Solar Add-Ons: Do’s and Don’t Bothers

Critter Guard: Do

Squirrels love to nest under solar panels, which can cause a bunch of nasty problems. They can chew up wires, tear up shingles, and prevent the roof from properly shedding rainwater. Worst of all, none of this damage will be covered by your roofer/solar installer or their manufacturers. Critter guard wraps around solar systems to prevent the entry of unwanted pests.

Solar Attic Fans: Don’t Bother

Solar attic fans use a solar photovoltaic panel to power a mechanical fan that expels air from an attic. They are a favorite among solar installers looking to tack on additional products or services to a solar installation. However, attic ventilation is a more delicate science than many people realize and adding additional vents inhibits the proper function of a home’s existing ventilation system. Redundant attic fans can cause ventilation short circuits and are a general movement away from the building industry’s direction towards passive ventilation systems.

Solar Attic Fan 1 1024X576 1


Solar Attic Fan | Source: Net 0 Energy

LED Lights: Do

LED lights lasts much longer and use a fraction of the energy of other lighting sources such as incandescent light bulbs, CFLs, or fluorescent lighting. They can save thousands of dollars’ worth of electricity over their lifetime. This is an upgrade most homeowners will opt to do themselves rather than paying a professional to do it. 

Lightbulb Electricity Usage Chart
Light bulb types | source: prolampsales

Pearl Certification: Don’t Bother

A Pearl Certification is a third-party certification assessing the energy characteristics of a building. The rules for the certifications are controlled by Pearl Home Certification, Inc. which is a for-profit organization headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia. The actual assessments are usually performed by contractors and other affiliates. These certifications should not be confused with energy audits and insulators, which generate revenue by improving the energy efficiency of a building. Pearl Home Certification, Inc. generates revenue by indirectly selling certifications to homeowners on the basis that these certifications will artificially increase the resell value of their home without requiring any actual improvements. The cost of these certifications is paid for by the affiliates and is often listed as a free service that comes with a larger bundle of offerings that the homeowner is paying for.

The effect of Pearl Certifications on home values is unsettled. No research exists that attempts to measure the causal effect of the certification, such as a randomized controlled trial. Less-scientific research is linked from their website that measures how Pearl Certifications correlate with sale prices for comparable houses. However, even this research shows that Pearl Certified houses sold for less than comparable peers (Page 32, Table 10) until the application of unspecified adjustments to the data.

Insulated Attic Hatches: Do

Attic entryways are a common exit path for conditioned air. Insulated attic hatches are specialty products designed for attic entryways. Models exists for both pulldowns and scuttle doors. These are almost always an improvement for pulldowns, which tend to have no insulation at all. They may also be an improvement for scuttle door entryways depending on how well the door is already insulated.

Insulated attic hatch | source: attic tent

Water Heater Blankets: Don’t Bother

Hot water heater blankets are insulation devices that wrap around water heaters to reduce standby heat losses. They can be somewhat effective for older-model water heaters. However, newer models typically advise against them and disclaim that damage resulting from their use is not covered by warranty. Homeowners should do the math when considering a hot water heater blanket, especially if they will be bearing the cost of having one professionally installed.

Water Heaters
Hot water heater blanket | source: smartjacket

Tilt Legs: Don’t Bother

Most solar racking manufacturers offer tilt legs that enable the slope of solar systems to be changed. The benefit is that panels will produce more electricity when optimally sloped. The costs are that extra racking parts must be purchased and installed and that rows of panels must include space between them to prevent interrow shading, which necessitates additional roof space and electrical wiring. This capability was much more useful years ago when solar panels were extremely expensive so squeaking a little bit of extra production of each panel was a worthwhile endeavor. Nowadays, the costs of tilt legs will outweigh their benefits in almost all circumstance.

Solar Panels On Tilt Legs
Solar tilt legs | source: pinterest (brent poer)

Looking for other great energy savings ideas?

Please see 30 Ways to Save on Energy from our engineering friend and customer, Steve. We went the other way on #11, but as with many energy-savings tricks, the difference between worth it and not worth it can often depend on whether you pay a professional to have it done

2 Responses

  1. I had solar panels installed in the fall and am happy with the decision. I had Critter Guards installed a few months ago and am less than happy. Leaves from a river birch not close to the panels are getting caught by the guards. My solar installation company wants to charge $300 for the gasket plus $129 for installation. I think the leaves are coming through in one area, and not all the panels will need the gasket. Can you do any better?

    1. Thanks for the comment. Leaves will tend to accumulate on the upper edge of critter guard on solar arrays with trees nearby. The array should be configured to allow these leaves to blow away, if possible. I am not sure what a critter guard gasket is but would be curious to learn more.

      Barklie Estes

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