Should you install Solar PV on your Roof? Part 1

Over the last couple of weeks, several people have posted questions on social media about adding solar photovoltaic (PV) to their home. So, should you install Solar PV on your roof? We asked one of our architects, Charles Hendricks, and reached out to the owner of a Solar PV company, Eric Beck, with Green Hill Solar to help us understand.

So, Charles, should we all have solar PV on our rooftops?

Solar on south-facing unshaded roofs that are financed with an equity line will cost you less per month than you pay now for power (in most cases). The equity line is a loan so you must qualify for the loan and will have debt until the loan is paid off. This will eliminate some that don’t have enough equity or others that don’t want to carry debt. However, you could look at your monthly power bill as a “loan payment” the same as an equity loan payment. If solar PV is cheaper or even the same price as grid power, I think the answer is yes, we should all have solar on our rooftops.

 

Eric, what are your thoughts about solar PV on our rooftops?

Distributed solar is increasingly becoming viable for many more people as technology improves and costs decrease through improved collection and other market incentives. Distributed solar is generally photovoltaic (electric production) and located on rooftops or ground mounts. They are very simply small electrical plants that are connecting to the grid across the country. A south-facing roof is ideal! Even if a roof is not exactly south facing (azimuth), solar collection has improved so dramatically that even East or West facing roofs can make sense.

solar panels overlooking mountains

Charles, how do you decide what Solar PV company to use to install this clean energy source?

There are many companies that are good quality trusted options in the area – I know most of them. There are benefits to full-service companies that will finance the system for you but they have more risk, so they get more reward. There are companies that have a better customer interface – again – you pay for that warm fuzzy feeling. Then there are companies that are average on warm fuzzy feelings that don’t finance the systems that cost less up front to. Your roof will need to be analyzed to be able to hold the added weight – all the companies will offer this service. Some of the companies will also do an energy audit and offer weatherization to cut use before installing the solar. Interview and select the company that you trust to provide the best value.

 

Eric, what are some ways to evaluate a Solar PV company before you hire one?

Because I’m in the business, I can sometimes lose perspective of what it’s like to be a customer.  Below are some excellent questions that I have been asked recently by our customers when we were assessing their homes and offering our design/proposals.

  • Why have the companies chosen their type of solar panel and inverter?  Always look for Tier 1 panels, and the differing inverters offer their own pros and cons.
  • What is the equipment warranty period and how are the solar companies warranting their labor?  You should be getting a warranty of at least 25 yrs. for all rooftop components and understand how the warranty on installation works.
  • Is my roof or our property good for solar?  Most salespeople should be able to outline how your property compares to an ideal orientation, and how much your solar production will be impacted by shading from trees, roof features, or adjacent roofs.  In the Shenandoah Valley, there can be shading impacts from close valleys and ridges as well.  Fortunately, your roof doesn’t have to be oriented in the perfect way to benefit from solar.  Solar collection has improved dramatically and makes it possible for many to realize the environmental and financial benefits of solar.

Part 2 coming soon, check back for more answers.

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