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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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

 

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 energy production decreases in winter but that’s no reason to panic

winter solar energy

Yes, your solar energy system will produce energy in the winter.

Yes, solar energy production will drop in October but don’t panic; your panels collect energy year-round and will catch up next spring.

If you have solar panels on the roof of your home or office, you’ve probably enjoyed a productive summer. In an average year in Northern Illinois, we enjoy nearly 200 days of sunny or partly sunny days. Your solar panels eat it up. But, a higher percentage of those days are in the summer months.

In the winter, on average, 46 percent of the time between sunrise and sunset will have clear skies. That means that, out of 91 days of winter, we can expect 42 days with clear skies. When it comes to collecting solar energy, the solar panels on the roof don’t care if it’s 28-degrees below zero or 110-degrees outdoors. Sun is sun and sunlight creates solar energy.

The scenario above presumes that 42 of the daylight hours this coming winter will offer optimal sunlight for creating solar energy. That doesn’t mean the solar panels will sit passively on the roof the rest of the time.

Even without a clear sky, solar panels work. On a cloudy day, the solar panels will still collect energy they simply won’t do so as effectively. Depending on how thick the cloud cover is, the solar panels may only produce 25 percent of the solar energy they would on a clear day.

Winter is generally cloudier than summer. This, as Weatherman Tom Skilling has explained, warm weather tends to build taller cumulus clouds that grow vertically. In the winter, with colder weather, “condensation and cloudiness tend to be horizontally stratified, resulting in widespread and long-lasting overcasts.”

So, yes, your solar energy production will fall in the winter as a natural byproduct of more consistent cloud cover. But, your solar panels will continue to work and will catch up again next Spring.

If you’re concerned about it, you can try reducing your electrical usage in the winter. Unplug unused electronics. Check the refrigerator and adjust the temperature if it’s unnecessarily set too cold. Use LED holiday decorations. Insulate your electric water heater. If you have electric heat, you can seal your windows and doors, lower the thermostat and wear a sweater.

No matter what you do, don’t worry. Weather will warm again. The sunny days will increase next Spring and Summer.

Improvements to solar panels rich in opportunity for homeowners and businesses

improvements to solar panels

Improvements to solar panels increase the benefits of adding solar energy to your home.

Solar panels do magic up there on the roof turning the rays of the sun into electric energy. It’s amazing. And, it’s only getting better. Better?! Yes, better. There are improvements to solar panels making them more efficient all the time.

The modern solar panel was introduced in 1954 as a product of Bell Laboratory. Three of the company’s scientists – Calvin Fuller, Daryl Chapin and Gerald Pearson – used silicon to create a source for collecting solar energy. It was a stable and reliable source of energy but it was hardly efficient. And it was expensive – really expensive.

Congressional act promotes development

In 1978, Congress enacted the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act and the Energy Tax Act. This was the government’s first step towards promoting and encouraging the development and increased use of solar energy. As a result, by the 1990s, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed a photovoltaic (PV) panel, using gallium indium phosphide and gallium arsenide, that achieved an incredible efficiency rating of 30 percent. Unfortunately, it was not a reasonable panel for mass production.

In 2000, Sandia Laboratories improved the efficiency of solar panels with the development of an inverter that converts the Direct Current (DC) of solar panels to the Alternating Current (AC) that is used in homes. The advancement launched the solar panel industry as a serious alternative to complete reliance on the electricity generated by utility companies.

Solar panels today generally produce more than 20 percent efficiency ratings. While companies developing solar panels are consistently seeking to improve on efficiency, improvements to solar panels are already at hand in terms of mass production. Hand-in-hand, with mass production, the costs of solar panels has come down dramatically.

Panels today are lighter and easier to install. There are also improvements in the inverters, including hybrid string inverters and microinverters that transform the energy from DC to AC for each individual panel.

The gist is that, as solar panels continue to improve, we have already seen vast improvements to solar panels over what was available before. This is good news for reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and it’s good news for homeowners and businesses that want to save on energy costs while reducing their dependence on utilities.

Solar panels maintenance – what maintenance?

no solar panels maintenance

Solar panels maintenance is not a major concern for those who have solar panels on their roofs. There really isn’t any maintenance required.

Solar panels maintenance: it’s a question that comes to mind when you’re thinking about adding a solar energy system to your home. You’re worried about the maintenance required with solar panels on your home’s roof. Not to worry. A solar energy system is not like a household appliance or an automobile with moving parts and the kind of wear that you’ll experience driving your car on the highway.

Solar panels are fixed in place. The only moving part is the sun, which spins in place an average of 93-million miles away from the earth. A car’s tires are rolling, starting and stopping on the pavement. That’s why most tires are warrantied for between 30,000 and 100,000 miles. Your solar panels won’t travel miles unless you count the rotation of the earth. That’s a significant number since the earth turns about 1,000 miles every hour, 24,000 miles in a day and about 8.76-million miles in a year.

But, the miles that the earth spins really don’t count because your home, and your solar panels, are spinning with the earth. Most of the potential friction comes from the air, rain, snow and occasionally hail. The first three have a very low friction coefficient. With hail, you have repeated impacts on the solar panels. It’s not really a matter of friction. Without friction, solar panels maintenance is not a major factor.

Fortunately, solar panels are built to withstand the impact of hail. They’re even designed to withstand the impact of golf balls, if you happen to live near a golf course. According to a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), from 2009 to 2013, approximately one-tenth of one percent of solar panel systems suffered some sort of damage due to hail and even hurricanes (depending on the quality of installation).

So, you really don’t have to worry much about maintaining your solar energy system. You should monitor production of electricity as a sudden drop in output, while it may relate to the weather, could indicate a problem where you should call in a professional to take a look. Otherwise, you really don’t even have to clean your solar panels.

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.

Comparatively speaking, adding solar energy to a home pays

Adding solar to a home pays

Put solar panels on identical homes and you’ll see why, comparatively, adding solar to a home pays.

(August 28, 2018) Can you say that solar pays? How does a home with solar energy compare to a home without solar energy? Here’s a hypothetical example of how that comparison looks.

John and Liz live on the same street. Joe and Laura live on the other. It’s a new subdivision and they live in identical models that the developer offered when the subdivision was first built. They both have Northern exposures. With both houses, trees were planted to the sides of the backyard leaving the Southern exposure of their roofs without obstruction for the foreseeable future.

When one couple decides to have a solar energy system installed on their roof the clock starts running on a comparison that will last until the other couple decides to follow suit. They can compare their energy costs over time and see the benefits of adding a solar energy system or not – they can see if solar pays.

Initial cost: The homeowners who choose to stick with the electricity provided by the utility company will not have the initial investment required to add solar panels to their home. This expense can be significant. However, there are also state and federal incentives to defray the costs.
Cost of energy over time: With continued dependence on ‘the grid,’ one couple’s electric bills will continue unabated and, in fact, will increase over time. That’s inevitable. With a solar energy system on the roof, the other couple will short circuit the monthly electric bill and replace it with a diminishing expense (should they finance their solar panels). Eventually, they’ll have electricity with virtually no electric bill at all.
Net metering offers electric savings account: On days when the sun shines brightly, the couple with the solar panels are liable to use less energy than their solar panels collect from the sun. With net metering, they will receive credits for the extra electricity that is contributed to the grid. They can use those credits on days when the sun doesn’t shine as brightly.
Safer and greener energy: The couple dependent on the grid and utility company for their electricity will also, most likely, depend on coal or nuclear power for their electricity. The couple with the solar energy system will reduce the need for coal and nuclear power. They’ll have the peace of mind knowing that they’ve made a difference.
Property value: The couple with the solar energy system will enjoy a greater resale value of their home when it’s time to move because they offer a home with virtually free energy. The other couple won’t have that benefit. This is another way that solar pays.

The only benefit to not installing a solar energy system is that you avoid shelling out that initial cost. But, both couples would probably agree that’s a short-term, and short-sighted approach. In the long run, it’s clear that solar pays.

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.

With net metering, solar panels can turn your electric meter to run backward

net metering

Can you imagine your electric meter running backward? With net metering and a PV system on the roof, you could see your electric meter running the other way.

When a PV (Photovoltaic solar energy) system is installed on the roof of a home or business, it is tied into the electrical grid and monitored. The process of monitoring how much electricity is generated is called net metering. The amount generated is compared to the amount of electricity used by a home or office. If the solar panels produce less electricity than is used, the consumer is charged for the difference by the utility company. However, the PV panels can also produce more energy than is used.

Extra electricity contributed to the grid is tracked so that the customer with the solar panels can draw on those energy credits, as if from a bank, on days when their solar energy system is producing less electricity. For instance, on a stormy day, heavy cloud cover may obscure the sun and reduce the amount of energy captured by the panels.

Utility consumers will usually draw on their electric credits at night, too. When the sun goes down their PV panels idly wait for the sun to come back up in the morning. However, in the night time when the solar panels are not generating electricity, the demand for electricity from the grid is usually down and the hourly rate for electricity also falls. In other words, the PV panels generally produce electricity during the peak hours of demand potentially saving consumers from the most expensive hours of electrical usage.

Solar panels also benefit the grid

There are scorching-hot days in the summer when everyone has their air conditioning running full blast. The strain on the electric grid is intense. The demand can even tax the grid beyond its capacity. In response, the utility companies may implement rolling blackouts in an effort to keep up.

Solar energy systems help. Each solar array is contributing to the grid and enhancing the grid’s ability to keep pace. Additionally, the PV systems are reducing demand, which can help keep the cost down for all consumers.