John Bennett is the Vice President of Operations at Castone, Inc. and supplies our solar license. We got him to answer some FAQs that homeowners ask regarding Solar.
How do you know if your home is a good fit for solar? Is solar possible for all types of roofs?
JB: Solar is the last step in the "pyramid of sustainability." best practices dictate that you should perform as many energy-efficiency measures as possible before you install a PV (photovoltaic) system; ideally you will seal the building envelope, attic, walls, crawlspace; insulate the attic, walls and anywhere practical, and upgrade that old HVAC system with a newer more efficient unit and, so important....properly sized and insulated ductwork! Once you've done this, or if your home is fairly new (post 2000 build), a properly trained and experienced energy professional can easily design the right system for your home. Today's software makes that easy...if you know what you're doing and care enough to do it right!! What you don't want is a huge system that is merely compensating for a lack of home efficiency....it's like pouring gasoline into a gas tank with a giant hole in the bottom!
So to answer your second question: Yes you CAN install solar almost anywhere...but should you? No! While a composition shingle or concrete tile roof is ideal for mounting solar, it is wise to avoid mounting an expensive power plant (that's what it is) on wood shake, clay tile, low slope roofs with sagging plywood that causes ponding, certain metal tile roofs, and especially any roof that is worn, damaged, or extremely old. In these cases, it is wise to either install a composite shingle "cut in" space, or simply replace the entire roof as part of the project.
What are the advantages of adding solar at the same time you replace your roof?
JB: If you are ready for solar, but your roof is in need of replacing, doing both measures at the same time is ideal for a number of reasons. The challenge in doing this is finding a contractor that is capable (not simply qualified) to do a proper job of both. Fortunately, we at Castone happen to have expertise and experience at both disciplines...as well as both licenses! If I'm putting solar on a new roof, I want to know the roof is being respected. If I'm putting on a new roof and solar, I'd sleep better if I knew that the roof warranty and solar warranty are "under one roof!"
The federal tax credit for adding solar to your home for 2020 is 26% - can you tell me more about that?
JB: while we are not tax professionals, we do understand that the tax credit plays an important role in the value of the system. We also understand that the 26% in 2020 will drop to 22% in 2021, then disappear the following year, unless it gets extended, which is unlikely. We always advise clients to check with their tax professional to ensure that they are able to leverage the incentive. Everybody's situation is unique, and not all folks can leverage a tax credit.
How do you anticipate the tax credit changing over the next 10 years? What does this mean for where energy usage is headed?
JB: The tax credit, like other solar incentives we have worked with, is designed to make renewable energy affordable and to gradually taper off as the equipment becomes affordable over time. In 2009, we were carrying rebates for nearly $2.00 per watt. Systems were close to $5.00 per watt without it, so it was what made it work. Now it's not uncommon to see prices in the mid $2's before figuring in any percentage for tax credit. Solar is now affordable on it's own. What we have seen as a driver for solar growth is the continual increase in the cost of utility power, not to mention the "shell game" that most utilities have played in what we believe is a veiled attempt to devalue consumer self-generation.....they want you to buy their power, not make your own!
Can I use solar to charge my electric car?
JB: Wow, that sounds futuristic, doesn't it? You can now power your electric vehicle at about the equivalent of $0.14 per gallon if you have solar. What's not to love about that?
What kind of returns can a homeowner expect to see in their utility bill after the course of a year?
JB: We are seeing a solid 5-year payback in PG&E territory. It depends on whether you purchase with cash, finance, or lease your system. Cash or refi/roll-ins are the best option for quick return on investment. We at Castone are aware that every client has different circumstances. We do our best to listen and propose what will make sense for individual client needs. Our mission is to deliver long-lasting value, not simply to make a sale. I get calls from clients that I built systems for 10 years ago....when they call, it's usually for a new system. I build 25-year systems so it's rare that I ever get a trouble call. When there is an issue, I'm there to help, as they are my clients for life, regardless of warranty.
What do you love about Solar?
JB: I love the "independence factor" and the amazing reliability of the current equipment. It is approaching a point where all residences can benefit from it. The new frontier is definitely energy storage and the advent of the electric car, but we will soon see all these amazing things working together as a "smart solution" that will likely provide folks with vast energy independence....much like the turn of the century when the railways and horse-drawn carriages gave way to the automobile. I feel blessed to be in an industry that is improving the world and the way we live in it!
You can reach John at email@example.com if you have any further questions about Solar and if it’s the right fit for you and your home.