PVC is widely understood as a heavy duty plastic-based material. The “V” in the middle of the acronym stands for Vinyl, which in the home siding market, represents the #1 selling material for most of the US. The PVC used for siding benefits from additives that resist color fading, and increase flexibility while not sacrificing durability.
For residential siding, vinyl is quite versatile. The horizontal plank (bevel) style is the most common cladding option for vinyl, but there are many more ways it is utilized as a cladding material for homes and buildings. On the east coast, its primary competition comes from wood and fiber cement, while stucco dominates the western part of the US.
Because R-Value is a key factor when considering any siding material, it is important to note that vinyl siding takes this into consideration and that this skews its pricing data.
Generally, costs for vinyl are based on material thickness, with most residential products ranging from .040 to .046 inches thick, or about 1/16th of an inch. At that level of thickness, the R-value is unsurprisingly low.
However, vinyl comes in one of two primary variations: hollow-back and insulated, or foam-back. The foam-back provides at least 3 times (or more) the R-value, while increasing the cost by at most 3 times, or usually doubling it.
In terms of costs, Vinyl siding averages between $3.00 and $8.50 per sq. ft. installed. This breaks down to $3.00 to $5.00 on average per sq. ft. for hollow-back and $5.00 to $8.50 per sq. ft. for foam-back and/or deluxe vinyl siding.
On average, hollow-back vinyl siding installation results in a $7,000 to $12,000 overall cost for a typical two bedroom sized home in America. Foam back averages $13,000 to $20,000 for the same property.
While “average” is a bit vague, we’ll break the costs down further (next section) and explain the factors that impact costs (2 sections below).
Pricing Info – Part 2
As noted above, usually when you select vinyl siding for your home, you are selecting thickness and whether it is insulated material or not. These aren’t your only options, but they contribute to the costs more than other options.
The style type is another key factor – whether panels are vertical or horizontal and whether making use of shingle or split-log style. Often the nuances within a particular style type, along with contractor experience and product quality are the additional primary factors that impact costs.
To hopefully simplify things, let’s go with 2 examples of horizontal panels and what a job may entail to help understand the costing information more in depth:
Hollow-back Vinyl Siding: 1,900 sq. ft. x $2.75 = $5,225 (includes primary material/labor) Housewrap: $200 Color Matching Existing Exterior Features: (i.e. outlet covers, wall vents, etc.) = $250 Updated Window Trim (Vinyl): $3,250 Additional Building Materials: (i.e. J-Channels, corner pieces) = $125 Nails: $55 (Optional) Detached Garage Update: (with all the above material considerations) x 700 sq.ft = additional $2,700 Building Permit: $250
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.
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 Suntegra and other emerging BIPV solar shingles and tile offerings.
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 solar 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.
Positioning 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 the 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.
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 2018 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.
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 2018, 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.
Asphalt shingles remain the most popular roofing material in America. While not the most durable option around, they are the most economical. They make for quick installation and continue to be improved upon.
Since the 1980’s, fiberglass shingles have effectively displaced the traditional organic asphalt shingle. The cost of materials and installation has stayed relative to the rate of inflation.
As roofers discuss everything in terms of squares (100 sq.ft.), let’s use those rates. On average, a square of fiberglass roofing shingles will run $275 to $450 per square fully installed.
Note: In high cost of living areas such as DC, NYC, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, and LA, the cost can exceed $500 per square installed.
If choosing to go with professional installation, on average, you can expect to pay between $6,000 and $12,000 for a 20 square, or 2000 sq.ft. roof. — This includes all materials and labor, tear off of the old roof and disposal, permitting, and 5 year warranty.
Cost of Materials vs. Other Alternatives:
The material cost, per square foot, for all other roofing options is $3 and up, while fiberglass shingles are easily well under $2 per sq.ft. You’d have to go with architectural grade to have it rise to the economic grade of other materials.
Traditional asphalt shingles, often referenced as organic mat-base shingles, were heavier than the contemporary fiberglass version. This is a result of needing 40% more asphalt than the updated fiberglass version.
The fiberglass base mat along with the ceramic granules are truly the primary materials while the asphalt layer serves the important function of waterproofing the mat. The granules, both old and new, serve the purpose shielding the shingle/mat from harmful UV rays.
Less asphalt does make for less flexibility and initially less durability. Though organic mat-based are well known to absorb water which during changes from hot to freezing temps, lead to more cracking or warping of the shingle.
Being lighter weight, fiberglass shingles are easier to transport, thus more eco-friendly in terms of energy needed for transport. And less weight that will end up in landfills, which is overall a disadvantage of asphalt shingles compared to recyclable materials such as metal and ceramic tile.
Two different types of fiberglass shingles exist, with enormous amount of sub-variations. Three-tab shingles are the less expensive version that delivers an overall flat looking roof.
The ’tabs’ are actually the shingle that on a finished roof are not detectable as all shingles look like individual pieces, when really they are overlapping pieces of three-tabbed shingles.
Architectural grade is the second, more expensive version. Sometimes referenced as dimensional or laminate shingles.
This type of fiberglass shingle provides extra depth and shape to what is the resulting shingle appearance. The contoured look gives off more of an impression slate tile or even wood shake.
Both types of fiberglass shingles can vary the color on a single roof, but three tab is commonly a single color while the dimensional tiles have visible shade and hue difference among each piece.
All contemporary roofing materials have limitless color options and fiberglass shingles are no different. Green, red, brown, gray and black are all common for fiberglass shingles.
Additional Considerations and Features
A significant advantage architectural shingles have over three tab is the manufacturer’s warranty. Typically three tab will carry anywhere from 15 to 30 years depending on manufacturer, climate and regional environmental factors. Architectural grade starts with a minimum of 30 years.
The same roof mentioned in the Cost Basics section above, using laminate shingles, would be $8500 to $15,000 with labor, for 20 squares.
For low sloped roofs, three-tab is the better option as the contours of a dimensional roof could hold or trap water more than the flatness of the three-tab version.
Some manufacturers use colored granules designed to reflect sun rays, thus delivering cool roof type technology on an asphalt shingle application.
While metal roofing is superior when it comes to actual cool roof benefits, you’ll want to check for Energy Star rated fiberglass shingles to achieve these sort of benefits.
Similarly, contemporary fiberglass shingles have the option of being treated for algae resistance. If you go for these, plan to pay as much as 15 percent more for roofing material. For homeowners in high humidity or increased precipitation, this may be of interest to you.
Advantages of Fiberglass Shingles
ease of installation – almost all professional roofers will install this product, and many DIY’er types can handle this type of roofing project
very budget friendly or for sure one of the most economical choices available for adding a new roof to your home
great versatility with lots of styles and options to select from
unlike many other types of roof, fiberglass shingles can be walked on without need for special attention or fear of cracking/denting the material
decent to good return on your investment. 3-tab generally amounts to 70% ROI, while architectural grade can fetch as much as 78%
Disadvantages of Fiberglass Shingles
while more eco-friendly than organic version, they lag far behind other roofing materials
far less durable than most other roofing options that can last 50 to 100 years, by the time one needs to replace a slate tile roof, the homeowner who stuck with fiberglass will have paid for 3 roofs that are subject to escalating costs over time
due to shorter life span, the need for annual check ups is greater along with possibility of needed repairs from curled or cracked shingles. Especially a factor for three tab shingles in hotter climates.