This guest post is from Allen Rathey of the Healthy House Institute. (Full discloser: I am on the Advisory Board of the Institute.) It is meant to start a conversation that addresses the question of PV—Is now the right time to take the plunge and have panels installed on your roof?—Jim Gunshinan
I recently interviewed John B. Schuyler III, the director of operations for EvenGreen Technology of Boise, Idaho, about the state of PV. I want to share that interview with Home Energy Saver readers.
Why is this a good time to invest in solar PV?
It is true that there has never been a better time to make an investment in solar PV. Historically, here in Idaho, where we have benefitted from the some of the lowest power rates in the United States, it made it difficult to invest in solar for purely financial reasons. We now however, have reached a tipping point through the combination of the increase in electric utility rates (numerator) and decreases in system costs (denominator), which now result in a higher financial return on investment. So now it truly makes financial sense to do the right thing for our environment.
What technologies are available now that were not available in the recent past?
Much like the computer industry (or really any industry with a heavy reliance on technology), manufacturing processes improve to where ever-more advanced product can be produced at lower cost. Specifically as this relates to solar, this means PV panels of increasing efficiency ratings, and our favorite, the Enphase micro inverter. Microinverters pair one-to-one with each solar panel in the array to convert to DC power produced by the panel into the AC power used with a business or residence. With this setup, if one or several panels get a tree shadow cast over them (for example), all of the other unshaded panels in the array can continue to send full power into the business or residence. On a string inverter setup (where a single large inverter coverts all of the panels' DC power into AC power) if a single panel becomes shaded, it degrades the production of the whole array.
What should a buyer look for in a quality system?
Long term warranties are certainly important. We recommend and install PV panels and inverters with 25-year manufacturers' warranties. We plan on being here for a long time and we use products that we can count on over the long haul, but if something does fail early we want to make sure our customers’ investment is protected by the manufacturer as well. For this reason, we do not sell product by manufacturers who are no longer in business.
What kinds of dealer support are important?
We always install our systems with attention to detail and with extreme care to maintain the structural integrity of the customer’s facility, and always with the promise that if an issue arises post-installation, we will be back to make it right, as soon as possible. In addition to this, all of our systems have the option of remote production monitoring so that we can “watch” our customers’ systems to ensure optimal performance.
Why does a buyer benefit from buying from a local source as opposed to a big box retailer – online or otherwise?
When buying from a local retailer you are buying “the whole package”. In our case, we use only the highest quality equipment, which is combined with our solid installation expertise, and is always managed by our in-house licensed electrical contractor. We stand behind our work, and we work hard to ensure that our customers have peace of mind in knowing that they have made the right choice on their solar investment. Is it possible to save a few bucks by going online? Sure, it is possible, but for most customers it can end up costing more in money, time and headaches by attempting a do it yourself solar project.
Allen P. Rathey, President The Healthy House Institute® (HHI) Educational Center and Website
About Us: The Healthy House Institute The Healthy House Institute® (HHI) Educational Center and Website provides consumers information to make their homes healthier. HHI strives to be the most comprehensive educational resource available for creating healthier homes.