Solar and efficiency: a perfect pair

Home efficiency is Sealed’s focus. We love helping our customers improve the comfort, health, and value of their home while paying for those improvements with energy savings.

As a trusted energy advisor, however, we get a lot of questions about solar. Efficiency and solar are cousins—they are both great ways to take control of your home energy use, improve your home value, and limit your home’s carbon footprint.

But of course efficiency and solar operate in different ways: an efficient home requires less energy to operate and a solar home produces its own electric power. And so while we don’t sell solar ourselves, we have set up a partnership with EnergySage to provide customers with the best information possible.

What is EnergySage? EnergySage is a solar marketplace where you can receive multiple solar quotes based on your home and preferences to make the most informed decision possible.

Just go to sealed.com/solar to get started!

Want to learn more? Read on!

How does Solar work?

solar1When you put solar panels on your roof, they collect sunlight in the cells and transmit it through copper wires on the back of the panel out to the inverter, which converts the electricity from DC to AC power so you can use it in your home. The electricity is then used in your house, and whatever is left is sent out to the electrical grid for your neighbors to use.

The electricity that you send back to the grid is credited to your bill (that’s called “net metering”), so you can produce energy during the day when you’re out at work, and then use energy at night with all the lights on, and it all evens out on your electric bill.

What are your payment options?

It used to be that the only way to get solar panels was to pay for everything upfront and hope you got your money’s worth in 20 or 25 years. Now there are plenty of options, and the payback time is anywhere from 0 to 10 years, depending on how you finance it.

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Power Purchase Agreement

One popular payment option is the Power Purchase Agreement or PPA. With a PPA, you pay for the solar production at a fixed rate (e.g. $0.15 per kWh) that is usually lower than the utility rate. The advantage of the PPA is that you only pay based on actual performance, similar to Sealed’s HomeAdvance program for efficiency improvements. Many PPAs also include a production guarantee (make sure to ask for this!). The downside to the PPA is you do not own the panels yourself.

Lease

A lease is very similar to a PPA in that most solar companies guarantee solar production, but you make regular monthly payments rather than paying based on solar production. Just like a PPA, you do not own the panels and the solar company takes all the responsibility for the panels.

Loan

There are a number of easy loans you can take out to finance a solar project, including home equity loans, government subsidized loans, and loans directly from your solar company. Depending on the term of the loan, you can end up paying more monthly than you had been paying on your electric bill, but you own the system after you pay it off (typically in about 10 years), leaving your electric bill at or near $0. New York State has a good solar loan program through the NY-Sun program, including an on-bill recovery option.

Cash

You can, of course, still pay cash for solar. If you pay cash, you get the state and federal tax credits back in the next year or two, and the payback period is somewhere around 7 years. The advantage to this is you may never have to pay an electric bill again and you own the system yourself.

With EnergySage you can see all the choices and decide what’s right for you.

Who should get solar?

Every home (and homeowner) is different, but the characteristics of a good solar site include:

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  • No trees or other buildings obstructing the sky
  • One side of the roof that faces south
  • A roof with at least one fairly large open surface – no windows, peaks, or chimneys
  • And of course, a desire to take control of your electric bills and save money.

If you’re not sure if solar would work for you, go here to get a virtual assessment of your house and find out what your options are.

What do I look for in a solar installer?

There are about a million solar installers in New York (ok, ok, it’s only 652, but that’s still a lot). How do you tell the difference? Here are a couple things to look for when you’re deciding on a solar installer:

  • Quality of the panels
    • Like anything, solar panels range in quality and price. Pay attention to the power output of the panels, it generally ranges from 200 to 350 watts, and that difference has a big impact on how much you can benefit from solar.
  • Workmanship warrantee
    • One sign of a good solar installer is a robust workmanship warrantee. Some companies guarantee their panels for up to 25 years. If your installer doesn’t provide a workmanship warrantee, you should definitely ask why.
  • Licenses and certification
    • It’s very important that the installer you choose is licensed and experienced. The first thing to look for is if they have a NABCEP Certification (from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) which is standard for any good solar installer. Another easy way to vet a solar company is to see if it’s listed on NYSERDA’s NY Sun program website; only fully licensed contractors are allowed to work with the state’s program.
  • Reviews
    • Lastly, don’t forget to take advantages of review sites like Yelp, Home Advisor, Solar Reviews, and others. The best judge of a solar company is how happy people are with their work afterwards.

We hope that helps get you started thinking about solar. We think it’s a great idea, and we hope you’ll check it out – after you’ve had your Home Energy Assessment of course.

For more information, check out NY SunSolar Power Rocks, or Energy Sage.

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