Article written by Mark Becker for Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today, February 2016.
El Niño is officially here, sometimes resulting in torrential rain. Torrential rain is not forgiving on any type of roof that is not flashed or installed properly, or has reached the end of its service life. A roof is one of the most important parts of any dwelling. Water intrusion is the number one cause of damage to homes and businesses. If you’re considering a solar installation, please ensure that there is a licensed roofer performing the roof portion of the work. If so, your roof warranty will remain valid. The roof product warranty will not remain valid if a non-licensed roofer is performing any modifications to the roof. (See www.Gaf.com and www.Certainteed.com for more information). Broken roof tiles need to be matched and replaced, not “repaired” with caulk. Proper flashing is an art, and a science. Solar and roofing, done right, eliminates any roof leak risk.
Grounding and shock hazards can result from water intrusion into an improperly installed solar PV or electric system. A licensed electrician’s work on a solar PV project will ensure that the conduits, junction boxes and connections are properly watertight to prevent this hazard. It’s your home, choose your tradesmen wisely.
Roof and gutter cleanliness: El Niño is not forgiving of deferred roof maintenance either. Leaves or debris in a gutter can result in a clogged downspout. A clogged downspout can result in a backed-up gutter. Standing water in an improperly designed gutter will rise in the gutter and then penetrate behind flashings. The water will take the path of least resistance, into your ceilings and walls. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the water manifest itself earlier than later. An invisible leak will result in mold and rot damage. Clean your gutters and ensure your downspouts are free flowing to keep your home free from water damage and mold. The remediation costs for water damage may or may not be covered by insurance. If you’re not able to perform the tasks of cleaning your gutters and downspouts safely, there are reasonably priced companies to perform this task. Ensure you hire a company with a good reputation. Many gutter locations are often impossible to visually inspect unless one is on top of the roof or on a second story ladder. In the world of the building trades, it’s always wise to “Trust, but Verify.”
Assessed Value of Solar: After any properly permitted home improvement project, the County Assessor will send an assessment form to your home requesting project costs. Solar PV projects are exempt from assessed value (real estate tax) increases per California State law. However, real estate appraised value increases for solar homes are well documented in studies by such entities as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Alternative Fuels, Anchors Aweigh! A Navy Carrier Battle Group was recently dispatched on deployment powered by a 10% bio-fuel mix. Ten percent doesn’t seem significant, but for this battle group it translates to 77 million gallons of clean alternative energy.
Home Owner’s Associations, by law, are very limited as to how they can regulate solar PV installations. I wish my HOA would enforce aesthetics considerations a bit more. Hidden conduits, rectangular or square contiguous arrays (that don’t skip around easily movable vents) and installing aesthetically pleasing black panels are installation practices which can be legally regulated by HOA’s to limit negative aesthetic impact. Unfortunately, many “budget” solar companies’ projects look like someone haphazardly placed solar panels onto a roof and typically, there is no HOA involvement to prevent these practices. We’ve all seen these projects. Architectural planning committees are known for their bureaucracy, but they can benefit the HOA resident. Poorly designed and installed solar projects ultimately damage the reputation of the solar industry, as well as the aesthetics and perhaps value of the neighborhood in which they lay.
The 2015 Federal Tax Credit IRS 5695 and 3468 forms for residential and commercial solar PV (and other energy efficiencies) are now available for download from the IRS. We’ve made them available at www.GoSimpleSolar.com/downloads. Use the sample filled out form to guide you to fill out your own if you installed solar PV or other energy efficiencies in your home or business in tax year 2015.
Details, details: The Contractor’s State License Board very clearly defines construction contract requirements and specifies contractor performance standards and responsibilities.
Leverage www.CSLB.ca.gov to ensure you’re properly informed: Information is power.
Mark Becker is the President and business owner of GoSimpleSolar, by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, CSLB 948715. GoSimpleSolar is one of the very few (and proud) solar PV installers utilizing both licensed roofers and licensed electricians for installation work, project managed by a solar PV NABCEP professional. For questions or comments email Mark@GoSimpleSolar.com or call 925-331-8011.