By Charlie Bursey
Solar power for those of you who may not know, is the energy taken from the sun and converted to electrical energy. The solar panels are semi-conductors that we often see on the roof tops that absorb the radiation from the sun which in turn releases electrons that are converted to electricity. Solar energy can also be used to heat hot water.
There are advantages to solar:
- There are no moving parts (with energy production), unlike other mechanical devices.
- It is a silent producer of the daily energy that is required.
- It requires little or no maintenance.
In the real estate market, it is reported that homes with solar sell faster, and can increase in value by as much as $17,000 and possibly more depending on the location.
The Federal Government also allows tax credits for individuals and companies that invest in solar power. Some of you may remember back in the ’70s when Uncle Sam was offering a $5000 incentive to anyone who installed a solar hot water system, and it seemed like overnight solar experts appeared.
There are a few disadvantages:
- The sun doesn’t shine 24/7.
- Although energy is still produced during cloud cover, it is reduced.
- The sun reaches its peak at certain months of the year.
- Location and angle is a factor, in order to maximize the panels’ performance.
I remember many years ago when a homeowner installed panels on his roof in September with the aid of companies such as Planet Roof, and his electric consumption was greatly reduced. However, in April it increased, and after reviewing the location of the panels, it was determined that the large oak trees on the property that bloomed in the spring were the cause—they shaded the house!
Something else to keep in mind regarding the installation of roof solar panels. The age of the existing roof shingles is critical. Most have a 20-25- year warranty and if the roof is reaching that age, think twice before installing the new solar panels. You may find in you solar contract, that if the roof should leak, the homeowner is responsible for removing and re-installing the panels after the re-shingling is completed. This in itself will mean more money.
Today, it seems that everywhere you look, more and more homeowners, schools and commercial buildings are taking advantage of the very strong incentives that have been in place for some time, regarding solar energy.
With these supports the consumer has another way to reduce energy costs. A lot of this attention surfaced from the recently high cost of other fuels, such as home heating oil and gasoline for example. When oil was priced much higher, we also experienced a higher rate of conversions from fuel oil to either natural or propane gas. The geo thermal option, although not as popular as solar has become another source of reducing energy costs.
Another important roof solar issue: fire services have complained that the panels are an obstacle.
Charlie Bursey began his long career in the oil heating industry in 1963. He has delivered coal, kerosene and oil and serviced heating and cooling equipment. He has also managed service departments, worked for a manufacturer and currently works with F.W. Webb, Warwick, R.I. He is a recipient of the Association of Oil & Energy Service Professionals’ prestigious Hugh McKee Award for making an outstanding contribution to the fuel oil industry; having had an understanding and cooperation with his/her fellow man; and having unselfishly aided the industry in education and related activities.