PV Solar Panels Costs, Pros and Cons – Solar Roofs 2017

Sunlight made into electricity. It’s that simple. Enough electricity to power not just a few appliances, but an entire home, including transportation. That’s where we are quickly heading, but let’s deal with the basics first.

Solar and PV Encapsulated
Effective Means Of Capturing Awesome Power
System Components And Function
Hiring A Contractor – Costs Further Explored
Advantages of PV Solar Panels
Disadvantages of PV Solar Panels

Solar and PV Encapsulated

PV stands for Photovoltaic. — The quantifiable process of converting sunlight (solar) into electrical power. For the conversion to be realized and useful, the right semiconducting material must be in place. This results in efficiency that helps us put into perspective how solar energy can and does compare to historical methods of producing electrical power.

Solar cells are the fundamental, man-made part. Each cell produces about 1 to 2 watts of power. While that isn’t much, for the small size they are, it’s actually quite sufficient. Group cells together into modules and stack modules into arrays, and suddenly mega and kilowatts of power are realized. To visualize what we are communicating, check out this short video from the U.S. Department of Energy.

For the solar cell to be effective, it must be protected. Durable glass for its transparency is the obvious choice and results in the modules we call solar panels. A module can be as small as those found on calculators, which date back to mid 20th century technology. Or modules can be arranged as arrays, which today is what we consider to be a solar panel system.

Contemporary solar cells are manufactured in about a half dozen ways. The ongoing and still most popular material is crystalline silicon. Its efficiency in the conversion process is why it continues to be popular. Yet, it is also more costly, which certainly matters when it comes to the idea of using solar cells to power a home. For more cost effective systems, solar cells are packaged in thin-film materials. Currently, this is where much experimental technology is occurring and emerging. It also leads to BIPV materials, or solar cells integrated into construction materials. Such as the case with solar shingles.

Because solar panels, of the non-integrated variety, are still the dominate option in the market, we focus on the components, costs and advantages/disadvantages for this type of PV system.

Effective Means Of Capturing Awesome Power

Each hour, there’s 122 Petawatts of solar energy delivered to the earth from the sun. To help put this in perspective, this is around 10,000 times the power consumed by all humans in one trip around the sun (aka 1 year). In the last century, we are just learning to tap into that energy in a meaningful way. Efficiency of cells and ultimately arrays is the ongoing work of research scientists. Highest efficiency arrays are either too experimental for mass production or are relegated to government and major industry purposes.

For a home, the process of solar generation into electrical power requires other technologies to be in play. Foremost is placement of arrays. Positioned toward the south is a given. Thus rack mounting panels onto a southern exposed roof is the norm. Though, not necessarily the most efficient.

A solar panel mounted on the ground that tracks the movement of the sun is currently the most efficient way to harness solar energy through a PV system. It can, rather easily, power itself, plus have power left over to supply power to many other applications. Yet, this type of system is generally more costly upfront, is not suitable to all forms of residential living, and requires much more ongoing maintenance than rack-mounted systems.

System Components And Function

For every PV system, there are generally 4 primary components. The solar panel, which we’ve described already. A controller, which is what regulates the amount of electricity in the system, but particularly to the battery. You didn’t think the power was directly feeding the needs of the home did you? No, a battery is in place so electrical energy is stored for later use. The last primary component is the inverter. Energy stored in a battery needs conversion, from DC electrical current, to AC, in order to power most modern conveniences. That’s what the inverter is for.

It’s helpful to understand there are essentially two types of systems you would install for a home: off-grid and on-grid. Off-grid is perhaps what most who are new to solar power conceive a system to be. It means all power generated from the PV system, will be used solely to power the structure it is connected to. Whereas on-grid (or grid-tied) systems feed to the local utility provider, and then back to the home in a metered process.

Each of the two methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Because storing energy inevitably leads to wasted energy, it is usually far more cost effective for a homeowner to go with a grid-tied system. It is unlikely that a homeowner would use all power generated from their solar panels, and so in essence the utility company is paying you for that energy and then providing that same cost back to you for that electricity. So, you pay for what you need and don’t pay for wasted energy. In this case, the utility company serves as the virtual battery within the system.

Advantages of off-grid are few, but depending on the situation with your residence or style of living can outweigh the advantages of being on the grid. If living in a rural area, with less access to a utility company, then the costs to get into the grid would be prohibitive for most to make it worth their while to go solar. Plus, there’s just the notion of being inherently self sufficient without relying on the utility company for power storage.

Installation costs are the determining factor for most homeowners ready to move in this direction. It takes more homework than we can possibly provide should you choose to go the DIY route and, for sure if you are considering going with an off-grid system. However, let the guys at WholeSaleSolar.com and GoGreenSolar.com be ways to help get you started in that direction.

Hiring A Contractor — Costs Further Explored

First things first. One advantage of going solar, is federal tax rebates for PV systems. Such rebates were recently extended, through EnergyStar.gov, to ensure they go through 2021. For 2017 through 2019, whatever cost you spend, you can get a rebate of 30% off the price. Must apply through the government first, but the savings of thousands of dollars is very likely worth it.

Next is the realization that you’ll be generating watts of electricity at a cost to you, from installation of materials. So, essentially there’s a cost per watt factor that needs to be calculated and then determined by you, the homeowner, to ensure it is worth your time and money. Chances are it is, and latest information is that costs of material continue to decline. If basing decisions on information from even 5 years ago, it may lead you to think it is too unaffordable. Yet, what hasn’t changed is that a typical solar panel system will save 30% to 70% off your utility bills when fully implemented.

Walking you through all the considerations is challenging to do in short order. Fortunately, the information at SolarPowerAuthority.com and EnergySage.com does this quite nicely.

The key information is that your cost for material is greatly enhanced if going with a buyer (hired professional) that has greater buying power than you. Once you do the math on your own, you’ll realize what you can afford in terms of amount of panels and the watts generated from such a system. With a pro at your side, you can likely afford more panels, and reduce your cost to watt ratio.

Some key factors and considerations with professional installation include:

  • surveying your home’s roof for orientation, ability to hold the extra weight, and determination of panels is a first step, that may take awhile. Especially if additional permits and fees are involved.
  • determining if the company is the right fit for the job
    • are they experienced in on-grid installation?
    • can they provide examples of their work?
    • how many years have they been in business?
    • how much experience do they have installing PV systems?
    • are they properly licensed and certified? Don’t just take their word for it, call the county where you live to check on this.
    • what warranties can they provide? And do you truly understand what the warranty is covering?
  • as with any job, go for more than one quote and take time to compare notes
    • be sure to compare apples to apples, or that if one contractor offers bid for something another didn’t include, then follow up and ask for that cost estimate
  • what does maintenance entail after installation? Who’s responsible for that?
  • After all the information is in, are you really saving money over say a 10 year period?

Residential PV Solar Power System — Upfront Costs

The upfront costs are usually the reason most people don’t go with solar energy. $15,000 is a lot when you compare it to a yearly bill of say $1,200 for current energy costs. In 2017, the average cost is closer to $20,000 and yet if we factor in the federal rebate, then it’s actually $14,000. Still, there are enough factors to consider that could lower, but for sure may raise the price.

Which leads to our last consideration of leasing panels instead of owning them. The solar leasing company owns the panels, handles installation and you reap the benefits of lower energy bills. However, this comes with a few caveats, such as:

  • the federal rebate goes to them, not you
  • you still pay full price to the utility company for energy used there, even if its reduced some. Plus you are paying the solar leasing company for the energy they are providing you.
  • if you sell your home before the lease is up, the lease may say you’re still obligated for payments, or you hope the new owner is willing to eat that cost

With all that said, leasing does make it more affordable on the front end, but less of a solution over the long haul.

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Synthetic Shake and Shingle Pricing Guide 2017 – Exterior Home Improvements

Synthetic shake and shingles are polymer-based material, or a combination of plastic and rubber. They are used on roofs where homeowners desire the classic look of wood or natural slate, with the added benefits from the synthetic blends. They are relatively new to the roofing market, first arriving in the early 1990’s. Their durability, environment friendly and affordability have all contributed to their rising success.

Square Footage Cost and Total Installation Charges

Composite shingles and fake slate cost virtually the same. Formation is done via a molding process to ensure it resembles wood or stone, as the case may be. The material is fairly light at about 1.25 pounds per tile, so essentially all roof types can handle such installation. The tiles can easily be cut on-site with a utility knife and are attached as simply as using a nail gun. An asphalt shingle roofer ought to have the skills to properly install synthetic shake and shingle roofing.

For installation on an average (2,300 sq.ft.), non-complex roof, it costs between $4.50 and $7.00 per sq.ft. With the averaged sized home, this totals to $10,350 to $16,100. If the existing roof needs to be torn off first, this can cost $2,250 to $3,500 more.

A complex roof with multiple roof angles, dormers, or greater pitch would add to labor charges. How much this adds depends on the contractor, the unique roof layout and other factors we’ll cover below.

Breaking Down Costs Into Specifics

With any home improvement project being handled by qualified professionals, it is in your best interest to get more than one quote, or preferably between three and seven. The quoted figures they give you will either be total installation charges (one price for everything) or they’ll ideally itemize each cost so you can better compare their rates to the competition. For the example below, we ballpark certain figures as particular items, like building permits and disposal fees vary by region.

Composite Shingle Roofing: 2,490 sq.ft. (23 roofing squares) = $13,100 (includes labor+material)
Tear Off Existing Roof: $2,500
Disposal fees: $900
Additional Materials: Flashing, fasteners, underlayment, etc. = $2,250
Building Permit: $350
Total Project Cost = $19,100

Factors That Contribute To Overall Cost

While material costs are roughly the same between composite shingles and fake slate, the material costs will be based on manufacturer and distributor pricing. Usually, roofing contractors purchase product at wholesale through established distributors. There are a number of manufacturers in the marketplace, and the popular ones are:

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The Cost of Asphalt Shingle Roofs: Materials & Installation Costs 2017

The biggest bang for your buck. That’s what Asphalt Shingles on a roof can provide to you, the homeowner. It’s not the most durable material. Durability and longevity belongs to metal roofing and natural slate. For the value, though, Asphalt Shingles are hard to beat, especially when viewed through the prism of its low upfront cost and near-term home improvement ROI. An asphalt shingle roof can often be installed for under $10,000 on a small or mid-sized single family house. For a relatively modest upfront cost, you can expect to get at least 10 to 15 years of roof protection for your home.

A Wee Bit Of History

For a long time, slate tiles were the cream of the crop when it came to roofing a house or building. In the early 20th century, that changed. America went from using slate and cedar (wood) shakes and shingles as predominant materials for covering their homes, to what was at the time the newly unveiled asphalt shingles. The reason for this was two-fold; The new asphalt shingle was made to look very similar to the slate tile, but at a much more affordable cost. Like all things mass production, it allowed millions of homeowners to enjoy decent roof quality without the need to spend a whole lot of money on a roof. Yet, like many things associated with mass production and usage, it lead to a significant, and ongoing issue with the disposal of old asphalt shingles.

Understanding Asphalt Shingles Roofing Options

Back in the day, it used to be that asphalt roofing was rolled onto roofs. Cloth-like paper, with layer of asphalt, coated with stone granules. In the early 1900’s, the rolls were sliced into individual pieces. Add in the political pressure from the National Board of Fire Underwriters, who thought this material was much better for a home covering than the popular wood shakes alternative, and a monumental industry was born! 😉

3-Tab Shingles

Strip shingles, or what we call 3-tab today, used to be the standard for nearly half a century. They offer a single layer, uniform look for the roof. They are light-weight even in today’s market. But, they are considered cheap and less durable than the next step up, or what we call architectural shingles.

Architectural Shingles are thicker, heavier and offer far more variety than their predecessor. With 50% more weight than a 3-tab shingle, architectural shingles come at a higher cost. Though, the cost is easily justifiable with more durability, service lifespan and the idea that shapes of shingles can be different. Architectural shingles are also known as laminated or dimensional shingles, because there is an appearance of more depth to the roof than what 3-tab/strip shingles provide.

Many routinely refer to architectural as the premium product, but they are really middle of the road product.

Premium shingles can offer even more depth and variation. These are luxury shingles are known for their totally different look. Truly premium shingles are designed to be as durable and long lasting as possible. Here, multi-colored options exist, along with cool-roof asphalt shingles, and other cutting edge technological advancements.

To be clear, the architectural shingles are the predominant product in the asphalt shingle market today. The other two options are also being sold, and are quite popular in their own right. 3-tab makes for a great starter row on any type of asphalt shingle roof. Plus 3-tab is sufficient wherever economical considerations may outweigh quality, such as on some low-priority commercial buildings and value residential roofs. Premium shingles are deemed by many as too luxurious, but there are people willing to pay nearly twice the cost for a better designed, longer lasting roof, which the luxury shingles provide.

Another consideration which each of the three options has to do with how the product can perform during storm weather and strong wind uplift. Essentially, the cheaper the product the less wind it can withstand before the 3-tab tiles curl or are even blown off. This pertains directly to product warranty. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • 3-tab shingles are rated for 60 to 70 mph wind uplift, usually holding to a 20 to 30 year product warranty
  • Architectural shingles are rated for 110 to 130 mph winds, with 30 to 50 year warranties
  • Premium shingles are rated for up to 110 mph uplift, and usually come with limited lifetime warranty

For more visuals and info on the three variations of Asphalt Shingles, see this page from the IKO Roofing Manufacturer’s website.

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