Safe or Sorry? Solar Energy Systems and Hurricanes

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In light of hurricane Dorian’s recent close call with Florida, Optimus Solar has been fielding questions regarding solar energy systems’ ability to withstand strong storm conditions.  It’s important to remember that like all building components, solar energy systems are subject to the Florida Building Code, permitting, and inspections.  More than that though, the technology, engineering, and installation techniques have moved the industry forward by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years, and solar is safe to install on homes and businesses.

Generally in Florida’s non-coastal areas, solar energy systems are required to be designed, engineered and permitted to withstand 140 mph winds.  This means that if there is an issue with a properly-installed solar energy system from winds, chances are very high that there is more damage to the overall structure present. Optimus Solar advises all of our clients to add their solar energy system to their insurance policy so damages fall within claims made.

Many people ask us about the risks of roof-penetrating systems during major storms. We have good news for you on that front. Sloped Roof solar energy systems are attached by a series of ‘feet’ or brackets that penetrate the roof (asphalt shingle, metal, tile, slate) and affix, in most cases, to the truss chord under the roof deck. This installation creates an extremely-strong system capable of withstanding almost all hurricane-force winds that come inland in Florida.  Proper installation by professional installers at Optimus Solar ensure installation meets or exceeds engineered standards.

The technology in design has come so far that flat roofs now require few to no penetrations while complying with wind codes. Flat roofs use ballasted systems. The panels are held down by cradles containing weighted blocks.  When combined with wind guards and lower angles of install, these ballasted systems allow large-scale flat roofs to have solar energy systems installed without the need for roof penetrations.  This provides owners an extra level of peace of mind, knowing their roof remains intact for the life of the system.

Through advances in component design, quality engineering and code compliance, solar energy systems are safe during most storm conditions.  While extreme weather events may ultimately damage a solar energy system, solar does not increase storm risk when properly permitted and installed.

Driving the Present: Electric Vehicles Today

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The future of cars is electric. This phrase is familiar to most people. We’ve heard that, eventually, electric vehicles (EV’s) will be able to go as far as we’re used to going, charge as fast as we’re used to refueling, provide the space/cargo/hauling capacity we’re used to, and, best of all, they'll be as affordable as our current fuel-burning models. What’s interesting about this vision of the future is the fact that it is already a common reality. 

Today’s electric cars and plug-in hybrids are already efficient, practical, and relevant.  With over 60 models available in the US alone, and rapidly growing consumer options, including the Ford F-150, which opens up a whole new realm of possibility for the truck enthusiasts reading this article, it is clear that the value proposition of owning an EV not only grows every year, but makes very real sense in the here and now.

In an age where many subjects are divisive, EV’s are pretty unifying. The logical and emotional reasons for continued acceleration of EV adoption are simply too motivating for US households to ignore.

From a consumer perspective, most buying decisions are made on quality and price, adding up to a perceived ‘value’.  This value is not only important at the time of purchase, but throughout the lifespan of ownership. Things like long-term safety and durability matter; it’s why we have building codes.  The cool thing about EV’s is that they offer value, safety, and durability based on technology, engineering, and inherent features, not on codes or regulations.

So where do EVs get their value and what makes them relevant right now as a viable product in American households? There are several interesting facts most people don’t know about EV’s that might just convince you the old adage “the future is now” is actually true. 

AS THEY STAND TODAY

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  • EV’s have 90 - 99% FEWER moving parts of an Internal Combustion Engine, allowing for near-infinite warranty opportunities, especially when paired with the data showing batteries are lasting far longer than manufacturers anticipated.

  • They offer households the ability to save over $1,000 per year on driving costs alone, not including maintenance savings. Electricity prices are far more stable than gas prices, meaning more predictable monthly bills.

  • They charge at a similar rate to the American’s average coffee trip, achieving an 80% fast-charge in the same 22 minutes that people spending picking up their morning coffee. Grab your latte while you’re refueling. 

  • With a range of between 200-300 miles, chances are that a bathroom or food stop will be required prior to a refueling stop. And that is key to the EV’s new relevance in a big way. Refueling during reststops is already a common practice. Owning an EV doesn’t change anything about your road trip.

  • They have better low-end torque for towing and acceleration.

  • They are far more energy efficient due to the inherent nature of their power source. According to FuelEconomy.gov, “EV’s convert about 59%–62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 17%–21% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels.”

  • Homeowners with a solar PV system who also own an EV have nearly cost-free fuel over the long-term life of their solar system. Consider the prospect of lowering your electricity bill while simultaneously eliminating your car’s fuel costs. It’s a game changer. 

  • EV’s have a fast-expanding charging network. Charging stations are available across the country at an incredible number of convenient retail, residential, and municipal locations. Optimus Solar alone averages two installed stations per month in Central Florida. 

  • And conveniently, cars are charged at almost the exact same ratio as cell phones: 80% in the home, and 20% ‘on the road’, meaning that worrying about finding a charge is usually not a consideration, even in today’s models with today’s batteries. 

  • They provide a near-silent ride, making family time, conversation, and conference calls far superior in an EV.

  • Finally, EV’s are inherently safer than traditional internal combustion engine cars. Their lower center of gravity (due to the battery placement) means less rollovers. Regenerative braking features on EVs are more effective. They also lack a combustible fuel and harmful exhaust.

AN ELECTRIC PRESENT

EV’s have come a long way. They go faster, last longer, and are as cost effective as traditional fuel-burning vehicles. In the long run, and as renewable energy sources begin to take up a more prominent piece of the energy pie, more EV’s will mean cleaner air in cities around the world. Their benefits speak for themselves. Whether you are motivated by the environment, energy independence, household finances, or even a desire to contribute to improved international relations through the avoidance of fuel imports, owning an EV makes sense and will soon be an inevitability.

When you consider the virtuous cycle of installing solar panels on your home or business and driving an EV that is fueled by the power you produce, they simply cannot be ignored. EV’s will continue improving, and as they do, infrastructure and social structures will change along with them. Instead of filling at the gas station once a week, we’ll be charging at home while we sleep and while at the grocery store. It’s a new normal that many people have already embraced.

The future really is now. It’s cleaner, faster, more reliable, and it’s electric.

Top 5 Reasons to Go Solar in 2019

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The year may have just barely begun, but that’s no reason to put off the things that could make 2019 a stellar year. We put together our list of “Top 5 Reasons to Go Solar in 2019” because today is always the best day to plan for your future.

1.    2019 is the last year for the full 30% federal income tax credit

Starting in 2020, the tax credit will reduce to 26%.  In 2021, it is down to 22%. From there, it will continue to decrease until it is fully phased out. It is reasonable to expect that solar installation prices will not fall as quickly as the tax credit, so 2019 may be a homeowner’s best chance to optimize their financial return on solar.

2.    Utility rates continued to rise from 2018 to 2019

The US national average for electricity rose from January 2018 to late 2018. This means that in 2019, the return on a solar investment is more attractive, the payback period is shorter, and if you install this year, you can offset more future costs.

3.    The price of a solar installation in Florida fell in 2018

According to Solar Power World Online, the average price of a residential solar installation in the US fell in 2018 by almost 6%.  That can amount to meaningful savings for a household seeking to invest in solar in 2019!

4.    Having a solar PV system contributes to household financial stability 

For households that pay cash for a system, there is an immediate reduction in their monthly expenses through a reduction in energy bills.  For households that choose to finance their system, they are trading a volatile monthly payment for a fixed monthly payment over the life of the loan. Of course, once the loan is paid off, the real savings begin rolling in!

5.    Investing in Florida helps the local economy and long-term health of the State

Optimus Solar has written about the compounding power of producing electricity locally vs. importing it from out of State.  Furthermore, using Florida-based solar installers, and Florida-manufactured solar panels compounds the local positive impacts and leads to a multiplier of positive economic activity.

There you have it! This Top 5 list is pretty convincing, but if you need more info or want to chat about what a solar PV system could do for your home this year, give us a call! 352-535-0227