Category Archives: Solar Blogs

How to Prepare for Rooftop Solar Installation

Are you planning a rooftop solar installation?

Your professional photovoltaic contractor will take care of almost everything for you —going solar really couldn’t be much easier. However, by taking a few simple steps, you can streamline the process and start cashing in on the sun’s free energy even faster.

rooftop solar installation

Make Sure Your Roof Is Ready for Solar Installation

Before scheduling a consultation with a professional photovoltaic installer, have a roofer inspect your rooftop. Is it structurally sound and in good condition?

Solar panels are made to last for several decades, so you need to make sure that your roof will last at least that long. Otherwise you could end up having to remove and reinstall your photovoltaic system just to fix a roof leak — a costly endeavor.

If your roof is damaged, now’s the time to have it repaired or replaced. To make sure yours is ready for solar installation, tell your roofer you’re planning to add a solar array and ask for recommendations.

Make Sure Your Trees Are Ready for Solar Installation

Do you have trees around your home? You may love their shade, but trees aren’t friends to your photovoltaic panels. In fact, they are (in many ways) enemies.

If shade from tree branches keeps the sun from reaching your rooftop solar array, your energy output will suffer. Using micro-inverters instead of a string inverter helps minimize this problem, but for maximum solar electricity production, you need to avoid shading whenever possible.

To that end, before calling a local professional photovoltaic installer, call a landscaper or arborist to trim back any branches that could affect your energy output. Or, if you can safely access the offending branches, you may be able to carefully handle the job yourself.

Check with Your Homeowners Association

Do you live in a condominium or townhome development, or in a planned community or subdivision?

If so, your neighborhood is probably governed by a homeowners association (HOA), and you’ll need its approval before beginning a rooftop solar installation.

In many cases, getting the nod from the HOA isn’t difficult. But sometimes, the board puts up a fight (even though this is now illegal in many states). Knowing what you’re up against ahead of time will help you achieve your goal of adopting solar.

Check the community’s CC&Rs or design guidelines and talk to your HOA about your planned rooftop solar installation. Take note of any objections from the board, but your professional photovoltaic contractor should be able to help you address their concerns and get their support.

Are you ready to enjoy big savings with rooftop solar? The professional team at Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading renewable energy system installers, can design an efficient and cost-effective rooftop or ground-mounted photovoltaic system. And we’re here to answer all your questions about planning and financing your project.

Intermountain Wind & Solar offers free consultations to homeowners throughout Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. For expert advice and a high-quality rooftop solar installation, contact us today.

Solar Panel Warranties

What type of coverage does a solar panel warranty provide?

Solar Panel Warranties

Most photovoltaic panels perform without a hitch for decades. However, every now and then, a module may have a problem. Issues aren’t common, and a single damaged panel won’t stop your system’s electricity production. But just in case something happens, it’s helpful to know what’s covered under your warranty.

Solar Panel Equipment Warranty

Solar panels actually have two warranties — a product or equipment warranty, and a performance guarantee.

The photovoltaic panel product warranty covers the construction and integrity of the module. If you notice any manufacturing defects or premature wear and tear of the materials, this warranty should provide coverage.

Most manufacturers offer a 10-year product warranty from the date of solar module installation, though some guarantee their equipment for up to 12 years.

Solar Panel Performance Guarantee

The second solar panel warranty is a guarantee of a certain energy output for a specific time period.

All photovoltaic panels degrade over time, because nothing that is continually exposed to the elements can last forever. But solar modules are designed to degrade quite slowly, losing only a tiny bit of efficiency per year (about 0.07 percent, according to research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory).

The performance warranty ensures that your panels don’t degrade too quickly. In many cases, energy output of at least 90 percent is guaranteed for the first 10 years after installation. And nearly every module performance warranty guarantees solar energy production of at least 80 percent for 25 years.

What About Weather-Related or Accidental Damage?

A solar panel warranty doesn’t cover accidental damage or issues caused by severe weather events.

The good news? Your homeowners insurance will typically cover this type of damage. Because photovoltaic installations are considered home improvement projects, most insurance companies automatically provide coverage for accidental and weather-related damage.

But check with your insurance agent, because not every company offers automatic coverage for photovoltaic panels. And depending upon your policy, your rates could change (many homeowners are happily surprised to see their rates go down after adopting solar power).

If your homeowners insurance doesn’t cover a photovoltaic panel system, you may be able to add a special rider. If that’s not an option, you could either switch to a more solar-friendly insurance company or invest in third-party insurance.

The professionals at Intermountain Wind & Solar — the leading residential and commercial contractor for Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and Colorado — use only the highest-quality solar modules with superior manufacturer’s warranties. Our photovoltaic panels rarely experience problems, but we’re always available to help, if the need should arise. For assistance in understanding your solar panel warranty, contact us today.

How to Calculate the Payback for a Solar Energy System

How long will it take your solar energy system to reach the break-even point?

Some people think that the payback period for photovoltaic panels is well over a decade, but it’s not. Though the return on a solar power investment can vary, most installations start earning a profit in just a few years.

solar energy system

But you don’t have to take our word for it. With a little simple math, you can calculate your own solar payback period.

Determine the Total Solar Energy System Cost

First, you need to figure out your photovoltaic system cost.

Add up the price for your solar energy installation — include the photovoltaic panels, inverters, mounting components, wiring costs, labor expenses, financing charges and permit fees. Let’s say your total is $16,000.

Next, add up what you’ll get back from financial incentives for switching to solar energy. Federal, state and local tax credits, rebates and grants can bring thousands in savings. For an easy example, let’s say your incentives total $7,000.

Now, subtract the solar incentives from the total price:

$16,000 – $7,000 = $9,000

So the actual cost for your PV system would be $9,000.

Figure Out Your Yearly Electricity Savings

Before installing your solar energy system, how much did you spend on electricity each year?

Total the amounts of your electricity bills for the last 12 months to get your yearly total. Most homeowners pay just over $114 per month, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. So for our example, we’ll use the national average — that’s a total of $1,368 for the year.

Of course, your actual energy savings will depend upon the percentage of your home’s electricity your solar array provides. For instance, if yours is sized to cover 80 percent of your energy consumption, your savings will be 80 percent of your yearly total. Using our example:

$1,368 (yearly energy costs) × 0.80 (generation capacity) = $1,094.40

To determine your annual savings, plug your own numbers for energy costs and generation capacity into the equation.

Calculate the Solar Energy System Payback Period

The last step in figuring when your PV system will begin to pay off in profits involves a bit more math.

Take your total photovoltaic installation cost and divide by your annual energy savings to calculate the number of years for solar payback. Using our example:

$9,000 ÷ $1,368 = 6.58 years 

Or for a system sized to provide 80 percent of the home energy consumption:

$9,000 ÷ $1094.40 = 8.22 years

Keep in mind, however, that everyone has a different set of data. Several factors — including the solar radiation in your location and the exact energy output from your photovoltaic panels — can affect your PV payback period.

The best way to find out the return you can expect on a photovoltaic investment is to consult with a local expert. Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading photovoltaic professionals, offers free consultations to home and business owners throughout Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming.

For answers to all your questions about installing a solar energy system, contact us today.

The Sun is Setting on the Utah Solar Tax Credit

The Utah solar tax credit is unfortunately coming to an end soon.

Utah Solar Tax Credit

Just like the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), this state-level financial incentive for installing a home photovoltaic system is being phased out over the next few years. So that means you have to act quickly if you still hope to take advantage of it.

2017 Is the Last Year for the Maximum State Tax Credit

The Utah solar tax credit allows you to claim up to 25 percent of your total home PV system and installation costs or $2,000, whichever is greater. And you can claim this credit on more than one system, as long as each is used to power a home that you own.

But the only way to qualify for this impressive total is to get your photovoltaic system up and running by the end of the year. Solar installations completed after Dec. 31, 2017, aren’t eligible for the full $2,000.

Utah State Tax Credit Will Be Gone After 2021

Let’s say you miss the deadline. How much will your Utah ITC credit be? Basically, the amount drops by $400 per year.

So if you install your home PV system by the end of 2018, you’ll be able to claim a maximum of $1,600. Wait another year, and the Utah state credit amount falls further. Photovoltaic installations completed by Dec. 31, 2019, are eligible for just $1,200.

And on it goes. Install your solar energy system by the end of 2020, and you can claim up to $800. For home PV installations completed in 2021, the Utah state ITC is limited to $400.

As the policy stands, home solar energy systems installed after Dec. 31, 2021, will not be eligible for a Utah solar tax credit.

Why Utah Residents Who Want to Go Solar Should Act Fast

If you want to claim the maximum $2,000 Utah solar ITC, you’ll need to schedule your photovoltaic installation now. From start to finish, home PV projects can take a few months.

But qualifying for the credit isn’t the only reason to rush your photovoltaic project.

The Utah solar industry has been under fire before. Just last November, the Rocky Mountain Power utility company proposed billing changes for solar customers. Their new rates, demand charges and net metering fees would limit the financial benefits of switching to photovoltaic power.

The Utah Public Service Commission has suspended Rocky Mountain Power’s proposal, but that’s no guarantee the plan won’t be adopted, at least in some form. Install your home PV system now, and you may be eligible for grandfathered rates.

Are you ready to start planning your PV installation? The professional team at Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading home and business photovoltaic provider, can help you claim every available financial incentive, including the Utah solar tax credit. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today.

Going Solar? Check Out These Helpful Resources.

Going solar is a big decision, one that requires careful thought.

If you’re considering a photovoltaic panel installation, you probably have a lot of questions. But remember: Not everything you read online is true. To make the most informed decision, it’s important that you have facts and verified information from a source you can trust.

solar-resources

To that end, we’ve compiled the best, most reliable resources for learning about going solar.

General Information on Going Solar

Do you want to understand how photovoltaic panels generate electricity? Are you looking for general information about making the switch to solar power?

Several websites offer accurate and unbiased answers to these types of questions. These are a few of the best.

Online Tools that Evaluate Your Rooftop Solar Potential

Would you like to know how well-suited your property is for a photovoltaic panel installation? Online tools can give you an overall view of how solar power will work at your address. Try the following sites:

  • Mapdwell — Created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this tool uses state-of-the art technology and high-resolution satellite imagery to evaluate rooftop solar potential.
  • Project Sunroof — Google’s online tool uses the power of Google Maps and the company’s vast computing resources to calculate solar potential.
  • PVWatts — Developed by the NREL, this solar calculator uses high-level algorithms to estimate the energy production and cost of a photovoltaic panel system.

Discover Financial Incentives for Going Solar

Switching to photovoltaic power is affordable — if you know how to find the financial incentives that can save you thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, you don’t have to hunt for the savings yourself. Simply head to DSIRE, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Click on your state, and you’ll get a list of every available federal, state and local tax credit, rebate and grant for photovoltaic panel installations.

Because the website is funded by the DOE, you can trust DSIRE’s results to be current, accurate and complete.

The Best Resource for Personal Advice on Going Solar

Do you have more questions, or do you need a more personalized approach than searching for information online?

The best resource is your professional photovoltaic contractor. An experienced installer can help you understand all the ins and outs of going solar. Simply schedule a free consultation, and you can find out everything you need to know about switching to photovoltaic power.

If you live in Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada or Wyoming, the professional team at Intermountain Wind & Solar can help you plan a cost-effective, energy-efficient photovoltaic panel system to power your home or business. Contact us today to learn everything you need to know about going solar.

When Does the Federal Solar Tax Credit Expire?

The federal solar tax credit is by far the most lucrative financial incentive for making the switch to photovoltaic power. The savings are substantial — homeowners and businesses can reduce their income tax liability by 30 percent of their PV system and installation costs.

However, the solar investment tax credit (ITC) isn’t going to be around forever. That’s why it is important for potential solar adopters to learn more about when it expires and what any changes to the program could mean for your photovoltaic installation.

federal-solar-tax-credit-2017

Federal Solar ITC Phasedown Plan

As it stands, the solar tax credit will continue to offer 30 percent savings until the end of 2019. For residential and commercial photovoltaic systems put in service after that, the credit amount won’t be quite as generous.

Solar installations completed in 2020 will be eligible for a 26 percent credit, and PV systems that become operational in 2021 will qualify for 22 percent.

After 2021, the ITC is slated to expire for homeowners.

This means that any residential PV system placed in service Jan. 1, 2022, or later won’t benefit from the federal tax credit. Commercial photovoltaic systems can still claim the ITC, but it will only be 10 percent.

Putting the Numbers in Perspective

With a little math, we can demonstrate the effect of the changes in the solar ITC.

Let’s say a PV system comes in at a net price of $30,000. With the full 30 percent ITC, the credit would be a rather impressive $9,000.

Now, imagine that same PV system installed in 2020. The tax credit has dropped to 26 percent, so the tax liability reduction would be $7,800.

If the solar PV system isn’t placed into service until 2021, when the credit drops to 22 percent, the ITC will be worth just $6,600.

After the end of 2021, the federal solar ITC for a $30,000 commercial photovoltaic installation will drop to only $3,000. And forget about a credit for a residential PV system — that financial incentive will be gone.

Schedule Your PV System Installation Now

If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on the federal solar tax credit, you need to schedule your photovoltaic installation soon.

As the solar ITC nears its expiration date, homeowners and businesses will be in a hurry to get their projects completed in time — and that will keep professional photovoltaic contractors busy. Plan your PV installation now, and you won’t have to worry about tight schedules and longer project timelines.

Remember, there is no guarantee that the solar ITC phasedown plan won’t change. The government is already planning a tax system overhaul. This makes the future of the ITC uncertain.

Now is definitely the right time to start planning your switch to photovoltaic power.

Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s preferred residential and commercial solar contractor, offers free consultations to homeowners and businesses throughout Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. Contact us today to learn more about claiming the federal solar tax credit for your PV system.

Can You Take Your Solar Panels with You if You Move?

Should you install solar panels if you’re thinking about moving in a few years?

And if you decide to move, are you supposed to leave your solar array behind, or can you remove the photovoltaic panels and reinstall them at your new home?

Solar Panels

Yes, you can relocate solar panels; but you may not want to.

Removing Solar Panels Can Leave a Mess

Photovoltaic panels are tightly secured to the roof. In fact, the mounting components are literally screwed into the surface.

Taking away the solar array leaves holes in the roof. And while you might not be able to see these holes from the ground, the penetrations can create problems for the next homeowner. This is particularly true if the holes aren’t filled and sealed against future leaks.

Also, if you remove the PV array, you may notice a difference in the color of the roofing underneath compared to the rest of the roof. The parts of roof that were exposed to the sun are likely to be more faded than the parts that were shaded by your PV panels.

You also must consider the inverter and monitor. As these components are typically mounted on the wall, removing them may leave a gaping hole in the wall.

Removal and Reinstallation Can Be Expensive

Aside from the mess, trying to take your solar panels with you when you move can be costly, even before you consider the labor and permitting costs.

If your new home has a different kind of roof than your previous address, you may need different components to mount your solar array. If so, you’ll have to buy new racks and mounting hardware.

In addition, your photovoltaic panels may not be adequate for the electricity your household needs at your new home. Although you can add new modules to a PV system, it may get expensive if you need a different inverter or if your solar panels are no longer available.

Won’t Leaving Solar Panels Behind Negate Your Savings?

Probably not.

Today’s home buyers are willing to pay more for solar-powered homes — an average of $15,000 more, as compared to similar utility-powered homes.

To put that into perspective, consider the average price for a home PV system in the U.S. According to EnergySage, an informational website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the gross cost for a typical 5 kW solar array is only about $16,800.

And that’s the total average cost before figuring in the federal solar tax credit or any state and local grants, rebates and credits. Most homeowners have overall costs of less than $14,000. So, you could actually end up ahead by leaving your solar array in place when you move!

The professional team at Intermountain Wind & Solar, serving Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming, is the premier provider of residential and commercial photovoltaic installations in the Intermountain West region. For answers to all of your questions about solar panels, contact us today.

Installing a Solar PV System on a Tile Roof

Although a solar PV system can be installed on any type of roof, tile roofing materials make the process slightly more complicated.

Before undertaking a solar installation, you may need to give your roof a little attention to ensure you won’t have problems down the road.

Solar PV system on tile roof

Consider Your Roof Underlayment

Roof tiles can last for 50 to 75 years. But the roof underlayment — the barrier that protects your home against water infiltration — does not have the same durability.

Underlayment loses its integrity faster, decomposing due to exposure to heat, UV rays and moisture. Most homeowners have to replace their tile roof underlayment in less than 25 years, and some need replacement in as little as 15 years.

Most solar panels come with a 25-year warranty, and they often perform well for much longer. So before scheduling a solar PV installation, make sure your roof underlayment is in decent shape. If it isn’t, you may want to consider replacing it now, to ensure that the entire roofing system lasts as long as your solar array.

Expect Roof Tiles to Break

If you have ever worked on a tile roof, you may know that virtually every project results in a few broken tiles. This durable roofing material is strong, but it cracks easily if walked on.

An experienced photovoltaic contractor can install your solar panels with minimal breakage, but expect some tiles to break. Fortunately, the damage can be hidden.

Tile adhesive can repair small cracks. In areas with larger breaks, the tiles can be replaced.

Since newer tiles may not be an exact color match, your photovoltaic contractor can work a little roofing magic. The different-color tiles can be moved to less visible areas of the roof, and original tiles relocated to more noticeable areas.

Solar PV Mounting Options for a Tile Roof

Photovoltaic contractors typically choose one of three options for mounting solar PV panels on a tile roof.

Standoffs with double flashing are the most commonly used method, as this type of PV system mounting allows for the use of different solar racking systems. Also, standoff mounts are stronger because they are secured to both the rafter and the rack.

Tile hooks are suitable for some solar PV system installations. These attachments are faster, easier and less expensive to use, as they have fewer parts. However, hooks won’t work with every type of roof tile.

In some cases, the strip-and-go method is the preferred option for installing solar panels. With this type of mounting, tiles at the installation area are removed and replaced with composition shingles. Original tiles are then placed around the PV system, concealing the change in the rooftop surface.

The appropriate choice of mounting is determined on a case-by-case basis, once the installation contractor evaluates the roof.

Intermountain Wind & Solar, serving homeowners and businesses throughout Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming, understands the challenges of installing solar panels on a tile roof. Schedule a free consultation today to explore adding a solar PV system at your location.

Is Net Metering a Reason to Rush Your Solar Installation?

Net metering is a powerful motivation for many solar adopters. The prospect of offsetting your energy costs by selling extra solar power back to the grid, especially when you consider today’s ever-rising electricity bills, can be reason enough to consider installing a home PV system.

net metering

Unfortunately, net energy metering (NEM) is not offered everywhere. Policies governing the practice have been under attack across the country, and many states are allowing utility companies to change or eliminate this financial incentive.

Today, the future of net metering is uncertain.

How Net Metering Works

Net energy metering rules compel the utility company to give you credit when your home PV system sends solar electricity to the grid.

Some states — including Colorado, Utah and Wyoming — have retail rate NEM policies. Homeowners in these states are credited on a one-to-one basis, getting paid for their excess solar power at a rate equal to what they pay for utility grid electricity. Some policies, however, have expiration dates or credit reductions at the end of the year.

In other parts of the country, net energy metering policies allow utility companies to pay homeowners a reduced wholesale rate. And in some states (like Idaho) the utilities offer a similar financial incentive for a solar installation, but NEM isn’t mandated by law there.

How Net Metering Is Changing

As we’ve seen recently in Nevada, NEM policies are never set in stone. At the end of 2015, Nevada made drastic cuts to compensation for home PV system owners. Then, this past June, net metering rates were restored close to the retail level.

Nevada isn’t the only state where NEM is under debate. According to the latest 50 States of Solar report from the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, 21 states took actions related to net energy metering in the first quarter of 2017.

It appears that even more regulatory changes are on the horizon. As of mid-April 2017, at least 65 bills related to NEM policies have been introduced in state legislatures.

Can Your Solar Energy System Reach Payback without Net Metering?

Fortunately, solar adopters don’t need a NEM program to save money. Even if you live in a state that eliminates or reduces the rate for net energy metering, most PV solar energy systems will reach the point of payback in a reasonable amount of time.

Certainly NEM allows for a faster payback, but your investment in solar power will definitely pay off without it.

With a solar installation sized to meet your household energy needs, you won’t need much utility grid electricity. So the money you save each month with electricity from your home PV system will add up quickly. Many homeowners save well over $1,000 per year or more.

Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading photovoltaic contractor, can design a cost-effective home PV system that meets your money-saving goals, regardless of your state’s net metering policy. If you live in Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming or Nevada, contact us today to schedule a free home solar installation consultation.

Solar Panel Efficiency — Understanding STC and PTC Ratings

Are you comparing solar panel options? Efficiency — the panels’ ability to convert sunlight into energy — is a feature you should consider.

Before putting photovoltaic panels on the consumer marketplace, manufacturers test them and assign power ratings that indicate panel energy output (in watts). As you look at solar panel efficiency specifications, you’ll see both STC and PTC ratings.

solar panel efficiency

But what are these measurements, and what do they really mean in terms of a real-world PV installation?

What Are Solar Panel STC Ratings?

If you want an easy way to compare the efficiency of one solar panel to another, look for the STC rating.

Standard Test Conditions (STC) refers to the fixed set of laboratory conditions under which every solar module is tested. Manufacturers use STC testing to ensure that photovoltaic panels with similar energy output can be sold and used together.

The STC rating of a solar module is determined by carefully controlling light and temperature in the testing environment.

The light source in the laboratory is calibrated so that precisely 1,000 watts per square meter of solar light falls on the photovoltaic panel. The temperature of the solar cells and the ambient room temperature are both set at 77 degrees.

STC ratings are always higher than PTC, because they are based on the modules’ instant output under ideal conditions.

What Are Solar Panel PTC Ratings?

If you want to know how photovoltaic panels will perform in the real world, look for their PTC ratings.

In the 1990s, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed a set of PV test parameters designed to mimic real-life atmospheric conditions. The Photovoltaics for Utility Scale Application Test Conditions, or PTC, is significantly different than the STC testing protocols.

Under PTC, lighting conditions are the same as the STC, but the solar module is heated to a more realistic operating temperature of 113 degrees. In addition, the ambient temperature in the laboratory is set at 68 degrees. Finally, since photovoltaic modules in the real world are exposed to wind, PTC testing keeps the air moving at 2.2 mph.

Generally, if no PTC value is listed in the specifications for a photovoltaic panel, you can expect it to be about 10 to 15 percent less efficient than the STC rating.

Factors that Affect Solar Panel Efficiency

Although PTC ratings offer a realistic view of photovoltaic output, they don’t indicate exact energy production. Several specific factors — known as derate factors — can reduce the amount of solar electricity created by a PV system.

Some factors, like shading on the photovoltaic panels, can be eliminated through the PV installation process. Other factors, including energy conversion losses, wiring inefficiencies and module heating, are unavoidable. Overall, derate factors typically decrease solar panel efficiency by about 14 percent.

It is important to note that module efficiency ratings reflect system performance in the “perfect world” of the lab environment. The decrease in efficiency between the lab and your roof is a little like the actual miles-per-gallon you get in your car, compared to the window sticker ratings. The primary value of these ratings is for comparing modules and choosing the best options for your system.

An experienced photovoltaic contractor can design and install a PV system that maximizes your energy production, whatever your needs. Intermountain Wind & Solar offers free consultations to homeowners and businesses throughout Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Nevada. Contact us today to learn more about solar panel efficiency.