Help Clients Make Smart Decisions About Solar Power
Photo courtesy of Alternative Energy Southeast

The home building industry is always changing and evolving. Construction techniques get refined or reinvented by skilled technicians and workers in the field every day. New and better tools and equipment are constantly being introduced by the manufacturing side of things. The materials that become the finished houses, like increasingly energy efficient windows or more customizable and durable flooring, shift from luxuries to necessities over time. The technologies that make a home comfortable and convenient are light years ahead of where they were even five years ago.

At the forefront of all this innovation is residential solar photovoltaics (PV), more commonly referred to as “solar power.” The products are becoming more affordable, and the prices are dropping. From a purely practical

standpoint, solar is going to become more and more of a consideration for people looking to build or renovate a home, but it’s hard to keep up with just what is going on with the solar industry’s progress. Your customers may not be able to stay up to date on all the advancements, and being prepared to answer their questions concisely and efficiently is a great way to show them they made the right choice in a builder. Here are some of the questions you should be ready to answer about solar.

IS SOLAR POWER RIGHT FOR WHERE I LIVE?

This will vary a lot from project to project, but the answer here is most likely yes. Every region of Georgia receives more than 200 days of sunshine per year on average. This is ideal for harvesting solar energy.

Modern solar panels are durable enough that even areas that are subject to extreme weather can still benefit. Hail or high winds are no significant threat to a properly engineered system. In fact, customers for whom disaster preparedness is a concern would find great benefit in a solar system with batteries that would allow for continuous reliable power if utility service were disrupted for an extended length of time.

IS SOLAR TECHNOLOGY AFFORDABLE?

For a lot of people, this answer is increasingly yes, but from a customer’s point of view, the true cost of solar can seem complicated. According to Energysage.com,the cost of the panels dropped 9% in 2017. A moderately sized 5 kilowatt system will still cost the average consumer over $10,000. For larger systems, the price per watt generally decreases as the capacity of the system grows. The power needs of structures can vary greatly, and a 5 kilowatt system would not be enough to meet all the power needs for an average American home, particularly a southern home. However, it would almost certainly be enough to provide a noticeable reduction in monthly electrical utility costs. The price can change drastically depending on if the system is tied into the electrical grid or is off-grid. The addition of batteries to store the power can also increase the upfront price of a solar system. These batteries have seen dramatic improvement in recent years and can increase the long term power savings by reducing the draw from the power grid when the sun isn’t available to provide direct power.

This cost may seem daunting, but there is more to consider. While the state of Georgia does not offer anything substantial in the way of incentives, in 2017, the federal government extended their 30% tax credit for the cost of solar installations for another 5 years. If the system ties into the local power grid, some, but not all, power companies will pay the consumer for any surplus power created. This varies by region and the local utility that services it, so some research will be necessary. There are also numerous companies and banks that will offer low or no interest loans on these products. The system will not pay for itself quickly, but there will be an immediate reduction in electric bill charges. With all these variables, the individual customer will need to make their own informed decision based on their personal situation. The best thing to do is learn the details about your region and provide reasonable guidance for the client as you are able.

CAN YOU DO THE WORK YOURSELF?

The answer is technically yes, but this is a tricky question. Georgia does not require any extra certifications to install solar panels. If you, or a member of your workforce, are a skilled electrician, there is nothing legally stopping you from installing these systems. Many manufacturers of solar panels and the batteries that can go with them have their own training requirements or certifications, and there are several organizations that offer certifications or accreditation. Tesla, for example, is very particular about who they will certify to install their batteries. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, or NABCEP, is currently the largest and most relevant organization providing accreditation in renewable energy today. You can find a lot good information about education and training on

their website, NABCEP.org.

Realistically, this type of work can be dangerous and complicated, and it probably makes more sense to subcontract. The number of companies that offer residential solar installation has been on a steady increase for the past few years. In Georgia, there are companies that focus on a particular region like the coast or greater Atlanta area, and there are those that will work across the whole state or multistate areas. It is probably in your best interest to find one or two of these installers and begin to foster a mutually beneficial business relationship. You can let their experience and training work for

you, so you can focus on the project as a whole.