Whole Life Magazine

April / May 2015

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/489304

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 43

Pasadena-based Run on Sun solar energy installation company, and West Hills realtor Ellen Dixon of Berkshire Hathaway to help us sort through the options. Isn't renting easier than buying? I don't like figuring out complicated paperwork. It is indeed a complex system of rebates and tax credits for owners, but Jenal assures us that a reputable solar installation company will handle most of those tedious details for you, and guide you in applying for rebates and supplying backup information for your tax return. How much upkeep is involved? I like the idea of having covered maintenance with a lease. Part of the lease pitch is that companies agree to cover the maintenance on your solar system, but the most maintenance needed is usually rinsing off the panels with a hose, says Jenal. If you buy, anything beyond that is already covered by product and installer warranties. For example, the warranty on LG (Life's Good) panels covers defects for 10 years and performance for 25. Since LG is a well-established company, you can be reasonably confident they'll be around to make good on their warranty if necessary. Are my savings guaranteed either way? Jenal sees this as the number one reason to buy, noting the fine print on the website of one of the largest solar leasing companies: "Savings on your total electricity costs is not guaranteed. Financing terms vary by location and are not available in all areas… A 3 kW system starts at $25-$100 per month with an annual increase of 0-2.9 percent each year for 20–30 years, on approved credit." Just how bad a deal is that? He explains: "Let's take a typical 3 kW solar project. at is really small, so the cash price from a local installer is probably around $4/watt, which works out to $12,000 up front. However, if you own you receive the rebate (if any) and the tax credit. In PWP territory (city of Pasadena), that rebate works out to roughly $2,200, but in SCE territory (Southern California Edison), the rebate is zero. So to take the worst-case example for ownership, we will assume no rebate. In that case, the tax credit is worth 30 percent of $12,000, or $3,600, leaving the ultimate cost to own at $8,400. e cost of ownership—$8,400—is constant over the next 20 years. "Now what happens in a lease for that same system? No rebate or tax credit goes to you; the leasing company pockets those. What about your payments? e leaser suggests $25–$100 per month, so let's pick a middle-ground rate of $60/month in year one, with an annual increase of 1.45 percent. e annual payments in year one amount to $720 (12 x $60) and by year 20 have increased to $947. So by year eleven the owner (not you) has come out ahead. By the time the lease ends in year 20, you will have paid $16,567 in lease payments—nearly twice what the system purchaser paid—and still will not own the system on your roof." Can panels damage my roof? Dixon is concerned that some buyers would prefer not to have the panels, citing the perceived potential for roof damage, or other concerns. As with anything, there's always a risk with poor work. e best protection is to hire people who know what they're doing—in this case they should be NABCEP certified—and ask for references. Jenal explains the actual process: On shingle roofs, the solar panels are attached to a racking system of rails, not touching the roof or shingles at all. e racking is bolted directly to the raers of the roof structure, all the way through the decking. Flashing is installed around the points where it is bolted and the shingles are filled in around the flashing so it looks as if the racking sits directly on the roof or shingles, but it doesn't. "When that is done properly," he assures us, "the solar array is no more likely to leak than is the vent pipe above your bathroom." Tile roofs work a bit differently and there are several options. e safest and most effective, says Jenal, is to remove the tiles where the solar array goes, install the racking as on a shingle roof, then put composite shingles under the array but fill in around the edges with tiles so it again appears to be a seamless tile roof. Inevitably some tiles are broken during the process, but that would happen with any work done on a tile roof. 24 wholelifetimesmagazine.com

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Whole Life Magazine - April / May 2015