Buying Solar Panels Archives - Suntrica

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How to Choose the Best Solar Powered Backup Camera

Driving is an essential mode of transportation for many of us. While it is necessary, it comes with substantial risks. Back over incidents kill or seriously injure thousands of children and elderly adults each year. A vehicle's typical rear blind spot can hide objects up to 25 feet away. The best solar-powered backup cameras can help mitigate some of these risks and save lives, not to mention they are easy to install.

Top Recommendation

TypeS Solar Powered Parking Sensor

This solar-powered parking sensor from Type S is a great option to add to any vehicle. The simple license plate mounted sensor makes installation easy, as it doesn't require wire routing. The intelligent sensor searches for objects behind your vehicle. When the sensor detects something, it sends visual and audio cues directly to your phone to alert you of their presence. The instant notifications allow hands-free use, easing any stress you may have while backing up and parking your vehicle. The solar panel will keep the battery full, so after an initial charge, the sensor will be ready to go whenever necessary.

​Upgrade Option

​FenSens Wireless 1080p Backup Camera

​This solar license plate mounted camera is not yet available to the public, but it will provide a 1080p video feed straight to your phone through the downloadable app. FenSens claims the camera will work five times daily, with just two hours of sunlight. The G-sensor technology activates the app automatically when going in reverse. You can also activate the app by voice or touch, using the included QuickLaunch button.

​​Value Option

​Whistler WBU-900 Wireless Digital Backup Camera

​This camera is an excellent budget rearview camera that will fit most cars and trucks. It comes with a dedicated video monitor so that you can use it without a smartphone. After an initial charge, the rechargeable camera batteries refill utilizing solar power. As with most solar backup cameras, this model doesn't require wiring or drilling to install it to your vehicle. The camera contains three user-selected time modes of operation, depending on your preferences.

How to Choose a Solar Powered Backup Camera

​The average driver has to back up their vehicle multiple times each day. Even while being cautious, objects can seem to come out of nowhere. Back up cameras in cars are a requirement now in the United States. However, millions of vehicles on the road do not have this technology. You can install a wireless backup camera on any vehicle without any additional wiring. They are a simple solution to a problematic situation, and they provide added safety. Everyone should have a backup camera wireless on their vehicle.

Blind Zones

Each side of a vehicle contains blind spots the driver cannot see. These blind spots can stretch as far as 15 to 25 feet behind a vehicle, making them extremely dangerous to pedestrians. Shorter individuals driving large SUVs and trucks make this blind spot even larger. Children often do not understand the risks of these blind spots, and they can walk into them as an unsuspecting driver reverses.

Backup Crashes

Backup crashes occur any time someone backs their vehicle into an object. This easily avoidable accident costs drivers thousands of dollars every year. Backup crashes can involve trees, poles, other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. Drivers can almost entirely avoid these incidents by utilizing backup cameras in cars.

Backovers

A backover accident occurs when a driver reverses their vehicle into a non-occupant, killing or severely injuring them. Backover accidents are a preventable tragedy that kills dozens of children and elderly adults every year, with thousands of more victims suffering severe injuries. Between 2002 and 2006, there were an estimated 292 backover fatalities and 18,000 backover injuries annually. Passenger vehicles caused 78 percent of backover fatalities and 95 percent of backover injuries, with children under 5 and adults over 70 at the highest level of risk.

These accidents typically occur in driveways (where most fatalities occur), residential areas, parking lots (where most injuries occur), and public roadways. About 40 percent of the time, the victim is related to the driver. The victim usually approaches from the side as the driver begins to reverse, and neither person has adequate time to recognize each other or react.

Mandatory Backup Cameras

On February 28, 2008, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007 was signed into law. This regulation required the United States Department of Transportation to issue safety regulations regarding backup crashes within three years. Although the law stated a deadline of February 2011, the USDOT repeatedly granted itself extensions. In September 2013, the father of Cameron Gulbransen, along with a group of advocates, petitioned the courts, demanding regulations for backup cameras within 90 days. Six months later, on March 31, 2014, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that all automobiles produced after May 2018 would be required to have backup cameras installed.

Aftermarket Backup Cameras

Adding an aftermarket backup camera is the simplest way to protect yourself from backup crashes. These products require no additional wiring, and you can even use them while driving, unlike models that receive power from reverse lights. The camera will require an initial charge from an outlet, but once fully charged, you never have to worry about it again. A few hours of daily sunlight captured by the solar panels will be enough to keep the product running. They are mounted directly with your license plate, and installation usually takes just a few minutes. The camera and panels are unobtrusive, and they are aesthetically pleasing on any vehicle.

Monitors

You’ll need something to view the video feed the camera is recording. Some models come with dedicated monitors while others can connect directly to your phone, eliminating the necessity for extra wires and gadgets, which can clutter your cockpit. The solar cameras and monitors are completely wireless, making them easy to use for everyone. A product that allows you to connect straight to your phone is useful, as it eliminates the need for additional equipment.

Solar Panels

Charging and replacing batteries is time-consuming and can be expensive. Solar panels eliminate the need for an external charge source and keep your wireless backup camera charged for when you need it. One of the best options is a product with a solar panel at the bottom of the license plate. This product setup creates a considerable surface that you can angle upwards to capture the most sunlight.

Best Solar Powered Backup Camera Reviews

Quick Take: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR Solar Powered Backup Camera

​Top Recommendation

TypeS Solar Powered

Parking Sensor.

Instant phone notifications.

​Upgrade Option

FenSens Wireless 1080p Backup Camera

App allows voice activation.

​Value Option

Whistler WBU-900 Wireless Digital Backup Camera

Can be installed upside down.

Type S Solar Powered HD Wireless Backup Camera

This parking sensor from Type S isn’t necessarily a camera, but it is the most effective solution for cars without an existing camera. Enormous dedicated screens for cameras can take up space, clutter your cockpit, distract from driving, and obstruct your view. This app-based sensor eliminates the need for any extra equipment. The sensor mounts directly to your license plate in a matter of minutes. After an initial charge of the camera, the solar panels will keep the camera ready for use.

​The sensor detects hazards behind your vehicle and sends audio and visual warnings to your phone. After easily installing the app, it can tell you how far away objects are with instant audio and visual notifications. The sensor is small, and it doesn’t cover your license plate. Moreover, the product is barely noticeable on your vehicle. G-Sensor technology automatically shuts the sensor down when you park your vehicle, conserving battery for the next time you need it. This option won’t distract from driving and will still provide instantaneous hazard notifications.

Pros
  • Instant phone notifications
  • No charging required
  • Easy installation
  • Audio and visual hazard distance cues
  • G sensor technology
    Cons
    Doesn’t actually provide live footage

    FenSens Wireless 1080p Backup Camera

    ​You can only pre-order this product currently, but when released, the company promises five camera uses with only two hours of direct sunlight. It will send HD 1080p video directly to your smartphone through the app downloadable on Apple and Android. The camera contains G-sensor technology that can detect when you backup your vehicle, automatically launching the app on your phone. You can also launch the camera by using your voice or clicking the TAP QuickLaunch button in the app. Some consider it the best reversing camera Australia has to offer.

    ​The license plate mounted camera is securely held into place with four security screws, helping to prevent theft. The company is offering a 30-day money-back guarantee and a one year warranty on product defects. This product is considerably more expensive than the others, but it is a fantastic choice for someone who wants to add a no-fuss HD wireless backup camera onto an older vehicle.

    Pros
  • Offers 1080p video
  • Allows voice activation
  • G sensor technology
    Cons
  • Pre-order only
  • Expensive
  • Whistler WBU-900 Wireless Digital Backup Camera

    ​This camera is a respectable value option for consumers looking for a simple car backup camera and screen for their vehicle. It comes with a dedicated monitor, so it is suitable for people without a smartphone. The camera will stay charged with the included solar panels after an initial charge from an outlet. You can install the unit upside down and flip the image if it impedes the operation of your trunk handle. While the image quality provided by the camera isn’t spectacular, it is sufficient to see any obstacles behind your vehicle.

    The camera has three time periods to choose from, allowing for some customization. Some consumers reported syncing issues with the camera, but it is a common problem with products of this type. The manual buttons can be somewhat tricky to operate on this product, and the unit doesn’t offer voice activation. Nevertheless, this product provides the best wireless backup camera for thrifty shoppers.

    Pros
  • Can be installed upside down
  • Can be installed with only a screwdriver

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    Cons
  • Dedicated monitor
  • May have syncing issues
  • Fussy buttons

    Conclusion

    The best solar backup cameras offer a simple solution to a deadly problem. In as little as a few minutes you can install the camera and monitor in your vehicle making backup crashes far less likely. The Type S solar powered backup sensor is like having eyes in the back of your head. It connects directly to your phone, eliminating the need for extra equipment. The solar panel is large, efficient, and has no problem keeping the sensor charged. I like the simplicity of the license plate mount which can be installed on practically any vehicle.

    The camera will send your phone automatic alerts, warning you of hazards and allowing you to keep both hands on the wheel. The Type S G-sensor is waterproof and has an extensive operational temperature, so you don’t have to worry about the elements. Easy, functional, and affordable, the Type S sensor can eliminate unnecessary risks you may be taking every day by providing you with immediate feedback about hazards behind your vehicle.

    Outdoor Solar Lights

    33 Gorgeous and Eco-Friendly Outdoor Solar Lights

    You have probably heard of outdoor solar lights. You may have even seen some small ones at the store in the gardening section.

    Perhaps you have considered getting an outdoor solar light to cut down on electricity, but you simply haven’t seen one that fits your needs. Or maybe you think that the right one for you doesn’t exist.

    In this list of 33 gorgeous and eco-friendly outdoor solar lights, I will show you that there is a solar light for any outdoor lighting need you may have.

    1. Solar Flood Lights – Protect Your Home

    Outdoor Solar Light

    Flood lights are one of the most popular and simplest ways of increasing the security of your home.

    Solar floodlights, especially LED ones, are durable, easy to install, and will save money on your electricity bill among other things.

    The best solar flood lights also come in a variety, some having the added advantage of motion sensors. See our  for all the  details.

    solar flood lights review

    2. Solar Flagpole Lights – Increase The Effect of Your Flag

    flagpole solar light

    Having a flagpole at your office is good for catching attention. A solar flagpole light will increase this effect and enable you to keep your flag up after dark.

    Because solar flagpole lights turn on automatically when it gets dusk, all that it needs is to be installed. This is easy to do since most weigh less than one pound. Check out the options in our.

     
     

    3. Solar Christmas Lights – Perfect For Celebrating the Season

    Perhaps one of the best reasons to go with solar Christmas lights is the fact that you can now decorate the far edges of your lawn you were formerly unable to reach with an electric cord.

    They are very easy to set up and, if you are in doubt, tutorials are easy to find on YouTube. You can also find our.

     
    Best Solar Christmas Lights

    4. Solar Camping Lanterns – Great For Outdoor Enthusiasts

    Solar camping lanterns also compare well against hand-crank ones and often have the added benefit of being able to act as a charger for your phone.

    The brightness of camping lanterns is measured in lumens. Solar camping lanterns can have different settings that provide different lumens according to how much light you need. See our full  to help you choose the right one.

    solar camping lantern review

    5. Solar Spotlights – Create a Focal Point

    Solar Spotlight

    Solar spotlights deliver a direct beam of light and are the perfect thing to use for highlighting a statue or any other feature that you want to highlight.

    They come in a wide variety of sizes and prices and can have their solar panel attached by a long cord that can allow you a lot of flexibility when placing it. See our for all the details.

    Full review of solar spotlights

    6. Solar Motion Lights – Lights of Many Uses

    Motion lights are most often used to scare off potential robbers, but can also be used for things like hunting. Some are specifically designed to gradually get brighter so as not to scare off the game.

    There are a wide range of different kinds of solar motion lights to choose from so asking yourself some important questions about its purpose will help you to decide which one you need. We help you out with this in our.

     
    Best Solar Powered Motion Security Light

    7. Solar Path Lights – Light Up Your Walkway

    Solar path lights

    Using solar lights for your path requires no cords whatsoever, the small solar panel being built right into the tops of the small lights.

    Inexpensive options do not tend to last long, but still can do a great job of lighting up the edges of your driveway or path. Check out the more durable options in our solar path lighting review.

    Besides, they can also look romantic for a nighttime stroll.

    8. Solar Gutter Lights – Cleverly Hidden

    The main advantage of solar gutter lights is that they are not on the ground in the way of mowing and yet still easy to install.

    Another key feature is that they are small and portable enough to be taken on camping trips or on vacation and they still increase the security of your home.

    9. Solar String/Rope Lights – Works Wherever You Want It

    Solar rope lights are made with the lights in a case of plastic tubing that protects them from damage and prevents them from getting wet.

    This helps them last and also means that you can place them on the ground even near wet areas. They also come in a wide variety of colors and have different settings available. See our  for info on how to choose.

    Solar string lights review

    10. Solar Deck/Patio Lights – Invite Your Guests Outdoors

    Outdoor solar wall lights are perfect for decks and patios. They shine most of the light down toward the ground so that you can see where to step without any risk of tripping over the light.
     
    Another option is to get flush mount solar stair lights which are installed into the floor of deck itself so that they lay flush with the rest of the floor.

    11. Solar Shed Lights – Light For Your Work Space

    Solar shed lights that are good quality can give anywhere from six to twenty-four hours of light after dark, giving you plenty of time to work.

    Another benefit of solar shed lights is that you can also place them in barns, greenhouses, porches, and anything else that has a roof and needs light inside. See our  for full details.

    Solar shed lights review

    Best Solar Powered Shed Lights

    12. Solar Post Cap Lights – Perfect For Any Fence

    Solar post cap lights are easy to install and have a definite aesthetic appeal, especially on wooden fencing.

    However, you do not have to have a wooden fence to get one of these and there is a wide variety of ones to choose from, whether you like the look of stained glass or more of a backwoods-y style. See our for help choosing the best ones.

    solar post cap lights review

    13. Solar Lamp Posts – Classic Beauty For Your Yard

    Solar lamp posts have two main ways of installation: stakes or planters. Stakes are driven into the ground and require a bit of digging, while planters take up more room and prevent and are literally surrounded by a square or round planter at the base.

    In stormy areas these can be equipped with flat panels to help it cope with high winds and some can stay lit for more than one night, even without the sun coming out.

    14. Solar Powered Dusk to Dawn Lights – All Night Options

    Dusk to dawn lights are ideal for things like schools, roads, driveways, golf courses, and more.

    They can come in different sizes and kinds and all are built to harness the maximum amount of sunlight and to store the energy in internal batteries for use at night. See our for help choosing the best option for your needs.

    15. Solar Garden Lights – Light Up Your Masterpiece

    No matter what the theme of your garden is there is likely a novelty solar garden light to go with it, whether you like gnomes, or prefer castles, or animals.
    Easy to place and safe to use around kids and pets,can even be safely used around your pool.
     
    Solar garden lights

    16. Solar Yard/Lawn/Landscape Lights – Show Off Your Hard Work

    No matter what the theme of your garden is there is likely a novelty solar garden light to go with it, whether you like gnomes, or prefer castles, or animals.
    Easy to place and safe to use around kids and pets,can even be safely used around your pool.
     

    17. Solar Fairy Lights – Perfect For a Delicate Touch

    Fairy lights can look magical in your garden and most have eight different flashing modes so you can have the exact ambience you want.

    They are cool to the touch and make a lovely finishing touch to wedding centerpieces and floral arrangements, having the added benefit of being waterproof. We’ve highlighted some great options in our.

    solar fairy lights review.

    Best Solar Fairy Lights

    18. Solar Street Lights – Perfect Lighting for Playgrounds and Businesses

    Some of the most common uses for include providing light for highways, parks, playgrounds, and parking areas.

    solar street lights

    They are completely independent of the grid, require less maintenance, lower the risk of accidents caused by external wires, and have a much lower risk of overheating.

    19. Hanging Solar Lights – Showcase Your Outdoor Area

    Hanging solar lights

    often look like lanterns and you can even make them yourself by up-cycling other kinds of solar lights.

    They can come with either a wire handle or a clip and can also come in animal shapes such as owls, butterflies, jellyfish, and more, or in a simple orb shape.

     

     

    20. Decorative Solar Lights – Add Style and Beauty

    Decorative lights allow for amazing creativity and DIY options can be as cheap as going to a dollar store and putting a few things together, yet they can have incredible results.

    The fact that by using  you can still go outside and enjoy having lights should your electricity go out is only one of the benefits.

    solar for decorative outdoor lights

    21. Solar Fence Lights – Mark Your Boundaries

    There are two main options for lighting your fences: post cap lights work well on thick and sturdy fences, while side mounted lights can be placed on any fence, large or small.

    They not only clearly mark where your fence is at but they can also light your driveway or path if it is near a fence.

    22. Solar Driveway/Parking Lot Lights – Light Your Home or Business

    Though you will need to get an estimate for how many lights you need, most can be installed without causing damage to your parking lot during installation.
    These solar lights can also be used to light up long, dark driveways and even gun ranges if you want to practice your aim after dark.
    Best Outdoor Solar Lights for the Yard, Landscape & Lawns

    23. Solar Security Lights – Many Options and One Goal

    Best Solar Powered Dusk to Dawn Light

    Any building that has lights on looks occupied and is less likely to be vandalized. With solar this protection is still there even if the power goes out.

    When deciding what you need, take into consideration that a study on burglars was done that proved that the most common deterrent was a lack of hiding places available on well-lit properties, so choose that minimize these areas.

    solar security lights

    24. Solar Umbrella Lights – Both Shade and Light

    Used in restaurants that have an outdoor area, are also a great feature on your home patio.

    solar umbrella lights

     

    They come in a wide variety of colors, with tilting options, and can have their stand in the center or even on to the side for easy use should you already have a table that has no hole for it.

    25. Solar Dock Lights – A Boating Essential

    Best Solar Dock Lights

    Power pedestals act like a small lighthouse for larger boats, while piling lights or wharf lights can add a very pleasing touch. There are even underwater solar dock lights that are perfect for attracting fish.

    Solar dock lights work near both saltwater and fresh, and in some places there is even tax incentives for installing them.

     

     

    26. Solar Garden Stakes – Small and Versatile

    Solar garden stakes are cheap and can easily be converted into outdoor solar chandeliers, lamps, or any number of other yard decorations that can cost less than $5 to create.

    Or you can buy solar garden stakes that are works of art and are made of glass, metal, or other materials that are waterproof and have always-in-bloom flowers or Precious Moments figures in your garden.

    27. Solar Tea Lights – All Purpose Light

    These tiny lights can be used as a safer alternative in place of candles inside Jack-O-Lanterns, as a light in ‘fairy jars,’ placed in frosted jars to make lanterns, and any number of other creative ideas.
     
    Solar tea lights also look lovely placed in a row along the top of a low wall or on the ground along the edge of a patio or stone pathway.

    28. Solar Tree Lights – Moonlight Every Night

    Besides wrapping your tree in lights, the other options are down-lights and up-lights. Down-lighting looks more like moonlight and shows off what is on the ground around the tree, while up-lighting focuses more on the tree itself.

    Of course if you are wealthy you can buy solar tree lights that give light, Wi-Fi access, recharge things for you, and have an info touch screen.

    29. Solar Pillar Lights

    Pillar lights are made to sit on top of the ground, being heavier at the bottom and needing no stakes, but they can also sit on wide rock walls or fences.
    They are a staple in high-end outdoor décor due to their classy looks, yet are a quite affordable and cost efficient method for lighting.
    solar pillar lighting

    30. Solar Rock Lights – Highlight Your Rock Garden

    Solar rock lights are designed to look like ordinary rocks in order to camouflage into the rest of the scenery and come in a range of sizes.

    These can also come as stepping stones which can look like actual stones or nothing like them at all. Some rocks can even have butterflies or dragonflies above it that light up.

    31. Solar Disk Lights – Great Small Lights

    Disk lights are small, round, and have a short stake that keeps them stable as it is pushed all the way into the ground so that the only visible part is the disk which can handle flooding.

    They last an average of 8-10 hours and can be used on flat areas by simply not attaching the stake. It can also come in different colors and with different settings.

    32. Solar Powered Grow Lights – Perfect for Your Greenhouse or Garden

    Power can be one of the biggest factors in planning a greenhouse and, even in indoor setups, light is perhaps the most important thing for seedlings which is why solar powered grow lights are so useful.

    These lights can also be used in regular garden to help the plants grow a little faster and to allow you to work in your garden at night in the summer when it can be too hot to go out during the day.

    33. Solar Garage Lights – Light Up Dark Rooms

    Solar powered garage lights come in kits and can be used for any garage, shed, or even your house should your electricity go out and can often serve as a charger to your phone as well.

    Other uses can include chicken coops or cabins, and most can provide somewhere between 4-10 hours of light and have small enough solar panels so that you can install them yourself.

    Conclusion

    With so many different solar options I know that you found one in the list above that you could use. You may have known about one of these and yet never thought of a possible use that I mentioned for it.

    Did you enjoy my list and learn anything that you didn’t know before? If so, please let me know what you learned and what you think of these 33 solar light options!

     

    How To Choose The Best Solar Pool Rings

    Unless you are very adventurous, it is not pleasant to jump into your pool for an evening swim after the sun goes down; the water will be too cold for such a venture. 

    This is where solar pool rings come in. These rings offer a green way to keep your pool heated at all times and prevent water from evaporation due to strong sun.

    There are so many solar pool cover brands in the market today. This may, therefore, pose a challenge to first-time buyers. However, this guide plus review is designed to help you make the best choice when buying.

    Top Recommendation

    Solar Sun Rings Pool Heater

    One of the best rings is the Solar Sun Rings. They are simple solar pool covers designed to fit in every pool design and size. Solar Sun Rings are offered at great prices, sport a beautiful design and heat and insulate pools efficiently.

    Solar Sun Rings Solar Pool Heater (10)

    Upgrade Option

    Thermo Spring Solar Mat

    The Thermo Spring solar rings sport an attractive oval design that fits on different shapes and sizes of pools. These rings can heat your pool up to 75 degrees and are good at insulation.

    Value Option

    SwimWays 17400 Pool Heater

    SwimWays 17400 is created almost the same as the Thermo Springs solar rings above but it is a little bigger and a little cheaper. It functions efficiently to keep your pool water warm.

    How to Choose the Best Solar Pool Rings

    There are a number of factors to consider and these include:

    Solar Rings Quality

    Solar rings for pool heating are designed from two sheets of heavy-duty vinyl. They trap sunlight energy, warming the water in your pool and, at night, they offer an insulation layer ensuring that heat is not lost from the pool. Due to their constant exposure to sunlight, solar rings tend to crack and chip off from the edges with time.

    To ensure your solar rings can last long, choose solar rings with thick vinyl layers. Again, ensure that the vinyl is UV resistant so it does not get destroyed by the sun.

    A good solar cover can last up to 4 years but most last three years or below.

    Size of Your Pool

    Unlike other pool covers that cover the entire pool, solar pool rings cover small sections of the pool. This means that you have to buy many rings depending on the size of your pool. If you have a small pool, you can buy small sized rings to cover about 80 percent of your pool connected edge to edge by the fitted magnets. If your pool is large, shop for larger rings to ensure you do not buy so many.

    Ring Design and Decorations

    Most solar pool rings sport a blue layer that absorbs sunlight to heat water. The units are created in different shapes and sizes with most being circular or elliptical while others are triangular. On their top are different decorations; some have bubbles and others have palm trees while others are plain only with the brand name. When shopping, pick according to your likes and preferences.

    Solar Ring Heating Power

    Most solar run rings are able to absorb up top 50 percent of the sun’s energy to heat water in your pool. The rings are able to provide up to 21,000BTUs of heat to keep your pool warm at all times. When shopping, look at product specifications to see the heating power of the solar sun ring.

    Affordability and Warranty

    You can buy solar rings individually or you can buy them as a set. When you buy them as a set, they are less expensive making them affordable. However, the number of rings you buy will depend on the size of your pool.

    When shopping, consider the warranty offered as it shows the trust the manufacturer places on their products.

    How to Use A Solar Pool Ring

    Solar rings have to be inflated to make them buoyant before they are placed on the surface of the pool. All you have to do is inflate the outer surface until it is firm and then inflate the inner portion just slightly. Place them on the surface of the pool and they will start heating your water.

    Most solar pool rings are fitted with magnets on their edges making it easy for them to stay connected and cover more area on your pool. The magnets also keep your water clear and ensure the rings do not overlap. Rings or squares will not cover every part of your pool and as such, you can still run your pump. This is an advantage as it allows sunlight to pass through thereby reducing the growth of algae. It can also be a disadvantage as leaves and other particles still find their way into your pool.

    Unlike other pool covers, solar pool covers can be removed easily; all you need is to detach the magnets and pull them out of the water.

    How to Store Solar Rings

    Solar rings are small elliptical or square pool covers; this makes them easy to store. When you are swimming, you can stack them somewhere on the deck of your pool, away from the wind.

    Most solar covers feature a loop from which you can hang them when they are not in use.

    If you want to store the rings for a long time, get them out of the water and spray them off. Use a soft brush to clean off debris when the rings are still inflated to ensure that no dirt is trapped in the wrinkles.

    Next, dry the rings by hand. If you decide to dry them with a leaf blower, hold them so they do not fly all over your compound. Deflate the rings, flatten them and store them in their bag. If the rings did not come with a bag, store them in a lidded container. Rings should be stored away from sunlight and from abrasive surfaces.

    Why Pick Solar Rings?

    Solar rings are easy to use and they do not need a lot of maintenance. Unlike other pool covers that may need special tools to install, rings only need to be inflated and placed on top of the pool. They are designed to reduce the rate of evaporation, retain the heat of your pool after the sun goes down, keep debris and bugs out of the pool and have lower cost of pool chemicals.

    Best Solar Pool Rings Reviews

    Based on the factors above, high quality, pricing, past buyers’ review, and other credible factors, here are our best solar rings recommendations.

    Our Recommendations for Solar Pool Rings
    Solar Sun Rings Solar Pool Heater (10)
    Top Recommendation Solar Sun Rings Pool Heater

    Constructed from heavy duty vinyl for durability.

    Upgrade OptionThermo Spring Solar Mat

    Features twist-and-fold spring technology for easy handling.

    Value OptionSwimWays 17400 Pool Heater

    Measures 67 inches long to fit in large pools.

    Solar Sun Rings Pool Heater

    The Solar Sun Rings are designed to keep your pool water warm for an evening swim. These sun rings are designed circular with blue surfaces on which a palm tree and orange sun are printed. However, according to the manufacturer, the design keeps changing and you may buy a solar cover with a different print.

    The Solar Sun rings are created with a double layer of strong UV resistant vinyl to make them highly durable. The two layers of the solar sun rings allow some sun rays to filter through to ensure that your swimming pool is not completely dark so algae cannot grow. Their top layers allow sunlight to pass through while the bottom layers of the sun rings trap the sun’s light energy to warm your pool.

    You should not over-inflate the solar sun rings. Blowing them just a few times will get them up and working. The trapped air lets the solar sun rings insulate your pool easily to retain heat at night. The manufacturer warns against using the solar sun rings as a flotation device as they are not strong enough. The manufacturer of these solar sun rings offers a two-year defect-free guarantee. On the edges, this unit is fitted with a strong ring that keeps it in shape and ensures it is not blown off the pool by the wind.

    Pros
    • Constructed from heavy duty vinyl to last long
    • Beautiful palm tree decoration
    • Great price-quality ratio
    • Fitted with string magnets to ensure the rings stick together
    • Light enough to ease the process of installation
    • Suitable for pools of different sizes
    Cons
    • Since they are so light, they may be carried off if you live in an area with strong winds.

    Thermo Spring Solar Mat

    The Thermo Spring solar mat is designed to heat the water in your pool fast, up to 75 degrees and later insulate the pool against heat loss. Each unit measures 65.5 inches long and 37.5 inches wide. This means that you only need a couple of them for large pools coverage.

    The oval styling of these sun rings makes them attractive and their deep blue color with bubble patterns makes them more appealing. Each solar cover is made of a double layer that ensures its durability and enhances the weight of the solar cover to reduce instances of being blown away by the wind easily. To make them more functional, they are fitted with a ring on the edges that not only maintains their shape but also ensures the rings stay together to cover a large section of your pool surface.

    The twist and fold spring technology used to create these rings make it easier for you to store them or carry them around. The units are easy to inflate as they only need to take in a small volume of air to function. When not in use, the twist-and-fold technology ensures they occupy the least possible space.

    Pros
    • Attractive styling to match your backyard décor
    • Easy to install and remove
    • Oval design to fit on different shapes of pools
    • Features twist-and-fold spring technology for easy handling
    • Thick to offer great insulation
    • Can be used on large as well as small pool sizes
    • Can heat the pool up to 75 degrees during the day
    Cons
    • They are relatively pricier

    SwimWays 17400 Pool Heater

    If you are looking for a solar cover or ring that fits into different shapes of pools, the SwimWays 17400 might be a good option. It sports an oval shape that allows you to stack many rings side by side to cover a large percentage of your pool. This way, you will have less evaporation, more insulation and less debris getting into your pool.

    The two-layered solar cover is fitted with a sun-absorbing layer to convert up to 50 percent of the solar energy that hits it into heat. The unit is able to produce up to 21,000 BTUs of heat to keep your pool water warm.

    Its twist-and-fold spring technology makes it easy to install, easy to remove and easy to store. When you are not using the rings, you only need to deflate them then twist and fold the unit to occupy less space in storage. The manufacturer advises that, for the solar cover to function optimally, it needs to cover between 70 and 80 percent of your pool’s outer surface.

    Pros
    • Measures 67 inches long to fit in large pools
    • Weights only 2.65 pounds when inflated making it easy to install
    • The fitted springs close with ease making the mat easy to store
    • Edges fitted with strong rings for stability
    • The design of the rings looks great on any pool
    • Its oval shape ensures you can use it on all pool shapes
    • Thick enough to offer insulation for a long time
    Cons
    • Light enough to be carried by strong winds

    Conclusion

    Solar pool rings are great when you need a quick solution to heating your pool and keep debris off. You need to ensure that the rings are not too light to be blown off by the wind and they are not too heavy to sink and soak on water. Take your time when shopping and you will pick solar rings that meet your needs.

    Our top recommendation is the Solar Sun Rings. The unit is designed lightweight enough for easy installation and easy removal but heavy enough to stay on your pool when the wind blows by. They are also designed to fit a wide range of pool sizes and shapes. 

    If you need a pool cover that adds to the beauty of your outdoor living space, this solar cover sport an attractive design. On a day when the sun is hot, the solar sun rings can warm your water up to 75 degrees Celsius. They are also thick enough to insulate your pool for a long time.

    Take your time shopping to pick the best pool rings.

    Solar panel installers

    How to Choose a Solar Installer & What to Expect

    Once you have decided to go solar, the first challenge will be choosing the right installer. Because solar is a competitive but specialized field, you will find a great deal of conflicting information. But don’t worry, this often confuses even the savviest of homeowners.

    Turning to “neighborhood” websites or social media for recommendations only provide half of the information and you can be certain that some of the information is biased (i.e. the referring source is related to the recommended party). 

    Plus, you never know if the recommending person has the same perception of cost, quality, or timing (the 3 factors in judging any service provided).


    Does Your Home Qualify for Solar Tax Credits?

     Click your state & answer a few questions to find out…


    Hire a Solar Specialist

    We have seen, far too many times, someone recommend a service professional for solar installations based on their experience with completely different tasks (like electrical work). This is an ever-growing problem. 

    Our top recommendation is to collect multiple bids and try to obtain as much information as possible. Do this up front and seek ways that help you accomplish this task as efficiently as possible. Save your energy to focus on making the final decision (not the first round of filtering).

    Finding the Right Solar Installer

    In 2015, a national polling company released data that showed 30% of all homeowners believe the hardest part of any home improvement projects is simply finding the right person.

    You are not alone is researching this topic and solar is no exception to this rule. Because the solar industry is so complex, it is often hard finding the correct information and that is what we are hoping to help you accomplish.

    In the U.S., solar energy began to gain popularity in the late 2000’s. Prior to that, renewable energy was a niche market and, if there were a small handful of installers (by handful, maybe 2 or 3) in an entire market, it was probably “crowded.”

    During this time you could usually call the panel manufacturer and ask for an installer. The industry was so small that the network of installers were actually connected from coast to cost. One could literally ask someone in Massachusetts for a recommendation in Florida. Chances are they would know someone!

    Once solar began to grow, the industry became more complex and changed. Regarding the actual installation of solar, it is not that complicated. Any qualified contractor who is experienced and comfortable working on rooftops can probably “fake” their way to powering up the system.

    But that is probably not what you are looking for, because we all want to have the system installed properly and be the most efficient system possible. The installation methods rely on the simple principals of roof construction and if the contractor understands this, he can handle the equipment install.

    Avoiding Pitfalls of Installation

    Most problems occur in the design and electrical portion of the installation, and that is why you first need to make sure your solar installer is a specialist. As you are likely aware, solar panels produce DC power and require inverters to invert (*not “convert”, technical jargon) the energy to AC (which is what you home uses). We also know that panels require sunlight but, do you know how shading or orientation can effect output?

    These are questions that you average contractor may not fully understand but an experienced solar installer will take into consideration–almost by nature. You need to make certain that the installers you review, at a minimum are groups who understands all of the issues involved in designing, installation, and maintaining an efficient solar energy array.

    Remember, your panels could be powering your home for the next 30 years- efficiency, design, and even aesthetics should be topics any good installer speak with you about, from the beginning.

    7 Steps to Choosing a Solar Installer

    In order to help you on this topic, we have put together the following items that we think will help. You have to first use your knowledge and intuition, the same skills that are implemented when hiring any home improvement professional.

    Then consider the complexity of solar and how to insure that you hire the right pro. But don’t worry, with proper guidance you can find the right installer who will make sure the array you purchase is the best one for your unique home, and goals.

    1. First, in your research of solar (especially solar incentives) make a list of requirements regarding the contractor by your local municipality. Many grant, rebate, and even permitting processes require various training or licensing. Some state’s have solar specific license requirements while other use 3rd party verifications (such as NABCEP or manufacturer certificated). Visit dsireusa.org for a full list, also contact your local City or County and ask to speak with a permitting specialist.
    2. Collect a list of solar contractors that meet these guidelines. You can ask for recommendations from family or neighbors but make sure to check several sources and verify all licensing and certifications. You can also use a website that aggregates this data in order to make sure that any biasses will be countered from different sources.
    3. Once you have a list, contact each installer and ask for an estimate. Sometimes an installer will like to perform a site visit however true professional solar installers can use aerial images and engineering software to give an accurate estimate to start (trust us, even the smallest of installers should have this capability). You want to use this step to filter out substandard installers and obtaining up front information before a site meeting. This will also help you avoid having to endure several sales pitches and make the initial cut of contractors with minimal effort.
    4. After receiving the first few quotes, review the information. Take note of the equipment choices, experience, pricing, and availability of each contractor. Then, rank each according to your own preferences.
    5. Contact the top 2 or 3 respondents and ask for a final estimate. Be sure to discuss the equipment choices with each and if you have a preference, ask the installer to revise his estimates using your preferred equipment. A site visit is usually required during this step and it is good for you to begin establishing a face to face relationship with your installer.
    6. After receiving the final evaluations, make a list of the top factors in your decisions and evaluate the proposals on each of the recommended categories. Your list should include:
    • Availability
    • Equipment
    • Experience
    • Licensing
    • Price
    • Reputation
    • Services Provided
    Explanations:

    – Services Provided is an important topic. You want to find out what services are included in the contract. This should include permits, change orders, registration of SRECS, Utility Interconnection, etc.

    – Regarding Price, do not automatically accept the lowest price. In fact, we recommend first choosing the highest ranking solar installer from your evaluation and then negotiate price with that specific person.

    7. Finally, find out if the installer offers any financing or credit options. Even if you plan on paying for the system in full, some installers have special incentives such as interest fee financing to provide funding until rebates are obtained, etc.

    Avoiding Pitfalls of Installation

    Hiring a solar installer can seem like a daunting task at first. Although we discussed how the industry has grown, it is still small enough that you can obtain good information from various sources in your local area to double check everything.

    Luckily, most homeowners who have already had solar installed, are passionate solar enthusiast and are happy to talk about their experience. The important task is to speak to as many homeowners as possible and make an evaluation that works best for you and your own goals. Go with your feeling and enjoy the process- most of us did!

    Our Cheat Sheet of Filtering Questions:

    1. Are you focused on Solar Energy Alone?
    2. Do you have State Licensing and what are you insurance limits?
    3. Do you have any 3rd party certifications (manufacture or industry)?
    4. How many individual installs have you done in the last year (6 to 8 is adequate)?
    5. How much solar energy have you installed?
    6. How long does your typical install take?
    7. How many equipment manufactures do you work with?
    8. Can you provide 3 references that I can speak with our drive by?
    9. Have you ever had a home improvement complaint against you?
    10. Who designed each system?
    Solar in Massachusetts (MA)

    State of Solar in Massachusetts

    In the early 2000s, Massachusetts was one of the leading states in the initial solar energy revolution that began sweeping across the United States. The industry has grown tremendously since those early days and Massachusetts continues to be a pioneer, ranking in at No. 6 for Solar Growth and often providing some of the most aggressive payback period for homeowners in any state.

    While many other municipalities have joined in and are now embracing solar, Massachusetts continues to promote the technology and experience some of the highest growth due of positive public policies and a solar friendly grid which helps promote renewable and other forms of distributed power.


    Does Your Home Qualify for Solar Tax Credits?

     Click your state & answer a few questions to find out…


    In Massachusetts alone, over 14,582 residents identify as being involved in the solar energy industry within some capacity. MA is home to over 500 companies and estimates claim these numbers may double over the next 5 years. Because of install and equipment price declines of nearly 55% over the last 5 years, the regions solar production is quickly approaching 2,000 MW of generating power. In fact, it is estimated the growth will continue to increase at an increasing rate and quickly top over 3,000 MW of capacity within the next few years.

     

    Solar installations in MA*Image source: seia.org

     

    Massachusetts legislatures recently debated some of the issues that accompany such explosive growth and are currently looking at ways to address the explosive growth. Currently there are minimal effects on the public utility grid, however, officials are concerned that as the State approaches 3,000 megawatts, a majority of energy might be installed in places where the grids are not able to handle such large amounts of energy generation. This would be due to an excess of energy being produced which is higher than the current demand.

    Unlike other solar states, Massachusetts’ summer climate is much milder than southern states and this issue remains a great concern, especially in the higher elevations of the State and along the coastline. Comparatively, these areas require less energy usage during hot summer months when solar produces a bulk of energy. Energy events are less common which means the supply of energy might exceed the grid’s capacity to carry the energy outside of localized areas.

    This can cause grid strain and utilities are looking to enact measures that give them the authority that temporarily suspends net metering in order to prevent overcharging of power lines. (*in southern states, energy usage spikes higher during hot summer days than in these effected areas- these are called “events” and oversupply has a higher threshold).

    If you are considering solar today, do not let this deter you. In fact, 2018 is expected to be one of the best years for solar in Massachusetts and local legislators are hoping for this to occur. In 2016 the Legislature and Governor passed An Act Relative to Solar Energy in order to continue promoting a homeowner’s ability to install solar on their home. This legislative action raises the cap of solar energy allowed in the State to the maximum load that the grid may handle (raising from 5% to 8% of total state energy usage coming from Solar Energy). The act was passed with a bipartisan measure which recognizes the positive effects that solar energy has on both the environment and economy of Massachusetts, especially smaller town or suburban area surrounding Boston.

    If you are considering Solar Energy on your home, and live in Massachusetts, below is a list of the various benefits, laws, and incentives to take action now. As the State approaches the 8% threshold, many of the economic benefits may be reduces so therefor, we recommend speaking with a licensed solar expert to consider taking action as soon as possible.

    Noteworthy Massachussets Solar Incentives:

    • Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC): A SREC is essentially a certificate which can be purchased by local utilities in order to offset their requirement to purchase and promote solar energy within their operational grids. Every new solar system installed can submit to this program which allows homeowners to register their certificates with a broker or auction house and sell the certificate every year for up to 10 years from the date of system commissioning. Currently (as of December, 2107), a SREC accounts for roughly 1,000 kWH of energy produced in a Calendar Year. A single SREC is valued at $310. Example: If you install a solar energy system that produces 8,000 kWh per year you will obtain 8 SRECS. This has a current market value of $2,480 per year (this figure does not include auction or broker fees).
    • Solar Arrays are exempt from Property and Sales Taxes and will not add to your assessment.
    • Many municipalities or grid operators offer up-front Rebate Programs for choosing solar. These include:
      • City of Taunton: $1.50 / watt up to $4,500
      • Concord Municipal Light: $6.50 / watt up to $3,125
      • Chicopee Electric Light: $.50 / watt up to $2,500
      • Town of Hudson: $1.25 / watt up to $6,000
    • Several Loan Guarantee programs or State Approved Mortgage programs that may sometimes allow homeowner to easily barrow the funding to have a solar array installed. Incentives include reduced interest amounts or some guaranteeing instruments.
    • Personal Income Tax Deduction from State Taxes what can be up to 30% if installed by 12/31/2019.

    These incentives can be combined with several Federal Programs that include the same 30% tax credit that many homeowners are currently allowed to take.

    As one can imagine, Massachusetts is a very serious state when it comes to cleaning up the environment and promoting the use of renewable and distributed energy products. As the State approaches the 8% limit, many of the programs are set to be reduced or simply expire, making 2018 to be the year of solar according to several industry insiders.

    Solar Incentives

    How to Get Solar Incentives and Rebates

    When it comes to incentives, it is important to consult a professional. We recommend speaking with both your installer and personal accountant prior to making any decisions on purchasing and having a solar array installed in your home. Solar incentives can be great, after all, they allow the average homeowner to reap the same investment benefits that used to be reserved for large corporations and utility power plant operators.

    Solar is an excellent way to reduce your energy bills and help the environment. Because the recognition of this is widely accepted, many Local, State, and the U.S. Government have various incentives designed to provide financial benefits for those choosing to install solar on their properties. Some of these incentives are in place to make the actual installation process more efficient (thus less expensive), or reduce the period of time to recoup the initial capital outlays. These are all part of an overall objective that the United States must switch to clean, energy independence, and by installing a solar array on your own home or property, you help contribute to this effort.


    Does Your Home Qualify for Solar Tax Credits?

     Click your state & answer a few questions to find out…


    Solar is often referred to as the “individual’s power,” or “power for the masses,” and below are some of the incentives that you can obtain by installing solar on any property you manage. As a professional, solar incentives are usually broken into 3 categories (1) Federal, (2) State, and (3) Local, with 2 subsections (a) credits, or (b) rebates. Incentives vary from location to location and the type of credit can either come in the form of a credit against a financial obligation or actual disbursement of funds from relevant sources.

    *Please note- these incentives were in place during the time of this article being written (December, 2017). It is important to consult with a qualified and local professional to verify your personal ability to participate in each of the programs.

    Federal Solar Incentives

    As an individual, many of the federal incentives are designed to help you capture the same tax credits that large utility operators have enjoyed for years. Because large companies often have large tax burdens, the individual Federal Incentives help a homeowner obtain the same credits but in a way that might be more suited for an individuals tax scenario. Individuals do not have a relatively large tax burden and therefore the federal government allows the credits to be taken which are designed in a way to benefit the individual over the corporation. These include:

    • Through 12/31/21, individuals installing a solar array may recoup up to 30% of the system cost via a Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This is not a deduction against your annual income but a credit on the taxes which you would otherwise have to pay. In summary: If your solar array costs $20,000, you may deduct $6,000 from your annual tax payment to the Federal Government. In many cases, if you are unable to use the full credit in a single tax year, you may consult with your personal accountant and determine if that value can be spread over several years.
    • There are also several Federal Loan Guarantee Programs which are offered through FHA financing. These systems offer a guarantee instrument for various upgrades (including the installation of new solar arrays) which provide the homeowner with lower interest rates and an ability to access equity in their homes via a simpler process. Homeowner must have a meet a minimum threshold for credit worthiness (660 Score, Debt to Income Ratio of 45%) but they may be eligible for funding up to 100% of the system cost.

    State Solar Incentives

    If you live in Massachusetts or Maryland, we previously discussed the various incentives in these two states here; (Mass) (Maryland). The incentives in states are typically state-wide rebate programs, Interconnection Standards, Sales and Income Tax Credits, Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards, and often small grants provided through local utilities or municipalities.

    An excellent resource to review what is available in your state can be found by visiting www.dsireusa.org, a website that is maintained by The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center. This website is widely viewed as the most comprehensive list of State and Local incentives, and it is update regularly. We also highly recommend consulting with a local professional that has experience in working within your municipality and understand the various application processes and permitting systems.

    Other solar leaders are: California, North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, Georgia, Texas, New York, and Maryland.

    Each state has various regulations, rebates, and credits. Some local municipalities also programs which can be limited to projects installed within a city or boundary perimeter. Because the programs vary in the type and amount of offerings, it is difficult to determine trends. Often the offering municipalities are diverse from each other and although renewable energy is often associated with more progressive ideologies, this is often not the case on local levels (remember, the current tax credit structure of solar energy was first signed into law under George W. Bush).

    Local Solar Incentives

    There are relatively few municipalities that offer solar incentives. Some cities and towns are very progressive when it comes to energy policies and offer incentives on top of the other federal and state incentives. These incentives can range from a flat payment for each installation to faster or cheaper permitting processes and everything in between. Contact your local town hall for information specific to your location, but keep in mind that most cities and towns don’t offer anything.

    Solar Equipment Incentives

    Like any other product, there are sometimes rebates or discounts on the purchase of certain solar panels at certain times. Your installer would be familiar with these and they change over time and by manufacturer so there isn’t a better method than having the conversation with your installer. They’ll be more than happy to help you get the best deal on the equipment.

    Incentive/Rebate Glossary

    Credit: A way to help the homeowner offset paying an amount that would otherwise be due. Tax Credits are common for solar energy and although the homeowner does not get a check (as they do with a grant), the credit is an amount applied against the usual tax credit (income and property tax credits).

    Deduction: This is an amount that is allowed to be applied against (reducing) your taxable income. Unlike Credits, this amount is not recouped on a dollar for dollar basis. Instead it is an amount that is subtracted from your taxable income to reduce your overall tax burden.

    Distributed Energy: Smaller power plants that are typically limited to localized areas or single properties/ homes.

    Rebate: The same as a grant, a rebate is a program that allows for actual monetary compensation. Typically they are tied to an earmarked fund and once registered within the system you space is reserved. Grants and rebates do expire so keep up to date with these and register as soon as a design is finalized.

    Is Solar Worth the Investment?

    Solar Panels: Are They Worth the Investment for your Home?

    The history of solar panels can be traced as far back as 1839 when Alexandra Edmond Becquerel placed a special compound of chemicals on a copper sheet and felt an electric charge. During his experiment, the sunlight reacted with the compound and the first solar panel was created.

    In the 1950s, Bell Labs worked to refine this technology, the 60s brought solar to space, then the 70s saw it installed on the White House. Americans began to embrace renewable energy, however, there has always remained a debate about the value.

    In order to help you answer this question of value, we are going to look at 3 different system scenarios and measure payback. This should give you a full understanding of whether solar may or may not work for you (but we highly recommend you consult with your installer and financial advisor prior to making any decisions). This assessment is strictly financial (there are other benefits of course like helping the environment and making your home more independent of the grid) and we do not cover solar leasing in this article, only purchasing the solar panels.


    Does Your Home Qualify for Solar Tax Credits?

     Click your state & answer a few questions to find out…


    The 3 Scenarios

    The scenarios covered are:

    1. Solar without incentives
    2. Solar with incentives
    3. Solar with incentives and financing

    When measuring financial benefits of solar, we will show you how to calculate the payback in a) years, or, b) annual savings compared to purchasing energy from the utility grid.

    Assumptions

    For each of the scenarios we are assuming the following system is installed:

    • System is installed in Baltimore, Maryland (the financial calculation is heavily impacted by your state and local municipality but this is one example case)
    • Rooftop System
    • 6 Kw, or 6,000 watts annually
    • $3.25 per watt installed or a total cost of $19,500 for the installation (also varies substantially by location)
    • System production is 8,359 kWh annually
    • Local Energy rate is $.14 per kWh delivered
    • Warrantied production is 25 years and useful life is 30 years.

    First, we want to show you how to determine the total amount of kWh produced. For this, we recommend you visit the website (http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/). The calculation is complicated and needs to consider the average solar exposure for your exact location, and the size of your system, energy loss due to inverters, shading, position, etc. The calculator above is widely accepted as the most accurate and reliable source to determine your energy production during the first year. Rest assured, it is as easy as entering your address and giving basic details on the size of your proposed system.

    To determine the Total Energy Production, use the number provided via PVWatts and multiply it by 30 years, the useful lifespan of a solar array. You must also consider panel degradation because your solar panels will produce less energy each year due to the organic materials breaking down over time—we will explain that below. Many manufacturers warranty at least 90% of the initial production for the first 15 years and at least 80% for the remaining 10. For the purpose of our calculations we will estimate a blended rate of 87% during the lifetime.

    Calculation of Total Energy Production

    The system in our example produces 8,359 kWH of energy during he first year. Each year, the amount of energy will decrease as stated above. Our blended annual production rate for this system is 7,272 kWh annually or 218,169kWh in total. (8,359 x .87 x 30).

    Scenario #1: Solar Without Incentives

    Often a political hot button, the owner of a solar array is able to capture several incentives for the investment. Incentives are typically offered in various forms on every level of the government from federal down through your local municipality, who may offer property tax incentives or even an expedited permitting process.

    To look at the solar energy payback without incentives is extremely easy to calculate, although hard to compare with traditional forms of energy. This is due to the fact that in the United States, all forms of energy receive several layers of similar incentives. Therefore taking incentives out of the equation gives the homeowner a good idea to the “raw payback” but not a fair assessment vs. other forms of energy production.

    To calculate the payback, follow the formula below:

    Solar calculation

    Below we have used our sample system described above, and run the calculation for your reference:

    For Total Savings the calculation is slightly tougher:

    First, calculate the average cost for electricity including inflation, then run calculation #3 and #4:

    In this case (without incentives), the total payback for the system is approximately 17 years, however the overall savings is $32,943.50. When you consider the environmental impact of solar energy combined with the savings, many would choose solar.

    Scenario #2: Solar With Incentives

    Incentives are an integral part of the Energy Market in the United States. Across the globe, all energy is subsidized in order to lower the overall cost and spur economic development. The United States is no different.

    The first major federal solar incentives that are still in use today were enacted and signed during the presidency of George W. Bush. This includes a program for a federal tax credit. Commercial systems can also depreciate the system on an accelerated schedule, however, we will not use this in our calculations below.

    In Maryland, a homeowner choosing solar as their next home improvement project can utilize the following incentives:

    Federal: 30% Tax Credit

    State: $1,000

    Baltimore County: $2,500 property tax credit

    In order to determine the payback with the incentives, we have used many of the same calculations from the example above. However, we will add the incentives listed above. Most of these savings are “front-loaded,” meaning they are recouped within the first few year to accelerate the payback period.

    As you can see from the illustration above, the payback period occurs toward the end of the 4th year (highlighted in green). With individual homeowners now able to obtain many of the tax credits and/or grant programs that large corporations obtain when building utility power plants, solar energy becomes a more attractive financial play for homeowners.

    Scenario #3: Solar With Incentives and Financing

    Finally, financing a solar energy system can provide a stronger incentive to have the solar array installation. When comparing your new solar array to the option of staying on the public utility grid, you must take into consideration that you will likely have to spend some money up-front. Financing the system can often reduce this requirement and can make your new solar energy system more attractive.

    Conclusion

    Whether or not solar energy is worth it depends on each individual circumstance. The information and calculations above were for specific examples and may vary from homeowner to homeowner but you can see that countless financial scenarios are possible. Every person has various sensitivities for risk and the assumptions above are reliable, however they are for example purposes only.

    For instance, we did not consider maintenance, replacement of equipment, insurance, or other items that you may or may not encounter. Financing your new solar array may come with varying terms and may also affect payback. Often, banks and installers offer different terms for solar energy installs. Please consult with an attorney, accountant, your installer, or another qualified professional prior to making any decisions to partake in a solar installation.

    There are two main take-aways we hope you get from this:

    • Installing solar panels is typically a financial benefit, at least over the long term
    • A solar energy system is a very complicated purchase because of the many factors and incentives involved. It’s a good idea to talk to a solar professional as well as your accountant, at a minimum, before making any decisions.

    *Derate Factor – Solar panels are warranted to produce electricity for 25 years. Because they are made from organic compounds, the cells degrade over time. Thus, a derate factor is assumed because each year the panels will produce slightly less electricity than the year before. A .87 derate factor is used.

    Sources:

    https://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/budfin/customerservice/taxpayerservices/taxcredits/energyconservation.html
    http://www.dsireusa.org
    https://efynch.blogspot.com/
    http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/
    http://www.ncsl.org/research/energy/net-metering-policy-overview-and-state-legislative-updates.aspx
    http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_juice/2015/09/texas_electricity_goes_negative_wind_power_was_so_plentiful_one_night_that.html
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_solar_cells
    https://baltimoretvmount.com/baltimore-d-c-handyman
    http://www.dsireusa.org
    https://www.seia.org/initiatives/net-metering

    Massachusetts SRECs

    How Massachusetts SRECs Work

    If you are a homeowner and are considering having a solar energy system installed, you’ve probably seen the term “Solar Renewable Energy Credit” or “SREC”. Although not a widely known concept, if you choose to install a solar array, understanding SRECs is incredibly important.

    Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC)

    A Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) is a certificate that confirms your solar array has produced a specific amount of renewable energy in a year. Because many state energy distributors are required to purchase or offset a percentage of renewable energy each year, the SREC is a certificate they can purchase in order to contribute to this requirement.

    When you have a solar array installed, the contractor should register the system with the grid operator and file the details of your system. This is the start of the process.

    Depending on the amount of energy that your system has produced each year, you will be given number of SREC certificates (1,000 kWh = 1 SREC). They are usually electronic records; so don’t expect an actual paper certificate. Each certificate has a value and can be traded as a commodity. The sale of SRECs takes place in SREC Auctions handled by SREC Traders (again, your solar install company should help register for this).


    Does Your Home Qualify for Solar Tax Credits?

     Click your state & answer a few questions to find out…


    SREC Value

    The value of the certificate is based on the penalty the distributor would otherwise have to pay and the market, or number of certificates available at a given time. As you would expect in any free–supply and demand market–the more certificates available, the lower the price you will obtain for that SREC.

    Because of this rule, the more solar that is available in your state, lower the SREC price will be. The price will affect the solar payback period and you should speak with your installer or SREC broker about current a pricing before to making the decision to install solar panels.

    What about Massachusetts (or your state)?

    Massachusetts initiated their first SREC requirement in January, 2010. The initial goal was 400MW and then increased to 1,600 MW in 2013. (*For reference, the average home uses 12,000 kWh of electricity per year. 1 MW of solar typically equals the usage of 125 to 145 average American homes.)

    The idea was that Massachusetts wanted to spur solar growth and by subscribing to a renewable portfolio standard the Massachusetts SREC market was born.

    The Massachusetts SREC and solar market is widely viewed as one of the most stable and prominent SREC markets in the United States. When you have a Massachusetts SREC, that certificate is equal to 1,000 kWh of annual production. The average 6kW solar energy system in Massachusetts will produce roughly 7,000+ kWh per year and you therefore, have 7 SRECS which are currently valued at approximately $300 each or $2,100 annually (as of 12/14/17).

    The amount is typically paid quarterly as the various auctions operate on that schedule.

    By installing a system and “opting in” to the SREC program via your installer or broker, you may collect and sell SRECs for 10 years from the date of your first day of operation.

    For up to date information on the Massachusetts SREC Market, please visit:

    https://www.mass.gov/service-details/solar-carve-out-current-status

    Net Metering

    How Net Metering Works

    If you have looked into solar energy or solar panels for your home, you have probably come across the term “net metering.” At first glance this term may seem like technical jargon, however, net metering is actually a crucial component of your new solar array and it has many benefits.

    Net metering is the policy which allows your electric meter to spin both backwards (during the day), and forward (at night), *this concept explained below.

    This simple practice is what makes many of the residential solar energy systems today economically competitive with traditional forms of energy. In addition to reducing the payback period for solar energy, net metering also: helps to keep the costs to install an array lower, requires less maintenance, eases the strain on the public utility grid, and reduces the overall carbon footprint of the new solar energy system.

    To first understand the implications of net metering, you should how it works and why it is important.


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    What is Net Metering?

    If you do not have a solar energy system on your home, your electricity comes from the utility lines that connect your house to the power grid. Most properties do not have energy storage systems (batteries) and therefore the electricity from the power grid is delivered at exactly the moment that it is required (this is called “On-Demand Power”).

    Between your home and the power grid is a meter, with which you are probably familiar. This energy meter is used by the power company to determine how much energy you have consumed during a period of time and how much you will be billed.

    Before smart meters, the typical electric meter was powered by simple diodes, which powered a large wheel within the energy meter. Through a series of gears, dials turned on the front of the meter and gave the power company an accurate measurement to the energy which was delivered to your home. When you used energy, the term was coined that your electric meter was “moving forward,” or pushing energy forward and into your home.

    In the early days of solar energy, when a home had solar installed on the property and more energy was produced than consumed, the meter would literally begin spinning backwards as electricity was pushed back onto the grid (FYI – electricity is like water, it follows the path of least resistance and can flow backwards back onto the grid if the path leads it that way).

    At the end of the month you were only billed for the amount that was shown on your electric meter and, without having to make any calculations, the energy you were charged for was the “net” amount that was used during that billing cycle. This method was somewhat unofficial in certain areas and many municipalities and utility companies did not have net metering laws. In fact, some meters were made without the ability to “spin backwards” as a reaction to this.

    The recent growth of solar energy also coincided with the widespread implementation of Smart Meters. Smart Meters use a completely different type of method to measure energy and rely more on electronics and processors.

    The newer smart meters are capable of sending signals back to the utility grid operators in real time, and with more detail that tells how much energy you were using at a and how much energy you might also be producing. Because the new systems were capable of measuring so much more data and the popularity of solar had begun to grow, municipalities had to establish net metering laws in order to regulate the size, rates, and methods to accommodate solar energy.

    Net Metering is simply a set of guidelines that dictate how you will be billed for the difference between the energy that you used compared to the energy that you produced. These laws vary from state to state and will tell you how to determine if you pay the “net” for the month and how your particular utility company will handle any excess energy that is produces and put back onto the grid (there are a variety of options).

    How Net Metering Benefits the Homeowner

    When You Need to Use Net Metering:

    During the day, if you use more energy than you produce, net metering is not at play. However, because many solar energy arrays produce a bulk of their energy during periods when many homes are unoccupied, there are several scenarios where your home has a surplus of energy. These overages are kWh of energy that you are able to “push” back onto the grid and obtain credits for them, thanks to net metering laws.

    The reason that net metering is important is because a majority of solar energy arrays built produce up to 85% of the properties annual energy consumption during the sunniest 6 months of operation. Because homes use the least amount of energy when solar arrays are working the hardest, it would be difficult to offset your total usage if you were limited to only consuming what you produce and losing the extra energy without credits (unless you have batteries, which is covered below).

    Many municipalities have recognized the benefits of net metering and the laws are not widespread. In summary, net metering allows you to produce excess energy during peak periods and retain those credits to use either later that month, or within a single year from the date of the credit. Because you do not need to have on-site batteries and because you are producing energy that can service other neighbors, there are many benefits to this program. However, we recommend you also check with your local solar company to make sure that you understand if any costs might be associated and that those are taken into your evaluation as well.

    Without net metering, in order to capture solar energy and not “lose it,” you would have to have battery systems to store the energy you produce during the day and make it available for your home at night or during the winter months when solar arrays product less electricity.

    The Benefits of a Non-Battery System (Financial)

    Batteries are expensive, and even though Tesla and other battery manufacturers have begun making great advances in battery storage systems, the fact remains that they add to the cost of your solar energy system. With net metering, the homeowner has no need for a battery backup system in order to recoup their excess energy and essentially the power grid acts as a battery backup for them.

    Although many homes are equipped with some form of battery system or a generator, the cost to handle the amount of energy an average solar array produces would be tremendous. Even on the lower end, batteries could add at least 15% to the cost of having an array installed. This is not even considering the cost to maintain the battery or normal replacement, which can occur in the 10 to 20 year range (most solar panels are warrantied for 25 years and will have a useful production life of 30 years).

    Thanks to net metering and the avoidance of having to purchase batteries, the cost for a new residential solar array is much lower and requires less maintenance. Large, utility scale power plants do not have batteries either and by foregoing this purchase, the residential solar array systems costs are much lower and can be more competitive with traditional power production.

    The Benefits of a Non-Battery System (Environmental)

    In addition to saving the financial cost of a battery, you are also saving on the amount of raw materials required to make your new energy array. Because the goal of many homeowners who choose solar energy is to reduce their overall carbon footprint, skipping the battery bank is an added environmental benefit.

    A simple car battery requires 140lbs of Lithium alone. This is in addition to the Lead and other metals/ plastics required to manufacturer a battery. A home would require up to 4 times the amount of energy storage in order to last through the night and on cloudy days when solar is less efficient.

    As discussed previously, the resources required for batteries are tremendous and can be avoided thanks to net metering. The production of an average car battery can create carbon emissions to equal the amount of carbon that your car produces in 6 months. Imagine the impact that has on a battery bank large enough to power your entire home?

    For residential solar arrays with an accompanied battery bank, it is estimated that in many cases the battery bank could add an additional year of production required to offset the carbon emission from battery manufacturing. Simply put, avoiding the batteries and subscribing to net metering is a good environmental decision in most cases.

    Having said all this, there are cases where it makes sense to install a home battery back up system and when you’re installing solar is the best time to review whether a battery system is right for your home.

    The Benefits of Net Metering on the Utility Grid

    During the summer, it is becoming more common for energy companies to partake in “Emergency Cycling Events.” This is when the utility company isn’t able to produce enough electricity in order to meet the demand (imagine a hot summer day, home AC systems are running at their peak, office lights and computers are working away, etc). In some cases it would be too expensive to ramp up “peaker plants” which are auxiliary power plants that use natural gas or oil.

    Therefore the utility company will instead dial down the amount of energy it sends to specific customers. These “rolling brown-outs” occur during the hottest times of day and because of grid strain, you actually see a bottleneck of energy being delivered. (*Note – blackouts are the same as brownouts but include times when electricity service is completely cut off to a specific area. This is a rare event in the United States and only occurs in the most extreme cases).

    One answer to the grid strain is distributed energy production. In most cases this refers to smaller and utility scale solar arrays installed on commercial rooftops or farms. However, it can be argued that the array on your residential rooftop can serve that purpose.

    During the summer, an average neighborhood may experience up to 5 “emergency events.” If everyone had solar, and energy production was at it’s peak (ironically, solar energy produces the most power during these types of events), it can be argued that grid strain will be reduced and your excess energy may also help keep your neighbors lights on!

    One Last Issue to Consider

    Although net metering is a positive policy which helps solar, one thing any homeowner must consider is the volatility of the market. Depending on your state and the local regulations, Net Metering may be determined by either (1) kWh produced, or (2) value of the energy when it is being produced. This 2nd measure basically puts a value on the kWh which the homeowner back feeds onto the grid and then issues a credit in dollars to their bill.

    This becomes an issue because the homeowner is subject to market conditions of the “spot market,” which is the value of electricity based on current market conditions.

    For example, in the late spring when solar panels are getting maximum exposure but temperatures might not be that high, most houses use little to no electricity during the day if they are unoccupied and the owners have their HVAC turned off (as often the case in states like Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia). In this case, many solar systems in a concentrated area or a simple overage of energy being produced can drive the market rates for energy extremely low. (In a rare case in Texas, there was such an overage of electricity that a Texas wind farm had to shut down operations because there was actually a “negative” value on energy, meaning they had to pay a penalty for producing it.)

    If your local municipality has net metering laws which are centered on value, the financial payback for solar can be affected. It is recommended that you to speak with your solar installer about these fluctuations and consider various scenarios accordingly.

    The way your net metering values are calculated can greatly affect your bottom line.

    In summary, net metering allows the utility grid to act as your own personal battery system. In most cases there are associated fees with keeping the credits you have pushed back onto the grid, however those are minimal compared to the energy savings you will be rewarded with in the long run. Net metering has allowed many homeowners to install larger systems for less money, which is something that benefits us all.

    Please see the sources listed below and a great reference for solar energy regulations is https://www.dsireusa.org, a non-profit with an excellent system for viewing all available credits for solar, wind, and other home improvement projects. 

    Sources: 

    https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/02/want-to-minimize-your-homes-carbon-footprint-go-for-solar-forget-the-battery/
    https://bgesavings.com/events-central
    http://www.dsireusa.org
    https://www.mass.gov/net-metering
    https://www.seia.org/initiatives/net-metering
    https://efynch.blogspot.com/2017/08/maryland-residential-electricity-what.html
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/hybrid-electric/news/a27039/tesla-battery-emissions-study-fake-news/
    https://efynch.blogspot.com/
    https://www.tesla.com/powerwall
    https://www.wired.com/2016/03/teslas-electric-cars-might-not-green-think/
    http://www.yinglisolar.com/en/downloads/
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/thebakersinstitute/2017/09/26/doe-and-net-metering-issues-to-consider/2/#306c1e53393a
    http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_juice/2015/09/texas_electricity_goes_negative_wind_power_was_so_plentiful_one_night_that.html