar panels on your roof depends on how your home is situated and which way the slopes of the roof face. Here in the Northern Hemisphere of Illinois and Wisconsin, a roof with a Southern exposure is ideal. If your home doesn’t offer that exposure, a Southwestern exposure is next best followed by Western and Southeastern. But, if you don’t have the ideal Southern exposure, you’ll probably need additional panels to make up the difference.

On the ground, you can generally point the solar panels towards the South as long as you have room and there aren’t any obstructions. This brings up the next point to consider …

Space: Usually, the square footage of a home is reflected, to some degree, in the amount of roof space you have. In other words, your roof will probably have enough space for your solar panel system, assuming the positioning works. But, on the ground, not only do you need the space for the system, but you’ll also have to be willing to give up that space for your solar panels. In other words, if you have a smaller backyard, would you be willing to use half the yard for your solar panels?

Typically, solar panels are 64” X 44”. Let’s assume that you’ll require 28 solar panels. With four rows of seven panels, the outside dimensions are 21’ 8” X 22’ 9”. That’s close to a 500-square-foot area.

Maintenance: Cleaning your solar panels is not a major concern. The rain will generally do a good enough job and there is a self-cleaning film on the panels. A solar energy system is also a low- to no-maintenance system. However, should your panels require maintenance, you’ll probably find it easier to maintain them if they’re mounted on the ground.

Is my home a good candidate for solar?

Good candidate for solar

The tree next to this home may block the sun but the tree is on the North side of the home. This home is a good candidate for solar.

Is your home a good candidate for solar? The quick answer is most likely yes. However, a search of the internet will provide point-by-point articles to help you determine if your home is good for solar.

The points made in these articles are valid though hardly insurmountable. Consider the following points you should consider when you consider adding solar power to your home:

What kind of roof do you have? Do you have asphalt shingles on your roof? Maybe you have a wood shake, slate tile, or clay roof. You may have a flat roof. These are all reasonable considerations when determining if your home is a good candidate for solar. The type of mounting hardware may change depending on which type of roof you have. However, whatever type of roof you have, there is always a way for a qualified solar energy installer to place solar panels on your roof. And, if that’s not feasible, they can always mount your solar panels on the ground.

How much sunlight does your roof receive? This is a question affected by two questions: the orientation of your home and the proximity of obstructions. If you have a one-story home that sits in the Northern shadow of a high-rise building, you may be an exception to premise that most homes are candidates for solar power. Otherwise, it’s a question of optimal conditions. If one pitch of your roof has a Southern exposure, that’s great. If not, you may have to install additional panels to make up the difference. Otherwise, if there are trees blocking the roof from the sun, it’s a question of pruning or taking down a tree or two, or of putting the solar panels on the ground.

Another question is climate – does the climate in your area make a solar energy system cost effective? Once again, the answer is almost assuredly yes. Here in the Midwest, solar energy systems are nearly as effective as they are on homes in an Arizona desert.

What is the condition of your roof? This is a very good question. The solar panels will protect your roof from some of the elements. However, it’s still essential that your roof is in good condition before you install your solar panels. You don’t want to find yourself, five- or ten-years after installing your solar panels, needing to pull the panels up to get at the roof again.

How much do you give to the utility companies each month? This is a great, big question with an answer that’s liable to bring a big smile to your face. Translate the question this way: “How happy would it make you to increasingly disconnect from the utilities and their monthly bills?”

All of these are considerations you need to take into account when deciding if your home is a good candidate for solar.

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.

GOing Solar presentation at McHenry Public Library turns into interactive discussion

GOing solar energy presentation

Paul LaBarbera, with Magitek Energy Systems, gave a presentation on GOing Solar at the McHenry Public Library April 25.

Enthusiastic audience engages solar expert in ongoing Q&A

The seats were still filling as Paul LaBarbera, the owner of Magitek Energy Solutions, a solar energy systems installer, stepped to the podium and began his presentation Wednesday night at the McHenry Public Library. There was a Question-and-Answer session planned for after but the audience was having no part of waiting. Only minutes into his talk, LaBarbera was interrupted by the first of a welcome barrage of questions.

The audience was engaged, on the edge of their seats: they wanted to know about the potential for solar energy at their homes and offices and LaBarbera is one of the foremost experts in the field. Having installed more than 100 solar energy systems, he has the most difficult certification from Underwriters Laboratory – the only installer in Illinois with that certification.

Instead of a presentation, LaBarbera led an energetic discussion about solar energy and its potential. Instead of a Q&A session, when finished, LaBarbera and his assistant, Jacqueline Stern, sat down one-on-one with those in attendance, who had brought their electric bills along, to provide estimates of the cost and viability of installing one of these systems on their home or office.

LaBarbera had created a slide presentation to accompany the discussion. It was loosely followed as a map for the interactive process that took over. The slide presentation included:

  • How solar systems work
  • Illinois solar market trends
  • Components of a solar panel system
  • Types of solar panels and manufacturers
  • The ins-and-outs of inverters
  • Mounting systems
  • Benefits of going solar
  • Incentive programs
  • Finding a reliable installer
  • Frequently asked questions, including costs, installation time and issues, etc.

LaBarbera put numerous concerns to rest, such as issues related to proper installation of solar panel systems and the risks of roof leaks following installation of a system. While he admitted that he’s had to fix systems installed by other suppliers that caused leaks, he added that “Of all the systems I’ve done, we’ve never had a leak.”

He indicated that these systems have improved in quality over the years and will provide electricity at virtually the same level for years to come, where older systems lost their mojo over time. In the process, he said the value of solar panel systems will only increase.

“What’s the one thing I can tell you – electricity prices will go up. If you install a solar system that won’t be your concern.”