Archive for May, 2010

Room for improvement – State’s green lodging certification program attracts more than 100 businesses

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Room for improvement - Maine state green lodging programMaineBiz reports on Maine’s 111 Certified Environmental Leaders, with a focus on the Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, a ReVision Energy customer.

Derek Rice writes:

With 111 participants, Maine’s Certified Environmental Leaders in Hospitality program is building awareness of environmentally friendly practices in the hospitality sector – and saving businesses thousands of dollars in the process.

Created in 2006, the free program operates under the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Pollution Prevention Program, which also offers certification for restaurants and grocery stores. Participating lodging businesses have saved an average of $10,000 per year in electricity costs alone, according to the DEP.

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Maine Experiences Epic Solar Spill!

Friday, May 28th, 2010

While oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, in Maine levels of sunshine have hit epic proportions. We observe reactions by local residents of the phenomenon, and explore ways this solar spill could be put towards good use!

Photos of some folks who are putting this solar gusher to work:

Deerfield, New Hampshire - Solar Electricity

Exeter, New Hampshire - Combo Solar Hot Water and Solar Power

Topsham, Maine - Solar Hot Water

3 Hidden Costs of DIY Solar

Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Wolfeboro, New Hampshire - Solar Hot Water
A set of two flat plate solar hot water collectors professionally installed on a home in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

As more and more homeowners discover the benefits of harvesting solar energy, there are growing numbers of solar electric and solar hot water kits appearing on the market.

Most of these are billed towards the adventurous homeowner – those who might think that a project that spans a couple of weekends is worth saving some money over hiring a professional.

While we very much respect the DIY attitude of solar energy enthusiasts (indeed, the whole industry has its roots in the tinkerers who have been building their own systems since the 70s), there is a lot more to consider when installing a solar energy system than the DIY system literature would have you believe.

Bottom line: it may cost you much more than you expect to do it yourself.

1 – The Real Cost of Parts and Labor

The major assumption with going the DIY route is that by eliminating professional labor rates, you’ll drastically reduce the cost of a solar energy system. After all, professionals will charge you $20+/hr, while your own labor is free, right?

Well, it’s not quite so easy.

Equipment costs account for roughly 80% of the cost of a solar energy job, and professional solar companies get considerably better prices on parts. Quite frankly, we’re shocked at some of the prices being asked for the DIY kits.

We found one solar hot water kit, for example, fetching $6,500 (prior to incentives). Compared to a professional installation with better performing parts, the difference is less than $2,000.

We find similar premium prices on solar electric modules. While we can purchase and install solar electricity for roughly $5.25/watt right now, we’ve seen solar panels advertised for $5.5/watt.

Yes, the actual parts – without wiring, inverter, mounting equipment, or labor – are being sold retail for more than the installed cost from us!

Professional labor rates are anything but price gouging – on every system we install, you benefit from the cumulative expertise of engineers from MIT, Dartmouth, and UNH, and practical experience on 2,500 systems.  Our installers in the field are professionally licensed plumbers and electricians, and we invest heavily in training so that our standards of excellence are hard to match.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a group that can install a system as efficiently and professionally as our gang!

Residential Solar Hot Water System Schematic
A schematic for a basic residential solar hot water system that uses an oil boiler for backup.

2 – What it Takes to Get a Rebate

Something that is not usually advertised with off-the-shelf solar kits is that in order to qualify for federal and state rebates, you need a professional plumber or electrician to sign off on the installation.

Wait, what – after saving some money by doing the installation yourself, you’re still expected to have a professional on board?

While it may seem unfair, the federal government and states require a professional sign-off as a safety measure for you.

Poor performing and hacked-together systems were a real problem in the 70s and today’s requirements aim to ante up professionalism in the industry by requiring standards such as SRCC ratings on equipment and credentials (such as NABCEP) from installers.

In some states, such as New Hampshire, the rebate application requires even more paperwork and verification – including panoramic shots the southern exposure, a solar pathfinder photo, and robust parts specifications.

If the amount of labor and expertise it takes to install a solar kit doesn’t scare you off, the paperwork just might!

And without access to state rebates, the cost/benefit of DIY vs. professional solar tilts even further to the side of a professional installation.

3 – Who Do You Call in the Middle of the Night?

Professionally installed Superstor solar hot water storage tank with electric backup

The fact that solar installations should last 20+ years is a big part of the equation of up-front cost vs. return on investment equation.

With a professional installation, you are guaranteed a code-compliant, rebate-ready system. At ReVision, we also back all of our systems with 24/7 service.  While nearly all our systems run trouble-free, in the rare occasion you do encounter a problem, you can rely on us to fix it promptly.

If you read the fine print with DIY solar kits, you find a remarkably different approach to service. Not only is there no emergency service to be found, but you may need a professional installation just to get the manufacturer to honor their warranty.

Yes, to repeat – we found one DIY kit that says that unless certain parts of the system are professionally installed, the system is ineligible for warranty coverage.

Contrast this with reputable manufacturers of professional-grade solar equipment, who warranty their products for 25 years (in the case of photovoltaics) or 10-20 years (in the case of most solar hot water equipment).

Even the manufacturers of the DIY systems themselves acknowledge the importance of professional installation!

Invest in the Long Term

If you’re a homeowner who has enough projects on the weekend already (or would rather just enjoy your time off!) it’s really hard to justify putting yourself through a DIY solar installation.

Professional installation will save you money in the short-term, and provide you peace of mind in the long-term – and who can put a price on that?

Interested in learning more?  Start today with a free site evaluation.

Solar for Weatherbee School in Hampden featured on WABI

Monday, May 24th, 2010

A little over a month ago, WABI (CBS affiliate in Bangor, Maine) featured a story on The Weatherbee School in Hampden, Maine, where a group of students dubbed the “Green Team” helped win the grant from the Earth Day Network to install a 2.3kw solar electric system on the roof of the school.

Here’s WABI’s coverage of the student green group:

Installation of the system was completed just last week, and the system has enjoyed beautiful sunshine since!

Weatherbee School - Hampden, Maine

This solar electric array will offset an estimate 2,1000 lbs of C02 emissions each year. The system offers data monitoring so that Weatherbee School’s Green Team can observe how weather affects performance.

DOWNSIZING – An environmentally-conscious family in Woolwich, Maine, reduces its carbon footprint by living small

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Environmentally-conscious family in Woolwich, Maine, reduces its carbon footprint by living smallThe home of ReVision Energy customer Ben Tipton and his family appeared in this May/June 2010’s Design New England, which highlighted their commitment to living small as a path to sustainability.

Here’s a sample from the story written by William Morgan with Photography by Eric Roth:

The new house in woolwich, maine, is testament to Ben Tipton and Michelle LaRoque’s belief that while they cannot change their past carbon footprint, theywill do everything they can to reduce their children’s. Having designed and built an energy-effi cient house in Hartland, Vermont, they realized they could go even smaller. Their goal was to spend less on a mortgage and more time with their children…

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