Interested in Solar Panels? Here Is Some Advice.
Buying a solar energy system can be expensive and confusing. Here are some things to think about if you are in the market for solar panels.
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Thanks to technological and manufacturing advances, costs for solar panels have tumbled in the last decade, making solar energy more popular for homeowners. But figuring out how to add a solar energy system to your roof can be daunting.
Workers installed a solar and battery system this winter at my home in a New York City suburb. It was a major investment but has already begun paying off in lower utility bills and providing peace of mind that we will have at least some electricity during power outages, which are common here because storms often knock down power lines.
Interest in rooftop solar systems is high and growing as energy rise and concerns about climate change mount. Many people are also worried about blackouts caused by extreme weather linked to climate change. A Pew Charitable Trust survey in 2019 found that 6 percent of Americans had already installed solar panels and that another 46 percent were considering it.
“The biggest thing is that solar is a lot cheaper than it used to be even in places like New York City and Boston, where it tends to be more expensive than in the suburbs,” said Anika Wistar-Jones, director of affordable solar at Solar One, an environmental education nonprofit in New York City that helps affordable housing and low-income communities adopt solar energy.
If you are interested in solar, here are some things to consider.
Can you add solar panels to your roof?
This question might seem simple, but finding the answer can be surprisingly complicated. One installer told me that my roof was so shaded by trees that solar panels would not generate enough electricity to make the investment worthwhile. Hearing another opinion was worth it: The installer I hired allayed those concerns and recommended some tree trimming. On sunny days my system often generates more power than my family uses.
It can also be difficult to find out what your local government and utility will permit because the information is usually not readily available in plain language. I learned that lesson at my previous home.
When I lived in New York City, it took months of research to learn that I couldn’t install panels on my roof. The city requires a large clear area on flat roofs like mine for firefighters to walk on, it turns out. And I couldn’t install solar panels on a canopy — a rooftop framework that elevates the panels — because it would violate a city height restriction for homes on my block.
The best approach is to cast a wide net and talk to as many solar installers as you can. You might also consult neighbors who have put solar panels on their roofs: People in many parts of the country have banded together in what are known as solarize campaigns to jointly purchase solar panels to secure lower from installers.
“That has been really successful in neighborhoods and communities all across the country,” said Gretchen Bradley, community solar manager at Solar One.
Can I afford a solar installer?
You should seek proposals from several installers. Comparison shopping services like EnergySage and SolarReviews make it easy to contact multiple installers.
When reviewing proposals, pay attention to how much the system will cost per watt. This tells you how much you are paying for the system’s electricity-generating capacity and allows you to compare offers.
The median quote for new rooftop solar systems is 2.75 per watt, according to EnergySage. That works out to about 26,125 for an average system of 9,500 watts before taking into account a federal tax credit. For the 2022 tax year, the credit stands at 26 percent of the cost of solar system; it is slated to drop to 22 percent in 2023 and end in 2024. Many states, including Arizona, California, New York and Massachusetts, also offer residents incentives to install solar systems, such as rebates and tax breaks.
can vary greatly because of location, local labor costs and other factors, like what kind of home you live in and whether other work is needed before installation. If your roof is old or damaged, for example, it might need to be replaced before a solar system can be installed.
Rooftop solar systems can reduce monthly utility bills, depending on electricity rates, how much energy a home uses and state policies. Systems that save more money will help buyers recoup their investment faster. Vikram Aggarwal, the chief executive and founder of EnergySage, said solar systems should ideally pay for themselves within 10 years.
The excess electricity that rooftop systems produce is sent to the electric grid, and utilities typically compensate homeowners for that energy through credits on their monthly bills. The value of those credits varies by state.
How should I pay for it?
If you can afford to buy a solar system outright, you will get the best deal by paying cash. Systems purchased with loans or through leases tend to cost more, especially over the life of the contract. Shopping around is your best hedge against falling prey to dubious or predatory agreements.
The main advantage of leasing a solar energy system is that your costs are typically fixed for the duration of the contract. But experts caution that leases can be hard to get out of and could become a burden when you sell your home, because buyers might not want to take on your contract.
Mr. Aggarwal noted that leases “make sense” for some people who may not earn enough to claim the federal tax credit. He suggested that people interested in solar leases get three or four quotes from different installers.
Should I buy a battery?
Adding a battery to your solar system will allow you to store some of the excess electricity it generates to use during a blackout or in the evening and night. A solar system without a battery will not keep you supplied with power during an outage because most residential systems are automatically turned off when the grid goes down.
Batteries can be expensive, especially if you want to run large appliances and provide power for many hours or days. A 10- to 12-kilowatt-hour battery, which can store roughly a third of a home’s typical daily electricity use, costs about 13,000, according to EnergySage.
The federal tax credit for rooftop solar systems applies to the costs of batteries that are purchased with solar panels or if they are added in a following tax year. About 28 percent of residential solar systems installed in 2021 included batteries, up from 20 percent in 2020, according to a survey by EnergySage.
The Wirecutter, a product recommendation service from The New York Times, has a detailed guide for buying solar and battery systems.
Can I use my electric car as a backup battery?
Most electric cars cannot provide power to homes. Only a few models, like the Ford F-150 Lightning and the Hyundai Ioniq 5, have that ability, and they are in incredibly short supply.
But many energy experts believe that it will eventually be common for car batteries to send power back to homes and the electric grid.
In many parts of the United States, extended power outages may happen just once or twice a year. As a result, Mr. Aggarwal said, it may not make sense to invest in an expensive home battery, which usually holds much less energy than electric-car batteries. “Everybody is starting to talk about using your car to run your home.”
If I can’t install solar panels, can I still buy solar energy?
You might be able to join a community solar project, which are usually installed on open land or on the roofs of warehouses and other large buildings.
While the rules vary by state, community solar programs generally work in similar ways. Members get two bills a month: one from the community solar project and one from their utility. The projects sell electricity at a discount to the rate charged by your utility, and each kilowatt-hour of power you buy shows up as a credit for a kilowatt-hour of energy on your utility bill.
New Yorkers who join a community solar project, for example, can save about 10 percent on their monthly electricity bill, Ms. Bradley said. “It doesn’t cost anything to sign up or leave a project,” she added.
While most states allow community solar, a majority of such projects are in just four states — Florida, Minnesota, New York and Massachusetts — according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
You can search for projects in your area on websites including EnergySage and PowerMarket or through state agencies, like the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
`An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the timing of a tax credit for the cost of batteries on a home solar energy system. Taxpayers can claim the credit for the batteries in a tax year after the year in which they installed the solar panels; it is not the case that solar panels and batteries must be purchased in the same year to qualify for the credit.
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Vikas Bajaj, an assistant editor in the Business section, was previously a member of the editorial board and a correspondent based in Mumbai, India. Before that, he covered housing and financial markets from New York. @ vikasbajaj
A version of this article appears in print on. Section B. Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Going Solar? Here’s What You Need Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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Everything you Need to Know About Modern Residential Solar Panel Roofs
Solar power is a renewable energy source that can offer a wide range of benefits for homeowners. Until fairly recently homeowners had to choose between an appealing roof that was attractive but that did not offer the ability to capture solar energy or a roof that provided solar power using large solar panels that stood out and detracted from the home architecture and aesthetics though.
That is no longer the case with the development of residential solar panel roofing though. Today it can be difficult to tell which homes utilize solar panel because new panel models are designed to flawlessly blend with the rest of the roof instead of standing out and detracting from the appearance of the home.
How do Solar Panel Roofs Work?
Solar panels have photovoltaic cells embedded in them. These PV cells have the ability to convert sunlight into electricity, or more specifically into direct current or DC power. An inverter is then used to convert the DC power collected into alternating current or AC electricity that can be used to power the electrical components of your home. An electrical panel controls the power that has been collected, sending electricity to appliances, lights, and other electrical components when power is needed.
Batteries can be used to store any excess electricity that is not needed at the time of collection. This energy can be used at a later time or even sold back to a local utility company for credits on future energy bills so that the energy can be used on the grid for other customers. A utility meter will measure energy that is drawn by the solar panels and fed back to the grid to keep track of what you are using and supplying.
Traditional Solar Panels Versus Solar Panel Roofing Materials
Traditional solar panels can be effective but they have many drawbacks. The panels can be large and bulky, they are installed over the roof so they are highly visible, the panels may not stand up well to adverse or extreme weather conditions, and they can detract from the overall look and beauty of the home.
Solar panel roofing materials eliminate many of the drawbacks that traditional solar panels have. Solar shingles with photovoltaic cells have been developed which get rid of the panels that sit on top of the roof. These specialized shingles are strategically placed on the surface of the roof to provide protection and collect solar energy when sunlight is available. Areas where PV shingles can not be placed are covered with shingles that do not contain the special PV cells, providing a roof that is attractive and that seamlessly blends both shingle types while still capturing any solar energy available.
Home Design and Solar Panel Roof Integration
Modern residential solar panel roofs combine architecture and home design with innovative solar panel technology, providing products that look great, that blend well into the roof and complement neighboring residences, and that are highly effective. Since the PV cells are embedded in the shingles there is nothing to stick up, leaving the roof flat and attractive. Solar roofing panels will collect sunlight without making the residence stand out from the rest of the neighborhood or lowering the property value of the home. You no longer have to choose between going green and using renewable solar energy or a home that is attractive and comfortable.
Solar panel roofs can be installed on any type of architecture. These roofs are becoming increasingly popular, and they can be found on residences, commercial buildings, industrial structures, and even on government buildings in some areas. Home design and architecture plans for new residences will typically consider alternative renewable energy sources as well as conventional energy sources from the very beginning of the planning stage. Many architects and home designers are integrating solar panel roofs into residential design from the start today because of the energy efficiency they provide and the beauty that they offer to any home.
New Homes Versus Existing Residences
Solar panel roofs can be installed on both new homes and existing homes, but the costs and requirements may be different depending on a number of variables. Some variables include:
A new residence does not have an existing roof that may need to be removed, and the roof deck and other roofing structures can be planned for almost any weight load or design element.
Wiring in new homes can be designed to support any necessary components for solar energy conversion and other energy factors.
Older homes may require upgrades before solar panel roofing can be installed.
Installing a solar panel roof on an existing home can significantly cut energy costs as long as the home is well insulated and other energy conservation and weatherization efforts have been made as well.
Solar panel roofing can be easily implemented in the planning stage for a new residence. Adding this element to an existing home can be more challenging but it is still possible and usually very affordable as well.
Costs Associated with Installing Solar Panel Roofs
Solar panel roofs have come down considerably in price since the first PV panels were introduced. Today solar energy can be both affordable and effective, providing beauty and energy efficiency to your home at the same time. Tesla offers a solar panel roof that looks identical to the roof on neighboring residences by using specially designed glass tiles. Some of these glass tiles are embedded with advanced technology PV cells and some that do not have these specialized cells. The result is a roof that is consistent in appearance.
The cost of installing a solar panel roof can vary widely, depending on many factors and considerations. Some considerations include:
The cost of the solar energy technology used. A Tesla solar panel roof and a traditional roof with added solar panels may have comparable costs when the entire roof is replaced or a roof is installed on a new residence.
Is full roof replacement necessary? If a new roof is needed then replacing the existing roof with a solar panel roof should not be much more expensive. If only minor roof repairs are necessary or the roof is still in great condition then replacing the entire structure with a solar panel roof may not be cost effective at this time.
How much energy storage do you want? Some type of energy storage technology will be used to capture any excess solar energy that the PV cells collect. It is important that you have enough energy storage capacity so that no solar energy is wasted. Batteries are typically used to store any extra energy that is not being currently used. The Tesla solar panel roof offers the Powerwall, which can efficiently store extra energy until it is needed or sent to the grid.
Roof size matters. The square footage of the roof will be a factor in calculating the costs involved in installing solar panel roofing. A larger roof will require more components and roofing materials than a smaller roof, meaning more material expenses and a higher labor cost as well.
Where can Solar Panel Roofs be Used?
Solar panel roofs can be installed almost anywhere, but they are most cost effective and efficient in areas that receive a fair amount of sun much of the year. A location that receives more sun means more solar energy will be collected, and less energy will be needed from other sources. Even homes in colder climates can benefit from solar panel roofs, because at least some of the roof will be exposed to sunshine much of the time even when the temperatures drop.
Solar panel roofs are in demand across the USA, from California to Washington to Colorado. Cities and states which see sunshine all year long started the solar energy trend but the rest of the country has caught on to the benefits of solar energy as well.
Industry Leaders in the Solar Roof Panel Industry
In the solar panel industry there are some industry leaders who really stand out, and one of the most prominent is Tesla. The solar panels, solar panel roofing options, and Powerwall energy storage options available make the move to renewable solar energy an easy one. The Tesla solar panel roof offers flawless beauty, a streamlined look and design, and a high level of energy efficiency and conservation. Gone are the ugly solar panels of the past, the unsightly devices that perch on the roof and detract from the beauty of the home.
Adding solar power to your home without drawing away from the architecture and beauty of the structure is easy and affordable today when compared to the past. The Tesla solar panel roof does not stand out in a negative way, instead it blends seamlessly so that the residence has all of the appeal that you want plus an increase in energy efficiency. Any architectural style or home design plan can benefit from a solar panel roof, as long as the right solar products are chosen from an industry leader.
Tesla Solar Roof in Florida?
We were lucky enough to have recently met with the Tesla team regarding solar roofing in Florida. Their current estimation is an availability date in 2019, unfortunately, our customers will have to wait until then. However, when you see the first Tesla solar panel roof, whether Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, it will be a Phil Kean home!
Solar Panels on Flat Roofs: What You Need to Know
Do solar panels on flat roofs work? If you’re keen on investing in renewable, clean, and green solar energy, you do not have to let a flat roof keep you from installing a solar panel system.
So, can solar panels be installed on flat roofs?
Absolutely yes! As long as your roof is in good condition and no large obstructions are blocking the sunlight and diminishing your energy output.
This is excellent news for most American homeowners who prefer flat roofs. However, it would call for some adjustments.
Read on to understand the pros and cons of solar panels on flat roofs.
The Advantages of Flat Roofs for Solar Panel Installation
Maximize Solar Panel Output
This is good news for you whether you use renewable energy on a domestic or commercial scale. How so?
Solar engineers need to consider the angle of the roof and its orientation when installing solar panels on sloping roofs. In addition, PV panels will produce much less than the desired output if the roof faces east, north, or west.
However, on flat rooftops, you have the freedom to adjust the angle of your solar panel system, so it faces between south and west. You can ensure it aligns with the latitude of your geographic location too.
Since this is the ideal location for any solar panel, you can derive better output from your set-up than you would from a slanting roof not facing the right direction.
Lower Installation Costs
The total cost of installing solar panels typically ranges from 12,000 to 30,000. Of this 10% – 15% account for labor and installation costs. These costs are lower on a flat roof since it is safer and easier to access without the need for safety equipment.
Compared to a slanted roof, there are significantly fewer chances of men or material falling off the roof during installation.
Ease of access and low installation costs aside, another major advantage of a flat roof is it can withstand the wear and tear of the installation process better than a sloping roof.
There is no danger of damaging the roof, unlike in a slanted roof where the shingles may come off.
Solar panels on flat roofs are not easily visible from the street. This will help maintain the overall aesthetic value of your home.
Considering all these factors, flat roofs make a compelling case for mounting solar panels. However, they are not entirely without cons.
You Cannot Overlook These Challenges
There are some major disadvantages when laying solar panels on flat roofs. These include:
Finding the Right Solar Panel Installer
This will be among your biggest challenges. When it comes to a slanted roof, solar panels can be laid flat against it. But the same cannot be said for flat roofs. Since angled mounts allow for better exposure to sunlight and optimum energy output, it will require specialized equipment to mount solar panels at an angle on a flat roof.
Unfortunately, not all companies are equipped to install solar panels on flat roofs.
Voiding of Warranty
Laying solar panels on flat roofs may render the manufacturer’s warranty void. Some companies declare their warranty void if you do not follow their installation instructions to the tee. And in most cases, installing solar panels on flat roofs is prohibited.
This is because water tends to get accumulated on flat panels, collecting in the gaps between the frame and the glass coating. This increases the risk of water breaching the silicone barrier used to seal the gaps, damaging the panels over a period of time.
Similarly, installing solar panels can also lead to leakages in your roof. While this occurs due to incorrect installation, you need to be extra cautious while installing PV modules on flat roofs.
Reduced Energy Production
Another problem to consider is the reduced production of solar energy over time. The accumulation of dust and debris on the flat solar panels will make them very dirty, thereby reducing their efficiency.
Why putting rooftop solar on all US warehouses is a no-brainer – in numbers
The US has more than 450,000 warehouses and distribution centers – that’s 16.4 billion square feet of rooftop space ripe for hosting solar panels.
Rooftop solar on US warehouses
Environment America and Frontier Group crunched some numbers and shared what they discovered in a study called “Solar on Warehouses.”
They report that the rooftops of US warehouses built before 2019 alone have the potential to generate 185.6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of solar electricity annually – enough to power 19.4 million average households. That’s equivalent to roughly the entire New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area.
Additionally, there was more than 626 million square feet of warehouse space under construction in the first half of 2022, thanks to online shopping growth in response to the pandemic.
On average across the country, warehouses could produce 176% of their annual electricity use by fully building out their rooftop solar potential, allowing them to produce more electricity than they use and provide electricity to their communities.
And if all US warehouses and distribution centers adopted solar, then the equivalent of more than 112 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually would be reduced. That’s like taking 24 million gas cars off the road for a year, or taking 30 coal-fired power plants offline.
So, how would this idea get implemented? Environment America and Frontier Group call for businesses to commit to installing solar on their facilities, and they also call for government at all levels to support rooftop solar on warehouses by reducing permitting time and cutting red tape around permitting and interconnection.
They also state that businesses should be compensated for hosting solar – as it not only benefits the businesses but also the public – with programs such as net metering, feed-in-tariffs, and value-of-solar tariffs.
Alex Keally, senior vice president for Massachusetts-based Solect Energy, which has completed numerous solar installations on warehouse rooftops, said:
The key to realizing the solar potential of warehouse rooftops is for warehouse owners to connect with solar developers and for utility companies to quickly connect rooftop solar systems to the grid.
Big, boxy rooftops are some of the best places to put solar panels, so I was happy to see a new study surface that promotes this idea.
Warehouses and distribution centers have large, flat, open roofs that usually get direct sunlight. These solar panel arrays are not going to take up land or upset neighborhood residents – they’d be on commercial buildings, and let’s be honest – they’re almost always an eyesore anyway. It’s unused space that’s ripe for clean energy, and I’ve never heard anyone object to this idea (although if you do, please politely tell me why in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев below).
While we’re at it, let’s whack rooftop solar on top of all the box stores and car dealerships, too. IKEA, Home Depot, and Lowe’s are at it. The federal tax incentives are there. Solar is a more cost-effective way for businesses to power themselves instead of using fossil-fueled power.
Top comment by Scott King
This is a good idea. The 2 big constraints people don’t discuss is the cost to remove and reinstall panels during a roof replacement. The solar has to be installed along with a new 25 year roof. Warehouse roofs are also designed for minamal dead load so the structure has to be able to support the weight. For new construction, this should be in the code along with L2 charger, min 7.6KW PER CONNECTOR!
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