Category: Residential Solar

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03/28/15

  04:00:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 361 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Ranting

Who has the Edge? 3 Reasons to Pick Enphase over SolarEdge

SolarEdge has gotten a fair amount of buzz this week thanks to their IPO, but it made us think that maybe it was time to revisit the question—who really has the edge: DC-to-DC “optimizers” like SolarEdge or Enphase microinverters?

Enphase Microinverter Which would you choose? Solar Edge Optimizer
 Enphase Microinverter    SolarEdge Optimizer

 

In our view this is a bit of a “no-brainer” and it really comes down to the following three reasons:

Reason #3 - Integrated Grounding — In every solar array, all metal surfaces have to be grounded for safety.  Enphase microinverters now feature integrated grounding, which eliminates the need for a separate equipment grounding conductor.  SolarEdge does not have this feature and, depending on the jurisdiction, may require the use of a dedicated copper conductor to be run from one unit to the next.  This increases both labor costs as well as part costs (copper is expensive these days!).  Far better to have that grounding built-in at the factory than assembled on the roof.

Reason #2 - Easier Installation — Beyond the need for that equipment grounding conductor, the SolarEdge system requires the installer to not only mount the optimizers on the roof beneath each panel, but it also requires the installer to mount one or more heavy (51 to 88 pound) inverter(s) on the wall.  In contrast, Enphase combines everything into one unit, so there are no heavy inverters to mount to the side of the client’s house.

Reason #1 - Greater Reliability —The number one reason for us at Run on Sun is the greater reliability you get from using Enphase.  Frankly, the SolarEdge approach combines the worst of both alternative approaches (i.e., string inverters versus microinverters).  You are still putting power electronics in the demanding environment of a roof, AND you have combined that with a single point of failure with the inverter back on the ground!  When you use Enphase microinverters you eliminate that single point of failure and you are going with the industry leader in creating reliable, roof-mounted power systems.

Put all of that together, and we think Enphase microinverters provide the greatest value to our clients, which is why we feature them in all of our solar power systems, despite the occassional “buzz” other approaches might generate.

02/24/15

  11:43:00 am, by Laurel Hamilton, Projects Coordinator, Run on Sun   , 488 words  
Categories: Energy Efficiency, Residential Solar

Energy-Efficient Homes are Hot!

Run on Sun PV installationLast I checked, people keep having babies, so the demand for homes is not going to slow down any time soon. But the fact is, times are changing. What was valuable in your home when you bought it may not be as important to prospective buyers today.

The challenges of climate change are becoming more widely accepted—a New York Times poll found that 83% of Americans now believe global warming will be a serious problem in the future. Thankfully, gains in residential energy-efficiency improvements offset  more than 70% of the growth in both the number of homes and increasing footprint sizes, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). However, these gains in recent decades will need to significantly improve to make any kind of difference in terms of climate change.

But there is hope! The trend toward more efficient homes in the housing market is already getting attention. After surveying both home builders and home buyers, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that Millenials want energy-efficient appliances and features as well as smaller homes. Smart technology such as programmable thermostats will also become the norm. Respondents said they were willing to pay 2-3% more for better energy-efficiency if they could see a return through lower electric bills. Respondents also said they’d be happy to sacrifice extra finished space for a more affordable first home.

If you are a home owner you should be tapping into the energy-efficiency trend to not only lower your utility expenses but improve the marketability and value of your home. If you follow our blog you may have seen our recent post discussing new evidence supporting the idea that solar increases property values. While installing a solar system is the granddaddy of all home energy-efficiency projects, we at Run on Sun always encourage clients to address low hanging fruit first, and make sure your energy usage is as low as possible. This will lower the size of the solar system you need to offset your usage, and thus, the overall cost of your solar investment.

Way too much of the energy we consume is wasted through poor insulation, leaky ducts, or inefficient household appliances. Fixing these problems can cut energy costs up to 25% for the typical home. One option is to ask a professional energy auditor to find exactly where your energy is going (we have some folks we can recommend). However, many energy saving tips are intuitive…installing double pane windows, better insulation, CFL or LED light bulbs, and ENERGY STAR appliances are all ones you’ve likely heard before. Others may be lesser known such as using power strips to avoid vamping power. And if you have a pool, upgrading that antiquated pool pump could save you a lot!

Once your home is up to snuff, going solar is a great investment to make your home even more desirable in the current housing market. Call Run on Sun today for a free site assessment!

02/16/15

  08:35:00 am, by Laurel Hamilton, Projects Coordinator, Run on Sun   , 877 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Residential Solar

Top 5 Reasons to Stay Away from that Solar Lease!

Public Domain NREL solar home image

UPDATE: See end of post for National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report findings regarding solar leasing vs loans.


In the debate of owning versus leasing solar panels, the folks over at NPR weighed in with a story last week that caught our eye, er, ear.  While it offers a fair explanation of some of the pros and cons,  we don’t think it did a good enough job of highlighting just why that solar lease should be avoided.  Here’s our top 5 reasons to avoid a solar lease.

Reason #5 - You can’t get credit on your appraised home value with leased solar panels. 

As we noted in our recent post about solar ownership boosting your home’s resale value, if you don’t own the panels on your roof, they aren’t an asset toward boosting your home’s value.

Reason #4 - The “benefit” of covered maintenance is a myth!

Leasing companies tout that they cover the maintenance on your solar system, but the truth is that most maintenance is already covered by product and installer warranties.  (For example, Enphase microinverters come with a 25-year warranty - longer than the typical lease term.)  For most residential system owners the only maintenance their systems need is to wash the panels off with a hose.

Reason # 3 - You don’t have to be a Geek to own solar!

The NPR story suggests that to own solar requires a very “hands-on” approach, with the homeowner being forced to navigate the shoals of rebates, tax credits and permitting on their own.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  A reputable, local solar installation professional, like Run on Sun, will handle all of those messy details for you.

Reason # 2 - A leased system complicates selling your home!

If you decide to sell and you have a leased system on your roof, your prospective buyer has to not only meet your required offer, they also need to satisfy the leasing company’s qualifications to assume the remainder of your lease.  A buyer might qualify for a mortgage, but not satisfy the credit requirements of the leasing company, and even if they do, they might not be interested in the hassle of dealing with a lease payment for the remainder of your twenty-year term.

Reason # 1 - The leasing company is ripping you off!

Bottom line, this is the number 1 reason to avoid a lease.  But don’t take our word for it, let’s look at what one of the largest solar leasing companies says, right there in the tiny print on their website:

Savings on your total electricity costs is not guaranteed. Financing terms vary by location and are not available in all areas… A 3 kW system starts at $25-$100 per month with an annual increase of 0-2.9% each year for 20-30 years, on approved credit.

Just how bad a deal is that?  Well, let’s take a typical 3 kW solar project.  That is really small, so the cash price from a local installer is probably around $4/Watt - which works out to $12,000 up front.  However, if you own, you receive the rebate (if any) and the tax credit.  In PWP territory, that rebate works out to roughly $2,200 but in SCE territory, the rebate is zero.  So to take the worst case example for ownership, we will assume no rebate.  In that case, the tax credit is worth 30% of $12,000 or $3,600 leaving the ultimate cost to own at $8,400.

Now what happens in a lease for that same system?  No rebate or tax credit goes to you - the leasing company pockets those.  What about your payments?  Well, let’s take the middle ground suggested in the leasing company’s quote above and look at a cost of $60/month in year 1, with an annual increase of 1.45%.

Cost of solar - owning vs leasingHere the green line represents the cost of ownership - $8,400 which is constant over the life of the 20 year lease.

The orange bars are the annual payments which in year 1 amount to $720 (12 x $60) and by year 20 have increased to $947.

The red bars are the cumulative cost of leasing solar.  By year 11, the owner has come out ahead.  By the time the lease ends in year 20, the solar leasing customer will have paid $16,567 in lease payment - nearly twice what the system purchaser paid - and they still will not own the system on their roof!

 While it may be true that not everyone can afford to purchase a solar power system outright, that is changing as solar becomes more affordable for more people.  Plus, with the emergence of solar loans, which can provide for little or no out-of-pocket cost while still retaining the benefits of ownership, cash-constrained consumers can still go solar without resorting to the leasing trap.

For all of these reasons, and a whole bunch more, we at Run on Sun have never offered residential leases, and we never will.  If you want to go solar but avoid the pitfalls of leasing, give us a call - we are waiting to help!


UPDATE: Two reports from NREL bolster our conclusions above: “To Own or Lease Solar: Understanding Commercial Retailers Decisions to Use Alternative Financing Models,” and “Banking on Solar: An Analysis of Banking Opportunities in the U.S. Distributed Photovoltaic Market“. Analysts found that businesses that use low-cost loans to purchase a PV system and homeowners who use solar-specific loans can save up to 30 percent compared with those who lease a system through a third-party owner.

01/29/15

  06:36:00 am, by Laurel Hamilton, Projects Coordinator, Run on Sun   , 406 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Residential Solar

Its Official...Solar Boosts Home-Owners' Property Values!

Selling into the SunMany solar stakeholders have always assumed rooftop solar systems add to the resale value of a property. Homeowners and residential solar companies frequently use this benefit as one of the many reasons to invest in solar even though until recently there had been little statistical evidence to support the assumption.

So we were thrilled to read the new study, “Selling into the Sun: Price Premium Analysis of a Multi-State Dataset of Solar Homes,” which finally quantifies the resale value of residential photovoltaic  (PV) solar systems. The study was a collaborative effort including esteemed scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Adomatis Appraisal Services, Real Property Analytics/Texas A&M University, University of California at San Diego, San Diego State University, and Sandia National Laboratories.

The team analyzed some 22,000 home sales, of which nearly 4,000 had PV rooftop solar systems (more than double the number in previous studies), in eight states over a 12-year span including the housing market boom, bust, and recovery. This is by far the largest and broadest dataset ever analyzed on the subject.

Results prove that homebuyers are consistently willing to pay more for homes with host-owned solar systems — averaging about $4 per watt of PV installed — across various states, housing and PV markets, and home types. This amounts to a premium of about $15,000 for a typical rooftop system. Other important conclusions the team discovered are as follows:

  • PV premiums had little variability between new and existing homes.
  • The dollar per watt premium decreases incrementally as system sizes increase - with the best value at 4 kilowatts (average household PV size) or less.
  • As systems age, the PV premium depreciates sharply from $6/watt for systems less than two years old to $3/watt after about eight years.
  • PV premiums correlate to the net cost of the solar system — which take into account rebates and incentives — and appear to be independent of the PV system gross cost estimates.

As residential solar systems become more and more common, it is important to be able to value them accurately. The evidence of the added investment value shown from this study is a critical step for the growth of residential solar. And PV premiums are obviously a benefit homeowners should consider when doing their cost-benefit analysis of going solar.

Please note that this study only focused on host-owned solar, not those with leased systems. It would be interesting to see a future study including this growing portion of the PV market.

01/06/15

  07:15:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 186 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Utilities, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar

Utilities Fighting Back - Same old, same old

New year, same battle.

We have reported for some time about efforts by the Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) like Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to do what they can to make rooftop solar less attractive, if not kill it outright.  This report from NPR demonstrates how that fight is playing out here in California, and elsewhere.

As we begin the new year, this story is an important reminder that supportive public policy doesn’t just happen, and there are forces arrayed against this industry that would like nothing more than to make rooftop solar - the sort that homes and businesses can use - go away completely.  (Ironically, this is at the same time that utilities are investing ever more in their own solar facilities - such as this one in Colorado, or this one in California - as a hedge against carbon regulations and unpredictable fossil fuel prices.) 

If we are to defend and expand the ability of average home and business owners to lower their bills while reducing their carbon footprint, we will need to be proactive this year in supporting the policies, and politicians, that allow that to happen.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
In addition, Run on Sun offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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