Solar power is a booming industry in the United States. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are still expensive, trends in production efficiency and cost of materials point to a continued drop in the price of PV units that could make the technology accessible to middle-class incomes within a decade.
9 Crucial Steps to Prepare For Solar Power
Whether you’re chomping at the bit to add some solar units to your roof or simply investigating the scope of the process, there’s plenty to be done in preparation for the shift to solar. Here are 9 crucial steps to prepare for solar power at your home.
Step 1: Consider Your Options
Solar energy is rising in popularity as prices continue to drop, leading to greater competition among solar contractors, installers, and manufacturers alike. Because of this, there have never been more opportunities available to consumers when it comes to solar energy.
The list of solar panel manufacturers continues to grow as parts and materials become cheaper, but speaking with a solar energy contractor about the specific goals for your solar energy plan can help determine the scope and costs of your project going forward.
Because you’ll need help from building inspectors and the power company in your community, it is advised that you consult with your local resources and find a solar installer that has experience in permitting and project management to ensure the process goes smoothly. Homeowners looking to implement solar power should order a cost/benefit analysis survey from a certified solar installer. This survey will identify roof slope, property orientation, shading, optimal placement sites, power distribution and storage (if applicable), and finally, aesthetic considerations.
Step 2: Find Rebates and Incentives
Depending on your geographic location, your local public works department or utility company may offer impressive rebates on the purchase costs or installation of solar panels on your property. A full list is available here, complete with breakdowns of individual solar energy rebate programs by state.
In some instances, such as in Texas, some utility companies will pay as much as 45% of the initial cost of installation – a huge motivating factor for homeowners, especially taking into account the additional 30% write-off at the end of tax season.
Step 3: Secure Financing
Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of December 2015, the federal government will provide a 30% tax credit to homeowners for qualified expenditures toward a PV system. In order to secure the full credit, systems must be placed into service by 12/31/2019. The same rebates are available to businesses operating within the United States.
The U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and various other federal agencies offer loan programs for both homeowners and businesses seeking to invest in solar power. Compared to a conventional mortgage or residential energy efficiency improvement loan from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, securing a loan for energy improvements through the SBA can more than double the maximum loan amount available – up to $750,000.
As far as the costs of the panels themselves, the average cost per watt generated reached less than $0.74 in 2013, but in areas such as Massachusetts, Louisiana, and California, the payback period (or the return on investment) is fewer than 10 years.
Step 4: Make the Necessary Repairs and Upgrades
In order to prepare your property for solar panel installation, you’ll need to consult with a building inspector to ensure your roof is structurally sound and capable of housing heavy solar arrays.
Due to the weight and surface area utilized when installing solar arrays on a residential rooftop, it’s important to first check the condition of your roofing materials before committing to a solar solution. Because any repairs made to the roof after installation will require complete removal of the solar panels, it’s wise to order roofing repairs or replacement in advance of adopting solar energy systems into your home’s energy profile. While these upgrades may not be as invasive as an indoor home remodel project, the scope and technical nature of the project may require additional prep work before contractors can get started.
Most PV panels are mounted on south-facing roofs, but roofs with east-west orientations or flat-roofs are acceptable, as installers can position the arrays at optimal angles to maximize exposure to sunlight.
In preparation for installation, consider building a separate utility nook or storage cabinet to house a battery, electrical inverters, and Balance of System (BOS) equipment to integrate the solar modules for use with the home’s existing electrical system. Because solar energy is becoming increasingly affordable, more and more companies are expected to enter the market, bringing new and exciting products and solutions for energy-conscious homeowners. The frontrunner in this department is Tesla’s Powerwall, which will provide 6.4 kWh of home energy storage capacity when consumer models ship in 2017. Designed for use with solar panels, the Powerwall allows homeowners to actively capture solar energy for later use or sell the excess energy back to the grid.
Step 5: Permitting and Rebate Process
Most city utility companies require the following documentation before installation can begin:
Level 1 Interconnection Application and Agreement for inverter-based generating systems
Electrical diagram of proposed generating system
Specifications of inverter
Application for electrical service (required for use with meters and various state/local production incentive programs)
A qualified solar installer or contractor should have these documents prepared or available to you upon request.
Furthermore, the solar contractor must obtain an electrical permit prior to installation. Your local building or planning department will require an electrical inspection before replacing your old meter with a reverse-power meter.
After installing and implementing a solar energy solution in your home, you should be eligible to receive as much as a 30% credit on your federal income tax bill. Through December 2016, homeowners who invest in an energy efficiency solution will be able to complete IRS Form 5695 – Residential Energy Credits. According to the instructions for the form, qualified applications of the tax credit are for costs related to the following:
“Qualified solar electric property costs are costs for property that uses solar energy to generate electricity for use in your home located in the United States. No costs relating to a solar panel or other property installed as a roof (or portion thereof) will fail to qualify solely because the property constitutes a structural component of the structure on which it is installed. The home does not have to be your main home.”
Your state and local governments, utility companies, and energy efficiency coalitions may offer additional grants, credits, and rebates toward the adoption of solar power in your home. For a complete list of the possible benefits, check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.
If you plan to help offset the cost of your solar energy system by selling excess generated power back to the grid, you’ll need a production meter installed and configured by your local electric company.
A production meter measures the amount of electricity generated by an energy source, operating essentially opposite of your standard utility metering system. Production meters connect to your system via the AC disconnect on your solar inverter before passing through the main interconnection breaker on your property.
Utility companies commonly read production meters at the same rate by which they monitor standard meters, sending the homeowner an annual report with information pertaining to the kilowatt-hours produced by your solar energy system. Using that data, you’ll need to complete a yearly application for compensation for excess energy your system provided for the grid. Incentives arrive either in the form of service credits or check by mail.
Among the first consumer-grade electrical storage system was Tesla Motor’s Powerwall, which actively captures and stores solar-generated energy for backup use or daily electrical needs. While other companies are following suit and producing low-cost, high-capacity batteries for solar-powered buildings, Tesla is considered the leader in the still gestating industry. The company estimates each unit will perform at 92% round-trip DC efficiency and initial models will store 7 kWh (about 1/3 the average daily energy used per American household as of 2014). Because residential electrical systems operate on AC power, a converter will be necessary in order to utilize the energy stored by the Powerwall.
Step 7: Finalize Power Efficiency Solutions
As with most energy-efficiency upgrades, adding solar power to your home will only work to maximum efficiency if other aspects of your home are working in concert with your new system.
Some low-impact, DIY projects to put on your list:
Check each door and window for broken or cracked seals.
Add a layer of protective window film to further improve energy efficiency indoors.
Replace your old bulbs with high-efficiency CFL or LEDs.
Install energy-saving smart thermostats.
Order a rain barrel to collect excess rainwater for later use.
Replace air filters in air conditioning and heating systems, vents, and appliances.
Invest in energy-smart power strips and timers for electronics.
Add additional insulation to problem or leaky rooms.
Check your roof and attic for leaks or install ventilation systems to prevent capturing hot air.
Once again, a home energy audit from an energy-efficiency professional will be the best way to analyze and assess the strengths and weaknesses in your home’s energy efficiency standards.
Step 8: Installation and Implementation
Before installation, your solar energy contractor will assess the following:
Viability of available solar resources.
Size of system necessary to meet your home’s average electrical requirements.
Ideal placement of control system and electrical infrastructure
Potential for connection to grid or potential for off-the-grid use.
Safety and reliability standards.
While it’s not unheard of homeowners installing solar electric systems on their own, it’s highly recommended (and sometimes, depending on your location and system of choice, required) that you hire a professional solar installer to oversee the entire project.
When choosing a contractor for your solar power system, consider the following:
Request separate bids for roof-mounted systems and ground-installed PV solutions.
Inquire as to the level of experience of the contractor in question. How many solar energy systems have they installed? How often?
Ask for proof of certification or licensing. Your state’s licensing board should have information regarding each licensed contractor in the industry.
Check for disciplinary actions or pending complaints against the contractor. The Better Business Bureau and your city government should have information regarding any pending liens or judgments against a company.
Ask for energy/cost estimates based on the solar resource of each prospective installation site, size/scale of the system, type of PV panels intended for use, and the current conditions of your home’s existing energy efficiency solutions.
Unless your solar electric solution is part of a new, energy-efficient home construction project, chances are you’ll also need a licensed electrician to install and verify a few secondary but critical aspects of your new energy system. Both stand-alone and grid-connected solar energy systems require power conditioning equipment that must be implemented within your home alongside your new PV panels and batteries. For reasons that should be clear, it’s never a good idea to leave electrical work to a handyman or a DIY project. The current requirements for grid-interactive power inverters, known as UL 1741, should serve as a reference point for solar contractors moving forward.
Every electrical system is at risk of failure, damage, and deadly surges that must be addressed on a system-by-system basis. According to the National Fire Protection Association and its updated National Electrical Code, renewable solar energy systems should implement the following to ensure safe and continued operation:
Safety disconnects to protect internal system wiring, allow for safe repairs, and ensure isolation from the grid.
Grounding equipment that provides a safe, low-resistance path for errand surges, lightning strikes, and equipment malfunctions to discharge into the ground.
Surge protection equipment to protect electrical gear against lightning strikes and electrical storms.
Step 9: Testing and Analysis
There are several ways to evaluate the efficacy and reliability of your system. First, built-in meters and instruments on your solar control or energy monitoring panels should provide enough information about energy usage, current storage levels, rate of energy generation, and amount of converted energy to date.
Some solar energy systems provide connectivity to third-party smartphone monitoring apps and provide better visual representations of data collected within your home over longer periods of time. Other gadgets such as Nest work seamlessly with modern energy systems, helping to better use and conserve energy, reducing the amount of maintenance required by the homeowner in order to reach maximum efficiency.
Finally, in order to fully understand and appreciate the effectiveness of your solar energy system, you’ll want to keep your old utility bills from the previous year and measure year-to-year comparisons once you’ve had your system operational for a full year. Ordering a home energy audit after installation of your solar energy system will also provide valuable feedback on methods to further improve your home’s efficiency capabilities headed into the next several decades.
The benefits of solar power are clear and costs continue to fall. Is your home prepared for the future of energy? Find a solar installer in your area by visiting the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners and begin your journey to true energy independence today.
A Long Term Investment
One final note — choosing solar power for your home is a long term investment. Review.com, a website dedicated to conducting unbiased and in-depth research about products and services, spent six weeks researching 188 contenders, consulting engineers and solar energy experts, and scouring user reviews and publications. They analyzed and compared the following;
Watts of power
Age of the companies
Ultimately, their research culminated in the recommendation of five solar panel companies. In addition to those recommendations there is also a tremendous amount of information to soak up.
Credit to Drew Hendricks
Drew Hendricks is a tech, social media, and environmental addict. He’s written for many major publications, such as Forbes and Entrepreneur.
If you’ve ever experienced coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose, a scratchy throat, rashes, hives, low blood pressure, breathing trouble or an asthma attack, allergies could be to blame. So is there a way to minimize home allergies? Absolutely but let’s first take a look at the magnitude of the problem.
According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA), over fifty million Americans suffer from allergies today, including 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children.
Allergies are among the country’s most common, yet often overlooked, diseases. Since there is no cure for allergies, prevention is key.
10 tips to minimize home allergies
While many people only concern themselves with certain times of the year, for others, “allergy season” is a year-round, dismal reality since allergens can be found indoors and outdoors. Reducing allergens in your home is a great first step towards prevention and optimal health. Your home should be a safe haven where you rest, rejuvenate and recuperate from daily stress and toxic exposures – but what you can’t see – can hurt you. Your home may, in fact, be harboring a broad range of allergy triggers.
From insects and furry companions to toxic, synthetic fragrances in cleaners, air fresheners and candles, it may be difficult to identify the exact source in the home causing your unwanted allergy symptoms. Why not prevent allergens from entering the home in the first place rather than treating or masking allergy symptoms? Awareness and simple action steps can result in profound changes for both your home and your health.
Here are 10 tips to minimize home allergies:
1.) Reduce clutter
Go on a paper cleanse and say sayonara to unwanted piles of papers, books and magazines lurking in your bedroom, under your bed or in your home office. Keep only what you need, and recycle the rest. The same applies to cluttered shelves, cabinets and closets, which can be breeding grounds for insects, mold, rodents and their droppings. You’re home will not only look better, you’ll feel better, too.
2.) Change the filters
Since biological contaminants like dust and dirt permeating your home’s air can’t be always be seen, it’s often overlooked. Be sure you are changing the furnace filter for your HVAC (heating and cooling) system every season; or every three months per the EPA’s recommendation. A high performance filter will capture over 95 percent of large airborne allergens such as mold spores, pollen, and dust mite debris from the air passing through it. Not only do these filters help maintain better airflow to reach your desired temperature, but will also reduce energy use resulting in savings on your bill.
3.) Wash linens naturally
Are you washing your bed linens in HOT water every two weeks (or more)? If not, your beloved bed is likely home to millions of dust mites – ewww! Be sure to wash your sheets and pillowcases in at least 140 degrees (Fahrenheit) to kill those nasty dust mites. You should also be seasonally washing your curtains, comforter, area rugs and duvets. Be sure to use a nontoxic detergent free of synthetic fragrance, petroleum based solvents and optical brighteners. I also recommend vacuuming the top of your mattress with a HEPA, airtight vacuum hose or handheld device. Also, let the sunlight hit your mattress and open the windows when changing your bedding. The sunlight will kill bacteria and absorb the moisture that creates a perfect breeding ground for dust mites.
4.) Bring the fresh air in
Open the windows during non-allergy season to let your home breathe and allow for better circulation and removal of built up toxins, dust and debris. During allergy season, this isn’t always an option. Instead, place low-pollen plants such as Peace Lilies or Swedish Ivy, throughout the home and out of pets reach. In addition to removing CO2 and creating oxygen, these plants have been shown in studies by NASA to remove several toxic chemicals from the indoor air. Plants can gather dust, so it’s important to clean them regularly.
Also, be sure to keep moisture at bay by using exhaust fans after showering and when cooking to vent out particulates. Keep wet towels off the floor and fully dry them to avoid mold and mildew build up. I recommend a mildew resistant shower curtain such those made from hemp. If you live in a high moisture area, consider implementing a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels below 50 percent.
5.) Snuggle with a mate, not a mite
Since your skin is your largest organ, you want to make sure what you’r sleeping on will prevent unwanted dust mites. In addition to throwing your pillow in the dryer on high heat to kill dust mites (or washing, depending on the material of your pillow), you should definitely use an organic cotton pillow and mattress barrier cover if you have an allergy to dust mites. Avoid plastic barrier covers as these can off-gas dangerous VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) into the air.
6.) Clean greener
In addition to wet mopping and damp dusting to capture accumulated dust, avoid cleaning products that can agitate allergy symptoms. Instead, make your own from ingredients in your kitchen cabinets. A mixture of baking soda and natural dish soap makes a great tub, tile and toilet cleaner; while two parts water to one part white distilled vinegar can be used for streak-free windows and glass surfaces.
7.) Use an air purifier
If you don’t have a whole house air filtration system, then implementing a stand alone room air purifier is a must! A good unit will not only remove airborne allergens, but will also capture dangerous VOC’s, gases and odors from the air your breathe. Place this in your bedroom for optimal effectiveness.
New technology allows for air monitoring and air purification all in one system. One example is the
Dyson Pure Cool Link that detects and removes harmful pollutants and allergens in the air down to 0.3 microns. It’s an effective and convenient solution to reduce air pollutants and allergens as they emerge.
8.) Choose allergen friendly fabrics
Allergens could be permeating your bedding and wreaking havoc on your health. Some materials and fabrics are prone to harbor allergens, moisture, bacteria and dust mites. Down, for example, is one such material that should be avoided. It’s highly allergenic and the treatment to animals to create down is downright inhumane. Opt instead for wool which naturally wicks away moisture and acts as a natural flame retardant as well as natural (not synthetic) latex which is inherently dust mite resistant.
9.) Bare it on the floor
While it is warm and cozy underfoot, carpet can harbor all kinds of nasty things. Millions of microorganisms and over 120 nasty chemicals can be found in carpet backing, adhesives and the fibers themselves, as well as stain and water resistant treatments that have been applied to the carpet. Wall to wall carpeting is a no-no, especially in the bedroom and wet areas such as laundry and bathrooms. Choose hard surfaced flooring instead such as cork, FSC-certified hardwood flooring, concrete or ceramic tile. If you’re on a budget, look for linoleum or Marmoleum which is made from linseed oil (not vinyl flooring made from PVC which should be avoided at all costs). Carpet, in particular, harbors allergens and should be cleaned thoroughly with a HEPA vacuum and non-toxic cleaner.
10.) Make it a furry-free zone
We all love our animal companions, and many like them soo much they share the same bed. This can create allergic reactions from pet hair to pet dander. Establish rules from the beginning so your pet sleeps in his or her own (organic) bed. Also, you should shampoo and groom your pet with a nontoxic formula to protect their health (and yours).
Credit to Lisa Beres
Lisa Beres is a healthy home expert, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health
DEDICATED to RESULTS
Searching for your dream home is very simple with New Star Realty!
Your #1 online source for real estate listings. Begin your home search with New Star agents.
It’s an old cliché, but everyone still loves to say it: “a picture is worth a thousand words” and trust us, when it comes to enticing potential tenants into making inquires, the old cliché rings a lot of truth.
Including quality photos in your rental listings is no longer a courteous extra, it is necessary. No longer are they the cherry-on-top for a listing, photographs of a rental can be the deciding factor in many potential tenants’ eyes.
Quality images of your rental’s best features and could be the difference between finding the perfect tenant quickly, or unneeded vacancies. Knowing this, it’s important to be able to represent your property with the best quality photographs you can. Check Your Camera Settings
Planning to DIY your way through the rental listings and take your own photos? Be sure to use a camera that has the technology to sufficiently capture your property. Using an outdated and low end camera can cause blurry or grain-filled photos that distract from your rental rather than highlighting its best qualities. Poor images not only fail to highlight your rental’s best features, they express a sense of apathy and a lack of care toward your listing, a considerable deterrent to a potential tenant.
This isn’t to say that you need the finest equipment money can buy, many new cell phones have the capacity to take great images with the right planning. If you use an iPhone or your new smartphone, be sure to change your settings beforehand. Ensure that your camera’s files are not being compressed for storage on your device, and play around with the light settings to find the best representation of what your eyes see in the room.
Pro Tip:Many cameras have settings to input your light source: tungsten, cloudy, sunny ect. (often referred to as ‘white balance’) changing these settings will ensure that your rooms indoors do not look harsh and yellow or blue and dull.
Use Natural Light
While you don’t need a fancy flash or studio light to achieve a nice white and clean image of your property, you do need to be aware of the do’s and do not’s of lighting. It is impossible to showcase your freshly painted white walls, when your photos all look dim and dingy.
To get the best possible look, take your photos in the daytime when you have a lot of natural light to work with. While this may be hard for some rooms or apartments that do not have a lot of windows, eliminate the use of lamps and ceiling lights.
Pro Tip: Open all the curtains, and even doors to make sure your room is as light as possible before taking your picture. This will make your room look brighter, cleaner and even bigger.
The best time to take the photographs for your rental is after your normal reinventions and cleanings between tenants have taken place. However, if timing only allows for you to take the images mid-process, make sure to clear out any clutter, or cleaning materials. If your listing is furnished, don’t be afraid to rearrange the room specifically for the photo.
The most pleasing furniture arrangement for the photographs could be different than what logistically works best in day-to-day life—this is okay. Move the couch to new wall to create a new focal point—even if you know most tenants will prefer to face the TV hook-ups adjacent to the couch. As long as you’re not misrepresenting the listing’s assets, feel free to experiment to see ways that you re-arrange items to open the floor space and make the room more inviting.
Pro Tip: Potential renters respond positively to a house that is staged during their rental search process. A staged home is decorated to look its most beautiful for the purpose of selling or renting a house faster. Staged homes allow a person to see what the house looks like when someone lives there. If your house is empty, consider bringing in a couch, side table, flowers and a throw blanket to stage a cozy living room for a photo shoot.
Get Your Rental’s Good Side
Be sure to capture all the necessary shots: the living area, kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms, but be sure to be discerning with what you include. If your rental has particularly beautiful landscaping, be sure to include a photo of just the garden. Was the kitchen newly remolded? Take a close up of the new counters and appliances.
Pro Tip: If you recently purchased top of the line appliance for your rental, it is not necessary to a picture of the appliance logo. You future tenant will appreciate a shot that shows the whole appliance so they can see that is actually new and fits the room nicely.
When to Leave it to the Experts
In some circumstances, despite a working knowledge of your camera, and the best intentions, there can be times when it might be worth it to call a professional. If you are noticing that your photos are not the quality you hoped for, or if you have a lot of rentals, it could be time to pick up the phone and call a photographer who specializes in property listings.
For any owner, the reality is that even the best DIY-er will be outmatched by the quality that a professional can offer, and that can translate to finding a tenant sooner. Extended vacancies can cost you more than a professional’s fee.
Pro Tip: For owners of multiple listings, the time investment required to do it yourself may not be achievable—and you can check around to see who offers a multiple property discount.
The next time your rental is ready to be listed, don’t hesitate to do what it takes to include great photos. By following our simple tricks, you’ll know precisely how to display your listing in the best light possible–literally and figuratively.
Credit to Brentnie
Brentnie is a contributor for Rentec Direct. She occasionally stops by to deliver practical industry tips, providing guidance for tenants and landlords alike.