Preparing Your Home For Solar: Total Solar Resource Fraction

Follow along as President Greg Garrison goes solar in this mini-blog series.

About my home

In my last post, I discussed my reasons for going solar. Once I made the commitment, I needed to get my house in order—both figuratively and literally. Here I share more about what I did to prepare my house for this project to enable me to maximize the benefits of my energy transition.

First, let me tell you a little about my home. Built new in 1991, it is a modest home; my family has been the only owners. Initially, there was originally 1,350 sq ft of living space, which we expanded to 1,800 sq ft in 2001. The house was originally built towards energy conservation, and heats and cools efficiently. I have always tried to keep electrical energy usage to a minimum, so our monthly electric bills rarely exceed $150.00. Heating costs typically averaged $2,200 a year to fuel our oil-fired hydronic heating system.

As mentioned previously, my home has poor solar access. The Total Solar Resource Fraction, or TSRF, which measures available solar energy for a site, is sub-fifty percent. I could live with that, but my lawn — and any solar panels I put on — would do better with more sun. This meant I had to clear and trim trees. I hired Mike Martino Tree Service, who, in total, removed eighteen trees — gray birch, pitch pine, and hemlock. The oak tree, whose canopy reaches over my house, has remained. It’s a beautiful tree, and I could not justify cutting it down to increase the TSRF. Site work requires thoughtful balance on the part of the homeowner; tree work, in particular as a means to increase TSRF, should be well-considered so as to also preserve and protect the greater ecosystem of the property.

The cost to do this tree work totaled more than $3,000. Although site work cannot be included as an expense to the solar installation for the tax credit, tree removal is a reasonable out-of-pocket expense to maximize TSRF while maintaining home and property.

I also needed a new roof. I had twenty years on a thirty-year shingle. But it is not worth installing solar only to remove it in ten years. While Stone Mountain Roofing had the old shingles off, they checked the roof carefully, repairing any roof decking, and flashing all seams and skylights. This was done for security. I am sixty-one, so this is possibly the last roof I will have to worry about. I wanted to make sure it was done right.

While replacing the shingles and flashings, I also replaced the skylights. I wanted the security and the increased energy rating new skylights would provide. There is a modest tax credit of $200 for replacing the windows. The Inflation Reduction Act clearly outlines available tax credits for homeowners making energy improvements to their homes and is an excellent resource.

I also had the house pressure washed. My thinking was that I wanted to have a clean house before the installation began; when installing all the different elements of the system, it makes sense to have clean connection points. The exterior power washing was a minimal expense — $600 — well worth it, since it had been collecting dust, dirt, and lichen for many years. Again, this project has provided me with an opportunity to take additional steps that not only help maintain and secure my property, but extend the value of the project as well.

In the next blog...

One month in, and the house is clean, sporting a new roof and skylights, and, with fewer trees in the mix, inviting in more sunshine. My investment at this point is just over $15,000.

Next up: it’s time to install my solar power plant — finally. I can’t wait!



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