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Very interested in Solar but Roof design hampers installation

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  • Very interested in Solar but Roof design hampers installation

    Good Memorial Day Weekend... Newbie here. I received a quote from Pacific Energy here in SoCal yesterday... $30,400 for a 20 panel 11kW system - 25yr 2.99% financing. Tax credit roughly $7900 bringing cost down to around $23k. It includes a new AC panel but I forgot what size.

    My home was built in 1977 and has heavy cement terracotta tiles. The roof is skip-sheeted and according to Pacific, a roofer (theirs or mine) will have to remove and reinstall the tiles to place plywood everywhere the solar panels are located (about 1/3rd of the roof). I have no idea how much this will cost but I assume in the thousands.

    Question: Are there any newer design solar panels that can be affixed to a tile roof without plywood as the underlayment? Maybe a rack system that can use the roof rafters as its foundation? I'm afraid this extra cost might derail the project.

    Thanks

    Roof.jpg

    Pic from inside my attic showing the tiles and the rafter system. It's a rare design but it never has given us issues
    Last edited by JWB; 05-24-2020, 11:12 PM.

  • #2
    Welcome to the neighborhood.

    I'd agree it's an unusual design, but if it's presented no/few problems since 1977 that sort of fits the definition of fit for purpose.

    I suspect it may run into some bucks to do what the solar contractor suggets, and probably the building/permitting Authority Having Jurisdiction (the "AHJ") may well be involved at some point. It may be worth a call to them and probably necessary to get them involved at some point. They may even have a suggestion or two.

    I'd call a couple of roofers that have good reputations and pay them of their advice, and separate from paying for their advice, maybe a get separate quote for the (potential) work.

    Any chance for a ground mount ?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by JWB View Post
      ....
      Question: Are there any newer design solar panels that can be affixed to a tile roof without plywood as the underlayment? Maybe a rack system that can use the roof rafters as its foundation?
      .......
      Any design will use the rafters. The plywood stiffens the roof diaphragm and allows full waterproof membrane attachment. It is also a safer surface for the roofers to work on. It has worked well for many years without penetrations but to disturb that and guarantee no leaks is the challenge. Today the thinking is the tiles are decorative and the underlayment is the real defense against leaks.
      9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

      Comment


      • #4
        Well, thanks for the information. JPM... unfortunately no on the ground mount. We have drought landscaping and the panels would distract visually. I was told that even though this design would never pass code today, the plywood can be put down on individual "roof planes" without issue. The installer is state contracted so I assume he's correct. However, I agreewith Ampster that disturbing the structure might lead to issues. I'm now thinking it would be better to wait until the roof is replaced to involve solar. It's unfortunate because the tax credits are diminishing here.

        In doing some research, I found that this roof design was terminated in 1980. I now believe I have the original 1977 roof sitting over my head! Obviously, it's been re coated or painted over the years (not by me) but for being that old, pretty amazing.

        Thanks... I'll update you after the engineers have dropped by. It's a free service that'll give me some ideas about placement.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by JWB View Post
          Well, thanks for the information. JPM... unfortunately no on the ground mount. We have drought landscaping and the panels would distract visually. I was told that even though this design would never pass code today, the plywood can be put down on individual "roof planes" without issue. The installer is state contracted so I assume he's correct. However, I agreewith Ampster that disturbing the structure might lead to issues. I'm now thinking it would be better to wait until the roof is replaced to involve solar. It's unfortunate because the tax credits are diminishing here.

          In doing some research, I found that this roof design was terminated in 1980. I now believe I have the original 1977 roof sitting over my head! Obviously, it's been re coated or painted over the years (not by me) but for being that old, pretty amazing.

          Thanks... I'll update you after the engineers have dropped by. It's a free service that'll give me some ideas about placement.
          For anything I may have added that you found useful or thought provoking, you're most welcome.

          I'd respectfully suggest you consider taking all you get here (even and maybe particularly my stuff) with a grain of salt. While none of us is as smart as all of us, none of us is 100 % right all the time.

          There are usually more than one way to meet building code requirements for a situation, some are easier to implement than others. Some may be implied as disallowed for perhaps disingenuous reasons, state contracted (do you mean state licensed ?) or not.

          If the roof is replaced, it'll have plywood or OSB over the rafters, a water barrier over that and then either the existing or new tiles as well as some penetrations for attic ventilation if not already in place.

          At this time U.S. federal solar subsidies will disappear after 12/31/2021. They are 26 % for 2020 and 22% for 2022. Expect the prices of PV to drop some in response to the decreased gov. subsidies, but you'll obviously be losing out on possible lowered electric bills by not doing PV sooner.

          Something to think about, among many factors: How long do you plan on staying in the house ?

          I look forward to any updates you may choose to convey.

          Good Luck.

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          • #6
            We "planned" to be here for the remainder of our lives. I'm 60 and my wife is 57. However, we would save substantially on Property Taxes if we bought out my sister's half of my parents home... currently a rental. Its slightly smaller but much better suited for solar. Plus no more mortgage! Something to think about.

            The installer got back to me this evening offering to include the roofing for an extra $20 a month for the 25 yr term. This adds up to $6000 + interest tacked onto the original price. That shoots the total price up to $36,400 - the 26% subsidy. Should I be getting other bids? This is getting expensive!
            Last edited by JWB; 05-27-2020, 12:04 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by JWB View Post
              The installer got back to me this evening offering to include the roofing for an extra $20 a month for the 25 yr term. This adds up to $6000 + interest tacked onto the original price. That shoots the total price up to $36,400 - the 26% subsidy. Should I be getting other bids? This is getting expensive!
              25 year term?

              Are you sure it's a purchase, and not a purchase power agreement or lease or something?
              Only if it's a regular purchase (not some contract to buy power) do YOU get the tax credit.

              If it's not a straight-up purchase and a straight-up loan, RUN AWAY!
              Every time I've heard of something where it wasn't a purchase it was a bad deal for the homeowner.


              Is $36,400 the price before financing or total of 25 years of payments?
              (I'm guessing that's the principal - not any of the interest)

              $6k for partial re-roof of a tile roof might not be that bad.

              Also - when I do $6k at 2.99% for 25 years, I see $28.42/month.
              So is it $20/month or $6k additional principal?


              $36.4k for 11kw system is probably an OK deal with a partial reroof and a new main panel. That'd be $3.31/W (not great, but not terrible)
              I'd probably get another bid.
              You can also call up a couple roofing contractors - see what they say for how much it'd cost to redo the tile.


              BTW - tile roofs are known to have really long life. tiles will occasionally crack - but you can usually replace the tiles that cracked, and it'll last for 100 years with just replacing a few tiles as needed. So my guess is that 1977 roof is the original. AFAIK, tiles generally do not need to be "recoated" or painted. (if yours have been painted, you may have more problems with re-roofing to support solar since there will be spots where the tiles aren't quite in the same spot and you'll see unpainted spots/slivers - hopefully they haven't actually been painted though)

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks for asking these questions foo1bar. Definitely a purchase. Originally $30,400 (before financing) at 2.99% for 25 years. Payment is $108.75 a month so their figuring in my tax credit of $7904 into that payment. I believe the payment went up to $147.00 if I kept the credit.

                I don't have a solid number on the re-roof yet. He said the payment would go up around $20 a month to include that. The $6k amount was my estimation but it could actually be lower or higher. I'll know more today after work.

                BTW, The roof was coated with an acrylic polymer in 2004 prior to us moving in. It came with a 25 year warranty. Any change to the tile system voids the remaining 10yrs so if I get leaks on the non-solar panel planes of the roof due to the change, I'm paying for that.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by JWB View Post
                  Thanks for asking these questions foo1bar. Definitely a purchase. Originally $30,400 (before financing) at 2.99% for 25 years. Payment is $108.75 a month so their figuring in my tax credit of $7904 into that payment. I believe the payment went up to $147.00 if I kept the credit.
                  Read the fine print. The only way I know of for them to take the credit, is for them to own the system. That makes it smell like a PPA or lease as others have said. It is always wise to check one's assumptions.

                  9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Makes sense...I think I was duped. Still, I was going to receive the tax credit so that confuses me??? I cancelled the contract under the three day clause. Thanks for the heads up members!

                    I've now learned on this site to purchase the panels and avoid financing if possible. Is an Home Equity loan a better option? And who to go with? SolarMax gets a lot of favorable ratings around here, but I obviously don't know the terms in those contracts.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by JWB View Post
                      ..........!

                      I've now learned on this site to purchase the panels and avoid financing if possible. Is an Home Equity loan a better option? And who to go with? SolarMax gets a lot of favorable ratings around here, but I obviously don't know the terms in those contracts.
                      There is nothing wrong with financing. Leasing can be a form of financing/ Unfortunately when it is attached to your home the fine print about what happens when the lease is over is what matters. With a car lease you just drive up to the dealer and drop off the care when the lease is over, or you pick up the option to buy it if the price is right.

                      The rates are less expensive on home equity lines.
                      I had a system installed by Solar Max 6 years ago. During the first few years they came out twice to fix roof leaks that were not their fault. I picked them because at the time I thought I needed financing but it turned out I was able to find the cash. I would recommend them if they are still competitive on price.
                      Last edited by Ampster; 05-28-2020, 03:05 PM.
                      9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by JWB
                        Well now I wish I hadn't cancelled... It was a SOLAR LOAN. Again, a PURCHASE. Credit score is in the 800s. Local bank at 4.5% for the same amount. They were 2.99%. Hard inquiry hit my credit. Now I have to start all over...
                        A good deal a week ago is still a good deal, but now that you're a wiser consumer, know it and know also that you can get better deals w/more information and some snooping around. Besides, there may have been some stuff hiding in the proposed deal. Things that seem too good to be true usually are (too good to be true).

                        From here, if it was me, I'd start with a read of the Solar for Dummies book. Then, dig in and see what the roof work really needs to be so I'm able to discuss it more intelligently with a roofing contractor. Then, I'd call a couple more solar vendors and don't share competing prices you get from competing vendors. In general, the better informed you are, the less there is for peddlers to take advantage of. I bet you can find good vendors who can do at least as good or better on quality first and also on total installed price including the cost of any financing. Besides, what's the hurry ?
                        Good luck.
                        Last edited by J.P.M.; 05-29-2020, 10:54 PM. Reason: Spelling.

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                        • #13
                          As far as financing is concerned, time spent reading and understanding the contract would be time well spent. Perhaps the Dummies book provides some insight into financing?
                          9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ampster View Post
                            As far as financing is concerned, time spent reading and understanding the contract would be time well spent. Perhaps the Dummies book provides some insight into financing?
                            Well, yea, it would. But, like telling people to make sure they tie their shoelaces (or maybe worse, telling them to check and see if their shoes have laces), or stating what is or commonly thought to be stating the obvious and/or a no brainer like "read and understand a contract before you sign it" seems a bit too close to condescending to me but, opinions vary.

                            to your query as for financing information/insight and the dummies book, IMO, it's OK but sketchy. See chap. 22 of the PDF version. Better, more complete and perhaps equally as important, more up to date and local information on financing is probably available elsewhere.

                            OTOH, the Wall Street Journal or the Financial times, etc, are not my first sources for information on solar energy technology.

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