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Here comes the Sun: What you should know about home solar installations

by WayneTimes.com
October 4, 2021

The Energy Crisis of 1970 was the awakening that prompted Congress to pass the Solar Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Act of 1974. This was followed over the decades by the realization that fossil fuels contributed to climate change and massive pollution.

Great strides have been made in solar panels, transfer, battery storage, and  making sun energy more practical for homes and businesses. According to Solar Energy Industries Association, solar has had an average annual growth rate of 50 percent in the last 10 years in the United States, largely due to the Solar Investment Tax Credit enacted in 2006. Installing solar is also more affordable now due to installation costs dropping over 70 percent in the last decade.

Yes, solar panels are obvious on homes, but companies are striving towards better looking and advanced solar technology, such as building-applied photovoltaic (BAPV). This type of discreet solar cell is integrated into existing roof tiles or ceramic and glass facades of buildings.

A Walworth family moved into a home with a backyard built-in heated pool that was a luxury, but an energy hog. Add a home business with multiple computers and electronic devices running 24/7, and an outdoor hot tub -  and pretty soon monthly energy costs easily hit the $500+.  The couple also moved from hybrid vehicles to fully electric, which, with chargers, added to their energy drain.

The time was right for the investment. They called GreenSpark Solar, located  in the Town of Ontario. The company, founded in 2002 really shined in their presentation, follow through, support and installation. 

Last Friday (9/24), after months of getting quotes and pin-point research, the panels were installed.

The process

First, you must do your homework. Will you be staying in the house for a number of years? Is your roof in very good shape? The last thing you want to do before installing solar panels, that come with a 25 year warranty, is have roof shingles that are on their last leg.

Homeowners receive a NYSERDA grant set at 35¢ cents per watt (for a 10kW project, homeowners receive $3500 off the price of their system). Coupling this NYSERDA grant with the state and federal tax incentives you receive for going solar results in up to 51% of your solar project being covered by grants and incentives.

Make sure nearby trees do not overpower sunlight hitting your roof or the majority of it, during all seasons.

Be willing to invest in the future. Even though there are grants, and huge tax savings over the years associated with solar panel installation, there will be a money outlay.

Yes, you can finance solar panels and installation, but make sure your savings in energy more than covers the cost of financing over a period of time.

Get Quotes

Any legitimate company will lay out your actual and often guaranteed/or estimated savings over the life of the solar panels - usually 25 years.

Deal as close to local as possible. All maintenance and monitoring is included over the initial years, along with home monitoring software.

Make sure you check the references and quality of the company and panels. With this fast emerging technology, there are roofing companies that dabble in solar, but do not have the experience and support to follow through a decades-long commitment.

Once a quote and standards are established, the company will provide not only satellite/aerial photographs of your property and roof line, but fully inspect and plot your roof with a drone and close-up pictures. This provides all angles of sunlight and the best optimal positioning and number of panels you require for energy savings.

Built into energy savings is the light panel degradation, the amount of panel loss over the years of guaranteed life  of the panels. Savings depend on the amount of sunlight hitting the panels over the seasons.

NYSERDA

Once power is generated by solar panels in the form of DC (Direct Current) it is fed to the installed converter where it changes to AC (Alternating Current) then to your power panel. The electric meter, which completes the solar generated power back through your power company lines, then credits your account. 

Under current NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) incentives Homeowners receive a grant set at 35¢ cents per watt (for a 10kW project, homeowners receive $3500 off the price of their system). Coupling this NYSERDA grant with the state and federal tax incentives you receive for going solar results in up to 51% of your solar project being covered by grants and incentives. 

After receiving a quote, homeowners should consult with their accountant/financial advisor to determine how much money will be saved and over what period of time.

Installation

Expect the installation to take two to three days depending on weather, number of panels and workload. After the initial panel approval, the watertight attachments are flashed into the roof. Next come the aluminum rails that hold the solar panels in place. Wiring and a power panel are installed next to your home electrical service and new electric meter finishes the installation.

RG&E portion

RG&E (Rochester Gas and Electric), or your provider, is a key part to going solar with a grid tied solar project. This includes the final step of replacing your old meter, on the outside of your home, with a new meter. This new meter works both ways to account for the energy that your system produces that you don’t need at that time as well as the energy you need to pull from RG&E in case your system is not producing everything you need at any given moment. This is called net metering - it allows RG&E to act as your battery.  GreenSpark sizes your system in an attempt to provide solar year round, so you overproduce in the months when we see more sun hours, RG&E keeps track of that overproduction and credits you in the months when we see less sun hours - those dark winter months.

A inspection from your energy supplier and municipality follows. 

Insurance

Notify you home insurance carrier of solar panel installation. It is normally covered under your homeowners policy. The installation of solar panels is warranted against leaks or other damage from System installation.

After the installation was complete, the sun was setting on Friday the homeowner could already see the impact the solar array was having as the RG&E as the meter was actually spinning backwards.

Home Energy Audits

and Ratings

It is suggested that along with solar savings homeowners evaluate their energy use to save even more money. Audits help you understand how much energy your home is using, and which equipment (such as heating and cooling systems) are using the most.

Audits can uncover hidden problems (such as leaky air ducts or uninsulated walls) that may be making your home less efficient, making you uncomfortable, and increasing your utility bills.

Health and Safety. Audits can uncover potential hazards in your home (such as improper ventilation, which may degrade air quality, or areas with high humidity and cold surfaces that might support mold growth).

Once an audit is complete, you will receive a report listing where your home is performing well and a prioritized list of potential improvements to help determine where your home improvement dollars would be best spent.

Homeowners who receive a home energy rating may qualify for additional types of loans to fix any inadequacies. There are also a number of rebate programs for updating equipment, thermostats, home air conditioners, etc. Please call your energy provider for more information.

To search for a qualified contractor go to nyserda.ny.gov and go to the Find a Contractor page.

Hurry, NYSERDA programs are time sensitive. Have a question: Call 866-NYSERDA (866-697-3732).

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