How to Vet a Potential Solar Installer During a Phone Call

In recent interviews with Modernize, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to help them find and vet contractors. One of the most important steps of that process is your first phone call with a potential contractor, during which you will vet this contractor against the others you’re considering. While finding someone you feel comfortable talking to is significant, it’s not all an abstract exercise. There are some questions you should definitely ask during this phone call to be sure you’ve covered foundational bases before moving forward with a solar contractor.

Use the question guide below and adjust it to your own circumstances to ensure you get everything you need from your solar installer vetting phone call.

How long has the solar installer been in business?

Simply put, the solar contractor’s experience is tantamount to good work. Years of experience could mean local expertise and technical knowledge that will elevate the quality of your installation. Less experience isn’t necessarily bad or telling of a low-quality installation, but it does mean the rates and warranties should be lower, leaving you room to negotiate on pricing.

How much experience does the contractor have with solar panel installation or incentives?

When it comes to solar energy, existing financial incentives could further increase your savings after installing solar panels. Be sure to ask your contractor for an individualized assessment of your solar panel installation. A trustworthy contractor will examine your current utility bill and study the physical properties and opportunities your house presents — like local, regional, or federal financial incentives — to best save you money after installing solar panels for your home.

What is the solar installer’s project estimate — what happens if it changes?

Once you have an estimate of the project’s tentative costs and duration in your hands, you need to understand how it was conceived and what happens if anything in it changes. Be sure to get clarity on these details and don’t be shy to ask for an explanation if you feel you don’t fully understand something.

Agree that any unexpected project expenses will be presented in writing. Surprises, in other words, shouldn’t surprise you or your contractor, and they should definitely not surprise your investment.

Can the solar contractor provide a list of references?

While this solar installation could stay with you (or at least your house) for decades, it will also build, or continue to build, their reputation into a prosperous business. Ask the contractor for testimonials from past clients and don’t feel shy to ask for contact information so you can call those references yourself and get a take on what their experience was like.

Connect with trusted an estimate of the project’s tentative costs in your area with Modernize. This is an important investment you’re making, and the more information you have about the company you’re giving your hard earned money to, the better.

Can the solar installation company provide proof of insurance for personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage?

When home improvement projects result in accidents, you want to be sure your family, your house, and all the people involved are safe and taken care of. You want to rest assured that your contractor is fully insured for personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage. Even with a clean slate of past accidents, it only takes one to harm your project’s outcome and, more importantly, your personal savings.

Warranties will also impact your quoted cost. Most installers offer manufacturer’s warranties that protect you from faulty equipment. Some might offer additional guarantees for the installation, as well, covering potential damage to your house. Be sure the quoted warranty is clear in what it covers—and in what it doesn’t.

The an estimate of the project’s tentative costs will help you vet a trusted contractor, so you can relax knowing your solar panel project is in good hands. You can access the interactive checklist by visiting the Modernize Resource Center or by an estimate of the project’s tentative costs.

The post How to Vet a Potential Solar Installer During a Phone Call appeared first on Modernize.

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A bipartisan group of
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How Solar Panels Improve Your Home’s Value

Perhaps one of the most common questions asked by homeowners who are considering solar panels is, do solar panels improve your home’s value? The short answer is: Yes, they do! According to research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, solar panels can add an average of $ 18,324 to the value of a medium-sized home. In addition, they found that homes with solar panels sell about 20 percent faster, on average.

Of course, determining if solar panels are right for your home’s value depends on several other factors. Below are some common considerations to take into account on the value solar panels will add to your home:

Financial Value of Installing Solar Panels

To get a better idea of just how much solar panels improve home value, EnergySage and Sandia National Laboratories conducted a study of home solar value in 15 U.S. cities. In the majority of cities, solar panel systems garnered increased home values of at least 80 percent of their price and installation costs. In comparison, EnergySage found that homeowners only saw a 68 percent return on investment after a major kitchen renovation. And as the price of solar installation continues to fall, more and more homeowners will find that they not only recoup their original investment, but actually earn more upon resale.

And just another way that solar is a safe bet: Homeowners need not worry about paying off their solar panel systems before selling their home. The bottom line home value increase, should you decide to sell, means you should be able to recoup your investment even if your system hasn’t paid for itself yet.

Why do solar panels improve home value? Just look at the cost of your energy bill. Your potential home buyers will be able to save so much on their energy bills that the increased home premium will be a no-brainer.

Will Solar Panels Add Value To Your Home?

The amount of value that solar panels will add to your home depends on several factors. An experienced, local solar contractor can help you determine if your home is right for solar, based on your roof’s orientation, shingle material, and shape. Other determining factors about solar panels’ value include:

Your Home’s Location
Installations in active solar markets typically yield higher returns than those in less developed markets. An active solar market is an area of the country that receives ample sunlight, has high solar installation rates and has local government incentives like property tax exemptions or energy rebates. The most active solar markets are California, Arizona, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Colorado, and Texas.

If you don’t live in one of the most active solar markets, don’t worry. With solar technology improving daily, more and more homes all over the country are having solar panels installed. There are also solar panels that operate efficiently during snow and cloudy weather. For this reason, solar panels are attractive home additions to potential buyers all over the country.

The Size of Your Solar Installation
Property value increases are directly proportional to the capacity (and quality) of solar panels installed. In order for them to improve your home’s value, the capacity of solar panels on the property should be proportional to the size of your home. For example, a 4,000 square foot home should have more solar panels than a 1,000 square foot home. Use our solar panel resources to see how large your solar panel system should be.

Will You Own or Lease Your Solar Panels?
Choosing to own the solar panels you install on your home, versus leasing them, is the best option to increase the value of your home. If you do choose to lease your solar panels, they may still add resale value. Show potential buyers the amount of money they can save by using solar, and you can possibly negotiate to add the leased solar panels to the cost of your home.

Curb Appeal, Warranties, and Other Concerns About Solar Panel Value

Many homeowners are interested in solar power, but have held out because of concerns about curb appeal. However, new innovations in solar panels are rapidly making them more visually appealing. Today’s solar panels are smaller, sleeker and offer increased flexibility of configuration. And depending on your roof’s pitch, today’s panels can appear barely-there. Another option, depending on the area of the country in which you live, are roofs with solar shingles. These solar shingles can blend into the architecture of a home and that of surrounding homes. If you have any concerns about solar panels and curb appeal, let your solar contractor know. They will likely be able to find an option that meshes well with your preferred aesthetic.

Homeowners also fear that they will be on their own if something goes wrong with their solar panel system. However, as with any major home renovation, you can allay those fears by ensuring your solar panels have proper manufacturer and installer warranties included. These warranties should give you peace of mind. And unlike other parts of your home, a solar panel system has no moving parts that will wear out over time, and they typically require little maintenance or repair.

In short, solar panel installation is an investment that will provide a significant increase in your home’s value. If you’re interested in reaping the financial and environmental benefits of a solar-powered home, our tools can help you get started.

The post How Solar Panels Improve Your Home’s Value appeared first on Modernize.

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Texas: A Guide to Residential Solar Energy

Texas is the third fastest-growing solar energy leader in the United States, according to the Houston Chronicle, which reported separately that Texas solar is “on a roll” in its projected growth over the coming decade.

That is just one of the ways whereby Texas solar panels have seen a positive response and rise in recent years. As of the end of 2018, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranked the state sixth in the country — less than a percent of the state’s electricity is derived from solar energy but the sheer size of Texas means that statistic is still resounding. Additionally, SEIA ranks Texas third in the nation in projecting its growth over the next five years.

The solar panel systems and installation market in Texas has exploded since 2013. Chart via the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Indeed, increased competition in the state since 2013—and the nature of the market on a national scale—means residents are primed for home value increases if they install solar panels in Texas. And when it comes to home value, researchers project the value of a home increases up to $ 15,000 on average, according to the Berkley Lab, one of the federal government’s national renewable energy laboratories. That doesn’t even take into consideration the massive savings solar paneling affords homeowners—or seasonal price fluctuations that make winter a possibly perfect time for your solar home improvement project.

Like every other state, the installation of Texas solar panels is aided by a unique set of incentives, benefits, and challenges when it comes to investing in solar panels for houses. Read our residential guide to understand what you should know as a homeowner as you look for the best contractor to install solar panel systems under the Lone Star State’s nourishing sun.

A well-informed and reliable contractor will go over each detail of your installation with you, from expected savings to increases in home value. At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. In our recent interviews, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to help them find and vet contractors. Modernize now offers homeowners a free, digital Contractor Checklist as a simple, step-by-step guide to assist with your solar panel project.

Austin, TX: Solar Energy Success Stories

Chris and Krista live in West Austin, Texas, with their two children. They installed solar roof panels on their home as a way to save money on their utility bills.

“It cut our electricity cuts in half,” Chris said about their home improvement project. “I like watching the meter go backward,” Krista quipped.

Solar Customers – Chris and Krista from Solar Austin on Vimeo.

And they’re far from the only Texas solar energy customers glad about their investment. Learn more here.

Indeed, solar panels have a sizeable effect on utility bills. Texas residents can expect to save nearly close to $ 14,000 over 20 years.

Keep in mind this data serves as guidance for your journey to home improvement. Use it during your conversation with contractors in your area. Ask for this level of detail in your estimates and if jargon or complex wording seems confusing, ask for clarification.

A trusted contractor will be glad for the opportunity to explain what everything means and, more importantly, what it specifically means to you. When it comes to Texas’s solar energy, existing financial incentives (and policy) only make it more lucrative for you to sustainably increase your property value.

Texas Solar Panels: Incentives, Rebates, and Other Savings

There are currently nearly more than 115 incentives for homeowners to increase the value of their property by installing solar panels for houses in Texas. Find details about each program at the state’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).

If you’re lucky, your city might even pay you to install solar panels.

“The city of Georgetown wants to start paying property owners to let the city-owned utility install solar panels on their roofs and feed the energy into the broader power grid,” reported a Texas NBC News affiliate. “The money would come either in the form of lease payments or royalties paid to eligible residential and commercial property owners.” If you’re not so lucky with your Texas solar panels, read on.

Solid contractors installing solar panels in Texas will be able to provide a list of applicable costs savings measures and help you navigate applying for and getting the most out of them. Learn enough to have a foundational understanding of these programs to best talk to your solar contractor about them once you’ve vetted and chosen one.

Renewable Energy Systems Property Tax Exemption

Installing solar paneling for homes will increase property value for homeowners who have invested in their houses, and Texas is investing right back in them. Texas homeowners are exempt from paying taxes on the increased value of their home after installing solar panels, whether for general electrical needs, solar heating, or otherwise. And that’s a full exclusion, covering “100 percent of the appraised property value increase arising from the installation or construction of a solar or wind-powered energy device.”

Find all the details at DSIRE’s profile for the program.

Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing

Since 2009, the Texas legislature decided to make it easier for homeowners to “to borrow money to pay for energy improvements.” The details and implementation of this financing is not simple, and we recommend you get specific advice from a trusted contractor about getting it in order.  

Not all projects for Texas solar panels require financing, and you should decide the best way to pay for your project based on your needs and your budget. If you have questions about the best way to approach making this decision, consult your local contractor, who will assess your house and upcoming project and provide a few options to pay for it.

Find all the details at DSIRE’s profile for the program.

Other Texas-specific solar energy programs include:

Of course, you want to get the most out of local programs as well as federal ones, like the temporary Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which applies to up to 30 percent of your installation. It is important to note that this federal credit is for systems placed in service by 12/31/2019. Solar Energy International reports that a typical five-kilowatt solar system installation in September 2018 would’ve dropped from $ 15,428 to $ 10,800 after the rebate is applied—but keep in mind its value is dropping and the credit could be completely gone by the early 2020s. Consult your contractor about this and other available credits and incentives to ensure your investment in the long-term value of your property is as easy on your current assets as possible.

That’s why you’ll want to find a contractor you can trust—a local professional who can get the job done and assist you with navigating local policy and regulation. The Modernize Contractor Checklist will help you vet a trusted contractor, so you can relax knowing your solar panel project is in good hands.

The post Texas: A Guide to Residential Solar Energy appeared first on Modernize.

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Google is building a solar power project above fishing ponds in Taiwan, its first in Asia

Google is the biggest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world, and now the technology giant is building its first solar power project in Asia, directly above fishing ponds in Taiwan.
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New Jersey: A Guide to Residential Solar Energy

Despite falling into a bucket of states that still largely rely on nuclear energy, New Jersey has been pushing serious legislation and incentives to promote its clean energy goals. In summer 2018, for example, the state signed into law “a suite of legislation” that “vaults it into the ranks of top US climate leaders,” reported Vox.com. As of the end of 2018, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranked the state fifth in the country — approximately four percent of the state’s energy comes from solar. Additionally, SEIA ranks New Jersey 11th in the nation in projecting its growth over the next five years.

The solar panel systems and installation market in New Jersey has exploded since 2015. Chart via the Solar Energy Industries Association

Indeed, increased competition in the state since 2015—and the nature of the market on a national scale—means residents are primed for home value increases if they install solar panels in New Jersey. And when it comes to home value, researchers project the value of a home increases up to $ 15,000 on average, according to the Berkley Lab, one of the federal government’s national renewable energy laboratories. That doesn’t even take into consideration the massive savings solar paneling affords homeowners—or seasonal price fluctuations that make winter a possibly perfect time for your solar home improvement project.

Like every other state, New Jersey has a unique set of incentives, benefits, and challenges when it comes to investing in solar panels for houses. Read our residential guide to understand what you should know as a homeowner as you look for the best contractor to install solar roof panels under the Garden State’s nourishing sun.

A well-informed and reliable contractor will go over each detail of your installation with you, from expected savings to increases in home value. At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. In our recent interviews, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to help them find and vet contractors. Modernize now offers homeowners a free, digital Contractor Checklist as a simple, step-by-step guide to assist with your solar panel project.

Flemington, NJ: Solar Energy Success Stories

Ed Jenks was so excited for his home to reach a net-zero energy cost that he started a blog to document his journey.

On top of securing his house against energy deficiencies, Jenks had his solar system up and running by the end of 2018, beginning and completing his project during the colder months of the year, which means the Jenks family will be ahead of the game when the warmer months hit the region. Notably, Jenks utilized both federal programs and local ones like New Jersey’s Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) Registration Program (which we detail further down), rewarding his house based on its solar energy output.

Ed Jenks outfitted his New Jersey home with solar paneling and other renewable energy efficiencies, relying on federal and state incentives and advice from local contractors. Source: Ed Jenks’s personal blog about renewable energy.

“NJ is a great state for renewable energy.” Jenks wrote. “This June [a SREC] was selling for $ 290 each. I should get 7 SRECs a year. The price varies but I should get around $ 2,000 a year.”

Indeed, solar panels have a sizeable effect on utility bills. New Jersey residents can expect to save nearly close to $ 20,000 over 20 years.

Keep in mind this data serves as guidance for your journey to home improvement. Use it during your conversation with contractors in your area. Ask for this level of detail in your estimates and if jargon or complex wording seems confusing, ask for clarification. A trusted contractor will be glad for the opportunity to explain what everything means and, more importantly, what it specifically means to you.

When it comes to New Jersey’s solar energy, for example, existing financial incentives (like the SREC) only make it more lucrative for you to sustainably increase your property value.

New Jersey Solar Panels: Incentives, Rebates, and Other Savings

There are currently nearly 100 incentives for homeowners to increase the value of their property by installing solar panels for houses in New Jersey. Find details about each program at the state’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE). Solid contractors installing solar panels in New Jersey will be able to provide a list of applicable costs savings measures and help you navigate applying for and getting the most out of them. Learn enough to have a foundational understanding of these programs to best talk to your contractor about them once you’ve vetted and chosen one.

Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) Registration Program

Installing solar paneling for homes will increase property value for homeowners who have invested in their houses, and New Jersey is investing right back in them. For the first 10 to 15 years after installing solar panel systems, the state essentially allows residents to sell the renewable energy milestones they hit to companies or private entities who must meet certain clean energy quotas under newly passed state law. In other words, when commercial buildings can’t reach their state-imposed goals, they will turn to you for credits to reach those goals, and pay for your own clean energy generation — it’s essentially a bartering system and you can passively earn the goods needed to trade in it

Find all the details at DSIRE’s profile for the program.

Net Metering

Since 2008, if your New Jersey solar panels collect more energy than you use, you can sell your excess energy back to your energy provider.

They have to credit you for it—in other words, you are selling them the energy collected by the solar panels powering your home. And the credits “are credited at the wholesale rate at the end of a designated annualized period.”

Find all the details at DSIRE’s profile for the program.

Other New Jersey-specific solar energy programs include:

Of course, you want to get the most out of local programs as well as federal ones, like the temporary Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which applies to up to 30 percent of your installation. It is important to note that this federal credit is for systems placed in service by 12/31/2019. Solar Energy International reports that a typical five-kilowatt solar system installation in September 2018 would’ve dropped from $ 15,428 to $ 10,800 after the rebate is applied—but keep in mind its value is dropping and the credit could be completely gone by the early 2020s. Consult your contractor about this and other available credits and incentives to ensure your investment in the long-term value of your property is as easy on your current assets as possible.

That’s why you’ll want to find a contractor you can trust—a local professional who can get the job done and assist you with navigating local policy and regulation. The Modernize Contractor Checklist will help you vet a trusted contractor, so you can relax knowing your solar panel project is in good hands.

The post New Jersey: A Guide to Residential Solar Energy appeared first on Modernize.

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Arizona: A Guide to Residential Solar Energy

The Arizona Supreme Court has made it much more affordable for homeowners to turn to solar paneling to power their homes. In a recent ruling that affects anyone leasing solar panels in 2019 and beyond, the court “spared tens of thousands of homeowners who lease rooftop solar panels from paying property taxes to the state on that equipment,” according to USA Today’s azcentral.com. Homeowners who bought or financed their solar panels haven’t had to pay taxes on those investments since 2006.

That is just one of the ways in the installation of solar panels in Arizona has seen a positive response and rise in recent years. As of the end of 2018, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranked the state third in the country — nearly 7 percent of the state’s energy comes from solar. Additionally, SEIA ranks Arizona seventh in the nation in projecting its growth over the next five years.

The solar panel systems and installation market in Arizona has exploded since 2012. Chart via the Solar Energy Industries Association

Indeed, increased competition in the state since 2012—and the nature of the market on a national scale—means residents are primed for home value increases if they install solar panels in Arizona. And when it comes to home value, researchers project the value of a home increases up to $ 15,000 on average, according to the Berkley Lab, one of the federal government’s national renewable energy laboratories. That doesn’t even take into consideration the massive savings solar paneling affords homeowners—or seasonal price fluctuations that make winter a possibly perfect time for your solar home improvement project.

Like every other state, Arizona has a unique set of incentives, benefits, and challenges when it comes to investing in solar panels for houses. Read our residential guide to understand what you should know as a homeowner as you look for the best contractor to install solar panel systems under the Grand Canyon State’s nourishing sun.

A well-informed and reliable contractor will go over each detail of your installation with you, from expected savings to increases in home value. At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. In our recent interviews, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to help them find and vet contractors. Modernize now offers homeowners a free, digital Contractor Checklist as a simple, step-by-step guide to assist with your solar panel project.

Phoenix, AZ: Solar Energy Success Stories

Melisa Camp makes it her business to know Arizona house values: She’s been a realtor for nearly a decade.

“There [are] more homes being sold with solar panels now because we can actually track the data,” Camp told her local TV station Fox 10, and explained that since 2013, the market share for houses powered with solar panels has been growing. “… Every single year that we have been able to measure how many homes are being sold, every year that number is increasing.”

Camp, an expert in the field, installed her own panels in 2010, “an investment she says has already paid for itself and can pay off for others as well,” Fox 10 reported, “but both sellers and buyers have to be armed with knowledge.”

Indeed, solar panels have a sizeable effect on utility bills. Arizona residents can expect to save nearly close to $ 17,000 over 20 years.

Keep in mind this data serves as guidance for your journey to home improvement. Use it during your conversation with contractors in your area. Ask for this level of detail in your estimates and if jargon or complex wording seems confusing, ask for clarification.

A trusted contractor will be glad for the opportunity to explain what everything means and, more importantly, what it specifically means to you. For example, Arizona Homeowner Associations cannot prohibit you from installing solar panels — although they can certainly sometimes give you a headache.

When it comes to Arizona’s solar energy, existing financial incentives (and policy) only make it more lucrative for you to sustainably increase your property value.

Arizona Solar Panels: Incentives, Rebates, and Other Savings

There are currently nearly more than 115 incentives for homeowners to increase the value of their property by installing solar panels for houses in Arizona. Find details about each program at the state’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).

Unlike many other states, Arizona discontinued its net metering policies in 2016, but that’s had little effect on the growing number of solar panel installations across the state, according to the Phoenix Business Journal.

“We believe with smart, stable policies in place, the Arizona solar market can continue to grow,” SEIA’s VP for State Affairs Sean Gallagher told the Journal. “And we anticipate energy storage becoming an important component of the Arizona market as the transition to post net metering occurs.”

Solid contractors installing solar panels in Arizona will be able to provide a list of applicable costs savings measures and help you navigate applying for and getting the most out of them. Learn enough to have a foundational understanding of these programs to best talk to your contractor about them once you’ve vetted and chosen one.

Residential Solar and Wind Energy Systems Tax Credit

Installing solar paneling for homes will increase property value for homeowners who have invested in their houses, and Arizona is investing right back in them. Each year, Arizona homeowners can get up to a $ 1,000 credit per residence, available to taxpayers who install solar panels for their houses. More specifically, you get 25 percent back on your purchase in the form of a tax credit, up to $ 1,000. So if your purchase was $ 4,000, a quarter of that would come back to you.

Find all the details at DSIRE’s profile for the program.

Energy Equipment Property Tax Exemption

Since 2006, the Arizona Department of Revenue has exempted homeowners from paying taxes on the added value of their property caused by installing any solar energy devices, equipment, or components.

In order to qualify, you must provide your county assessor with documentation affirming the actual purchase and installation of the eligible equipment. Be sure your experienced contractor has a grasp of what that process entails. Ask who will be filing the paperwork and handling the process to completion.

Find all the details at DSIRE’s profile for the program.

Other Arizona-specific solar energy programs include:

Of course, you want to get the most out of local programs as well as federal ones, like the temporary Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which applies to up to 30 percent of your installation. It is important to note that this federal credit is for systems placed in service by 12/31/2019. Solar Energy International reports that a typical five-kilowatt solar system installation in September 2018 would’ve dropped from $ 15,428 to $ 10,800 after the rebate is applied—but keep in mind its value is dropping and the credit could be completely gone by the early 2020s. Consult your contractor about this and other available credits and incentives to ensure your investment in the long-term value of your property is as easy on your current assets as possible.

That’s why you’ll want to find a contractor you can trust—a local professional who can get the job done and assist you with navigating local policy and regulation. The Modernize Contractor Checklist will help you vet a trusted contractor, so you can relax knowing your solar panel project is in good hands.

The post Arizona: A Guide to Residential Solar Energy appeared first on Modernize.

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5 Tips For Negotiating Cost with Solar Contractors

Congratulations: You have done the research, determined that solar paneling is a good choice for your home, and have chosen a solar contractor after sifting through three or four estimates. Now it’s time to make your choice official and sign a contract with that solar installer, meaning it’s time to negotiate for a price.

If you walk away with only one thing after reading this, let it be this: This is your project and the contractor is working for you to install solar panels for your house. If at any moment during the negotiation or ensuing conversations, you feel unappreciated, disrespected, or otherwise neglected, it’s okay to walk away. A solar paneling installation is a worthy, and costly, investment—nothing and no one should push you to do anything you’re not completely comfortable with.

Knowing that, your goal now is achieving the best quality solar panel installation for your home and subsequently increasing its value in the long term. The first step is getting a good deal, both on the money you’re putting into the project and the quality you’re going to get out of it. Follow our tips to negotiate with your solar contractor and ensure the highest return on your investment.

Push for Details About Solar Energy and Your Utility Bill

Your contractor is well versed in how your specific project is going to impact your electric bill, even if only in broad strokes. They’ve visited your house and assessed its potential, its needs, and its challenges. On this front, it’s in their interest to increase your solar energy output and maximize your home’s value in the process. The initial, ongoing, and continued success of their installation is paramount to their near and future prospects.

Why? The cost of solar installation has dropped more than 70 percent since 2010, according to data from Solar Energy Industries Association. In response, therefore, contractors have stepped up their game to compete in an increasingly saturated arena. It’s okay to ask about guarantees.

While it’s hard for a contractor to make exact promises, they can certainly settle on ranges and they can certainly explain the minimum outputs you can expect from your solar panel systems. If they can’t, remember the one thing we emphasized in the beginning—a solar installer unsure of their work should not be the contractor you choose for the job.

Ask Your Solar Contractor to Handle the Bureaucracy

Paperwork is a drag—your contractor might attempt to offload some of that labor onto you to keep their overhead low.

Be sure to ask precisely what forms, permits, and other filings are required and who is expected to handle them during your home improvement project. It’s okay to expect the contractor to handle the bulk of the work—after all, one of their value propositions is expertise in the field and local knowledge about getting the most out of local, state, and federal rebates and incentives.

When it comes to powering your home with solar energy, there’s a lot to keep track of. The Department of Energy’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (or DSIRE), for instance, lists hundreds and hundreds of policies and incentives across the country, numbering anywhere from West Virginia’s 14 to Oregon’s 147. While we recommend you research and get acquainted with local policies, you are not the one who’s a professional, nor are such responsibilities yours. You’re paying good and hard earned money to a company to handle the solar installation—so ensure they do so.

Get Clarity on the Warranty, and Ensure It’s Part of the Price

You can always negotiate with your contractor on the price of a successful project before signing a contract. Discuss your budget with your solar contractor. Agree that any unexpected project expenses will be presented in writing to help you remain within your budget. Surprises, in other words, shouldn’t surprise you or your contractor, and they should definitely not surprise your investment.

Warranties will also impact your quoted cost. Most installers offer manufacturer’s warranties that protect you from faulty equipment. Some might offer additional guarantees for the installation, as well, covering potential damage to your house. Be sure the quoted warranty is clear in what it covers—and in what it doesn’t. Additionally, use the warranty as a bargaining chip.

A lower price should elicit a short length warranty and a higher price one that is longer. A 50-year warranty might be too long and a two-year warranty might be too short. The particulars of your system and your solar energy needs dictate these numbers more than anything else. Discuss them thoroughly with your contractor.

Reputation is Everything: Does Your Solar Installer Pass Muster?

Your business is their business—and while this solar installation could stay with you (or at least your house) for decades, it will also build, or continue to build, their reputation into a prosperous business.

A veteran solar panel contractor might be well endowed with repeat business and a booked schedule. Younger companies and contractors might be more willing to reduce their price and elongate their warranties for a solid project like yours.

Get to know local and trusted contractors through services like Modernize. The Modernize Contractor Checklist will help you vet a trusted contractor, so you can relax knowing your solar panel project is in good hands. You can access the interactive checklist by visiting the Modernize Homeowner Portal or by downloading it here.

Solar Panel Contractors Get Second Opinions—You Should, Too

The entire process of a solar panel installation is detail-heavy and involves a myriad of moving parts, from the fine print of your contract to the machinations of the installation itself—remember what we said about surprises?

Since your contractor has (literally) been around the block and has experience you might lack, be sure to consult close friends and family about the major steps of your journey. While we condone this type of support, homeowners have repeatedly told us through surveys and interviews that deciphering some of the deeper and more complex elements of their project left them seeking more professional support—which our homeowners found with Modernize.

If you walk away from reading this with just one more thing, let it be this: Your biggest friend in a solar contract negotiation could be a service like Modernize. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you.

The post 5 Tips For Negotiating Cost with Solar Contractors appeared first on Modernize.

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Are Solar Energy Savings Affected by the Changing Seasons?

The changing seasons have more of an effect on your energy needs than on the solar panels addressing them. While it’s reasonable to predict a lower efficiency rate from solar panels in the winter, it’s really the sun itself—and less so the weather conditions on the ground—governing how well solar paneling powers your home and helps you save on your utility bills. A cloudy day is likely to have a bigger impact on your solar panels’ photovoltaic cells than subzero temperatures, and still neither condition completely deteriorates the effectiveness of your solar panel systems.

A local and experienced contractor will know the region’s seasons as well as how they specifically affect the local weather, the incoming sunlight, and what that means to your home. A reliable contractor will visit your house and assess its strong points—as well as its weak points—to give you the best roadmap toward outfitting your property with solar panels for your home.

At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. In our recent interviews, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to help them find and vet contractors. Modernize now offers homeowners a free, digital Contractor Checklist as a simple, step-by-step guide to assist with your solar panel project.

Solar Panels in Winter: Perception Costs More than Precipitation

One of the top reasons most home improvement projects, including solar panel installation, are started and completed during the spring or fall seasons is the steadily rising utility bill.

Homeowners watch those numbers climb and are in turn spurred into action. In California, for example, electricity usage is about 50 percent higher in the summer than in the winter, according to the LA Times. That increased demand means some expensive months for homeowners still relying completely on the electric grid for air conditioning, among other uses. And take early 2019’s extreme weather conditions as another example: The deep cold in the Midwest crippled utility companies so much so that some governments urged consumers to lower their thermostats, as did utility companies themselves.

Surely, this experience had some homeowners researching solar paneling for homes. And if it didn’t, it should have. True: Less sun time means less solar energy, but your home doesn’t need as much energy in the winter, either. During extreme conditions, the sun can still shine and still power solar panels.

Take it from Solar Energy Technologies Office Director Charlie Gay, who stated in a Department of Energy blog that solar panel systems “actually produce useful power throughout all four seasons.” In fact, he noted, the DOE’s Regional Test Centers—in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, and Vermont—assess specific weather-related challenges for solar paneling.

“Researchers at the test centers have shown that solar can still successfully generate electricity in snowy areas and other harsh environments,” Gay wrote.

Additionally, according to the New York Times, “snow typically melts right off the panels, especially if the panels are tilted.” That’s not to say heavy snow is negligible, but it’s certainly manageable.

A trustworthy solar paneling installer should be able to explain to you how the climate in your region—and various weather conditions—will affect your solar panels in winter, in summer, spring and fall. Contractors are also skilled at making sure your home remains comfortable throughout the installation, an especially pertinent need during both colder and hotter months.

Solar Panels in Winter: Take It from the Westlakes

Rodney Westlake and his daughter climb mountains, In 2017, the duo got stuck while climbing the Alaskan Denali—or McKinley—Mountain, the highest peak in North America.

The conditions Midwesterners dealt with in early 2019’s winter storm “were similar to what the Westlakes felt at the high base camp,” according to the Chicago Tribune, “where they were tent-bound several days because of high winds followed by 6 inches of snow.”

“Up there it was definitely this cold,” Westlake told the Tribune, adding that he and his daughter found refuge in tents that captured “solar energy like a greenhouse,” the article reads. “It’s not so bad as long as you have the right gear,” Westlake summarized.

Snow, extreme cold, bad weather conditions—none of this stopped solar panels from heating and enlivening the Westlakes. The solar panel systems that you’re installing through a certified and professional contractor will of course yield much larger results and be able to sustain immeasurably heavier winter climate conditions. When in doubt, consult your contractor on the challenges your house might encounter and how to approach.

In many cases, Westlake has it just right: Having the right gear makes all the difference, and your local contractor knows what is right for your home and solar panels in winter.

Solar Panels in Climate Extremes: Better To Prepare Than To Panic

A home improvement project during the high season will likely impact your estimate and project timeline. During warmer months, contractors and supplies are in high demand— you’re not the only one noticing a high electric bill. Contractors are less likely to offer discounts during peak times. To save money on solar panels for your home, consider scheduling your project during the cooler months.

Your long-term savings will remain similar, but incentives and seasonal promotions are never a guarantee, and likewise never guaranteed to last. For example, the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which applies to up to 30 percent of your installation (that’s hard and soft costs combined), is phasing out its value over the next several years. By 2022, that 30-percent figure drops to 10 percent, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Additionally, homeowners could be subject to state requirements making solar energy a mandatory source of power for new houses—for now, though, only Californians have to worry about that. On Dec. 2018, California lawmakers voted “to require homes built in 2020 and later be solar-powered,” according to the LA Times. That law doesn’t concern itself with what month homeowners install their solar paneling in because it doesn’t matter—savings are year-round, year-long, and annually significant. With an uncertain future of incentives and a present reality of high competition and ample rebates, the best season to install solar panels is now—no matter when you read this.

Solar Panels in Snow: How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

Since solar panels completely covered in snow would have a difficult time accessing sunlight, most are designed, constructed, and installed in such a way to avoid ever being completely submerged. A trustworthy contractor will identify the most efficient tilt, positioning, location, and height of your solar panel system to guarantee their maximum output and subsequently the highest possible savings on your utility bill.

Before determining what kind of and how many solar panels you want, it’s good to understand the type and amount of solar energy present at your location. Various public resources are at your disposal to do just that. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, for example, created a map showing the concentration of sunlight radiation across southwestern states like California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. How red is your region?

Another more specific example comes from a UC-Berkely National Laboratory team. On an annual basis, the researchers determined, panels were only affected with a 20-percent decrease at peak shade. Want to know more about your own location and its irradiance properties? Use the Department of Energy’s calculator tool, which asks you for your address and spits out the solar energy you can expect.

A local contractor will be able to explain what you should expect in terms of energy and how you can expect it to increase the value of your home, not to mention what kind of panels you will benefit the most from, and where they should get installed.

The post Are Solar Energy Savings Affected by the Changing Seasons? appeared first on Modernize.

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Florida: A Guide to Residential Solar Energy

There is only one state with the perfect nickname when it comes to solar energy: Florida, the “Sunshine State.” Though in the last decade it “lagged in renewable energy use,” Scientific American recently reported, “solar is about to boom in the Sunshine State as the price of photovoltaic cells and related installation costs drop to all-time lows.” As of the end of 2018, for example, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranked the state eighth in the country since just about one percent of the state’s electricity came from solar energy. However, SEIA also ranks Florida second in projecting its growth over the next five years.

While initially slow, the solar panel systems and installation market in Florida has exploded since 2016. Chart via the Solar Energy Industries Association

Indeed, increased competition in the state since 2016—and the nature of the market on a national scale—means residents are primed for home value increases if they install solar panels in Florida. More specifically, researchers project the value of a home increases up to $ 15,000 on average, according to the Berkley Lab, one of the federal government’s national renewable energy laboratories. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the massive savings solar paneling affords homeowners—or seasonal price fluctuations that mean winter could be perfect for a solar home improvement project. Like every other state, Florida has a unique set of incentives, benefits, and challenges when it comes to investing in solar panels for houses. Read our residential guide to understand what you should know as a homeowner as you look for the best contractor to install solar roof panels under the large, wide, and perfect Florida sun.

A well-informed and reliable contractor will go over each detail of your installation with you, from expected savings to increases in home value. At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. In our recent interviews, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to help them find and vet contractors. Modernize now offers homeowners a free, digital Contractor Checklist as a simple, step-by-step guide to assist with your solar panel project.

Coconut Grove, FL: Solar Energy Success Stories

Wine consultant Carol Lopez-Bethel considered her switch to solar was a “no brainer,” according to CBS Miami.

Three years after Lopez-Bethel installed solar panels in Florida’s Coconut Grove, the sun powers many utilities in her home. And while you should consider your roof when you consider a solar panel system, keep in mind hers is a 1950s-era house.

“The lights that are on right now,” she told CBS, “are free. They’re coming from the sun.  And we’re not creating any pollution. We’re not imposing ourselves (on the environment) in any negative way.”

Indeed, solar panels have a sizeable effect on utility bills. Florida residents can expect to save nearly $ 18,000 over 20 years.

This data serves as guidance for your journey to home improvement. Use it during your conversation with contractors in your area. Ask for this level of detail in your estimates and if jargon or complex wording seems confusing, ask for clarification. A trusted contractor will be glad for the opportunity to explain what everything means and, more importantly, what it specifically means to you.

When it comes to Florida’s solar energy, for example, existing financial incentives only make it more lucrative for you to sustainably increase your property value.

Florida Solar Panels: Incentives, Rebates, and Other Savings

There are currently 100 incentives for homeowners to increase the value of their property by installing solar panels for houses in Florida. Find details about each program at the state’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE). Solid contractors installing solar panels in Florida will be able to provide a list of applicable costs savings measures and help you navigate applying for and getting the most out of them. Learn enough to have a foundational understanding of these programs to best talk to your contractor about them once you’ve vetted and chosen one.

Property Tax Abatement for Renewable Energy Property

Installing solar paneling for homes will increase property value for homeowners who have invested in their houses, and Florida is investing right back in them. The state “provides a 100 percent property tax exemption for residential renewable energy property.” In other words, you’re not paying taxes on any of the added value of your property. And this tax exemption doesn’t just apply to solar panel systems, but also to the many components that could be required as part of the installations:

  • Solar energy collectors, photovoltaic modules, and inverters
  • Thermostats and other control devices
  • Heat exchange devices
  • Pipes, ducts, wiring, and structural supports
  • Power conditioning and storage devices that store or use solar energy

Find all the details at DSIRE’s profile for the program.

Net Metering

Since 2008, if your Florida solar panels collect more energy than you use, you can sell your excess energy back to your energy provider.

They have to credit you for it—in other words, you are selling them the energy collected by the solar panels powering your home. And the credit has to be “carried forward at the utility’s retail rate.”

Find all the details at DSIRE’s profile for the program.

Other Florida solar energy programs include city and region-specific ones:

Of course, you want to get the most out of local programs as well as federal ones, like the temporary Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which applies to up to 30 percent of your installation. It is important to note that this federal credit is for systems placed in service by 12/31/2019. Solar Energy International reports that a typical five-kilowatt solar system installation in September 2018 would’ve dropped from $ 15,428 to $ 10,800 after the rebate is applied—but keep in mind its value is dropping and the credit could be completely gone by the early 2020s. Consult your contractor about this and other available credits and incentives to ensure your investment in the long-term value of your property is as easy on your current assets as possible.

That’s why you’ll want to find a contractor you can trust—a local professional who can get the job done and assist you with navigating local policy and regulation. The Modernize Contractor Checklist will help you vet a trusted contractor, so you can relax knowing your solar panel project is in good hands.

The post Florida: A Guide to Residential Solar Energy appeared first on Modernize.

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Understanding the Impact of Solar Energy on Your Utility Bill

Most home improvement projects, including solar panel installation, are started and completed during the spring or fall seasons—when the weather is more comfortable and predictable. As homeowners watch their utility bills steadily rise when the winter months give way to spring, solar paneling for homes becomes especially enticing. In California, for example, electricity usage is about 50 percent higher in the summer than in the winter, according to the LA Times. However, it’s important to note that installing solar panels does not happen overnight. From finding a contractor and evaluating quotes to ordering and waiting for supplies, the project could last weeks—or even months. For the many homeowners looking to power their homes with solar energy or warming up through solar heating to save on utility bills, the first step is beginning the home improvement journey today.

Powering your home with solar energy is a costly, but worthwhile, investment. As you vet and select the best solar energy contractor for your project, be sure you understand the impact solar energy will have on your utility bill.

The Solar Panels Bill: How Much You Can Expect to Save

There is no one-size-fits-all to describe or break down an electric bill with solar panels. Really, what you will save on your utility bill depends on many factors. The best way to get as close an estimate as possible is through the reliable, local, and expert contractor installing solar panels for your home.

Regardless, prepare yourself with important questions and informed expectations for your solar paneling project as you vet contractors. For example, while a little tongue-in-cheek, you could ask a contractor if you might expect a really good month of savings every once in a while that mirrors the astonishing savings a couple in Long Island, New York, experienced last year.

“A year and a half ago, Melanie and John Maiorca’s electric bill topped $ 200 every month. Last month, they paid [the local utility company] a whopping $ 11,” the local newspaper Newsday reported. And while that amount was uncommon (even newsworthy, in fact), average savings were sizable. The Maiorcas told Newsday their post-solar-panels electricity bill is “$ 80 less a month.”

Interestingly, that figure correlates with California’s savings projections for its upcoming requirement that homes built after January 2020 be equipped with solar panels.

“California projects the new initiative will save consumers about $ 80 on monthly heating, cooling and lighting bills,” according to CNBC. That figure is based on a 30-year mortgage and so the average figure is spread over time, which is how massive savings are calculated when accounting for solar paneling for homes. One reason is the system itself, which is an initially high-price investment, as significant home improvements often are. And even that number has dropped drastically in recent years.

Where the Market of Solar Panels and Electricity Bills Intersect

Today’s solar energy market has contractors stepping up their game to compete in an increasingly saturated arena. For example, consider the 10 states CNBC deemed to be “leading the way in solar.” Each of them has seen a 47 percent drop in solar panel installation prices over the last five years, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Learn more about solar panel installation in those states, and find pertinent information to help you save on your solar installation.

Take a look at the 20-year savings detailed in the table below to get an idea of what long-term savings can measure up to.

This data serves as guidance for your journey to home improvement. Use it during your conversation with contractors in your area. Ask for this level of detail in your estimates and if jargon or complex wording seems confusing, ask for clarification. A trusted contractor will be glad for the opportunity to explain what everything means and, more importantly, what it specifically means to you.

When it comes to solar energy, for example, existing financial incentives could further increase the value of that post-solar-panels bill because you’ll hold it against a potentially much lower initial investment.

The Possible (And Massive) Savings of Solar Energy Policy

Chief among the incentives is the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which applies to up to 30 percent of your installation (that’s hard and soft costs combined). For example, Solar Energy International reports that a typical five-kilowatt solar system installation in September 2018 would drop from $ 15,428 to $ 10,800 after the rebate is applied. While such a discount is tempting, tax incentives apply during tax season—not before. Some contractors agree to take on the full cost during installation and wait for the rebate themselves. Whatever the case, it’s important to have a clear understanding of how this and other incentives will apply to your present and future solar panel system costs—and your electric bill with solar panels.

With all of these figures in mind, be sure to ask your contractor for an individualized assessment your solar roof panels—or ground-mounted solar paneling if that’s a more favorable route to avoid shade where you live. A trustworthy contractor will examine your current utility bill and study the physical properties and opportunities your house presents to best save you money after installing solar panels for your home.

At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. In our recent interviews, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to help them find and vet contractors. Modernize now offers homeowners a free, digital Contractor Checklist as a simple, step-by-step guide to assist with your solar panel project. In a sea of noise, our tools can help you navigate so you can save the highest amount of money in the short term and see the highest return on your investment in the long-term with a switch to a solar energy-powered home.

The post Understanding the Impact of Solar Energy on Your Utility Bill appeared first on Modernize.

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What To Expect During Your Solar Panel Installation

You have done extensive research, decided that solar paneling is a good choice for your home and are looking to hire a great solar contractor. Congratulations! You are now ready to begin the process of solar panel installation. Like any home renovation, the solar panel installation process will vary depending on your home’s unique attributes, so working in tandem with a seasoned contractor will ensure smooth sailing. Read on for advice on what to expect during the entire solar installation, and how to prepare for the installation process.

The Solar Panel Installation Process, Step By Step

In general, home solar panel installation and activation follows this process:

Site Assessment and Design

  • Timeframe: 1-4 Weeks
  • This step begins with an initial site inspection, where your contractor will visit your home to get a better understanding of your needs. Your contractor will then design your solar panel system based on your home’s unique attributes. If necessary, most contractors can also work with you to address any issues that might hinder panel installation, like pruning nearby trees or making roofing repairs.

Permitting

  • Timeframe: 2-8 Weeks
  • Your solar panel designs must now be submitted to your local government for permitting. The process for approval varies from region to region, but never fear: Your contractor should work closely with you during permitting, and will likely be very knowledgeable about your area’s permitting process.

The Solar Panel Installation

  • Timeframe: 1-7 days
  • After receiving approval, your solar contractor can begin work. This includes ordering your solar panels, as well as making sure your roof is structurally sound and free of obstructions. On the big day, an installation crew will install the proper wiring and mounting equipment and then place and connect the solar panels themselves. Depending on the size of the solar panel system being installed, this process can be done within a day.

Government Inspection

  • Timeframe: 2-3 Weeks
  • A final inspection by your local government and/or municipal utility must occur before your new solar array can officially be turned on. An inspector will visit your home to ensure that your solar panel system is properly installed. They may also install a net meter, which tracks production and allows your home to send excess power back to the electrical grid.

Activation

  • Once you receive final approval, you can immediately flip the switch and begin harvesting solar energy for your home.

Factors That Impact Solar Panel Installation

There are several factors of your home’s design to take into account before beginning installation. Solar panels work best on large, rectangular, south-facing sections of roof. Also, mitigate shade cast by trees or nearby buildings, as that can reduce your solar panels’ efficiency.

Last, the type and age of your roofing material is an important consideration. Solar panels can be installed on almost any roofing, but the material itself will determine the mounting system that works best for your home. The material should be sturdy and rot-free. If a roof replacement is necessary, that job can often be completed in tandem with the solar panel installation.

Don’t be daunted by these considerations. A good solar contractor will understand your home’s unique properties and find the right number, size, and style of solar panels for you. Modernize is an excellent place to start your search for a trusted, local solar contractor to partner with for your solar panel installation.

How to Prepare Your Home For Installation Day

You might be wondering how you can physically prepare your home and family for installation day. The good news is that solar panel installation itself is a fairly convenient, hands-off home renovation that requires very little preparation on your part. Small thing to keep in mind include:

  • Work with your contractor to make sure your roof is free of obstructions before installation day. This might include pruning tree limbs or relocating your satellite dish.
  • Solar panel installation can be noisy, so consider how the sounds of hammering will impact your daily routine. For example, small children or pets might be more comfortable staying with family during installation.
  • Make extra space in your yard and driveway for the installation team. Remove decorations and outdoor furniture from the vicinity to allow room for scaffolding. You should also relocate your vehicles, so construction crews can park as close to your home as possible.

Solar panel installation can be a long journey, but it’s one that ends with a significant increase in home value. If you’re interested in reaping the financial and environmental benefits of a solar-powered home, our tools can help you get started.

The post What To Expect During Your Solar Panel Installation appeared first on Modernize.

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Talking to Your Solar Installer About Solar Panels and Shade

Assessing contractor quotes is an important step in the journey to increase the value of your home with solar panels. Evaluating multiple solar panel quotes helps homeowners scope their budget and encourages contractors to be competitive with their pricing, which is especially significant in today’s solar energy market. It’s important to understand your project’s unique parameters when sifting through these estimates. One such unique marker is your house’s solar irradiance. Simply put, this defines the exposure to sunlight you can expect where you live. This exposure, along with several external factors, will have important ramifications on the type of solar panels, mounts, and equipment required for your home improvement.

Having a solid understanding of these basics will help you understand your solar installer’s quote and enable you to have an informed foundation from which to discuss the project. Be sure to communicate honestly with your contractor about your needs and concerns when it comes to the shade at your house.

Do Solar Panels Work In Shade?

Short answer: Yes, of course. Shade doesn’t stop the solar panels for your home from doing their job.

Excessive shade can, however, reduce the amount of energy a solar panel system is able to generate. While solar panels are designed to operate in all weather conditions (including the winter, which is actually a great time to install them), external factors like trees or buildings might impact their efficiency. Since rooftops are popular placements for solar panels, their size, shape, slope, and age will factor into their fitness to support solar energy. For example, solar panels typically “perform best on south-facing roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees,” according to the Department of Energy. Ask your experienced contractor to assess the current and potential shade your house will experience and plan accordingly—there are many ways to deal with shade.

The solar farm in Woolwich, ME, missed its 2018 solar energy projection partly because of the shade cast by four maple trees. (Nathan Strout / The Times Record)

Take the Woolwich solar farm in Maine, for example. It barely missed its projected energy generation for 2018, but city officials remained optimistic. Why? They were able to identify the main culprit: four maple trees. And that obstacle has an easy fix: “The town is looking into cutting those trees down to ensure that all of the panels get the maximum amount of sunlight,” the local Times Record reported.

When it comes to choosing who will install your solar paneling, it’s important you find a local and trustworthy contractor who will meet with you in-person and on-location. Request your solar panel installer to appraise your property and identify areas of concern.

Additionally, a local contractor will know the climate and weather conditions your location experiences.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

While a roof is a popular option for solar panel installation, there are other options.

Before determining what kind of and how many solar panels you want, it’s good to understand the type and amount of solar energy present at your location. Various public resources are at your disposal to do just that. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, for example, created a map showing the concentration of sunlight radiation across southwestern states like California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. How red is your region?

Concentration Solar Resource for Southwestern US. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Another more specific example comes from a UC-Berkely National Laboratory team. The group examined when during the day they could expect to find solar panels in shade. They tested Californian cities Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego, and determined those time ranges to be:

  • In the morning from 6 to 10 a.m.
  • In the afternoon from 2 to 6 p.m.

On an annual basis, the researchers determined, panels were only affected with a 20-percent decrease at peak shade. Want to know more about your own location and its irradiance properties? Use the Department of Energy’s calculator tool, which asks you for your address and spits out the solar energy you can expect.

A local contractor will be able to explain what you should expect in terms of energy and how you can expect it to increase the value of your home, not to mention what kind of panels you will benefit the most from, and where they should get installed. At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. In our recent interviews, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to help them find and vet contractors. Modernize now offers homeowners a free, digital Contractor Checklist as a simple, step-by-step guide to assist with your solar panel project.

What Are My Solar Tracking and Mounting Needs?

While trees, power lines, neighboring structures, and far-away mountains can all cast shadows on your house, don’t forget the sun’s movement also governs the movement of this shade throughout the day.

For best solar paneling positioning, various technologies track the sun’s movement and react to it. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “rack mounting is currently the most common method because it is robust, versatile, and easy to construct and install.”

Solar tracking systems are add-ons to solar mounts that are designed to help turn the panels to face directly at the sun throughout the day. With 90 percent of the sun’s energy in the direct beam of light that it produces, this direct beam can only be captured completely by a panel facing right at the sun. The farther the panel is tipped away from the sun, the less efficient it is. This results in even carefully installed static—that is, fixed position—solar panels operating with nearly 50 percent to 75 percent efficiency losses at some point during the day. Solar trackers can help salvage those hours when the sun just isn’t shining directly on the panels like it needs to be.

While solar roof panels typically track the sunlight and swivel to keep the panels oriented properly, they could be expensive and difficult to install. In contrast, pole-mounted or ground-mounted units can offer similar benefits at a lower installation price. A ground mount is a durable frame that mounts right to the ground on your property. This frame is designed to hold a specific number of solar panels, which depends on the frame. A pole mount is a durable rack or frame built to hold a set of solar cells that are mounted up on top of a single pole. One well-installed pole is capable of holding a surprisingly large number of solar panels—at times, up to as many as sixteen. In other words, your roof is not your only option.

“Naturally, tracking involves more up-front costs and sophisticated systems are more expensive and require more maintenance,” the Department of Energy reports. “As systems have improved, the cost-benefit analysis increasingly favors tracking for ground-mounted systems.”

As before, the best way to determine which of the mounts you want for your property, and which are best poised to increase its value, you should consult a trustworthy contractor. Be sure to get an in-person assessment from your contractor, allowing the installer to suggest options and explain potential benefits and, sometimes, challenges. Either way, a local expert will help you get the most of your home improvement project, no matter the season.

The post Talking to Your Solar Installer About Solar Panels and Shade appeared first on Modernize.

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January New Moon 2019: Partial Solar Eclipse, Meteor Shower Frame 1st New Moon of the Year

During the first new moon of 2019, a dark “moonless” sky will please meteor watchers hoping to catch a glimpse of the Quadrantids. Although the moon won’t be visible at night, skywatchers in Asia can see it by day as it eclipses the sun.
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Education Game for Kids! Play Free Today!

NASA space probe ‘phones home’ in landmark mission to solar system’s edge

NASA’s New Horizons explorer successfully “phoned home” on Tuesday after a journey to the most distant world ever explored by humankind, a frozen rock at the edge of the solar system that scientists hope will uncover secrets to its creation.


Reuters: Science News

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Solar system’s most distant object is ‘Farout’ pink dwarf planet

Scientists have discovered the most distant object known in our solar system, so remote and unusual they chose the nickname “Farout” for the slow-moving, icy, pinkish dwarf planet about 120 to 130 times further from the sun than Earth.


Reuters: Science News

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Spire.io – Over 50 Million Minutes of Calm Discovered!

U.S. solar takes hit from Trump tariffs but is cheaper than ever: report

U.S. solar installations fell 15 percent in the third quarter as the Trump administration’s tariffs on overseas-made panels forced developers to put off large projects, according to a report commissioned by the industry’s primary trade group.


Reuters: Arts

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Tesla’s home solar system price cut can save you up to $5,000

Tesla just lowered the price on its solar shingles and other whole house solar components by up to 25% in an effort to boost sales of its under-performing home solar system.

RELATED: Free electricity: Yes, it’s for real and here’s how you could get it!

Tesla’s move will save homeowners between $ 3,000 and $ 5,000

Tesla has confirmed to Reuters that it’s now slashing installation costs on its home solar systems after sales of the systems have trailed off.

A company executive told the news agency that any residential customer getting a quote after November 15, 2018 will realize an average savings of between $ 3,000 and $ 5,000 on material and installations costs versus prior quotes.

Tesla has struggled with its solar installation business since its 2016 acquisition of Solar City, which was then the largest residential solar installer in the country.

A year later, Tesla began accepting orders for its solar roofing shingles, which look like this:

Textured
Smooth
Tuscan
Slate

But despite a lot of buzz around the shingles and Tesla’s residential solar initiative, it didn’t get off the ground in quite the way the company had hoped.

Installations have fallen from 200 megawatts (MW) a quarter in early 2016 when Solar City was at its peak to less than half of that — just 93 MW — in the third quarter 2018, according to Reuters.

Adding to the woes is the fact that Tesla tinkered extensively with Solar City’s successful sales model, which relied heavily on door-to-door canvassing in solar-friendly states, among other proven approaches.

Meanwhile, Tesla also terminated a retail relationship with Home Depot in 2017. That means the all-electric automaker could no longer demo its whole house solar approach at some 800 stores across the country.

Tesla executives now hope a lower price on its solar systems will bring in more customers.

You can request your new, lower quote here.

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Giant solar flare detonated mines during Vietnam War

Magnetic radiation from giant solar storms caused the sudden and nearly instantaneous detonation of dozens of sea mines in Vietnam in the 1970s, research has confirmed.
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Attract and Retain Rockstar Talent Within the Solar Industry

Good talent is hard to find, but with the worker shortage within the home improvement industry it can feel downright impossible to attract the rockstar talent that you need in a Solar sales rep. Modernize has partnered with Zoi Solar, a Solar technology company located in downtown Austin, Texas, to deliver a free webinar to teach you how to attract and retain Solar employees that will give you the competitive edge.

Watch our webinar recording here to learn a few simple steps to find and retain the Solar Sales Rep diamond in the rough such as:

  • Tactics to discover the best Solar Sales Representatives for your company,
  • Hiring and training best practices to be sure your new hires are educated and informed,
  • Tips and tricks to maintain employee satisfaction,
  • Industry secrets to keep your team ahead of the competition.

Don’t forget to feed your new sales reps with a steady stream of quality Solar leads! Click here to get started on a new campaign.

The post Attract and Retain Rockstar Talent Within the Solar Industry appeared first on Modernize.

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The Evolution of Solar Lead Generation

The solar industry has changed drastically in the past 10 years – even the past 5 years! With rising demand comes the evolution of digital marketing in the residential solar space. Modernize partnered with Horizon Solar Power to present a webinar on the evolution of solar lead generation including topics like:

  • Competition that you face as a residential Solar contractor,
  • How sales teams can evolve to approach homeowners in today’s Solar market,
  • Horizon Solar Power’s solution to reducing their cost per lead,
  • The pros and cons of exlclusive vs. non-exclusive leads, &
  • How Horizon Solar Power learned to love lead generation through their partnership with Modernize.

Click here to watch the webinar recording!

Interested in growing your solar business? Contact us to learn more!

The post The Evolution of Solar Lead Generation appeared first on Modernize.

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California Shines With Solar Power Rebates

Sunshine is essential for solar energy, which is why it’s no surprise California is the number one state for solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The Golden State is home to five of the top 10 solar cities in the country, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose. It is a state-wide initiative to run on 33 percent renewable energy by 2020, which means there are countless California solar power rebates and incentives for homeowners like you.

The Financial Benefits of Going Solar

With most cities averaging 250+ days of sunshine, California is the ideal location for supplying your home with year-round savings on your utility bill. California also offers multiple rebates and incentives for homeowners.

Here are four reasons why solar panels are an excellent investment:

Reduce Your Electricity Bills

According to EnergySage.com, the typical American family spends more than $ 1,430 a year on electricity alone. Solar energy can help dramatically offset that bill.

In California, the average 20-year savings after a solar panel installation is $ 29,424. With a payback time of fewer than ten years, California is ranked third in the country for return on a solar panel investment.

Increase the Value of Your Home

Research has shown that homes with solar panel installations can sell for $ 15,000 more than the original sale price. Southern California homes increased their average value by 3.8 percent— the equivalent of $ 20,194 in added value.

Pay Zero Property Taxes on Your Solar System

Through 2024, qualifying California homes with new installations are exempt from paying state property taxes on their solar installations. This incentive can save homeowners up to 70 percent on installation costs.

Avoid Rising Energy Costs

The average per-kilowatt cost of residential electricity increases 2.2 percent each year. By switching to solar, you can significantly decrease —or even eliminate— your energy bill and avoid this increase in annual utility costs.

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Find Solar Power Rebates and Offers Near You

Solar energy is a long-term investment. California offers multiple rebates and incentives to help homeowners manage the cost of a solar investment.

Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit

This national rebate program allows homeowners to deduct 30 percent of a solar installation cost from federal taxes. In 2017, this credit saved the average Californian $ 5,000 on their solar panel system.

Local Rebates

Depending on your region, you may qualify for some very generous rebates. San Francisco offers local rebates between $ 500- $ 2,800. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power offers residents rebates up to $ 1,500. Learn about California solar rebates in your area.

Get Rewarded for Unused Electricity

California utility companies use net metering to buy unused solar power and credit homeowners for the energy that is supplied back to the grid.  

Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program

If you meet certain income criteria and are a customer of Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, or San Diego Gas and Electric, you may qualify for rebates as high as $ 10,000 through fixed, up-front incentives that help offset the cost of your system.

Power Purchase Agreement: Under a PPA, a homeowner can buy the energy that solar panels produce—rather than the system itself—for a reduced cost.

The post California Shines With Solar Power Rebates appeared first on Modernize.

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