Archive for the ‘Solar Energy’ Category

Residential Solar Power Economics Are Compelling – With or Without Subsidies

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Almost as inexorable as death and taxes has been a rising secular trend in the demand for electricity in the United States – at the utility companies/wholesale level, that is. Or so we have always thought. Yet, since the summer of 2008 electricity demand as seen by the utilities has marginally declined. That has not happened so consistently for so long since the 1930s Great Depression. What is going on?

The stagnant economy, an aging population, conservation measures, and the initial steps towards rationalizing the nationwide grid into a “Smart Grid” have played roles. The latter initiative will play an important role for years. Contemplate the U.S. grid as a giant electricity generation and distribution plant, and then think of the possible efficiencies enabled by bringing manufacturing standards from the 1960s into the 21st century and you will get some idea of the potential. However, another even more exciting trend driving the decline of electricity demand at the grid level is the plummeting cost of solar power generation.

Those of us who have kept an eye on solar power for decades do a mental double take when informed that at long last solar power is economic versus the cost of buying electricity from your local utility. But it is. It is no longer a niche option suitable for remote locations far from the grid or for early adopters who feel they have the luxury of making an ecological statement independent of of the pecuniary cost/benefit calculus. A recent Deutsche Bank report (link here) surveyed a wide spectrum of developed and developing countries around the world and concluded that in many of them, including in the United States, the cost of solar power is already below the cost of retail electricity and will soon approach wholesale averages for fossil fuels. Solar power’s day in the sun (please forgive the bad pun) is at hand. From the Deutsche Bank report:

“The economics of solar have improved significantly due to the reduction in solar panel costs, financing costs and balance of system costs. Overall solar system costs have declined at ~15% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) over the past 8 years and we expect another 40% cost reduction over the next 4-5 years.”

Note that this conclusion holds for unsubsidized solar power residential, commercial or industrial installations. The various tax credits and other subsidies available to user-level installations in Massachusetts and other states nudge the economics for the homeowner further in the positive direction.

Why are we highlighting this exciting (to us, anyway) news in this blog? We are glad you asked. As has been featured previously on this blog, here, metal roofing plus solar is a “dream team,” for a variety of reasons. Here are the major ones:

(1) Unless you want to have to de- and then reconstruct your solar panel installation before its time, solar-on-asphalt is a manifestly poor idea. Most solar manufacturers have a warranty of 25 years. Asphalt roofs last an average of 16-years, contractor’s claims or nominal promises notwithstanding. Need we say more?

Well … yes, actually. Aluminum roofing outlasts the solar panel system’s expected 25-30 year lifetime. Solar panels can be installed on standing seam metal roofing with attachments that do not penetrate the roof or add ballast.

(2) Asphalt roofs are inherently prone to failure, large and small. (Two words for those who just came through this past coastal New England winter: “ice” and “dam.”) Integrating solar with asphalt will exacerbate that tendency due to the increased load and roofing penetrations. The roofing perforations required for the installation of a solar panel mounting system increase the likelihood of leaks later, ultimately shortening the already short lifespan of the asphalt roof.

(3) As discussed on our “Why use Aluminum in Construction?” web page, here, aluminum roofing has environmentally compelling points in and of itself. Why combine an environmentally friendly power generation source with an environmentally destructive roofing material such as asphalt?

Classic Metal Roofs, LLC has years of experience in the field. Many homeowners disclose in conversation that they are planning on having a metal roof installed and then intend to have solar panels mounted on the roof later. If you do plan to mount solar panels on your metal roof then the metal roofing contractor absolutely must be informed about this. This cannot be overstressed. Metal roofing requires substantially reinforced fastening when solar is in its future. In most, if not all, cases if you already have a metal roof and did not have solar taken into account during installation, your roof may be unable to successfully withstand a subsequently attached set of solar panels.

Solar Panels and Metal Roofing: The “Green Dream Team”

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Introduction

Imagine this … a solar panel system mounted onto an environmentally friendly, lifetime aluminum metal roofing system. For starters, just saying that already sounds like a cool bragging right; and yes, this is totally possible – solar panels interface very nicely, effectively, and efficiently with lifetime aluminum metal roofing. With that in mind, let’s delve into the topic of why solar panels and an aluminum metal roof are a dream team, how to initially approach this type of system, and what to avoid.

Classic Metal Roofs, LLC has worked with solar companies all over Southern New England in attempt to fulfill the needs of homeowners looking for options to increase the energy efficiency of their homes. Check out some of our past aluminum metal roofing system installations with integrated solar systems …

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Why Solar?

A solar panel is a set of photovoltaic modules electrically connected, and in most cases, mounted onto a structure. In this case, a structure that they interface very nicely with is an aluminum metal roof. Solar systems generate electricity, practically pay for themselves, significantly lower the cost of energy, provide clean energy, and nearly instantly produce free energy. Solar panels harness the suns energy, providing a non-polluting energy alternative to coal and oil. They typically have a lifespan of over 30 years and are designed to outlast other nonrenewable energy sources. Ultimately, solar panels interfacing with an aluminum metal roofing system provides for an incredibly environmentally friendly system for you and your home.

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Don’t Install Solar On Asphalt – Do Use Aluminum, Zinc, or Copper

Before you even begin to ask yourself – do not even consider having solar panels installed onto your asphalt roof, if you have one. The warranty for your roofing system must absolutely outlast the solar panels. Unlikely with an asphalt roof. Therefore, you will be wasting your time and money putting a 25-35+ year (most solar manufacturers have a warranty of 25 years) solar system on lackluster asphalt roofing material. Something to take note of is that contractors who claim to install a 30-year asphalt roof are very tricky with their wording (asphalt roofs last, on average, 16-years), regardless of the contractor’s “promises” or warranty.

There is already a high possibility for roofing failure with asphalt, integrating solar with asphalt will only make it fail sooner due both to increased load and roofing penetrations. The roofing penetrations required for the installation of a solar panel mounting system increase the likelihood of leaks later on down the road – ultimately shortening the already short lifespan of the asphalt roof. That being said, solar panels and asphalt roofing are, conclusively, a recipe for overall roofing disaster. Do you want to deal with paying for the removal and re-installation of the solar panels when (not if) your asphalt roof fails? Not to mention that during re-roofing, the process for the re-integration of the solar panels with an asphalt roof must be coordinated in order for the panels to be re-installed simultaneously by the roofers and solar company. Something else to keep in mind is that roofers are paid to put on roofs, not solar panels; thus, the roofer will usually be removing the solar panels, creating a high possibility for the roofer to make errors dismantling the panels, negligently causing serious damage to them.

The roofing material that will interface best with solar panels is going to be a material that, at the very least, outlasts the 30 year lifespan of the solar panel system. This is why we recommend aluminum with solar: aluminum outlasts the solar panel systems by a lifetime. Solar panels can be installed on standing seam metal roofing with attachments that do not penetrate the roof or add ballast, lowering the cost and labor of the system. Therefore, if you want solar panels on your roof, you are best off with a metal roof initially. Since the service life of an aluminum metal roof will outlast the life of the solar panels, you will be able to install new solar panels after many years of the roof. However, do keep in mind that the roof’s warranty usually does not cover damage to solar components; as in most cases, the solar company will differ from the roofing contractor.

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STOP! What You Really Need To Know

If you have done research on the web regarding solar panels and metal roofing, we advise you to be very cautious. Classic Metal Roofs, LLC has years of experience in the field, and many homeowners have intimated to us upon meeting that they are planning on getting solar panels subsequent to the installation of the metal roof. Understand this: If you want solar on your metal roof, the metal roofing contractor absolutely must know this.

Marketing can be very evil and sometimes marketing goes as far as promoting blatant lies. Based entirely on our years of industry experience of installations all over New England, if solar panels are envisioned, a metal roof must be installed with solar in mind. We cannot stress this enough! Do not think that just because you have a standing seam metal roof, you can freely have solar panels attached. Well, you can … but, the results could and most cases will be disastrous, especially in a scenario involving wind uplift. Again, standing seam DOES NOT mean you can “seamlessly” just go ahead and attach a solar system. When the metal roof is being installed, the roofing must have the proper fastening so it can be substantially reinforced with solar in mind.

Basically, do not consider solar unless the metal roof installation has been beefed up to withstand solar. In most, if not all cases – if you already have a metal roof and did not have solar taken into account during installation, your roof may not be able to withstand solar panels successfully.

Field Experience in Context: We have seen standing seam metal roofing systems with a 20 foot long solar panel being only being held with 4 clips and 4 screws – some with only 3 of each. The not-so-funny thing about this is that it should have 20 clips with 40 screws. This fault is not uncommon. Become aware of the possibility that many people installing these metal roofs, especially if they know that solar is in mind, do not know what they are doing. Do your research, do it once, do it right …

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Don’t Use Thin-Film Solar

The notorious “thin-film” solar approach is slowly slipping out of the industry and should not be considered a desirable solar solution for a standing seam metal roof no matter what the solar companies attempt to advertise. First and foremost, they produce roughly half the amount of energy as crystalline does. Though, as advertised, these thin-film panels are very flexible and can be applied to curved metal panels, making them a “good idea” for structures that cannot handle additional weight, a good idea does not necessarily result in a good system.

As discussed earlier, if solar is in mind, the roofing system must be purposely installed in a fashion capable of handling the additional weight.

Even if that were not the case, we would still suggest avoiding the thin-film all together. These solar solutions are advertised with the buzz word “simplicity” repeatedly – and they are exactly right. They really are too simple to work well with the complexities of a metal roofing system. Thin-film is attached as an adhesive with a “peel-and-stick” method, an advertised healthy alternative to the weight and penetration from the traditional crystalline systems. Are they efficient? Not really. It is generally made to fit particularly standing seam, which will not require any penetrations, regardless of the system. The defining problem for thin-film is that its surface is inconsistent with the natural expansion and contraction of an interlocking standing seam metal roofing system – which will gradually create many, many problems. Ultimately, we recommend that thin-film systems be avoided entirely.

Do Use Crystalline

The glass paneled “crystalline” silicon modules have many benefits associated to its integration with a metal roofing system. These modules will generally boost energy productivity because the mounting hardware will allow for the panels to cover more of the roof’s surface. They are very mobile, so if the roof, for some reason, needs to come off, they can be removed and re-installed when done correctly. Utilizing crystalline correctly, twice the amount of electricity will be generated compared to thin-film; and, compared to thin-film, roof penetrations are only required if interfacing with the traditional metal shingle, not standing seam.

The crystalline solar panel’s mounts can be attached to the seams on a standing seam metal roof with no penetrations required whatsoever. However, roofing penetrations are not necessarily negative for the metal shingle because the posts of the solar system will usually be attached to the rafters, making them very secure.

There are two primary options for installing solar on a metal shingle: the first is to do the attachment on the posts before the roof goes on, then flashing the metal shingles around the posts, while the second way is to install plates and posts after the installation of the metal shingle roofing system. In both cases, the posts that hold the solar systems are safely and securely attached to the rafters of the house. Again, the only way to avoid roofing penetrations is with standing seam by attaching the solar panel brackets to the raised seams of the metal roof. Remember, the roof must have been installed with the extra clips in order to withstand the solar panels regardless of the metal roofing product.

Conclusion

Overall, when speaking with a metal roofing contractor, decide whether or not you want to get solar panels prior to the installation so proper coordination can be made in effort to avoid roofing failure. We cannot stress this enough.

Interested in a solar system but do not know where to go? We highly recommend you visit these websites for more information on solar:

http://sunbugsolar.com/

http://newenglandcleanenergy.com/

Interested in an aluminum metal roofing and crystalline solar system dream team for your home in the near future but concerned about the cost? Read more on how much a metal roofing system costs …

Mother Nature: Protect Yourself, Your Home, and The Environment With A Metal Roofing System

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Advanced metal roofing technology that has sprung up over the last few decades includes reflective paints to increase energy efficiency, solar shingles that actually captures the sun’s energy and convert it into electrical energy, and metal roof components that interlock. Metal roofing on a home, in a way, can resemble a knight in armor … metal roofing provides armor both to the home as well as its occupants.

Storms have historically and continually caught many off-guard. On the summer morning of August 29, 2005, the Gulf Coast was struck with a category 3 hurricane. Winds blew between 100 and 140 mph, stretching up to 400 miles across. The impact from these winds infiltrated levees and caused severe flooding in many areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. This storm became known as “Hurricane Katrina.”

A Metal Roof is Like a Personal Suit of Armor

Whether or not your home is off the Gulf Coast, in Florida, Cape Cod, or any coastal area in New England, it is important to have a roof that can protect your home. You may not live in an area prone to hurricanes, but who knows if it eventually will be? Your home needs a personal suit of armor. Metal roofing is hurricane rated up to 120 mph. One of the reasons this system is so resistant to wind is because the panels interlock. Metal roofing is very light weight, and with the roofs ability to interlock to itself on all four sides, this system will withstand numerous environmental situations, such as: hurricane winds, heavy snow, and rain.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

Interlocking Roofing Panels

Though New England has not been hit with many hurricanes lately, who can predict when one will eventually have a significant impact in this area? Consider that anywhere with reasonably high winds or the possibility of any potential hurricane is present, you can benefit from a metal roof to protect your home from that potential impact. Know that if the roof suffers from a hurricane, your home will suffer too. This is not to be played off as something minor – in the worst case, a hurricane could completely destroy your home. It is smart to learn from your own mistakes, but it is even wiser to learn from others. You do not need to learn after your home is already destroyed. Look at the damages faced by the hurricanes in Louisiana and Florida, for example. Most of the roofs that remained throughout those storms were the ones with aluminum metal roofing with panels that interlock – these homes were protected by their own personal suit of armor.

Environmental Friendliness

Metal roofing is the most environmentally friendly roofing option for most homes. Choosing aluminum over asphalt makes you a part of the solution, not the problem. Did you know that over 95% of the base metal for aluminum metal roofing is actually from recycled aluminum? Roughly 20 billion pounds of asphalt is dumped into US landfills every year. Unlike asphalt, this material is very advanced metal roofing technology. Metal roofing material does not use oil as its base resource. One may ask that if asphalt shingles need to be stripped anyway for the installation of metal roofing, aren’t we still contributing to the landfills? Wrong. As a matter of fact, in many situations, metal roofing can be installed over existing asphalt shingles without stripping them.

Reflective Capability

A metal roof will keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. The reason is that metal roofing has radiant heat reflection, meaning the heat from the sun will reflect off of the roof, keeping the home cooler. Because of this, the excessive use of air conditioning during hot summer days will be drastically reduced. How does this affect the environment? The production of electricity used for air conditioning causes smog and pollution.

With a metal roof, you will not be producing as much electricity. However, the dead airspace between the metal roofing and roof deck provides great insulation. The metal gets hot, but the heat will not transfer into the house. In addition, your house will be able to retain heat much better during the winter. Most commonly, metal roofing with shinier metallic surfaces or milder colors are better at reflecting the radiant heat. Though, keep in mind that aluminum metal roofing will have natural emissivity, regardless. Special reflective paints, originally developed for military applications, have made great strides in increasing the reflectivity of metal roofs and is probably the most advanced metal roof technology to impact the market in recent years.

Besides the very environmentally friendly benefits of this roofing, metal roofing generally interfaces very nicely with solar panels. All of these benefits from a metal roof can actually fit into “cool roof” criteria, which means that in certain states, homeowners may be eligible for tax benefits. This said, here are a few frequently asked questions and misconceptions about metal roofing:

Isn’t metal roofing a new industry?

False. Although metal roofing seems to be gaining a lot of recent popularity, it has been widely used since the early 1800s. Even so, with many modern architects implementing metal roofing, homeowners figure their traditional home will not match with a metal roof. This, as well, is untrue. These products have become very advanced. Metal roofing comes in a variety of different styles and colors, such as the common “shake” style that mimics a wood shingle. Find out which metal roofing product suits your criteria.

Can’t Most Contractors Install a Metal Roof?

Absolutely not. In fact, you should steer clear from any roofing contractor that claims to install metal roofs but does not specialize in the field. Installing metal roofs is not an easy task. The craftsmanship is very specialized and advanced. Metal roofing requires many installation and bending techniques that only a specialized and experienced metal roofer exhibits. A common problem in this field is that many people receive an array of quotes for a metal roof, from a multitude of contractors and conclude by choosing the lowest price bidder. This usually leads to continual difficulties and problems due to a faulty installation which can ruin the promise of a “lifetime roof” with a plethora of repairs – often eventually adding up to the price that the reputable metal roofing contractor originally quoted, or more. In some cases, contractors have unknowingly installed agricultural metal roofing on homes, which later have had to be re-roofed with an architectural product. Save yourself the trouble; work with a reputable metal roofing contractor.

Metal roofing is too expensive!

It can be expensive, yes. But, like many investments, it will pay off. Along with the many environmental benefits and reducing your electric bills, a metal roof will increase the value of the home, and actually make the homeowner eligible for many tax benefits. Along with “cool roof” criteria in certain states, the wind and fire resistance of metal roofing, insurance companies will give discounts.

I live in a high wind area. Isn’t this a dangerous place for a metal roof?

As outlined earlier, the opposite is the case. There are many building codes that a roof must abide by in certain areas; hurricane regions in particular. Also, because the systems will generally interlock, metal roofing will be able to withstand high winds and prevent water from leaking in to the home. Remember, this roof is that of a suit of armor.

Metal roofing actually lasts long?

You will never have to re-roof again; because this industry has drastically advanced, metal roofing systems are expected to last up to 100 years. Because of the long term investment, the environmental benefits, and the incredibly specialized manufacturing and installation process, your roof will last you a lifetime.

Conclusion

Do yourself and Mother Nature a favor and get a metal roof. You will both protect the environment and protect yourself from the environment with this efficient shield of armor. Metal roofing has a come a long way, and you can make your home go a long way as well.

Minding the Alternative Energy Commercialization Gap

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy last week unveiled its Bioeconomy Blueprint, a collection of actions for federal agencies to promote economic growth based on advances in life sciences research. But also last week, an entrepreneur and financial adviser in the energy field pointed out in a paper that for the government to move scientific discoveries from the lab to the energy marketplace, agencies need to fill a gap in funding that the private sector up to now has been reluctant to address.

http://seekingalpha.com/article/567151-minding-the-alternative-energy-commercialization-gap

Will Alternative Energy Ever Go Mainstream?

Monday, April 30th, 2012

The problem in evaluating various forms of power is that two critical elements of the debate — the true costs of production and the efficiency of the energy source — are often ignored, or wind up buried beneath “statistics” designed to sway the heart instead of the brain. In many cases, an ignorant public and a highly divided political system simply demonize what they barely understand. Let’s try to ignore the talking heads for a while and look at the numbers at ground level.

A pressing need
Renewable energy’s support is often based on hope and hype, promising freedom from polluting hydrocarbons and the nasty terrorist-harboring petrostates that control them. But that hope ignores the reality, which is that we need to power our many devices quickly, cheaply, and consistently, and we need to do it right now. Alternative energy is not yet up to the task, and so hydrocarbon alternatives remain (for now) on the fringes, as the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s data show …

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/01/05/will-alternative-energy-ever-go-mainstream/