Solar Roofs


Save Money While Cutting Greenhouse Gases

If you are thinking about taking the leap to installing solar on your roof or property and the financial benefit—it’s a sizable source of free electricity—there are several considerations to be aware of.  The first is the orientation and location. For best efficiency, southern facing roofs or land work best but depending on your location, nearby trees and other factors, southwest, west and even southeast-facing roofs and land may still be able to produce plenty of electricity.

Next consider the square footage. Is it large enough to accommodate what’s needed for your home’s electric requirements? There are many online solar calculators to help you determine this based on where you live and your electricity usage.  Here are two: Solar Review’s solar potential calculator  and National Renewable Energy Lab’s solar power calculator.

Next you will need to choose between two approaches: a solar-panel array that sits either on or slightly above an existing roof or is mounted on the ground, or solar tiles or sheeting that replace the external roofing material.

If you are interested in solar sheeting or tiles, know that they are currently expensive but some people find attractiveness warrants the premium. Be sure to look into whether you’ll need a new roof for the installation or not. 

If you pick solar panels, you need to know the condition of your roof. How much weight can the roof support? Is there any damage that needs to be repaired? Is it due for new shingles? This may require consultation with a roofer and an engineer.

Once you know if your roof or land will support a solar-panel array, you will choose between two types of solar panels for residential installations: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Monocrystalline panels tend to be more efficient but on the pricey side; polycrystalline panels are less efficient and cost less.

You’ll also need an inverter to change the voltage. Solar panels produce direct-current (DC) voltage like a battery, but your house uses alternating-current (AC) voltage. There are quite a few on the market; shop carefully and don’t restrict yourself to one review site.

Now, see what federal and state incentives are available.  At the moment, the Federal Solar Tax Credit is worth 26% of the cost of an installed solar-panel system.  State and local incentives and rebates can save thousands in acquisition and installation costs, depending on the current program. New York currently has a program called NY-Sun that includes generous subsidies and low-cost loans if you qualify – info here.

At some point in this process, you’ll want to find a professional solar installer or contractor.  If you plan to use NYSERDA (NY-Sun) incentives, a requirement is to hire a NYSERDA participating contractor. The list for our area is extensive enough to get multiple bids – find it here.

Beyond helping to slow global warming, how much will you save in electricity costs? There are multiple variables including the size of the house, how many people live there, and the location of the house, to name a few. Fortunately, like the solar calculators linked above, there are good websites with calculators for you to plug your numbers, such as Solar Review’s solar panel cost estimator.

For more information, try the links below. Join the clean-energy movement in housing. Start to minimize your home’s carbon footprint, at a cost that eventually pays for itself and eliminates a monthly expense.