Submitted by South Sound Solar
With the current federal tax credits and local incentives, tapping into solar power is more affordable and pays off sooner than it did four years ago. Before you bring a solar energy expert out to your house, take some time to check your site yourself. Evaluating your home for solar is simple, just follow these four easy steps.
Check your paperwork.
To be eligible for the solar incentives from the government and the utility companies, the person who owns the system (you) must own the property where the solar array will be installed. The utility account for the property must be in your name as well.
Check the orientation.
Southern-facing roofs is the best, west is the next best. Do none of your roofs face the best directions? Fear not. There are solutions. Many people in this area have used pole mounts and racked panels to maximize their solar production.
Check your view.
Even a little shading can create a big problem. There are systems designed to deal effectively with some shading but there is a limit. There are ways to deal with shading challenges. Obvious solutions are mounting panels to poles or racks. More dramatic (and often less desirable) solutions would be removing trees that cause shading. A good solar installer will be able to give you a reasonable percentage estimate of how effective tree removal would be before you break out the chainsaw.
Check your structure.
If your roof is due to be replaced in the next 10 years, get it replaced before you have solar installed. To save money, roofers can replace just the area where solar panels are being installed. The rest of the roof can be replaced down the line.
Your home’s wiring needs to be up-to-date. The panels’ electric requirements are pretty low, but it’s best to make sure your home’s system is able to handle the additional needs.
Finally, your roof and its supporting structure needs to be in good condition. Solar panels’ additional weight is minimal, but damaged and/or aging roofs require a different approach. At that point, getting your home safe and solid should be the top priority.
Bonus step: Check the low hanging energy conservation fruit first.
Before you go solar, take good look at how you can save energy today. Seal air leaks in your walls and around windows and doors, properly insulate your roof and under your home, use an efficient heat source. These fixes make a significant difference and cost less than a full array of solar panels.
Kirk Haffner of South Sound Solar is the leading solar power expert in South Sound. South Sound Solar will be hostingfree workshops covering the steps for DIY site evaluation in greater detail. They will also include information on the effectiveness of different systems and full information on available incentives and rebates. Current workshops are November 15th and November 28th. Call 360-352-7869 to register and for more details.