How to Use the Solar Calculator
The best way to learn about local rebates, your home’s energy potential, and your eventual return on investment is to use our ModSun Solar Cost Calculator (see above). Enter your home address in the box, then click Check My Roof. You’ll get an instant picture of your roof’s productivity, your average energy expenses, and installation costs in your area—whether you decide to buy or loan. We’ll also provide system size recommendations and information about rebates and incentives you may be eligible for. Just select More Info under each purchasing strategy to learn more, and then connect with a solar pro.
State Solar Buyer’s Guide for Ohio
Ohio is known for its manufacturing capabilities and its use of coal as a power source. But the state is also on the path to upping its usage of renewable energy for home and business owners. Even with its location in the colder, northern region of the U.S., the state receives more than enough solar to turn a fossil fuel state into a more energy efficient one. If you are considering changing to solar power but have more questions about what’s involved, this Buyer’s Guide will provide some of the important answers you’re looking for.
Getting Started with Solar Power in Ohio
The processing of solar power is simple. It begins with the sun’s rays being absorbed by the photovoltaic cells (PV) on solar panels. The cells convert the photons into electricity. Once you have solar panels installed, the rest is up to the PV cells to generate the power for homes and businesses.
Information on Required Processes for Solar Installation in Ohio
In case you’re not sure what is required for solar installation, this short check list provides general information for steps you won’t want to overlook.
- Roof stability
- Property Preparation
Roof Stability & Design. Because solar panels and solar water heater storage tanks are heavy, you must know whether or not the roof will sustain the weight. The roof also needs to be in excellent shape and not nearing the end of its warranty. Once solar panels are mounted and adjusted at the optimum angle to absorb sunlight, you do not want to go to the expense of having the array removed in order to make repairs or to install a new roof. You’ll find out this information once the roof is inspected by a city inspector prior to the installation.
Other considerations you’ll need to discuss with your contractor or solar sales rep is whether the design of your roof is conductive to solar installation. This includes several areas. The roof must have enough room to accommodate the number of necessary panels. This will be calculated by either the contractor or sales representative using the square footage of the property. A home or business that faces south is the best scenario for solar arrays. There can be nothing obstructing the sun’s beams from reaching the photovoltaic cells.
Property Preparation. Another area you want to pay attention to is prepping your home prior to installation to shore it up wherever repairs are necessary. Cracks and crevices around windows and doors are a main source of air leakage and should be caulked and sealed, holes filled, and weather stripping replaced to ensure interior energy efficiency. As noted above, you want roof repairs taken care of immediately. Once the panels are installed, you don’t want a lot of unnecessary foot traffic moving around the panels.
If you’re planning to have the property spray painted, again, you might want to do this first to avoid paint getting on the panels. Also do any yard work such as trimming tree branches and for ground-mounted solar panels, cutting back tall shrubs, bushes, or flowers that interfere with the sun’s ability to reach the panels.
Permits. You or your contractor must contact the building or development center located where the solar installation is to take place. Each city has its own set of rules about the type of license – electrical, mechanical, plumbing – as well as requirements for contractor certification, contractor state license requirements, insurance, letters of intent for subcontractors, fines for failure to apply for and receive an appropriate permit, and who is allowed to do the installation and scheduling of an inspection. To ensure the system is installed properly and safely, it is in your best interest to follow the building codes, rules, and regulations for your particular city.
Contractors. One area where you don’t want to cut corners is in the selection of a solar contractor. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous contractors who can, and will, take advantage of a situation and not follow through with the project. In order to avoid a scam, follow these simple guidelines:
- Ask for references from customers who’ve had work completed by the contractor.
- Always get the contractor’s license, insurance, and bonding information.
- Obtain a copy of the signed and dated contract that explains all aspects of the project from start to finish. Do not sign the contract if there is anything unclear or that you don’t understand. Insist that a completion date is included in the contract. Without a date, the project can continue seemingly indefinitely. Also, if a down payment is given, get a receipt detailing what the amount covered and what the remaining balance will be upon completion of the project.
- It’s recommended that you get at least 2 to 3 estimates, or more, for comparison and wait until you are completely satisfied and comfortable before making a final decision.
By using the free eLicense Center provided by the Ohio Department of Commerce to validate a contractor’s credentials, you can be assured the contractor is up to par.
Climate. Ohio has a diverse seasonal climate that ranges from wintertime temperatures in the low 20-degree range to warmer temperatures during the summer in the mid to high 80-degree range. Overall, Ohio cities receive on average of close to 200 days per year of sunshine, less than 150 days of rain, and approximately 25 inches of snowfall each year. With its weather history, Ohio is a prime candidate for converting to renewable energy.
Resources. To help with the initial cost of solar equipment and installation, Ohio has access to a long list of incentive programs. The following websites provide detailed information about the resources available to both residential and commercial property owners. You’ll find information and links to guaranteed loan programs for small businesses, tax credits when buying Energy Star products, and available grants, rebates and loan programs.
Solar Power Product Types in Ohio
When property owners are considering renewable energy and the type of options available to generate power, solar panels and solar water heaters are at the top of the list. Both provide the ultimate in energy efficiency and money saving options as well as removing the dependency on traditional electric and fossil fuel resources.
Solar Panels. The three types of solar panel systems include the Off-Grid, Grid-Tie and Grid Tie and Battery Backup. Each serves a particular type of power need. The type you choose should be discussed, thoroughly, with your sales representative and contractor to ensure you purchase the system that will address the power needs of your individual situation. The size of the system will be determined using the square footage of the property to calculate the number of panels necessary.
Of the three, the Grid-Tie is the one used most often as the solar array generates power throughout the day. All excess power goes back to the main grid that you have access to should you need it. The utility company pays each month for the excess power that is routed back to the grid. This will result in a credit to your utility account. This system is highly efficient and continues to provide savings for the life of the system which can be 25 years or more.
For property owners in more remote areas without access to the main power grid, the Off-Grid is recommended. With this system, the solar array is responsible for generating all of the electricity for the property. Any excess is stored in the battery backup system and used as needed.
The Grid-Tie and Battery Backup system is a blending of the two. The solar panels generate power which is then stored in the backup system. Should the main grid become incapacitated, the solar backup up kicks in to supply power to certain dedicated areas of the home such as the kitchen and lighting so you are not completely without power.
Solar Water Heaters. The two main types of water heaters are the active system which uses direct and indirect processes, and the passive system which uses the integral collector-storage and the thermosyphon systems.
The direct circulation system uses a series of pumps to move water through the system to the collectors and on to the home. Like the integral system, it works best in areas not prone to freezing temperatures. For areas that do experience freezing, the indirect circulation system is the answer. Instead of water, a heat-transfer fluid is pumped through to the collectors and a heat exchanger. At this point, the water is heated and is ready to use.
The passive integral system is recommended for areas that do not experience freezing temperatures. They’re also recommended for homes or businesses where hot water usage is high during the day and evening.
The thermosyphon system circulates water through the system as the warm water begins to rise and the cooler water descends. With this system, the roof is a key factor because of the weight of the storage tank. The water from the tank flows into the collector installed below that provides water to the house. The thermosyphon system is more expensive than the integral system and recommended for areas that do have frequent freezing temperatures.
A solar power system provides many benefits besides better energy efficiency. Throughout the life of the solar product, you’ll save money that, over time, will pay the original cost of equipment and installation with money left over. Your property will also gain in property value as it will be deemed an environmentally friendly home or business. With the basics covered, now you’re ready to discuss solar options with your sales rep or contractor.