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Does Rooftop Solar Maintenance Require Professional Assistance?

Before investing in a rooftop solar array, you’ll want to know what ongoing expenses to expect. The photovoltaic (PV) panels and inverter come with warranty coverage, but what type of maintenance is required to meet the terms of the warranties? Will you need to hire a solar professional to take regular care of your photovoltaic system?

Rooftop Solar Maintenance Require Professional Assistance

Photovoltaic arrays are designed to be hands-off, and routine rooftop solar maintenance is not necessary. Unless a system component breaks or stops working, you won’t need to call in a professional.

Rooftop Solar Arrays Don’t Need Much Attention

A rooftop photovoltaic system can — and should — produce energy for decades without any maintenance.

You will need to replace your solar power inverter at the end of its life cycle, but none of the photovoltaic components have moving parts that need to be serviced, oiled or cleaned. Since nothing is mechanized, you don’t need professional solar maintenance.

Rooftop Solar Panels Stay Fairly Clean

Will your solar panels get dirty, sitting up on the roof, constantly exposed to the elements?

The PV module glass is very slippery, which means that debris tends to slide right off. Rain and melting snow do a good job of keeping the rooftop panels clear, so you don’t need to pay a pro for periodic rooftop solar panel cleaning.

No Need to Worry About Dust Accumulation

What if you live in an area with lots of dust and little precipitation? Won’t you have to hire a solar professional to regularly clear away the accumulation?

According to rooftop solar research published in Solar Pro magazine, even the hottest, driest, dustiest regions don’t see significant loss in energy production from dust or dirt accumulation.

Dust isn’t enough of an issue to make regular cleaning necessary or even worthwhile.

Rooftop Solar Maintenance Is Easy Enough for You to Handle

If you really want to keep on top of rooftop solar maintenance so that your photovoltaic system is in the best possible shape for optimal energy production, you could occasionally clean the modules. But you won’t need to hire a pro for the job.

To get rid of stuck-on grime and any lingering snow accumulation, just use a soft brush or squeegee on an extension pole. Take care never to spray cold water on the panels, however. If the panels are warm from the sun, you could crack the glass and potentially violate the warranty.

The professional team at Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading PV installer, can give you expert tips on making the switch to photovoltaic power easier and more affordable.

Schedule your home PV installation with us, and you’ll never have to budget for routine maintenance. Contact us today for a free rooftop solar consultation anywhere in Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nevada or Wyoming.

Solar Energy Systems: How to Calculate Available Roof Space

A home solar energy system can create enough electricity to meet your household needs — if the system is sized correctly.

An online calculator can give you an estimate of how many solar panels you’ll need to harness an ample supply of energy from the sun. However, it won’t tell you whether your rooftop has sufficient space to hold that number of PV modules.

Solar Energy Systems How to Calculate Available Roof Space

So how can you tell if your roof can handle an appropriately sized solar energy system?
Your best resource for information is a local professional photovoltaic contractor, such as the experts at Intermountain Wind & Solar.

But to get a general idea, you can use the handy guide below.

How Much Open Roof Space Do You Have for a Solar Energy System?

If you want an exact calculation of your available roof space, you could climb up and measure all the open areas.

If you’re not a fan of that plan, don’t worry. Google’s Project Sunroof website can easily take care of the calculations for you. Type in your address, and the online tool will use high-resolution satellite imagery, along with the computing power of Google Maps, to determine how many square feet of rooftop space you have available for a home solar energy system.

How Many Solar Panels Will Fit in that Space?

Let’s say the Project Sunroof tool measures 285 square feet of available rooftop space on your home. How does that help you figure out if you can install the necessary number of solar panels?

PV modules, on average, measure about 3 feet by 5 feet. That means each one needs about 15 square feet of space.

If you take your amount of open roof space and divide by 15, you’ll find out approximately how many solar panels will fit. In our example, this works out to be 19.

285 square feet ÷ 15 square feet = space for 19 solar panels

What if You Need More Home Solar Power?

After reviewing your options for solar panels, let’s say you’re leaning toward installing 285-watt PV modules. Continuing our example, how much electricity will 19 of them produce? Will it be enough?

A bit of easy math can tell you the answer. First, since home solar energy systems are measured in kilowatts, you’ll need to divide that 285 watts by 1,000. That tells you that each photovoltaic module will produce 0.285 kW of electricity.

Now, multiply that number by 19, and you’ll find the total power production.

0.285 kW × 19 = 5.415 kW

In this scenario, your rooftop can hold a 5.415 kW home solar energy system. But what if that’s not enough to meet your household energy needs?

You could try reducing your electricity consumption. An online or professional home energy audit can provide suggestions for making your home more energy-efficient. If you’d rather not make any changes to your lifestyle, you may want to consider installing ground-mounted PV modules instead of (or in addition to) a rooftop solar energy system.

The best way to determine exactly how much photovoltaic energy you can produce at your home is to talk to a professional solar installation contractor. The team at Intermountain Wind & Solar can design and install a cost-effective photovoltaic array to power your Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada or Wyoming home. To discuss your home solar energy system options, contact us for a free consultation today.

Before Installing a Solar Array, Should You Replace Your Roof?

Are you planning a rooftop solar array installation? If so, the condition of your roof matters.

If the structural integrity of your roof is significantly compromised, mounting PV panels could pose a risk.

Solar array rooftop

Replacing your roof is costly, so you don’t want to do it if it isn’t necessary.

Is Your Roof Damaged?

Reputable photovoltaic contractors such as the Intermountain Wind & Solar team won’t install PV panels on a roof that’s in poor condition.

Photovoltaic modules are designed to create electricity for decades. If a roof develops problems after solar installation, the homeowner may have to pay to have the solar array removed before repairs can be made. Given the added cost, it simply doesn’t make financial sense to mount PV panels on a damaged roof.

If you know your roof has a problem, contact a local roofer for repairs or replacement before scheduling a solar array installation.

Are You Certain Your Roof Is in Decent Condition?

Maybe you don’t have any roof leaks, and your photovoltaic contractor didn’t notice any obvious signs of damage during your home PV consultation. Does that mean you can go ahead and install a rooftop solar array without any worry of future structural issues?

Professional solar contractors aren’t roofers, and roofing damage isn’t always easily visible. So a problem could go unnoticed and you could end up footing the bill to have your PV panels removed and reinstalled if you need repairs or replacement later on.

To play it safe, schedule a roof inspection with a local professional roofer before installing a solar array.

What if You Don’t Want to Budget for Roof Repair or Replacement?

Let’s say your roof is damaged. You want to go solar, but you’re not ready to pay for roofing repairs or replacement along with photovoltaic installation. Will you have to wait?

Not at all. If you have a sunny spot in your yard, you could consider installing a ground-mounted solar array. Ground-mounted systems are highly efficient, as they can be placed at the optimal angle and direction for maximum electricity production. Go with ground-mounted PV panels, and you can go solar now — without taking care of your roof first.

If your roof is in good shape now, you’ll want to keep it that way, and that means hiring an experienced solar contractor. The professionals at Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading photovoltaic installers, have the knowledge, training and skills to mount PV panels without compromising rooftop integrity.

The Intermountain Wind & Solar team also has what it takes to install efficient, cost-effective ground-mounted photovoltaic systems. So if your rooftop can’t handle PV panels right now, our expert team can still help you make the switch to photovoltaic power.

To discuss solar array options for your Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming or Idaho home, contact us today.

Home Solar Panel Systems — Save 30 Percent! 

The idea of saving 30 percent on a new home solar panel system sounds too good to be true. It must be some kind of gimmick, right?

It is not a gimmick.

Home Solar Panel Systems

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) can cut your photovoltaic costs by a full 30 percent. As long as you own your home PV system and you pay federal taxes, you’re eligible for this lucrative financial incentive.

How Does the Federal Solar Tax Credit Work?

The federal solar tax credit reduces your income tax liability by an amount equal to 30 percent of your net photovoltaic costs.

To calculate your solar ITC, simply take your total equipment and installation charges and subtract any state or local financial incentives you receive — that’s your net cost. Take 30 percent of that number, and you’ll have your tax credit amount.

So let’s say you purchase a home solar panel system for $22,000. Then you receive a state rebate of $2,000. Your net photovoltaic costs would be $20,000, and your ITC would amount to $6,000 ($20,000 x .30 = $6,000).

What if You Don’t Owe Enough to Claim the Full Solar Tax Credit?

Now consider your tax liability. Let’s say you owe $7,500 in taxes next April. The $6,000 solar ITC from our example above would drastically lower that amount — you’d only have to pay $1,500.

But what if you don’t owe that much? What happens if your tax liability is only $5,000?

Don’t worry if you can’t claim the full solar ITC — the tax credit can be carried over. Using our example, you’d end up owing nothing this year, and the remaining $1,000 would be claimed on next year’s income taxes.

Want to Save Even More on a New Home Solar Panel System?

The federal solar tax credit gives you the biggest opportunity to save on your home PV installation — 30 percent off is hard to beat.

Even though the federal ITC is the largest financial incentive for switching to photovoltaic power, it isn’t the only one.

Many state and local tax credits, rebates and grants are available for home PV system owners. Claim everything you can, and you’ll save thousands more on your home solar array. Ask your photovoltaic installer to point you toward the financial incentives in your area. Or head to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) website. Here, you can find a comprehensive list of all available offers, along with eligibility details and application information.

The photovoltaic contractors at Intermountain Wind & Solar aren’t experts on taxes, so if you need tax advice, we recommend talking with an accountant or tax professional. However, if you only have concerns about filling out your federal solar tax credit paperwork, we can help.

We can also let you know about all of the financial incentives available to home PV system owners in the Intermountain West. To find out more about saving money on your home solar panel system, contact us today.

Commercial Solar Energy Systems: What Are Your Options?

Installing commercial solar energy systems is a great way for companies to create their own electricity.

Gas stations, auto dealers, hotels, distribution centers, stores and office buildings are among the many businesses now powered by photovoltaic energy.

commercial solar energy

Because solar power is a flexible energy solution, companies are using it in a variety of ways. Sizes and configurations for the solar projects vary, but most adhere to one of three basic types of photovoltaic system installations.

Roof-Mounted Commercial Solar Systems

The majority of commercial installations involve roof-mounted systems. A recent report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), revealed that more than 90 percent of the companies that adopt photovoltaic power choose to have the systems mounted on a rooftop.

Roof-mounted solar energy systems appeal to business owners because they are well-suited to many types of building footprints. And a rooftop photovoltaic array is often the simplest — and least expensive — installation option.

Ground-Mounted Commercial System Installations

The amount of available rooftop space can significantly limit the size of a photovoltaic installation. So companies that require a great deal of electricity typically turn to ground-mounted installations.

Ground-mounted commercial photovoltaic systems are highly efficient, as the PV panels can be placed at the perfect orientation and tilt to best harness the sun’s energy. And with enough land, a business can install a solar project of any size.

Carport Commercial Solar Installations

Carport installations are another good choice, as businesses discover the benefits of turning their parking lots into photovoltaic power plants.

Installing a photovoltaic parking lot canopy is generally the most expensive route for a commercial project, due to the additional construction materials and labor. But for space-strapped companies, a carport can be an ideal option.

Photovoltaic panels placed on a parking canopy can generate enough energy to power the business, and the structure protects the vehicles underneath and keeps them cooler. Some commercial solar carport projects also include electric vehicle charging stations. Free electricity along with covered parking makes a carport installation an attractive option.

The professional contractors at Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s largest and most experienced commercial solar installers, have the skills and expertise to design an efficient, cost-effective photovoltaic system that meets the energy needs of any business.

Our expert team can determine whether a roof-mounted, ground-mounted or carport photovoltaic installation is best for your Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada or Wyoming company. To learn more about options for commercial solar energy systems, contact Intermountain Wind & Solar to schedule a free consultation today.

Do Solar Panels Work in the Winter?

Solar panels do not stop producing electricity during the cold season.

Many potential solar adopters put off PV system installation until spring or summer for this very reason, but this notion has no basis in fact.

Solar Panels Work in the Winter

Solar modules generate energy all year long. Photovoltaic power is an investment that will pay off no matter when you plan your installation, so don’t let misinformation stop you from going solar this winter.

Solar Panels Don’t Need Warmth

Contrary to popular belief, photovoltaic modules don’t need warm weather to create energy — they only need sunny weather.

Photovoltaic power is the conversion of light into electricity. When the sun’s rays hit a PV panel, photons of light energy knock the electrons in its solar cells loose. As a result, the electrons become energized and begin to flow in a steady electrical current. This process is known as the photovoltaic effect, and it doesn’t need the sun’s warmth.

UV rays from the sun are always beaming down, regardless of what the temperature is outside. Since solar panels work with light — not heat — they generate electricity no matter how cold it gets.

Cold Winter Weather Actually Boosts PV Panel Output

Solar PV panels not only work during winter — they work better.

Winter temperatures improve photovoltaic power output. When it’s cold, solar cells are more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. Conversely, when PV modules get too hot, they produce less energy.

So many industry experts consider a sunny, cold climate to be ideal for PV system installation.

Solar Panels and Snowy Weather

What about snow? If the ground is covered, photovoltaic power output may increase — the bright white powder can reflect sunlight back to the PV panels, allowing them to harness more of the sun’s energy.

Of course, snow on your PV modules is another story. Anytime a PV system is covered, sunlight can’t reach the panels. When that happens, electricity production stops.

Fortunately, snow doesn’t cover PV modules very often. Solar panels are smooth, and most are installed at an angle. Consequently, snow usually melts and slides away rather quickly. Most of the time, winter snowfall doesn’t cause a noticeable dip in photovoltaic power output.

However, if a huge blizzard hits your area of the Intermountain West, snow could pile up on your PV panels and block energy production. With a snow roof rake — essentially a squeegee on an extension pole — you can easily remove the accumulation without damaging your solar panels.

You don’t have to wait for winter to pass to begin planning your photovoltaic power installation. The sooner your PV modules are up and running, the sooner you’ll begin saving money by generating your own electricity.

Intermountain Wind & Solar offers free consultations to residential and commercial customers in Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado and Idaho. To schedule yours, or for answers to your questions about solar panels, contact us today.

Can You Use Solar Power for a Mobile Home?

Mobile home owners are often interested in solar power, but they wonder if it’s possible with their type of structure.

Yes, people who live in manufactured housing absolutely can go solar. However, PV panel installation for mobile homes is not the same as for most site-built homes.

Use Solar Power for a Mobile Home

Can You Install Rooftop Solar Power Panels on a Mobile Home?

Rooftop solar panels aren’t usually an option for manufactured homes.

Unlike site-built homes, mobile homes aren’t structurally designed to handle a PV panel installation. This type of housing has smaller roof joists, which aren’t strong enough to safely hold the weight of the photovoltaic array. Plus, manufactured homes don’t have permanent concrete foundations for added integrity.

Additionally, local building codes may not allow the installation of rooftop solar power panels on a structure that isn’t permanently embedded in the ground.

How Can a Mobile Home Owner Adopt Solar Power?

So if you can’t install rooftop PV panels on your mobile home, how can you go solar?

You could choose another structure for your rooftop PV panel installation. An enclosed patio, garage or storage shed might have the structural integrity for a photovoltaic array.

If you don’t have another suitable building, you could adopt solar power using a ground-mounted PV installation. In most cases, a ground-mounted photovoltaic system is the smartest option for a manufactured home. And since it can be placed in the most advantageous position, you can expect maximum energy production.

Tips to Boost Mobile Home Solar Power Efficiency

Manufactured homes are often incredibly inefficient, wasting a great amount of energy. Make a few upgrades, and you can lower your energy consumption — a cost-effective strategy for anyone looking to adopt solar power.

According to a study from the U.S. Department of Energy, the most worthwhile mobile home efficiency measures include:

  • Sealing furnace ducts and air leaks
  • Scheduling a furnace tuneup
  • Adding insulation to the underside of the manufactured home
  • Installing interior storm windows
  • Improving attic insulation

Many other upgrades — such as replacing old lightbulbs, adding energy-efficient window coverings and installing a smart thermostat — can also make a difference in your electricity consumption. With an online or professional home energy audit, you can easily discover additional strategies for boosting your solar efficiency.

Are you ready to start saving money with photovoltaic power? The professional contractors at Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s largest and most experienced PV panel installers, work with homeowners throughout Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming. Whether you live in a site-built home or a mobile home, we can help you find the most affordable and efficient way to adopt solar power. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today.

6 Tips for Signing a Solar Contract

Entering into a solar contract is a big financial decision, one that requires careful thought. You’ll be living with your home PV installation choices for a long time, and you don’t want to get burned by a bad deal.

To make sure you get exactly what you want at the right price, check out the solar contract tips below before you sign on the dotted line.

Signing a Solar Contract

No. 1: Get More than One Estimate

Industry experts recommend getting estimates from at least two professional photovoltaic contractors before hiring one. Consulting with different home PV installers is the best way to make sure you get a fair price for a high-quality solar power system that meets your needs.

For an apples-to-apples comparison of your photovoltaic system quotes, ask each contractor for the price per watt based upon the gross PV installation costs.

No. 2: Evaluate the Solar Components Included

Price isn’t everything when it comes to a solar contract — the quality of the home PV components used is just as important.

When you get your estimates, ask the professional photovoltaic contractors for details on the equipment they plan to install. Look for high-quality, proven solar components. Lesser-known brands may be cheaper, but you may pay the price later when those products don’t live up to your expectations.

No. 3: Ask About Cost Projections and Warranties

While home PV components are designed to last, you may have maintenance and operational costs. Every contractor should be willing to provide you with cost projections, as they can impact your bottom line.

Plus, not all professional photovoltaic contractors offer the same warranty coverage. Parts, labor and manufacturer warranties can vary. Before signing a solar contract, you need to have a clear understanding of your coverage.

No. 4: Ask PV Contractors if They Outsource Solar Installation

Are the photovoltaic contractors who provide your estimates the ones who will do your home PV installation? Or do they outsource the work?

You won’t know unless you ask — and the distinction is important. Professional contractors are trained and experienced to complete solar projects. And they’re licensed and certified, so you can trust their work quality. When the photovoltaic installation is outsourced, you have none of those assurances.

No. 5: Don’t Let a Solar Installer Force a Quick Decision

High-pressure sales tactics are common in the solar industry — many photovoltaic installers want homeowners to make on-the-spot decisions.

Regardless of how good an offer seems, don’t let a professional contractor push you into signing a solar contract before you’re ready. Instead, tell them you need time to consider all of your home PV installation offers.

No. 6: Make Sure to Get Everything in Writing

Perhaps most important, never believe emails or verbal promises are part of your legally binding solar contract.

Everything that’s included should be clearly written into your contract. Make sure all the terms and conditions are spelled out before you sign. If it isn’t in the solar contract, it isn’t part of the photovoltaic installation deal.

Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading commercial and home PV installation professionals, provides high-quality service and favorable warranty coverage at an affordable price. Plus, we never outsource any of our work. For a complimentary, hassle-free solar contract consultation, contact us today.

Solar Energy Glossary: 10 Terms to Know Before Going Solar

Are you confused by solar energy terminology? The terms commonly used in the industry can sound jargon-y if you aren’t hip to the lingo.

Check out our photovoltaic glossary for easy-to-understand definitions of 10 of the most common technical terms.

Solar energy glossary

No. 1: Balance of System

Photovoltaic systems need more than solar panels to generate electricity. The balance of system (BOS) refers to everything else involved in a PV array installation. Design, mounting and wiring components, battery storage, operations and all related costs are considered part of the balance of system.

No. 2: Conversion Efficiency

Solar panels aren’t capable of harnessing all the sun’s energy. The conversion efficiency of a photovoltaic panel tells you how much of the solar energy hitting a PV array is converted into useable electricity.

No. 3: Grid-Tied PV System

For electricity when the sun isn’t shining, most photovoltaic systems remain connected to the utility grid. A solar array of this type is called a grid-tied PV system.

No. 4: Hybrid PV System

These days, many grid-tied PV arrays also have backup sources of power, including battery banks, wind turbines and diesel or solar generators. Hybrid PV system is the term used to refer to this type of photovoltaic setup.

No. 5: Interconnection

Connecting a PV array to the utility grid isn’t a simple matter of wiring. Photovoltaic installers also have to meet certain utility and government requirements, fill out the right paperwork and have the solar energy systems inspected to get hooked up to the grid.

No. 6: Inverter

Photovoltaic panels only capture the sun’s energy — they don’t convert it into electricity. For that, you need an inverter. An inverter takes the DC solar energy and turns it AC power, the type needed for electronics and appliances in the United States.

No. 7: Net Metering

When grid-tied solar panels produce more energy than needed, the excess is sent over to the grid for utility company use. Net metering requires the utilities to issue credit for this extra electricity. Net metering laws vary by state, but many states do not even have any.

No. 8: Off-Grid PV System

Not everyone chooses to connect their photovoltaic system to the utility grid — some people rely on battery banks or generators for backup power. This type of solar array is referred to as a stand-alone or off-grid PV system.

No. 9: Peak Sun Hours

Over the course of the day, the amount of solar energy that reaches any particular location varies. Peak sun hours is essentially a calculation of how much time the sun is shining at maximum intensity.

No. 10: Solar Energy Storage

When photovoltaic panels capture extra electricity, the excess can be funneled to the utility grid — or it can be sent to a solar storage system. Battery banks and solar generators are commonly used as electricity storage for hybrid and off-grid PV systems.

Do you need explanations for other photovoltaic industry terminology? The professionals at Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading residential and commercial solar contractor, can give you clear answers. For more information, or to schedule a free solar energy consultation, contact us today.

Should You Mount Your PV Modules on Solar Trackers?

Professional solar contractors typically mount PV modules on fixed-tilt racks. But since the modules face the sun for just a portion of the day, a fixed solar array can result in energy production that is less than optimal.

Will your photovoltaic system create more electricity if your solar panels rotate to follow the sun’s movement? Perhaps, but energy output isn’t the only consideration in choosing a mounting system.


How Do Solar Trackers Work?

Solar trackers move throughout the day in order to stay aligned with the sun’s position in the sky.

Single-axis trackers follow the sun as it moves from east to west. Dual-axis sun tracking systems have two pivot points which allow them to change both the tilt and orientation of the PV modules.

Some trackers have motors or drives activated by electronic light sensors or software readings. Others rotate the solar panels using gravity — when solar heat hits a compressed liquid gas and causes its weight to shift, the PV modules move.

Advantages of Solar Trackers

If you mount PV modules on solar trackers instead of fixed-tilt racks, you can expect greater energy production. According to industry experts, a sun-tracking system can boost output by 20 to 40 percent.

Because of the improved performance, sun trackers are considered better than fixed racks in terms of space efficiency — if you install a tracking system, you won’t need to install as many solar panels.

Drawbacks of Solar Trackers

Sun-tracking systems are effective, but they come with two significant disadvantages.

First is cost. Choosing PV modules with solar trackers comes at a high price. And because of their complexity, trackers take longer to install — which means professional installation labor charges can be higher.

Second, when you mount PV modules on trackers, you’ll have to budget for regular maintenance. Fixed-tilt racks rarely need attention, but solar tracking systems have moving parts. Without proper care to keep them in good shape, the mechanisms can fail.

Deciding How to Mount PV Panels

Should you install a fixed solar array? Or does it make better sense to mount PV panels on sun trackers?

For answers, you’ll need to consult with an experienced professional photovoltaic contractor. No one-size-fits-all answer exists. The decision really comes down to the specifics of your solar installation.

If the increased amount of energy you’ll get by installing solar trackers is enough to compensate for the added installation and maintenance costs over the lifetime of your PV modules, going with a sun tracking system could be a wise financial plan. If not (which is often the case), you’ll be better off with fixed-tilt racks.

As the leading photovoltaic contractors for Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming, the professional team at Intermountain Wind & Solar can give you expert advice on choosing the right mounting system. To learn more about solar trackers or for help in choosing a cost-effective method to mount PV modules, contact us today.