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5 Solar Goals in the New Year

It’s this time of year you become flooded with content about resolution and goals. Much of this content has to do with health, fitness, and wellness.

Our intention with this post is not to add to that noise but instead, give you the opportunity to learn something new. Your goals and resolutions are up to you. Many of us have a little more time on our hands these days. What better goal could you set out to accomplish than to learn something new?

If solar is on your list this year – we hope this article can help you.

1. Educate Yourself About Solar Energy

How does it work? Is solar the future? Does solar energy even work in Ohio? What about in the Snow? Do I need batteries if I go solar?

There sure is a lot to learn. We speak with so many people every day who are just starting on their solar journey. Our eBook, Your Guide to Going Solar, is a reliable place to start for those who are just starting out. Download it here. 

If you’re interested in digging deep on a particular topic, check out our solar 101 webinar series. This list of webinar recordings is comprehensive and covers many frequently asked questions.

2. Keep Track of Your Energy Prices

It’s always good to reflect – especially on the money we spend. Look back at your energy prices over the last few years. Do you notice any changes in the rates that you are paying for your electricity?

Solar energy allows you to own your power instead of paying a varying, potentially increasing, monthly bill to the utility company.

We predict that between infrastructure maintenance and grid modernization over the next decade or two, energy prices will continue to rise. Escalating energy costs is a crucial factor to consider when evaluating a solar energy system for your home.

3. Understand Net Metering

Net metering is what makes residential solar energy systems so prevalent in Ohio. It’s a simple concept, but it’s new to most people.

Net-metering allows you to store the energy you produce in the electric grid in the form of credits. When your panels produce more energy than you need, excess electricity travels back into the power grid. You get credit for that energy. When you pull energy from the grid, when your panels aren’t producing energy, you can use those credits to pay for grid energy.

If you’re interested in understanding net metering better, you can read this blog or take a look at this webinar recording. In this recording from last year, Cleveland Ohio based Solar Consultant David Zelasko breaks it down, point by point.

4. Research the Financial Benefits of Solar Energy in Ohio

Will solar save you money? If you are on Facebook, you have undoubtedly seen those claims. If you have always wondered what the payback is, now is a great time to find out. The best way to understand is to get a custom quote for your home. We evaluate three main factors to bring you a custom quote:

  • Available roof or ground space
  • The annual electricity you use
  • Your budget for solar

We’re thrilled that solar energy is more accessible to more and more people in Ohio. As the market has grown over the past 20 or so years, so too have financing options. In 2021 Third Sun Solar offers customers new and improved financing options and an opportunity to have 12 months without payments on their solar energy system.

5. Get A No Obligation Solar Estimate

If you’ve always wondered if your home is a good candidate for a solar energy system – find out!

Most installers get pretty busy in the spring and summer months when the sun is high in the sky, and people are thinking about all the solar energy their roof could be capturing. Little do most know that wintertime is the best time to start planning for that spring installation.

Maximize your savings in 2021 by planning early and getting an install in time for Ohio’s peak sun days in spring, summer, and fall.

There is a lot more to find out…

That’s why we have resources available on our blog and our YouTube page. We know that sometimes it is easier to get questions answered by a real person. Feel free to reach out – we are just a phone call away- 877-OWN-SOLAR.

Happy new year to you and yours from the Third Sun Solar team!

 

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Solar Panels on a Roof in Cleveland, Ohio

Solar Panels in Ohio

Solar Energy in Ohio

Ohio may not be the first place you assume has a hot market for solar… but you keep hearing about it! Do solar panels really work in Ohio? The short answer – yes. We have been in business for the past 20 years and the market only continues to grow in Ohio.

Is there enough sunshine for solar panels to work in Ohio?

In Ohio, winters are cloudy but there are plenty of sunny days throughout the year.  The US department of energy tracks and maps the multi-year annual and monthly averages from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This data has been collected at multiple locations to accurately represent regional solar radiation climates. The map shows current as well as predictive availability of solar energy. Ohio’s kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day fall in the 4-hour range. This means that on average throughout the year there are 4 hours a day of peak sunlight. This data helps us understand the amount of solar energy available for your panels to produce electricity.

What happens on cloudy, rainy, or snowy days?

Solar panels do produce electricity in cloudy weather. Obviously, they don’t produce quite as much as they would on sunny days. Solar panels may drop in production to about 10 – 25 % of what they would be producing during peak sun times. It seems like a little, but they are still able to produce electricity.

In Ohio, net-metering is a benefit that helps homeowners make the most of all the solar they produce during the sunniest months. Over the sunny summer months, solar homeowners send excess electricity back to the grid to power their neighbor’s homes. They receive credits for that excess production from their utility. During the winter, when the solar panels aren’t generating enough electricity to power the whole home, electricity is pulled from the utility power and paid for with the credits banked up during the summertime.

Cloudy climates booming with solar

Other unexpected states that are leaders in the solar market are New Your, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maine. Additionally, Seattle and Portland Oregon are quickly becoming some of the best cities for solar in America. In large part, the growth of solar in cloudy markets has to do with net-metering policies.

Other reasons that solar power is growing in less sunny states:

  1. Solar panels have become more efficient even on cloudy days
  2. Prices have come down which allows homeowners to purchase larger solar systems with appealing economics and shorter payback periods

Did you know solar panels actually don’t perform their best in high temperatures? It might seem counter-intuitive but too much heat can reduce solar panel output by 10 – 25%. In Ohio, our climate is sunny enough and cool enough that solar performs well during peak production months.

Solar production factors

In Ohio, our estimates include a solar production of 1,000-1,200 kWh (system production) per kW (system size) in Ohio. If you are curious about other elements to keep in mind when evaluating a quote for a solar system, find our proposal quote checklist here. Here in Ohio, solar panels will produce the most when facing South. The optimum angle for the solar panels is equal to the latitude where they are installed. In Ohio, that’s anywhere from a 30 – 40-degree angle. While these are optimal scenarios, the specificity of the angle degree and panel direction changes the production only slightly.

What factors determine Solar Production:

  • Azimuth
  • Tilt
  • Shade
  • Climate Data

All of these factors add up to a very customized quote for your home. In addition to understanding how much energy your solar panels will produce, these factors are used in crafting the economic portion of your solar quote and your solar system payback.

 

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Solar Installation in Cincinnati Ohio

Choosing a Solar Installer in Cincinnati Ohio

Nathan Scott moved to Cincinnati, Ohio back in 2007 for work and has lived there ever since. Recently, Nathan and his family moved to Montgomery, a suburb of Cincinnati, and began to settle in. It was in 2016 that Nathan and his family started thinking about going solar. Read more to learn about this journey and how he chose a solar installer in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Motivation

What motivated this initial investigation was Nathan’s budding family. He and his wife had two young children and were noticing their carbon footprints increasing. They were buying more food, doing more laundry, driving bigger cars. His family was using more energy overall and his primary motivation was to go green and tread a little lighter. With his kids in mind, he thought about where the climate would be 40 years down the road. Going solar was a way that he could contribute to the renewable energy solution.

When asked about the financial aspect of his solar purchase, Nathan said that the economics played a part in his choice to go solar. He likes knowing that there is a known return on investment. The added value in his home is another financial bonus. If his family ever does sell their home, free electric is a compelling selling point.

What He Learned

Nathan says that he learned a lot throughout the whole solar journey. Like a lot of shoppers, Nathan got quotes from a couple of solar installation companies. How did he choose a solar installer in Cincinnati, Ohio? He found that the 2 companies he worked with had different philosophies when designing a solar system. The first company he had out proposed a huge system, maxing out his roof with panels. They posited that if you’re going to go solar, you might as well go huge. The proposed 34-panel system would have made it more expensive but given the family more solar production. Third Sun proposed Nathan go with a 21-panel design to offset 50 % of his annual consumption. At the time Nathan felt that the smaller system seemed to be just the right size.

Solar Installer in Cincinnati Ohio – Why He Chose Third Sun

  • The design – Since installation, he realized that the additional 14 panels proposed by the other company would have been largely shaded by trees and other roof obstructions. He understands how our designers laid out the roof array to maximize the areas that get the most sun. He has 2 big trees in his yard and the roof array was designed in a way that avoids their shading.
  • The gutters – In the years since installing the array, Nathan has noticed that cleaning the gutters is a lot easier than it would have been with a roof entirely covered in panels up to the very edge.
  • The electric panel – Something else that the family avoided when going solar was having to upgrade their electrical panel. The output of the inverter was right at the line where they did not have to do a panel upgrade, which was a big saving.
  • The panels – The last thing that Nathan liked about Third Sun’s proposal was the look of the panels themselves. Third Sun’s standard solar panel offering is a black panel with a black frame that some homeowners prefer over the blue panels with silver frames.

Looking at the data, the annual solar projections are 100% spot-on, which Nathan is pleased with. His family has completed some energy-efficient home upgrades like adding energy-efficient lightbulbs and installing a new central air conditioning unit, as well as adding an electric car, the Tesla Model 3. His solar panels are either meeting or exceeding their proposed annual energy offset for his household.

Between our designers knowing exactly where to place the panels and our consultant’s earnest listening to the family’s true solar goals – Nathan got the solar system that he wanted installed on his family’s home in fall of 2017.

What He Likes Most

  • It more than offsets all of the AC use, Nathan says: “It’s like we have AC that doesn’t cost anything to run. You’re at your highest solar production when you need the AC and we’re reducing that load on the grid.”
  • Monitoring – With Solar Edge optimizer monitoring Nathan can see each panel and its production. Nathan looks at the monitoring software frequently – he says he doesn’t need to but it’s fun to track.
  • The system runs itself and doesn’t need anything.
  • Record solar production this year, from July 2019 – July 2020. The past 12 months have been sunny!

Advice to those shopping

His advice to those thinking of going solar? “The cost is similar to a used car, but this will last 25-40 years. It was a no-brainer for us. I would be glad to spend this money on something that will last this long.  If you think about other things you might spend this kind of money on – this is one of the only ones that will pay you back.”

Nathan says that in the summertime a lot of people just come up to his house and ask questions about it. We love to hear that – it confirms our suspicion that there are so many homeowners out there who are curious about solar. It just takes one neighborhood leader to spark that interest in others.

Lastly, Nathan notes that there was a lag time between contract signing and installation. So, if you’re thinking about going solar (especially in 2020 to get the full 26% federal tax credit!) start now because it will take a while before the date of your solar installation.

 

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Columbus, Ohio

Solar Energy in Columbus, Ohio

“After considering solar for several years, I convinced myself I was waiting for the technology to achieve a critical performance that would represent the right time to move forward. However, after working with Third Sun Solar, I believe a significant piece of the puzzle was finding the right company with which to work. Everyone at Third Sun was very willing to answer questions and explain the technology as well their process down to the smallest details necessary for me to make the right decision. I have looked at several companies but never felt the situation was right. After the first conversation with Third Sun, I knew I was going to move forward. This is a great company to work with on what is a major commitment. ”

More about our work in Columbus, Ohio can be found here. 

Solar Array in Cleveland Ohio on Tudor Home

Net-Metering for Solar in Ohio  

Ohio Net-Metering

In sunny peak months in Ohio, solar systems often produce more energy than a home can consume. Have you ever wondered what happens to this excess electricity? Or how you, the homeowner, benefit from the extra energy your solar energy system produces? In Ohio, Net-Metering is the process that accounts for this difference in production & use. 

Net-metering allows you to store the energy you produce in the electric grid, in the form of credits. When you produce more energy than you need, excess electricity travels back into the power grid. Energy sent back into the grid goes to power your neighbors’ homes. The State of Ohio requires that the utility company credit you for the energy you produced and send along. These credits appear on your monthly electric bill to help you keep track.  

During sunny summer months, when your solar system is producing more than the energy you are using, you bank up credits. During the winter months, your home uses more energy than your solar system produces, and you use up the credits you’ve earned.  

You will be charged for the energy you take use from the traditional electric grid (when your solar panels aren’t producing). You can pay for that extra energy using the credits you accrue during times your solar system is producing more energy than you are using.  

Know that net-metering rules change from state to state. This description of net-metering applies to the net-metering rules in the state of Ohio. Some states may be similar, but we always recommend finding local information because solar rules and regulations vary so widely.

Why is net metering important?

Net metering increases the economic benefit of solar power by crediting you for the power your solar energy system produces.  The amount of energy you produce and use will vary over the course of the year. Net metering helps you account for this difference by crediting you for the excess electricity your panels produce so you can use it later. 

Your utility benefits from net metering because electricity is generated so close to where it is consumed. This diminishes the amount of electricity lost when power is transmitted across miles of wires. Additionally, it helps reduce strain on the grid during peak demand times: like on hot, sunny days.

Will I receive payment for the excess energy I produce?  

You’ll get credits to be used on an annual basis to offset the cost of electricity that you take from the grid during times when your solar system is not producing energy. These credits rollover from month to month. A surprise to some: you will not receive a check from your utility for the excess energy you put back into the grid. 

At what rate do utility companies credit me for my usage?

Electric companies credit you at a net excess generation rate. The State of Ohio’s net metering policy does not require utilities to credit energy you produce at the full retail rate.  

This rate depends on your electric company. Your experienced Solar Consultant can help you understand what your utility’s net excess generation rate is.

Can my energy bill be $0?

In many cases, yes!   

Some utility companies have a single fixed cost, or customer charge, that all customers are required to pay each month. However, in many cases, you can use credits to pay down the fixed monthly costs.  We often see $0 electric bills sent to us by our customers!  

How much energy from my electric company will I purchase annually, when I have a solar system?

We don’t design all solar systems to meet 100% of a home’s electric usage over the course of the year. Why? This depends on many factors, but primarily the amount of space a home has for solar panels. Your solar consultant will work with you to design a solar system that makes sense for your home’s annual electricity usage.  

Third Sun Solar has worked with hundreds of homeowners across the state of Ohio and beyond. We have close working relationships with all of Ohio’s many rural cooperatives and public utilities.

 

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Solar in Ohio: Trust and Ratings Trump Price

Part of what we do for our customers — and prospective customers — is keep an eye on solar market trends and market intelligence. We want to know where the value is in solar, and how to maximize that value for our customers. Often, that research reflects back upon us, and other companies that install solar in Ohio, showing us what customers think about, and look for, in a solar installer. So it is gratifying to see a survey like this, conducted by EnPhase and published in Renewable Energy World magazine.

When solar homeowners were asked, “Why did you select the installer you chose? (check all that apply,)” a huge 69% said that they chose their residential installer because they were the most trusted or highest rated installer, while just 56% of responders selected price. So price is certainly important, but trust and ratings are a much more common factor.

SURVEY

 

“It’s pretty clear that strengthening the trust of prospects and customers leads to solar sales and referrals, and reviews and other information found on the web are also important for acquiring and converting residential solar sales.” (Tor Valenza)

All of that said, it’s honest communication, follow-up and follow-through that win peoples’ trust. And maintaining focus. Each solar installation we do is the most important one we have ever done. That’s where our reputation comes from.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is a solar marketing and communications consultant and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact him through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.