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February 21, 2019
This is the first blog in a series where we pose 5 questions to a business to get better understanding of what they do and who they are. In return, that business asks us 5 question and they post our response to their blog. First up, Vaughan Woodruff, president of Insource Renewables, answers questions about solar energy. (Ok, we cheated and really asked him 6 questions.)
TBH: How do you determine if a home is appropriate for solar?
Vaughan: There are a number of factors that affect the feasibility of solar for a specific application, but ultimately it comes down to what the homeowner sees as value. We have seen ideal applications – great solar exposure, good orientation, high energy bills, quick payback, etc. – where the homeowner understands the various benefits but doesn't feel that the value she or he would gain from the system outweighs the costs. We also have installed systems for customers where the economics aren't great, but the investment in the system provided sufficient value for the homeowner. Some of the value that solar offers is predictable energy costs, less dependence on utilities like Central Maine Power, increased property value, and utilizing a clean energy source. If the house has a location – either on the roof or in the yard – that is minimally shaded and the electricity bills for the home average $65 or more per month, solar could be a good solution.
TBH: What is a typical % payback on investment?
Vaughan: The simplest way to measure payback is to estimate how long the energy savings will take to recover the costs to install the system. For residential applications, we typically see payback periods ranging from 8-12 years. Given that the service life of the system is often expected to be 30-40 years, this can result in an excellent return on investment.
TBH: What is the most common question you get and what is a typical answer?
Vaughan: The most common question we get is "how much does it cost?" And the answer is typically "it depends." Solar has become more prevalent, so we see fewer questions about the basics of these systems than we saw 8-10 years ago. In the early days, many people assumed that the most common systems utilize batteries, which they don't. And there was some question as to whether the systems generated heat or electricity (commonly electricity), and an expectation that the costs were exorbitant (they used to be, but now they're not). We love to field all types of questions, but cost is the most common. Often, homeowners have the impression that getting a quote requires a substantial amount of time of the solar installation company, but we can provide reasonably accurate estimates using aerial photography and through analyzing electric bills. By using these tools, we're able to give folks a chance to dip their toe in the water to get a sense of scale about costs and benefits without feeling like we're going to grab their leg and pull them into the pool.
TBH: Are there incentives available for solar?
Vaughan: The primary financial incentive for solar buyers is the federal tax credit. In 2019, the federal tax credit is valued at up to 30% of the installed cost of a system. The credit steps down to 26% in 2020, to 22% in 2021, and is currently slated for elimination in 2022. Businesses that invest in solar also receive the benefit of accelerated depreciation and may qualify for grant money from the United States Department of Agriculture.
TBH: What separates you from other solar installers?
Vaughan: Maine has a number of solar companies that do good work. There are a few things that set us apart. We are the only NABCEP Accredited PV Installation Company in Maine and were just the tenth company in North America to receive that recognition. Accreditation is a rigorous process that requires a review of our policies and procedures; an assessment of our commitment to professional development and worker safety; and inspection of our work. There are some other highlights surrounding quality, our commitment to our workers and our commitment to Maine communities. Ultimately, our most unique value to folks considering solar is that we are straight shooters. We'll tell you if solar is a bad idea for what you're trying to achieve. If you can achieve your energy goals through other means - such as weatherization - we'll be sure to bring that up.
TBH: What is a common myth you would like to dispel about solar in general?
Vaughan: There is a general perception that solar is for rich people. That hasn't been our experience. A large majority of our clientele are middle class. With prices continuing to drop and favorable financing, we're seeing solar become available to more and more people.
About Insource Renewables
Insource Renewables specializes in the design and installation of renewable energy systems for residential and commercial applications. To see their blog post where The Breathable Home's Bo Jespersen talks home performace, click here. And for more information on Insource Renewables, click here.
Steve and Helen W, Gardiner
Dear Bo, Thank you! It has been a pleasure doing business with you. We are thrilled with our new home - your attention to detail is amazing! Our guests and neighbors always comment on the quality of the workmanship, especially those who saw it "before". Thank you for your knowledge and honesty when dealing with the business end of our transaction. It was wonderful to know we could trust what you said. If you ever need a recommendation, please don't hesitate to ask!