We have Put in Photo voltaic on Our Roof Three Instances. This is What to Know.



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In the event you’re like us and wish to velocity up the clear vitality revolution, decarbonize your life, save in your electrical invoice, and make your private home extra resilient, you will have just a few choices to run your private home and automobile on clear vitality. Most often, this implies harnessing the facility of the 4.6 billion-year-old star on the heart of our photo voltaic system that makes life on Earth potential. We love photo voltaic a lot that we’ve put in it 3 times over the previous decade and saved 1000’s on vitality payments. 

People have a lengthy historical past harnessing the facility of the solar. Within the seventh century BC, Greek, Roman, and Chinese language civilizations started utilizing mirrors and magnifying glasses to gentle fires. Photo voltaic expertise as we all know it dates to 1839, when a French physicist found that electrical energy era elevated with publicity to gentle or radiant vitality. The primary photo voltaic patent was issued in 1888, and the primary fashionable photo voltaic panels invented in 1954. 

Calvin S. Fuller engaged on the world’s first photo voltaic panel at Bell Labs. Supply: Advancing Physics.

However photo voltaic has actually solely grow to be a viable possibility for the typical particular person within the final decade. This is because of expertise enhancements and diminished prices. In the event you’ve at all times thought it was out of attain for you, think about that the price of panels has fallen from round $8 per watt in 2010 to $2 to $3 per watt right this moment. That is nonetheless too costly for a lot of, however with declining prices, extension of the 30% photo voltaic tax credit score, and accessible financing, photo voltaic is extra inexpensive than ever. 8% of American houses have photo voltaic, with report progress for six years in a row. In Australia, photo voltaic is on practically 33% of houses, and prices one third of US costs, largely resulting from streamlined allowing that enables any electrician to do the set up.

We lately shared our expertise and love of group photo voltaic, and right this moment we’ll dig into rooftop photo voltaic, which we’ve been fortunate sufficient to put in 3 times on two completely different homes. 

Flip Your Roof Into A Energy Plant

For most owners, going photo voltaic means placing photo voltaic panels in your roof and putting in inverters that convert the vitality from the panels right into a kind that you should utilize in your house.

Picture courtesy of Go Inexperienced Photo voltaic.

Whereas some houses, particularly these in rural areas, use photo voltaic to go off-grid and retailer extra energy in a battery, most houses are internet metered, which suggests all the additional electrical energy a house produces in the summertime goes again into the grid, and the utility gives the house owner with a credit score to scale back winter electrical payments. Internet metering is now mandated in a majority of states (although it’s being phased out in others, like California and Illinois), and permits prospects to be billed for under their “internet” vitality use.

Screenshot of our Portland Common Electrical invoice from summer time 2022. We produced 333 extra kWh than we used, so we obtained credit score for these kWh in winter months when our photo voltaic doesn’t produce every little thing we’d like.

The Uncommon Repeat Prospects

Our photo voltaic story is an extended one, and our most up-to-date installers joked that they don’t often have repeat prospects. We put in photo voltaic in 2010, 2012, and 2016. 

Our first set up was on a townhouse that Naomi owned. When Joe moved in, he was so enthusiastic about photo voltaic that he instantly dumped his life financial savings into twelve 230-watt panels (right this moment’s panels are sometimes over 400 watts) for its roof. We’re unsure this was the neatest transfer on his half, as we weren’t married but, and he had nothing left within the financial institution, however he justified it as an indication of his dedication to the atmosphere and the connection. 

The overall system value was $20,010. Joe paid $14,490, and the installer obtained an Power Belief of Oregon incentive for the remaining quantity. As a result of these have been early days, we additionally obtained the 30% federal tax credit score and $6,000 in state tax credit (that don’t exist anymore), which coated an unbelievable 75% of the full value over a interval of years. Again then, with extra beneficiant subsidies however decrease efficiency, the funding took over 10 years to pay again. With right this moment’s improved efficiency and decrease prices, EnergySage finds that, on common, photo voltaic panels pay again in 8.7 years.

Our first photo voltaic panels, on the roof of our North Portland townhouse, in 2010.

Two years later, we moved and weren’t ready to place that a lot money down, however our new house had a south going through roof that was good for photo voltaic. At the moment, photo voltaic leases have been all the fashion, and that possibility ended up being the proper selection for us. By Sunrun (presently the most important photo voltaic installer within the US), we put down $6,000 (all of which we obtained again in state tax credit over 4 years) for 13 photo voltaic panels estimated to provide 3,257 kWh of vitality per 12 months. We’ve got the choice to purchase the panels from SunRun on the finish of the 20-year lease. As a result of we don’t want all of the electrical energy our panels produce when the solar is shining, and we don’t have batteries to retailer it, a couple of third of the vitality powers our all-electric house and the remainder goes again to the grid and gives a credit score on our utility invoice.

4 years later, we constructed an addition, which gave us extra roof area and a chance for extra photo voltaic. We entered into one other Sunrun lease, with an estimated 4,054 kWh of annual electrical energy as a result of the panel effectivity elevated in these 4 years.

Our now mixed 7.2 kW photo voltaic system gives about 60% of our vitality wants, and that’s for an all-electric property with common EV charging and 6–7 individuals dwelling on website. (We’re a household of 4 and have a long-term tenant in an adjunct dwelling unit in addition to an addition that’s sometimes occupied by an change scholar or Airbnb visitors).

7.2 kW photo voltaic system on our household house in North Portland.

For at the least half the 12 months, our utility invoice is just about $12, which is the price of being related to the grid. We get credit score for our extra summer time manufacturing, and our invoice solely exceeds the $12 connection cost for a number of months in late winter and early spring.

All of our effectivity and electrification efforts, mixed with our photo voltaic panels, imply we spend a mere $850 per 12 months on vitality. That’s one fifth the nationwide family common and a staggering one tenth the per capita common! Our photo voltaic panels saved us a whopping $7,300 within the 11 years since we put in the primary set on this home. 

We additionally subscribe to group photo voltaic for the roughly 40% of our vitality wants that aren’t met by our rooftop panels, serving to us obtain our carbon-free house and transportation.

Are You Prepared?

Along with the 8% of US householders who’ve photo voltaic, a current survey discovered that 39% have severely thought of photo voltaic. If this consists of you, you’ll must first decide your roof viability, which relies on: 1) the orientation of your roof — south and west going through work finest, and a pair of) age of your roof — finest apply says fewer than ten years previous in order that it will possibly age together with your panels. In case your roof is older than 10 years, you possibly can change it on the identical time you put in photo voltaic, and plenty of contractors supply each companies. The Division of Power lists quite a few on-line sources to know your roof’s photo voltaic potential.

In case your roof is an efficient candidate, you’ll want to find out the right way to pay for the panels. Given the typical value of rooftop photo voltaic is presently about $20,000 after tax credit, it’s not possible for most people to pay with money. However there are just a few funding choices:

Outright Possession. In the event you can swing it with money, photo voltaic is a superb funding with an affordable payback interval. That is the route we went for our first home. A house fairness line of credit score or money out refinance may present the money. 
Photo voltaic Mortgage. Many photo voltaic corporations now supply financing that requires little to no cash down and probably low rates of interest with month-to-month funds which might be offset by decrease utility payments. You personal the panels outright, obtain the tax credit, and are liable for upkeep. 
Photo voltaic Lease. In case your state gives photo voltaic leases, generally known as Energy Buy Agreements, a photo voltaic firm may set up, function, and handle panels in your roof and take the tax credit. You decide to paying that firm for the facility produced by the panels. That is how we obtained the 28 panels on our present house.
Bulk Buying and Solarize. It’s additionally price checking in case your space has a bulk buying program like Solarize via which you may get a reduced set up if a bunch of neighbors are additionally going photo voltaic. The nonprofit Photo voltaic United Neighbors organizes photo voltaic co-op applications for households to learn from discounted pricing with bulk purchases.

Due to the Inflation Discount Act, residential photo voltaic programs are eligible for a 30% tax credit score via 2032. Your state may additionally supply further rebates and incentives.

To discover choices, attain out to photo voltaic corporations in your area. We suggest getting three bids as a way to examine prices and proposed system design. A primary Google search will flip up numerous native contractors, so take note of opinions, and examine in case your state has beneficial photo voltaic contractors like Power Belief of Oregon’s Commerce Ally community.

Photo voltaic panels could possibly be the victory bonds of the conflict on local weather change. Picture from Joe Wachunas.

Along with the decarbonization and monetary advantages of photo voltaic, we love that our panels give us the independence of being our personal vitality producer. We’re extra insulated from fluctuating vitality prices and get the satisfaction of realizing that the majority of our vitality is produced on our personal property. Plus, rooftop photo voltaic reduces the world’s dependence on corrupt petro-states that maintain a lot energy over the world, whereas combating the local weather disaster on the identical time. What’s to not love? We hope you’ll join the rising motion of house owners powering their lives with clear vitality from their rooftops.

This text is a part of a sequence known as Decarbonize Your Life. With modest steps and a middle-class earnings, our household has dramatically diminished emissions and is sequestering what stays via a small reforestation challenge. Our life is best for it. If we will do it, you possibly can too.


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