Choosing Solar in Shaker Heights
Shaker Heights is a solar-friendly community. However, there are many factors to consider when choosing solar for your business or residence. This guide is designed to help you understand those factors, as well as the process of installing solar in Shaker Heights.
Step 1: Improve Energy Efficiency
Solar is a significant investment and there are less expensive ways to reduce your overall energy consumption. As a first step, invest in a home-energy audit. The audit will show you where your home or business is losing energy and what you can do to save money. These fixes alone may help you meet your goals. And if you do decide to move forward with solar, these fixes will help ensure you get the most out of your investment.
Step 2: Check Your Roof
Most roof structures can accommodate a solar system, but some are better than others.
- Age: Depending on the age of the roof, it may make sense to replace it before installing solar.
- Angle: South-facing roofs are considered optimal for solar installations because they tend to get the most sun. Southwest-facing roofs are also good candidates; southeast facing roofs can also work. North-facing roofs present challenges, but may still be included as part of a multipanel array.
- Shade conditions: The roof should get no-to-little shade. Shade on even a portion of one panel can reduce the electrical output of an entire string of panels. Consider the trees on your property, including whether they are still growing and the amount of shade they create in different seasons.
- Roof accessibility: Panels should be installed where home and business owners can easily remove debris and/or snow in order to maximize energy production.
Step 3: Get Quotes
Like any major home improvement project, it's best to get quotes from multiple installers. A quote for a solar installation should include:
- A roof assessment (see Step 2).
- An estimate of how much solar power you can expect to generate with a certain number of solar panels.
- The types of panels, racks, and inverters to be installed.
Ask installers to provide multiple cost scenarios. This should include the cost with and without the federal tax credit of 30 percent. It should also include how different financing options will impact your cost (e.g. bank loan, home equity loan, a line of credit, a power purchase agreement, or an outright cash purchase). Provided quotes should also include any additional available incentives.
Other important considerations when evaluating installers:
- The installer should be prepared to handle all permitting, as well as coordinating with First Energy on your project's solar-to-grid connection.
- The installer should be licensed and have a credentialed electrician on staff. Many installers carry North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification. Also, check with the City's Building Department (491-1460) to determine if the contractor is registered with the City.
Step 4: Installation
Installing solar panels typically takes 4-5 hours, unless the project requires a ground-mount system or unique racking (racking is what attaches the panels to the roof). A representative of First Energy must approve the solar-to-grid connection, ensuring property safety measures have been met.
Step 5: Understand the Rules
There is no one-size, fits-all when it comes to solar installation in Shaker Heights. That's because of the diversity of homes and commercial buildings in the city. That said, all solar installation projects require design review by the Architectural Board of Review. Additionally, residential and commercial building codes apply and a building permit is required.
Your contractor should be willing to navigate this process on your behalf.
Questions? Please contact the Building Department at 491-1460 with questions about building codes and permits and the Planning Department at 491-1430 with questions about the design review process.
These resources provide helpful information about solar installation.
- Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power (published by the Solar Energy Industries Association)
- Going Solar in Ohio: Yes, It's Being Done (a Cleveland.com article highlighting a Shaker Heights solar installation)
- Solar United Neighbors is an organization representing the interests of solar owners, including those in Ohio.
Visit the online home of Shaker Life magazine.