Do you have a sunny roof?Â Would you like to get 8-15 percent average annual return on your investment? Would you like to help the environment? Would you like to be more independent?Â Would you like to lower your electric bill? How about eliminating utility rate escalation from the picture for the next 25 years?
Iâ€™m guessing that your answer is â€śyesâ€ť to all those questions.
If so, then now is the time to get bids on a rooftop solar system. I mean NOW. The federal investment tax credit is 26 percent of the installed cost through year-end and it will drop to 22 percent next year. This credit will not be in place after that if Congress does not renew it. Take advantage of this incentive (plus New York State, incentives which are very significant). It is a great investment. I have already contracted for my system. If you are a ConEd, customer it is a particularly good investment, as these electric rates are some of the highest in the country. Here is how you go about it:
1) Read and learn a bit about solar systems. Talk to someone who has a system. For example, solar panels may generate from about 300 to 400 watts per panel. You will need to consider cost, and how many panels fit nicely on your roof. The electrical output of all panels will fall slowly over their lifetime. The output at 25 years can typically range from 85 to 91 percent. Also, some warranties are better than others. A southern exposure is best, and a southwest is also very good. Not all roofs are appropriate. I highly recommend government-sponsored websites, which are not biased (nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/NY-Sun/Solar-for-Your-Home/How-to-Go-Solar/Solar-Options).
2) Assess the condition of your roof. A solar system will last about 25 years and the remaining life of the roof should equal or exceed this. If you happen to be installing a new roof soon, install the solar concurrently.
3) Get your electric use for the past year from your Utility Company. A typical home in Yorktown uses about 8,000 kilowatt hours per year. Consider if you will be making any significant changes in the near future (adding an electric car, or a heat pump). Note that New York State legislated â€śnet metering,â€ť which in its simplest form means you get one-to-one credit for the electricity put into the grid from the solar, and at the end of a pay period, you pay for only what was used from the grid. Consider that your system will only generate electricity during the day, and you will pull electricity from the grid at night and on overcast days. Many people size the system so that at the end of the year, they are about even (no net cost for electricity). Keep in mind you will still pay a monthly charge for connection to the grid. It is currently about $20 a month. For more information on net metering, visit (nyserda.ny.gov/Researchers-and-Policymakers/Power-Generation/Net-Metering-Interconnection).
4) Think about how you want to pay for it. You can own the system or lease it.
Ownership: You can pay cash or there are various financing options. I am aware of rates from 0 to 8 percent. Talk to your solar installer about what options they will make available. I know someone who had a new roof installed and a sizable solar system, financed the entire project, and lowered their monthly payments.Â
Lease or Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): A third party company will purchase the system, install and maintain it, and also get the full advantages of the financial incentives. You will sign up to pay them for your monthly bills. This option still reduces your monthly payments and eliminates the need to own and finance the installation. Both options reduce your carbon footprint equally.
5)Â Get three qualified contractors to provide bids to you. This can all be done online. Contractors can view your roof on the internet and work up an estimate remotely. This may take two iterations, since they may all size the systems differently. It is your choice how big a system you will get. Get pricing from all of them on a system of the same installed (nameplate) capacity. If you are purchasing a system to own, you should pay less than $3 per watt installed (prior to rebates and incentives). Pay attention to the warranties.
6)Â Discuss the final layout on your roof with them. Make sure you have access for maintenance and repairs and are happy with the visual appearance.
The process will take quite a few months and, in some cases, nearly a year. There is currently a backlog due to construction stoppage earlier in the year due to COVID-19. There is not much time left to get a system installed this year. Remember that the 26 percent federal ITC ends in December of this year. There are several knowledgeable people on our team that are willing to help.Â Donâ€™t wait. Get in the line now for a project that will keep giving for the next 25 years!
Yorktown100 is a 100 percent volunteer group of neighbors working to reduce our carbon footprint by 5 percent a year through various programs. Contact us if you would like to learn more, or if would like to join. We welcome new members! Visit us at yorktown100.org and help make a difference.
Bob DeAngelis is the founder of Yorktown 100 (yorktown100.org). He retired from IBM as a senior engineering manager. His background is chemical engineering and business management.