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Are You All Charged Up About Solar Panels?

You can’t read a magazine or turn on the TV without someone telling you how important it is to go green. While some of the stories involve reducing your carbon footprint or using more eco-friendly chemicals, one of the best ways to go green is by reducing your home’s energy footprint. One of the best ways to do that is to install solar panels on your roof, or so the story goes. Yes indeed, solar energy is a clean and environmentally friendly way to power a home, particularly in the Sunshine State. When installed properly, solar panels can reduce or in some cases eliminate the electricity that comes from the grid, even though the sun only shines during the day. That’s because not only has solar power come a long way during the past couple of decades, so have electrical storage systems. However, before you break out your checkbook to go green by adding solar to your home, there are a few things you need to know. 

photovoltaic panels

1.      How long do solar panels last? – More importantly, since solar panels are typically laid atop your existing roof, should you wait until it’s time to replace your roof to go solar? Solar panels can be expected to last from 25-30 years on average. That doesn’t mean that the juice will suddenly stop flowing, provided the panels are properly maintained. The bad news is that a solar panel’s output will slowly degrade over time to produce less and less power. The good news is that this degradation in output typically averages between .3% and .8% per year, which equates to an average loss of around 10% in 25 years. Since typical roof systems last 25-30 years, it only makes sense to install a new solar system at the same time you replace your roof.

2.      Will solar panels invalidate my roof warranty? – Possibly, if the brackets that support the panels on your roof aren’t mounted correctly. It isn’t unusual for roofing companies like RoofCrafters to get called out to repair leaks after the solar panels are installed on a home. Repairing such leaks can be expensive since they invariably aren’t covered under the roofing warranty. What’s even worse is that this is an avoidable problem. If the homeowner had the solar company and the roofer coordinate the installation to make sure that the panels were attached properly, there never would have been any leaks in the first place. It also wouldn’t hurt to ask the solar rep what kind of rack system their company uses since there are two. The first system used on residential installation requires bolts or screws that penetrate through the roof. The second system uses a ballasted rack that relies on weight to keep the rack in place. Ballasted systems are only effective with roofs that have little or no slope. However, even systems that are designed to penetrate the roof can and should have their footing installed with flashing that’s designed to mitigate leaks. The kind of mounting systems used also depends on the kind of material used on your roof. While solar installations on asphalt roofs typically use bolts, flashing, and butyl tape to ensure watertight integrity, installations on tile roofs usually employ hooks that slide beneath the tile to affix the footings to the roof. Solar installations on metal roofs use clamps affixed to the seams negating the need to drill through the roof to attach the panels.

green energy home with solar panels

3.      How many solar panels do I need? – That depends on how much power your home typically consumes and how much of that you want to mitigate. The beauty of residential solar power systems is that you don’t need to eliminate 100% of your power consumption unless you live in an area that’s off-the-grid. You can also choose to install a system that reduces the amount of power you receive from local utilities. Of more concern to most homeowners is the cost of a solar power system. To get a bead on this you must first analyze your utility bill. Take a look at the kilowatt-hours (kWh) usage figure on your bill over a 12-month period. Add these up and divide by twelve to determine your average monthly consumption. Then divide by thirty to find your average daily usage. To determine the size of a system that will more or less deliver 100% of your household power via the Sun, you’ll also need to determine your area’s peak sun hours. That’s done by doing an Internet search for the peak sun hours for the nearest metropolitan area. In Jacksonville, Florida, the peak sun hours are between 6.16 hours in the summer and 5.26 hours in the winter. Then you need to plug this and your power consumption in kWh into the following formula: Daily kWh usage divided by the average sun-hours times 1.15 to determine your home’s DC solar size. My Jacksonville, Florida home needs 6.7 kilowatts DC if I want to more or less eliminate my electric bill.

Since a 6-kW system typically requires 20 solar panels, to go completely green, I’d need around 24 panels. This would necessitate a surface area of approximately 15×30 feet of roof to install. The cost for a 6.7 kW system as of 2020 would be somewhere between $18,000-$22,000 (without storage batteries) in Florida after factoring in the 26% Federal ITC discount. While that sounds like a lot of money, if you divide say $20,000 by 25, you come up with an average annual electricity cost of only $800. (A local solar power company can give you a better idea of what it would cost for you to go green. Plus, many solar companies offer financing.)

Hi, my name is Nicole Corson and I am the owner of RoofCrafters Roofing and a very blessed mother of two beautiful daughters… and a handsome dog! In 2013 I decided to pivot when I had an opportunity to take my 12 years of experience in property management, property maintenance, and my passion for helping others by applying it to the roofing industry. Coming into a predominantly male industry, I am very proud to say I have created some much-needed structure for all our teams and an exceptional customer experience for my clients.