Monthly Archives: September 2014

Good Day, Sunshine | our decision on rooftop solar

Lg_panelNow that my wife and I have made the decision to remodel our home to address, among other things, energy efficiency, it is time to look at from what sources our energy comes.

Our local utility sources power primarily from coal, nuclear, natural gas, and has made substantial investments in sustainable energy as well (one biomass, one biogas, two concentrating solar, one geothermal, nine photovoltaic solar, three wind farms, and up to 3,000 distributed energy locations). While their effort to build and purchase power from sustainable energy plants is commendable, we really want all of our energy to come from sustainable sources.

Like many of my peers, I first became aware of photovoltaics (PV) on spacecraft and then I started following terrestrial development of photovoltaic systems. The technology seemed to get less expensive every few years so the question became not if, but when and then how and who?

When

Many of our friends and neighbors have PV systems on their homes and/or businesses and discussions with them have been very positive and over the last ten years, I have watched Arizona State University (ASU) ramp up its use of PV—especially in the last four years, the growth has been quite astonishing. As of August 2014, ASU generates 21.8 megawatts equivalent (MW) of PV alone from 81,424 PV panels. See: https://cfo.asu.edu/solar-plan.

For us, the decision to move on solar became more urgent when we started our remodel this June. We had toyed with the idea for years, but now that we were making changes to our roof, it seemed logical that this was a good time to seriously consider a rooftop solar system for our home.

How

In considering a solar system, there are substantial incentives. The U.S. Department of Energy provides information on tax credits, rebates and savings by state on its website. The Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, a 30% personal tax credit, is the most lucrative. It can even be taken against the alternative minimum tax. To qualify, systems must be placed in service by December 31, 2016. There are other benefits including net metering—which allows one to sell daylight surplus power back to the utility for a credit which can then be applied to nighttime energy use—and a state tax credit of 10% of the installed cost of the system. Other states, utilities, and municipalities have incentives as well and all can be found here.

“Get Solar for $0 Down – Lower Your Electric Bill” headlines the Google Ad for Solar City Leasing. Installation is free, lower energy bills, but THEY get those tax credits and net metering benefits, not you. The same goes with all of the other leasing companies. But if YOU purchase the system, YOU get the tax credits AND the net metering—a much better deal if you can afford it.

Note: according to friends in real estate, if you lease and should you want to sell your abode, you cannot compel your buyer to assume the lease and may have to buy out the lease contract before the house changes hands. Let he lessee beware…

Who

So we made the decision to buy a full house rooftop system for our abode.

After researching the various firms, we chose American Solar & Roofing, a locally owned and operated provider recommended by numerous friends. The salesman, Josh Shears, was professional, friendly, well-mannered, knowledgeable, and not high-pressure. He walked me through their program, offered me lots of choices including a finance option. He put together a good package of information gleaned from our billing history, asked lots of questions and listened. He explained how the net metering works and estimated that we would see a 98% estimated kWH offset. He then spent a good deal of time chatting with our general contractor about our roof and electric panel.

The system should be up by the time our remodel is finished. Once we have a few months under our belt, I will post an update about the installation experience and a chart so readers can follow our system’s performance month to month.

Please feel free to comment on your own experiences and/or ask questions if you are considering one.

UPDATE: Home Performance with ENERGY STAR

hpwes_vert_200I posted “Home Performance with ENERGY STAR” in August of 2011. For a variety of reasons, mostly financial, we did not immediately solve the various issues that were revealed by the audit.

However, in early June of this year, we broke ground on a remodel that will address nearly all of these issues. We stripped the kitchen and all the living areas (except living quarters) down to bare floors, walls and roof. We are upgrading our roof insulation to an ENERGY STAR rated R30; we are replacing all ceiling fixtures with sealed LED units; and we are upgrading our refrigerator and HVAC units to ENERGY STAR certified. When completed in late November, we will have addressed every issue identified in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR audit we conducted over three years ago. I will post updates to the performance of the changes in chart form each month after we are finished. Look for the first in early January.