The solar panel industry has yet to find a strong home in central Virginia, despite Charlottesville’s reputation as a forward-thinking, cautiously modernizing mid-size town. It’s estimated that around half a million homes are solar powered (probably with a higher concentration in west coast cities). The fact is that any avenue which diminishes a reliance on fossil fuels is an avenue worth exploring, especially in light (that pun was very much intended) of ever-changing weather patterns. Springs and summers are the best seasons for stockpiling photovoltaic energy, simply because the sun is out more. Solarenergy.net claims that a combination of PV cells and energy efficient appliances can cut your home energy costs by more than 66%! By the way, check that site out for handy applications like their Solar Calculator or Solar Power Cost.
A brief discussion on how it works. Photovoltaic cells are comprised of silicon and other semiconductor materials. Together with other elements, they stimulate the movement of electrons. There are a few different options for harnessing this energy. The prevailing image of PV technology is probably the flat solar panels, typically seen on the roofs of green buildings. In the past, the construction and design of these panels was seen as aesthetically unappealing. PV engineers and providers have started to make the panels more muted colors like black, which blend well with the look of modern roofs. There are still building permits for which you’ll have to apply, and you should definitely check with your resident Homeowner’s Association before getting started.
One of the most enduring narratives about solar energy (and solar panels in particular) is that it’s no good for property values. While it might be easy to believe that the huge, rectangular structures which dominate the roofs of solar-powered houses would repel potential buyers, this has been proven false. An interdisciplinary team comprised of universities, appraisers, and scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Sandia National Labs has discerned that there is an average premium of $15,000 for homes with a photovoltaic system. They looked at the sales of 22,000 homes (4,000 of which were solar-powered), in eight different states between the years of 1999 and 2013. The data says that homes with photovoltaic systems sell at a rate 20% faster than homes without. The homes also fetch an average price 17% higher than their coal-powered counterparts. Depending on where you live, there may also be government rebates and incentives for installing/maintaining a photovoltaic system in your home. Wouldn’t it be pretty nice to get a full or partial property tax exemption for converting sunlight into energy?
At this point you may be thinking about solar power for your Charlottesville home. There are several factors to consider, and the majority of people who decide to invest in photovoltaic technology consult some sort of outside party, known as solar installers. A little research online will bring up a list of solar energy providers and installers in your area. Here at home in Charlottesville, SolarizeCville and Dasolar appear to be prominent names, but there are likely several others, especially with major cities like Washington, D.C. and Richmond nearby. These installers will evaluate your home, needs (are you retrofitting a pre-existing house or building one from scratch?) and budget. The more research you do, the better. Think and ask your installer questions regarding the quality of the input components used by the recommended solar companies. Have a look at the claims rates; they shed much light on the experiences of other customers and are indicative of how well the hardware holds up over time.
Find out the efficiency percentage…all solar panels should have one readily available. This percentage is simply the ratio of “raw” sunlight hitting the roof to converted energy. The higher efficiency, the less surface area required to power a home. You definitely want at least 10% efficiency…aim for the 15-20% range if it’s within your means. Look up reviews from panel owners who live in climates and situations that are similar to your own. Read assessments from unbiased third-party organizations. If you’re considering a specific company, ask the manufacturers for test results from different climates, environments, and installation circumstances. Most people agree that a photovoltaic array lasts an average of 25 years, and most warranties reflect this. Read the terms of the warranty carefully and make sure you’re covered every step of the way. For example, you’re going to want efficiency minimums that reflect wear, tear, and years. Good luck on your quest…to greener pastures and lower electricity costs! If you are looking for a green home in Charlottesville, check out our website www.CharlottesvilleGreenHomes.com.