Not Qualified? Not Anymore!

Thursday, March 18th

 

New Solar Technology

 

Showing the percentages of the ITC discounts per year starting in 2016 through 2022.

Do you want to go solar, but you’ve been told that your house isn’t a good fit. Let me take a moment to explain what that means. When looking at a home’s solar potential we look at three main factors.

  1. Shading Conditions:
    Solar panels need access to the sun in order to do their job. Shading from other buildings, trees and the like reduce the efficiency of your panels.
  2. Azimuth:
    Azimuth is just a fancy way of saying which direction is your house facing. Because we live in the northern hemisphere the sun travels to the south of us. So the more south facing your roofs are, the more you will get from your panels.
  3. Available Roof Space:
    The more panels you can fit on your roof the more power you will get. In Massachusetts there are many homes with dormers, turrets, and steep slopes that, while beautiful, limit how many panels you can fit.

Historically these factors have been the deciding factor in whether your home qualifies for solar, and in my career I have turned away hundreds of eager homeowners because their homes just didn’t fit. But not anymore.

With advances in panel and inverter technology we are installing solar on more “unqualified” homes than ever. Take a look to find out what’s changed.

Showing the percentages of the ITC discounts per year starting in 2016 through 2022.

Panel Technology

Since I came on the solar scene, almost 10 years ago, solar panels have changed and grown in leaps and bounds. One of the greatest improvements has been the advent of new technologies that greatly increase panel wattage. Panel wattage describes how much of the sun’s power a panel can grab and translate into usable electricity, and is measured in watts. This wattage rating multiplied by how many panels you have gives you your solar system size (which is measured in kilowatts or kW). As a rookie Inside Sales Representative in 2012 the highest wattage panels I could offer residential customers was 285 watts. At the time these were a big deal. Since then, panel manufacturers have found inventive ways to up that number.

How? Make the solar cells (the individual units that convert solar into electricity) on each panel as efficient as possible. With patented technology many solar manufacturers pushed the envelope to get as much power out of the cells as they could. They did things like using monocrystalline technology (where the silicone inside the cells is one solid piece as opposed to the many of polycrystalline) and moving elements that cause shading to the cells to the back of the panels. These changes allowed panel makers to produce solar panels with ratings of 370, 380 and even 415 watts in some cases. All this without significantly increasing the size of the panel (except for the SunPower A-Series 415w panels which are slightly larger than standard).

Another change over time has been the dimensions of the panels. Panels have begun to come out with various dimensions. While the standard is still about 3’ x 5’ some panels are wider and shorter while others are longer and narrow. This allows designers to pick the panel with dimensions that best fits the peculiarities of a specific roof, which translates to more panels in less space.

Showing the percentages of the ITC discounts per year starting in 2016 through 2022.

Inverter Technology

Next up in the evolution of solar is the solar inverter. The inverter converts the solar power captured by the panels into a form your house can use. Years ago string inverters were the go-to for solar projects. Panels would be connected together in a “string” and then connected to the inverter. The biggest problem this presented, however, was that if for any reason one panel on the string was underproducing (whether due to a malfunction, shading, etc) every panel on the string was affected. Think old school Christmas lights. The way around this? Let each panel stand on its own. With micro-inverters and hybrid inverters a mini inverter is placed on the back of each panel. This means that one panel’s lackluster performance has no affect on the rest. So if there is a panel getting shaded by a chimney, pipe or corner of a tree you can still get optimal power from the rest of your system. Check out on blog on inverters here: Microinverters, String Inverters, Hybrids, Oh My!

Showing the percentages of the ITC discounts per year starting in 2016 through 2022.

Design Imagination

Now let’s talk about the final piece of the puzzle; what your solar installer is willing to do to get the most out of your roof. Imagination is needed in any design arena, and solar is no different. A solar designer needs to be able to maximize your home’s solar potential while keeping an eye on aesthetics. This often requires an expertise of available panel options, their pros and cons for your needs and problem solving. Are they willing to consider roofs that aren’t optimal? Do they consider maximizing all available roof space? While the technology changes is very important to making solar available to those previously disqualified, it’s even more important to have a team that is eager and committed to working with you to realize your solar goals.

Showing the percentages of the ITC discounts per year starting in 2016 through 2022.

So, what’s the point of all of this? Simple. Beliefs are powerful things. They can shape our futures or keep us stuck. Maybe you don’t feel like you can go solar, or in the case of many homeowners, maybe someone’s told you that you can’t. I hope this blog has helped you stretch your beliefs about your home, its potential, and even yourself. Change your beliefs, change your life. And start with solar. Don’t count yourself out; call us and let us take a fresh look at solar for you.

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