Meet our Solar Professionals. Every one of our team members is passionate about solar. It shows in every Third Sun project. Today, solar is about more than idealism — it is about practicality. Our care, dedication, and commitment to every installation ensures the delivery of the finest system and the best customer experience. That is the Third Sun way.

Our Solar Professionals – Solar Consultant, Jamey Jones

My History…

I was blessed to have an amazing high school biology teacher, Mr. Barnhill.  Our first class project was an elaborate bug collection assigned over the summer. The project was due the very first day of sophomore year.  The pressure was on during the break to find, gather, pin, label and display each insect meticulously.  Fortunately, most of my discoveries were during a 14 day fishing trip with my father in Wilberforce Canada. These trips provided ample opportunity to scour the woods for all kinds of interesting and colorful insect species.  Once school was in session I was exposed to two boa constrictors, eight feet in length (Bonnie and Clyde). They became my reptile friends.

Mr. Barnhill would walk our class out to a nearby wooded lot behind our school where we studied ecosystems in nature rather than in the classroom; staking off 2’ x 2’ sections of the woodland understory, charting the variations and comparing the similarities of each plot.  I grew up playing outside in the summer until the streetlights came on, and in ravines with my cousin in Bloomington, Indiana searching for geodes, but my high school science class solidified my relationship with the natural world.

My Solar Journey…

I love EARTH. Green, deciduous forest, cave, flora and fauna, waterfall, pond, bug and animal earth.  This is home.  The place all living things share & the gift I feel compelled by a force beyond myself to protect. When Third Sun Solar advertised for an office administrator positions 11 years ago, I jumped at the chance to apply. I knew the founders, Michelle and Geoff Greenfield & admired that they walked their talk living an off-grid life style.

I saw this a an opportunity to create a career that aligned with my personal values.  At the time I knew nothing about solar except that solar was green and cool. But, I liked the way solar panels looked.

Once hired, I began a learning journey that stretched my understanding of renewables beyond measure…

My very first day, I assisted our Compliance and Accounting Manager by maintaining a growing list of interested residential and commercial customers seeking to leverage a grant through the Advanced Energy Fund.  The grant was in its second round, and we were compiling a list of names while waiting for the Notification of Funding Announcement to proceed forward.  Between the grant and 30% federal tax credit incentive, the gross cost of solar was reduced by a nominal 35%.  At that time in 2008, a typical residential solar installation was around $7/watt before both incentives, designing around SunPower 225watt panels.  The grant expired in 2010, and the climate for solar changed as the industry weathered shifts in our State’s administration and focus, which also impacted another incentive, SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Credits) due to a 2014-2016 Senate Bill freeze.

We persisted through what we call the “solar coaster”, as panel prices continued to lower in lieu of fleeting incentive…

Though daunting, we adapted to the twists and turns. We accommodated the new landscape and political climate and continued to serve our customers.

What started off as an office administration position in 2008 transformed into a position as Residential Solar Consultant in 2010 to present.  I personally have had the great pleasure to serve 221 customer installations, while continuing to assist potential customers daily in their decision to go solar by answering questions on how solar works; modeling preliminary design concepts; discussing equipment offerings; incentives (past and present); financing options and sometimes engaging in conversations on stewardship when the opportunity presents itself.  I can say with all honesty that I wake up every day feeling proud of what I do, knowing that my job is positively contributing to our global climate future.

Whatever your stance is on the topic of climate change, it is safe to say that we are approaching a new era full of unknown shifts in our global landscape.  Nothing is certain, but I hope that we all continue to learn, plan, protect and adapt.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” – Chief Seattle.

 

 

How to Choose the Right 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 across Ohio 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. You should choose a quality solar installer 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. Solar installations must be done by a licensed electrical contractor in the State of Ohio. This licence ensures the contractor is trained and experienced to perform solar installation safely and with methods that will hold 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 & 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. We install 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 licensed by the State of Ohio. Check here to make sure that the solar installation company you choose is a licensed electrical contractor.

Plastic PVC Conduit – Risks

Often, Third Sun Solar is called 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.

Conduit Aesthetics

Aside from the safety and performance complications of conduit, your conduit choice also impacts the aesthetics of your array.  The solar array on your home should be gorgeous, not just to ensure your home increases in value. Our goal is to impress your neighbors and friends. We will make them believe that a home solar array would look great on their roof too!

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 hidden 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, ask to see photos of their installations. 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 was the installation experience ? Were there any “surprise costs” or change orders above and beyond the original price promised?

Ask the installer: will the conduit will be visible or hidden? What type of conduit will they use? 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solar Installation

Ohio Solar Installers: 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.