Aesthetic and Quality Risks:  Choosing a Solar Installer for your Home 

Aesthetic and Quality Risks:  Choosing a Solar Installer for your Home 

Remember the old adage “you get what you pay for”?  This is especially important when making an investment in solar, a project that should add value to your home. If installed improperly, however, a solar array will have the opposite effect!  At Third Sun Solar, our 19 years of experience has taught us how to do it right. Your choice of a solar company is the most important decision you will have as you go solar: choose wisely.

Read below for a description of the solar installation process & the issues we have seen from less experienced installers. The company you choose to work with should be well researched to ensure your home receives solar energy for years to come!

The Process 

You likely consider your home one of your most valuable assets. Because of this, choosing the right installation partner is critically important. Listed below are the two important phases of the solar panel installation process, which you should focus on.

  1. Solar Racking Installation– A typical roof installation involves drilling and properly waterproofing 40-60 holes through the roof. The holes are for the attachment of the array and the design, materials and techniques must withstand extreme weather, summer and winter for decades.
  2. Electrical Wiring– From each panel, down through the house to the inverter, and then to the interconnection to your homes electrical system, there is a lot of electrical work that goes into a solar installation. In Ohio solar installation must be done by a licensed electrical contractor, trained and experienced to perform this critical work safely and with methods that will hold up and perform trouble free over time.

The Risks

We are sad to say that we see installation practices from other solar installation companies that are at best unsightly, often prone to early failure and at worst unsafe.

The solar company you select determines who the actual technicians are that are in your home doing the work.  While many companies employ subcontractors, temporary labor or poorly compensated untrained employees, Third Sun Solar is proud to only use our fully trained, well compensated loyal and dedicated direct employees on our residential projects.  We offer full benefits, paid holidays and vacation, and ongoing training to our employees. To us it’s a no brainer, it’s just who we are. It’s important for us to employ people invested in our company, who take pride in the work they do and who are skilled at it. It makes for a happy workplace and happy customers.

Not all solar installation companies hire and retain a qualified, skilled and dedicated installation team. Many have no safety program and work without OSHA approved methods, placing you at risk of a terrible tragedy on your property. Many use untrained and under-compensated installers that are rushing through important steps, cutting corners to get to the next job.  Some installers work their crews far into overtime, carrying panels up ladders and working on a hot roof for 7 days at 10 hours per day.  It’s important to ask yourself: what type of installer would you want working on your home, ensuring your solar investment is done in a way that ensures high performance, safety and durability for years to come??   

 

Solar Racking Installation 

This meticulous job must be done by trained, caring professionals if it is to look right, hold up over time, and not cause damage to your home. Panels can fall off the roof or leakage can occur if this work is done incorrectly. A leaky roof can cause many different issues such as structural damage, mold and rotting.

If done correctly by trained professionals this important step will be secure and not leak. At Third Sun we secure the array with a special system that protects your home with three layers of technology: stainless steel bolts with rubber gaskets, a durable top quality aluminum flashing that is layered into the shingles above, below and on either side of the penetration, and as a final extra layer of protection we seal up the holes with top quality roof sealant.

Electrical Wiring

As the process moves from panel racking to electrical wiring, the stakes get even higher. Today’s high-performance solar electronics must be installed properly if they are to last decades (and not void the manufacturer warranty).  As with any electrical work on your home, improper design or installation can lead to fire, electrical shock and homeowner liability.  As we mentioned earlier – this work must be done by a fully trained, licensed electrician.  Unfortunately, many solar installation companies are breaking Ohio law and cutting corners, operating without a license.  Third Sun Solar is an electrical contractor licensed by the State of Ohio. Check here to make sure that the solar installation company you choose is a licensed electrical contractor.

 

Third Sun Solar is often called in to repair the work done by our competitors.  We see all sorts of poor work out there, and one of the biggest culprits is the result of cutting corners to reduce costs.  Many companies use plastic conduit (PVC) or flex pipe because their technicians don’t have the skills or tools to bend conduit, and to save money on materials. Unfortunately, this plastic degrades under the sun’s UV rays, turning brittle and cracking in as little as 5 years!  In addition to creating a safety hazard, this shortcut means expensive and bothersome repairs that need made over the lifetime of your solar system.

Over our many years of work in solar, we have learned a lot about what holds up over time and what is likely to fail.  At Third Sun Solar we use metal conduit on all of our solar installations. Metal conduit costs a bit more and requires skills and proper training to bend and install. Though the initial investment in metal conduit might be slightly more expensive up front, it will certainly hold up better over time, saving in the long run.

Beyond the safety and performance of this approach, the conduit choice impacts the aesthetics of the array as well.  We believe that the solar array on your home should be gorgeous, not just to ensure your home increases in value but as part of our mission as we want your neighbors and friends to all look at your array and decide that one would look great on their home as well! On the majority of our projects we find a way to run the wiring inside your home.  If that is impossible, we will run metal conduit in a hard to see location such as adjacent to a rain downspout.  Many of our clients request that we paint this conduit if it is exterior.  We almost always run conduit inside the attic, but in some cases must run on the roof top.  We are sure you would agree that metal conduit on your roof looks a lot better than plastic PVC!

Can you see the exposed conduit?

Third Sun Solar is an electrical contractor licensed by the State of Ohio. Check here to make sure that the solar installation company you choose is a licensed electrical contractor.  

 

In Conclusion… 

Here at Third Sun, our advice is to do it right the first time. As you make the important selection of what solar installer to trust your home to (one of your most valuable assets), ask to see photos of their installations or better yet go look at their work up close.  Go speak with their customers, both recent and those that have had an array for 10 years or more.  Ask how the array has performed – how the installation experience was, were there any “surprise costs” or change orders above and beyond the original price promised.  Ask the installer if the conduit will be visible or hidden. Ask what type of conduit will be used. Most importantly look them up here to find out if they are a licensed electrical contractor or are operating illegally.

We would be happy to answer any questions you have about solar! Get in touch with us today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips & Tricks for Solar Champions  

Here at Third Sun we are sincerely grateful for our customers. We’re grateful for your choice to go solar and your enthusiasm to spread the word with your friends and family. Even if you aren’t a customer, you can still be a Solar Champion. Read on to learn how.

How to talk to friends and family about installing solar!  

You know what convinced you to go solar. And you know you friends and family best. You are uniquely positioned to tell them why they should choose solar power. We recognize it can be a tricky conversation, but an important one to have, so we’ve included some tips & tricks below to help you!  

Become a Solar Champion  

Being a Solar Champion is a great way to spread the word about the environmental and financial benefits of choosing solar energy to power your home. What else? You will earn $500 with each referral that purchases solar through Third Sun. Your friends and family save money too when they choose Third Sun Solar. With your referral they will receive $250 off the price of their solar energy system. If you think a friend or family member is ready to talk to us about solar, enter them into the referral page of our website!  

Let your friend or family member know that we’ll be reaching out 

If you fill out the Solar Champion Referral form, let your referral know that we will be contacting them soon and to be expecting a call. Don’t forget to follow up with them, too. What did they decide to do? What additional information can you provide, or questions can you answer for them? 

A few ways you can ask if you can refer a friend or family member to Third Sun Solar:  

“You’ve expressed interest in my solar energy system in the past, and I’m reaching out to see if I could put you in contact with my installer, Third Sun Solar. They will provide a free quote specific to your home with no obligation to purchase! 

“I know we’ve talked in the past about you installing solar on your roof. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend my solar installer, Third Sun Solar. Would you like to put you in contact with them?  Through their referral program, you will receive $250 off the cost of your system if you choose to make the purchase!”  

“The 30% federal tax credit for solar is ending this year. This program will save you thousands on the upfront cost of your solar system, increasing your net gain in the long-run. If you’re interested in solar, I’ve got to say, 2019 is the year. Can I recommend you to my installer, Third Sun Solar? “ 

Host a solar open house 

Get some of your neighbors together for a solar open house. We’ll come to talk about the system and answer any questions they may have about solar.  

Check out this Facebook event for an upcoming solar open house in Akron, Ohio. 

Share your love of the sun on social media!  

An effective way to spread the word about solar: social media! Share photos for your home and your panels and to let your followers know about your choice to power your home with green energy.  

Tag Third Sun Solar, or use the hashtag: #PowerForLife 

Linking photos back to Third Sun will help potential customers see projects that we’ve done and help you tell your friends and family about your exciting investment! Feel free to tag your Solar Consultant in posts when it makes sense so they can follow up with interested friends and family! 

Review Third Sun Solar  

We rely on reviews from our happy customers! The first thing solar shoppers do is look at reviews online. Solar energy systems are an investment and choosing a qualified solar installer is important! The last thing we like to hear from customers is that they had a bad experience with another solar company. Third Sun Solar has been a member with the BBB for 18 years. Genuine reviews can help ease concerns of customers who are considering making an investment in a solar system. We ask all our customers to help others take ease in that next step by leaving a review of Third Sun Solar on one of our many review platforms. And if you want to be a REALLY awesome solar champ, please review us on ALL our review sites!  

Google Review

Facebook Review

Better Business Bureau Review

Solar Reviews

 

Call our office today to learn more about the Solar Champion Referral program. 877-OWN-SOLAR. We look forward to working with your friends and family!  

Building a Solar Ready Home

If you’re building a new home, you have the opportunity to build it with energy efficiency in mind. Energy smart choices will save you time and money in the long run. 

Tips for building an energy efficient home:  

  1. Work with a contractor who has built low-energy homes in the past 
  2. Super insulate your attic and sealing ducts  
  3. If you’re going solar, consider an electric stove and/or water heater
  4. Select highly insulated windows and doors 
  5. Use large south facing windows to bring heat into your home during the wintertime (and cover with shades to cool in the summertime) 
  6. Install energy efficient lighting 
  7. Power your home with the sun!  

Planning for Solar: 

  • Identify local requirements: Some homeowners associations, historic preservation districts and communities have special solar zoning requirements. Get up to speed by researching local zoning rules and regulations.  

Designing for Solar 

  • Position your home with solar in mind: If you want to power your home with solar, the most important thing to consider is positioning. A south facing roof is ideal for solar panels to capture the most sun. On average, east and west rooftops capture a little less of the suns energy. 
  • Roof angle: A roof pitched between 30 and 45 degrees is ideal for solar in Ohio.  
  • Minimize roof obstructions: Keep solar panels in mind when designing where to put vents and other roof attachments, like dormers and chimneys.  
  • Load Bearing of the roof: Make sure that your roof will be able to bear the additional weight of a solar energy system.  
  • Consider landscaping: For solar to work well, sunlight needs direct access to your roof. Think about the placement of your home in relation to trees and other landscaping that could cast shadows on your solar arrays.  

Work with your solar installer from the beginning. 

Once you’ve decided to include solar in the plan for your new home, give us a call. We’ve worked with many people who are building a new home and interested in installing solar. We know all the tricks. We’ll even create a plan with your contractor.  Third Sun Solar offers zero down to homeowners, which means you don’t have to bear the brunt of high upfront costs. You start saving money from day one.  

Our Portfolio  

We have worked on many energy efficient homes in Ohio. Last year we installed solar panels on a home in Cincinatti, Ohio, that achieved LEED Platinum certification. This residence is equipped with solar panels and geothermal. Learn more about LEED accreditation here. Third Sun Solar is a proud member of the US Green Building Council, the accreditation body for LEED certification.   

The Third Sun Solar Advantage – $500M of buying power and more!

In 2011, a group of solar installers representing territories from across the United States came together and launched a revolutionary plan to better serve their customers. These companies decided it was time to form a national organization where independent solar installers could support each other by pooling their purchasing power as well as sharing best practices. This cooperative model allows Third Sun Solar, an average sized regional solar business, to negotiate equipment purchases as though it were a $500 Million company.  Membership in Amicus Solar allows Third Sun Solar to achieve scale while still maintaining the speed and nimbleness, as well as the “family business feel” of a smaller local company. 

Today, we have 51 member-owners with office locations in 38 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Canada and we’re growing. Between all members, we have licenses to operate in all 50 states! The Cooperative is owned and democratically led by its member companies (like Third Sun Solar!).  Amicus members are passing their enhanced purchasing power along to customers by offering best solar pricing on high-quality solar electric system installations.  

Why does Third Sun Solar’s membership in Amicus make a difference to our customers?  

  • We purchase better equipment at lower pricesallowing us to provide better pricing to you without cutting any corners
  • Your system’s performance, quality and operational efficiency all improve based on Amicus members sharing best practices and technical knowledge
  • You have access to superior financing partners for residential and commercial loans   
  • Amicus vets all suppliers, only choosing companies with good track records so we can assure you that the equipment you’re investing in is the best out there  
  • It allows you to support istate installers instead of larger, national companies without sacrificing cost or quality  

 

Company founders Geoff and Michelle Greenfield recently won the “Cooperative Award” from Amicus Solar Cooperative for the work Third Sun Solar does for the group.

 

Dedicated to the mission of offsetting carbon emissions and giving customers agency over their energy production, Amicus members are mission driven, vision aligned businesses working to bring the solar revolution to energy consumers across the nation. We are proud to say 40% of Amicus members are B Corporations.  Similar to Patagonia, one of the founders of the B-Corp movement, these Amicus members are a special kind of company, with a legal commitment to people, planet, profit that is verified by an outside audit. Amicus Solar Cooperative is a B Corp itself, having won the distinction of achieving top 10% of all certified B Corps in the Impact Governance category. In 2015 Third Sun Solar was named Best for the Environment by B Corp

For average sized businesses like Third Sun Solar, who don’t have the big buying power of huge corporate solar installers, having this strong value chain relationship is important. Amicus is interested in maintaining thriving local solar installation companies and creating a competitive advantage by buying pooling power. Amicus empowers solar entrepreneurs by giving them a venue to compete on the big stage. As a result, jobs and money stay in your neighborhood!  

Here at Third Sun Solar we are invested in our community – it’s wellbeing and its future.  

If you would like a competitive quote for your home, business, or non-profit please reach out to Third Sun Solar today for more information. 

 

Solar Installation

Defending Quality, Safety, Ethics and the Planet

Defending Quality, Safety, Ethics and the Planet
The news last week from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that now more than ever we need to accelerate the shift to clean energy. For 19 years, Third Sun Solar has believed the best way to achieve this shift is by providing quality solar installations and using a high integrity consultative approach with prospective customers as they explore their options and investigate how and if solar is right for them. Our success is largely due to following these principles, and we believe that treating our customers with this respectful approach has led to our loyal customer base and helped the solar industry as a movement.

Indeed, our industry already faces many challenges as we are in an uphill battle we work to compete against an entrenched century old fossil fuel industry. With the recent growth and popularity of solar driven by improved technology and more public awareness, we have seen a growing number of national companies (and fly by night contractors) moving into the Ohio market. While we recognize that healthy competition is welcomed and is ultimately beneficial to consumers, we are also very concerned that “a few bad apples” could hamper the progress we have been working toward for almost two decades. Specifically, we have received complaints regarding aggressive sales tactics, deceptive marketing and low quality craftmanship from some of these new entrants.

When installing solar, there are several nuances that are state specific. All our public utilities operate under the guidance of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and they are required to follow specific rules regarding net metering and interconnection policies. These policies differ by state, so it is important to work with an installer familiar with Ohio policies, so the customer can be properly educated and understand their options and the true economics of their investment. Whether it is a lack of knowledge or intentional deceit by these new companies, the result is a misinformed customer and the potential to tarnish the reputation of our budding industry.

As these companies decide to cut corners, play loose with the facts and apply aggressive sales tactics, we receive a wide range of complaints. When working with a solar installer, it is important to ask the following questions:
– How long has the installer been working in your area?
– Does the installer use their own employees or hire subcontractors?
– Does the installer hold an electrical license (and is that electrician in Ohio or some far away state?)
– Are they insured in your state?
– Do their employees receive workers compensation and employee benefits?
– Are they using local weather data or national averages for their production estimates?
– What type of reviews do their customers and employees post online? Check Google Reviews, Better Business Bureau, Indeed, and Solar Reviews.
– Are they willing to provide references that have had their system installed longer than a year longer than five years?

The old saying “under promise and over deliver” should be the moto of a mission-driven company. This will build loyalty with customers and provide a positive reputation on our industry.

At Third Sun Solar, we have worked hard to build a strong, credible clean energy industry in Ohio over the last 19 years and would hate to see this reputation suffer from a few bad actors. Please consider checking out reviews from both customers and employees when selecting an installer. A company who poorly treats their employees, may not have much regard for their customers once the contract is signed. Remember, it is these very employees that will be responsible for the installation of your solar equipment (and the safety and quality of the work, electrical work within your home and the proper weatherproofing of the attachment to the roof).

We believe in this industry, and our planet is need of our services. Let’s not ruin this opportunity to make a lasting impact on our climate by taking short cuts and misleading people who believe in the benefits of solar.

If you would like an expert and honest quote for your home, business, or non-profit please sign up for a free solar estimate. 

Bethel Engineering Goes Solar with Third Sun Solar!

Bethel Engineering President David Whitaker’s passion for renewables just helped the company become more green and energy efficient. Learn more about the 252 kW system that Third Sun Solar installed for Bethel Engineering.

 

 

Third Sun Solar continues to empower businesses to save our planet by helping them go solar!

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