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.
For any 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.
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.
Architectural Board of Review
Any new construction, addition, or alteration that changes the exterior appearance of a building must be approved by the Architectural Board of Review (ABR) — and that includes solar panels.
The ABR has been receptive to solar panels and has worked with installers and homeowners to make sure their installations do not detract from the architectural quality of their house. The ABR has developed some precedents when reviewing solar panels, including the following:
- The ABR prefers residents not place panels on the front of the house.
- The ABR prefers black solar panels and supporting structures.
- Panels should be flat to level with the roof and about six inches off the roof.
- Regular pattern on the roof when available.
- Electrical panels and converters located in an unobtrusive location, like the back of the house.
- Lines are run inside the house — or, if outside they are enclosed inside a conduit that matches the house color and placed in an obtrusive area.
Check Your Roof
If you do decide to move ahead with solar, an important first step is to evaluate your roof. Most roof structures can accommodate a solar system, but some are better than others. There are a few factors to consider:
- 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 multi-panel array.
- Roof accessibility - Panels should be installed where home and business owners can easily remove debris and/or snow in order to maximize energy production.
- 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.
Like any major home improvement project, it's best to get quotes from multiple installers. A quote for a solar installation should include:
- An estimate of how much solar power you can expect to generate with a certain number of solar panels
- A roof assessment (see Check Your Roof)
- 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.
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, call the City's Building Department at 491-1460 to determine if the contractor is registered with the City.
Solar Installation Companies
The following solar installation companies serve northeast Ohio:
Consider a Co-op
Solar United Neighbors of Ohio offers the opportunity for Ohio residents to join together in local co-ops to get bulk discounts on solar. Visit the Solar United Neighbors website to learn more.
Installing solar panels typically takes 4 to 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.
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.