Solar For All is a Win for Everyone

Solar For All is a Win for Everyone

On June 28, 2023, SunCommon’s headquarters in Vermont hosted some very special guests. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, along with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Peter Welch, and Representative Becca Balint, visited our Waterbury office for a press conference to announce an upcoming program, “Solar for All,” to incentivize and increase solar adoption.

While the cost of solar has come down considerably in recent years, some households are still unable to take advantage of current state or federal incentives. Solar for All, as part of last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, will provide $7 billion in grant funding for states, territories, tribal governments, municipalities, and nonprofits to reduce financial barriers to solar, specifically for low and middle income households.

Welcoming Vermont’s congressional delegation along with Administrator Regan was a huge privilege and not something we get to experience too often. Our office was abuzz with excitement, and everyone present felt the gravitas of such an important event. We want to extend our thanks to Senator Sanders, Senator Welch, Representative Balint, and Administrator Regan for supporting this legislation and also for allowing SunCommon to play a role in bringing Solar for All to our communities. To say we were honored would be an understatement—but to be honest, the program itself was the real highlight.


Why we need Solar for All

The $7 billion in Solar for All funding is huge. And it’s what’s needed in the face of the massive climate emergency we are facing. The recent catastrophic flooding in Vermont and the Hudson Valley is just the latest example of the horrific effects of our warming climate. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, which results in heavier rain and wind storms. Continuing to burn fossil fuels instead of transitioning to clean renewables like solar and wind will only increase the frequency and severity of storms like the ones that devastated our region on July 10th, 2023. Installing solar at homes and businesses, however, is one of the best ways we can reduce carbon emissions and curb warming, and over the next ten years, Solar for All funding will result in millions more solar arrays being built.

Expanding access to solar’s economic benefits

Besides the sheer number of new solar systems, Solar for All is significant because of its focus on expanding access for low and middle income households. For years we have recognized the disconnect between those most impacted by climate change and those with means to participate in solutions like installing residential solar. In one way, this approach to addressing climate change is appropriate: we should not be asking already overburdened communities to take on additional debt or social responsibility to solve problems which they largely have not caused.

But going solar does more than help reduce our collective or individual carbon footprints: households that go solar see stabilized energy costs, substantial long term savings, and independence from their utility — things everyone deserves to benefit from should they want to. By expanding solar access in this way, Solar For All not only gets us closer to 100% renewable energy, but it will also be a financial boon for millions of Americans, something that is desperately needed in our current economy.

“At a time when people are struggling to make ends meet, all while dealing with the existential threat of climate change, we must make residential rooftop solar a reality for low-income and working families that need it most,”

– Sen. Bernie Sanders

Solar for All will buoy the economy and level the playing field

As industry leaders in both Vermont and New York, SunCommon is ready to bring even more solar to our communities with the help of Solar for All. We’re equally excited, however, to see how it buoys the industry overall, in our home states and all over the country, creating jobs and building more clean energy than we’ve ever seen. Because the kind of change we need is on a far bigger scale than any one solar company.

Since SunCommon’s founding, we have strived to make solar more accessible and affordable through education and innovation, and something we’ve always kept top of mind when considering our role in the clean energy landscape is that it isn’t a zero sum game. If a customer chooses to go solar with a different company, that’s okay! The stakes are too high, and we’re all ultimately on the same side: for our planet to remain habitable for generations to come. At the end of the day, if more clean, renewable energy infrastructure is being built, we’re all winning.

And we all deserve to play a part if we so wish. The climate movement doesn’t belong to any one business entity or income level. This planet belongs to all of us equally, and so too should the effort to keep it habitable, sustainable, and beautiful. Going solar has long been out of reach for too many people, and programs like Solar for All are what’s needed to help level the playing field — not just by increasing solar adoption, but by allowing those who need it most to benefit from the economic advantages that come with generating your own energy from the sun.

Solar for All is a win for the planet, a win for our economy, and a win for our communities.

Net Metering: What’s It All About?

solar net metering page hero image zero net energy home

Net Metering: What’s It All About?

Have you ever heard someone say that it’s no use going solar up North because there’s not enough sunlight? It’s true that in the higher latitudes of the United States, the days are pretty short for half the year, which in turn means not much solar production. 

But the flipside is that as short as those fall and winter days are, they’re that much longer in the spring and summer. In fact, for many days of the year, we receive far more sunlight than the average home needs to run on solar power.

Now, if only there was a way to capture that extra sunlight to use during the darker months… Turns out there is! Utility companies in New York and Vermont are required to compensate you for solar energy you produce. This system is called Net Metering, and it’s what helps make solar financially accessible for a lot of homeowners.

Net Metering helps you become your own power plant

Let’s say on a particularly sunny spring day, your solar panels produce more energy than your household uses. All that extra electricity doesn’t go to waste — it actually gets fed back into the electric grid. Your utility company keeps track of any extra energy your panels produce and credits it to your account.

At the end of a billing cycle in which you generated more power than you used, your utility will send you a statement showing your balance of banked solar credits, and your bill will effectively be zero. At the end of the summer, you’ll have tons of solar credits on your account because of all those long sunny days where your panels made more energy than you used. 

Later in the year when the days get short again, your solar home will use more power than it generates. This is when your banked credits become useful. At the end of your billing cycle, instead of charging you for energy you used from the grid, your utility will just subtract from your banked credits, and, once again, your bill is effectively zero.

Another way to think of it? You’re basically your own mini power plant, selling solar energy to your utility in the summer to pay for your power needs during the winter.

We crunch the numbers for you

Our job as your solar provider is to do all the complicated math — taking into account the angle of sun onto your roof, the amount of energy you’ll likely use in a year, etc. — and build you a custom solar system that will produce just enough excess energy during the summer to pay for your energy needs during the winter. Ideally you’ll run out of banked credits in the spring just as the days start getting longer again.

Heads up Vermont: net metering is changing soon!

You may have heard that the state Net Metering incentive (sometimes called the “solar adder”) is decreasing on September 1, 2022. This means that new solar customers in Vermont will be compensated less by their utilities for the solar energy they generate.

Going solar will still be a cost-saving energy solution thanks to net metering, but if you want to get the most savings out of solar, we recommend you check it out now before this change takes effect. It’s not too late to lock in today’s incentive rate.

Want to get the most savings out of solar?

There’s still time to sign up before this change takes place. Get in touch to see how SunCommon can help you lock in today’s incentive rate!

Electricity Rates: Why They Keep Rising and How to Break Free with Solar

Solar homeowners in front of their house in Danville

The Truth About Rising Electricity Rates and How to Break Free by Going Solar

As of January 2023, New York (#8) and Vermont (#10) ranked amongst the states with the highest residential electricity rates in the U.S. Thankfully, many of these states, as well as the federal government, have ambitious goals to decrease our overall reliance on fossil fuels. These initiatives are inspiring (and incentivizing!) people to move to cleaner, greener energy sources. And, as utility companies continue raising their rates, more and more homeowners are turning to solar power as a way to save money on their electric bills.

Where do rising rates come from?

It’s important to understand who sets utility rates and how these ever-increasing rates are determined. In New York State, rates are determined by the Public Service Commission (PSC), an independent state agency responsible for regulating the rates for electric, natural gas, water, and telecommunications services. In Vermont, the Public Service Board (PSB) monitors and adjusts rates based on a variety of factors, including the cost of providing service, the cost of fuel and other inputs, the impact of rates on consumers, and the need for utility companies to earn a reasonable return on investment.

For any proposed rate changes by a utility company, these state agencies conduct a thorough review, including public hearings and an analysis of the utility company’s finances. This ensures rates are reasonable for both the utility company and its customers. Recently, however, we’ve seen both New York and Vermont electricity rates begin to skyrocket…

Electricity rates go in one direction: Up!

Despite consumers’ hopes for lower utility bills, the reality is that rising fuel costs, infrastructure upgrades, geopolitical conditions, and government regulations all have a major impact on the price we pay for electricity. Prices will always fluctuate somewhat, but it seems that a long-term upward trend is here to stay.

US monthly electricity rates graph

Gain Energy Independence

In response to rising electricity rates, homeowners who go solar can actually lock in their energy costs, gain energy independence, and save thousands of dollars compared to what they would have paid the utility company without going solar.

solar payment vs electric bill

You’ll always need energy for your home, but always buying power from your utility company is like paying rent instead of owning your home – you pay every month without building any equity or lasting value, and the rates will always go up over time.

When you go solar, you break the cycle of paying for electricity forever.

Don’t wait for electric prices to soar even higher.

Get in touch with our friendly Solar Advisor team today to start your solar journey.

Federal ITC: The Latest Updates for Homeowners Looking to Go Solar

home and business owners go solar with help of federal itc

The Federal ITC:
Updates for Homeowners Looking to Go Solar

Going solar has become a popular way for homeowners and businesses to reduce their energy costs and decrease their carbon footprint. The federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a key incentive that makes going solar more financially viable for many people.

The federal ITC was in the process of phasing down from 30% to 10% over 4 years, but once the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) bill was passed, $369 billion in federal incentives have since been allocated to our national energy security and climate change programs – the largest climate investment ever by the US government. The IRA not only extends the ITC at 30%, but goes well beyond any past legislation in its support of the clean energy industry by expanding the tax credits to apply to additional technologies, like energy storage. This ITC increase applies to both business and residential projects, including those installed in 2022, and will last through the end of 2032.

Monetary Benefits for Home and Business Owners

brewery goes solar with suncommon in vermont

The federal ITC is available to individuals and businesses that install solar energy systems on their property. The credit is equal to 30% of the cost of the solar energy system, including installation and equipment costs. This credit can be applied to your federal income taxes, effectively reducing the cost of going solar by a significant amount.

Although the cost of solar installations has been decreasing in recent years, it can still be a significant investment. The federal ITC helps offset some of these costs, making it a more viable investment.

Solar Industry Growth

Another benefit of the federal ITC is that it supports the growth of renewable energy. By making it more financially viable for individuals and businesses to invest in solar energy, the federal ITC helps to promote the use of this clean energy source.

The federal ITC also helps to create jobs in the solar industry. As more people invest in solar energy systems and tell their friends and family about the benefits, the demand for solar increases, which in turn supports local economies. (Looking for local solar done right? We’ve got you covered!)

suncommon solar installation team at a home in vermont

Encouraging Energy Independence

visualizing home energy storage with tesla powerwall and app

In addition to the financial benefits, the federal ITC increases overall energy independence. Solar energy systems allow individuals and businesses to generate their own electricity, reducing their dependence on traditional energy sources from the utility grid. This can be especially beneficial for homes and businesses during power outages when paired with energy storage.

Supporting a Brighter Future

Finally, the federal investment tax credit also helps protect the environment. Solar energy systems do not produce emissions or pollution, making them a clean energy source. By investing in solar energy, individuals and businesses can play a role in mitigating the effects of climate change.

SunCommoners working with VT Foodbank on a gleaning operation

The federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is an important incentive that makes going solar more financially viable for many people. The credit helps to offset the cost of solar installations, supports the growth of renewable energy, creates jobs, and increases energy independence while protecting the environment. If you are thinking about going solar, be sure to check with your accountant to be sure you can take advantage of the federal ITC. And when you’re ready to take the next step, get in touch with our friendly Solar Advisor team!

Where does our electricity come from?

Have you ever wondered where your electricity comes from? As we work towards a future powered by 100% renewable energy, it’s important to know where we’re starting.

Today’s grid: old, dirty, and inefficient

Our current power system is over 140 years old and was designed around cheap and abundant (and dirty) fossil fuels. The grid has become increasingly complex over the years as our energy demand has grown, our sources of energy have shifted, and technology has evolved. 

Today, renewable energy is actually cheaper than fossil fuels, so why are we still supporting this old and inefficient grid system when we have better alternatives? 

There is an abundance of research indicating that a grid powered entirely by renewable energy is possible and will happen. The most recent study coming out of UC Berkeley outlines the process of getting off fossil fuels quicker than anticipated, at no extra cost to taxpayers. The only thing it lacks is political support. 

It’s all based on supply & demand

Your utility company purchases electricity from various sources — could be solar panels on your roof or a nuclear power plant 200 miles away. Electric demand varies constantly, depending on the season, time of day, and a number of other factors. And when demand is higher, electricity is more expensive. 

A power provider must always be prepared to handle the maximum demand placed upon the system at any given moment. The utility’s goal is to provide consistency and affordability to consumers. Therefore, they must be able to predict when demand will be highest. Luckily for them, there is a lot of data to help them with those predictions.

For example, ISO New England and New York ISO share, in real time, where 100% of the energy in our region comes from. The chart below shows on July 21, 2020, over 92% of the energy consumed in New England came from natural gas and nuclear power. So this is a good baseline to answer our question “where does our electricity come from?”

Photo from ISO New England website

More of a visual learner?

Here’s a short video explaining our electrical grid.

From the power plant to your home

Now that we understand how utilities provide electricity to ratepayers, the next step is understanding the outdated system that delivers electricity from power plants far away to our houses, buildings and other infrastructure around the region. This is sometimes called the “hub and spoke” model.

Our current system uses high voltage power lines to transport lots of electricity over very long distances, from the powerplant to substations. At the substation, the electricity is converted to a lower voltage necessary for powering our homes and businesses. Unfortunately, there is an estimated energy loss of 8%-15% through this whole transmission process.

With all of this infrastructure already in place, it’s no surprise that utilities want to continue burning cheap fossil fuels. Consequently, we are experiencing a worldwide climate crisis that demands we change our ways. Our sources will require a shift from dirty power plants to renewable energy projects. Therefore, we need to think about how we support efficient, local, decentralized electrical generation. The plot thickens!

ISO New England Control Center

The role of regulation

At this point, we need to consider state utility regulatory policy. States and local utilities are gradually being required to increase the percentage of renewable energy they bring onto their grid. Therefore, they must rethink the “hub-and-spoke” model they’ve been relying on for the last century.

To meet these renewable energy requirements, they have two main options:

  1. Pay local renewable energy producers for their power that is generated by the hydroelectric dams, solar panels, and wind turbines.
  2. Purchase “renewable energy credits” from other, larger far away power generation systems. (Electrons produced by the renewable energy source may never make it to our state, but the state still puts those credits towards the renewables requirement. This allows states like Vermont to say they have “carbon-free” electricity, while purchasing credits from a nuclear power plant in New Hampshire or a hydroelectric dam in Canada.)

What will the grid of the future look like?

If we want a future powered by clean, efficient renewable energy, we need to ensure our state and federal policies require it. We must move beyond utilities merely paying for renewable energy credits and telling customers they’re consuming clean energy. It’s just not true. And, producing our energy locally is better for everyone. Supporting local renewables and energy storage allows for this transition while creating an affordable and more resilient grid. It also inevitably supports a local economy, keeping dollars local while creating lots of jobs.

Along with requiring energy to be produced locally, we also need public utilities to plan for and invest in the construction of the grid of the future. This means power lines and substations that allow for greater decentralized energy production taking place across the country. And, it means investing in energy storage infrastructure (i.e. giant batteries). That way, even if the sun isn’t shining, we’ve got energy stored up to keep the lights on.

As these policy and infrastructure changes begin to unfold, it will become easier to understand where your power comes from. That is the YOUtility we’re dreaming of.

Understanding Your Carbon Footprint

How much CO2 does your lifestyle produce?

The United States has the highest carbon footprint per capita in the world, and is second only to China for country with the highest total emissions. The average carbon footprint for a single person in the United States is 16 tons per year.

Where do my emissions come from?

A carbon footprint is the measure of greenhouse gases produced by the activities one participates in. Generally, they are calculated based on one’s location, transportation, heat and electricity consumption, diet, family size, and waste management practices.

There are many, many carbon footprint calculators out there. This one from is helpful because it adjusts in real time as you change values in the tool.

How much do you think you emit, compared to the average household?

It turns out there’s a fairly straightforward litmus test. Household income is the primary determinant of a person’s actual ecological footprint. Meaning, if you’re on the wealthier side of the income spectrum, chances are you are responsible for more carbon emissions than the average American.

How can I lower my emissions?

1. Going Solar and Heating/Cooling with Electricity

About 30% of the average person’s carbon footprint comes from home energy use. Solar can offset that! Every kilowatt of solar installed saves over 1.5 tons of carbon emissions annually. For the average five-kilowatt residential system, that’s a reduction of more than 15,000 pounds of CO2 every year! While you won’t realistically be able to eliminate your home’s greenhouse gas emissions entirely, solar power goes a long way in shrinking household usage. Once you go solar, you can add electric heating appliances, like air-source heat pumps and energy efficient electric water heaters, and power them all with the sun!

residential rooftop solar climate change
eat local fight climate change

“If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.” (

2. Eat Less Meat

Seriously! Adopting a plant-rich diet actually has a way bigger impact than you may think. The meat industry has an outsized impact on greenhouse gas emissions because of its sheer scale. Globally, raising livestock produces “7.1 Gigatonnes of Co2-equiv per year, representing 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Cattle alone are responsible for 65% of emissions, mostly because of methane—which has about 84 times more warming potential than CO2. Cattle are responsible for 20% of the United States’ methane emissions.

3. Travel Consciously

Emissions from transportation are actually greater than from electricity generation. That’s because generation is shifting from coal to renewables and natural gas. But cars still primarily run on good old gasoline. The best thing you can do for the climate is reduce the impact of your vehicle. Driving less often is the main thing you should strive for. Taking your car off the road for a year can save as much as 2.6 tons of CO2 emissions.

Realistically, most of us cannot survive without a car. But there are some steps you can take to make your travel more efficient:

  • Drive gently. Accelerating and braking slowly conserve energy output for these processes.
  • Keep your tires pumped up. Low tire pressure hurts your fuel economy.
  • Air condition only when necessary. This is an energy intensive process that increases your emissions.
  • Use cruise control. On long drives, this trick can help to save gas.
  • Carpool. This way, you’re splitting emissions between the number of people in the car.
  • Drive electric. Especially if you’re charging with renewable energy.

A Personal Climate Action Plan to Help Save Our Planet

At SunCommon, we believe in protecting our planet. We drive electric vehicles, generate power with renewable resources, and strive towards reducing our carbon footprint—at work and at home. It’s part of who we are and some of the best ways we know how to take climate action.

Still, we know we can do more. We want to help reverse climate change. And we invite you to join us.

We thought it would be fun and beneficial to have a Personal Climate Action Plan to follow. And we made it simple so we can all be inspired, instead of overwhelmed. While we can’t take credit for all the  ideas, we can direct you to our source: the book Drawdown edited by Paul Hawken.

This is a plan where we make a difference by acting together.

1. Eat Lots of Local Veggies

Drawdown Solution #4

Now this is a simple action to start with! A diet plentiful in fruits, veggies, and grains is good for your health and good for the planet. Raising cattle contributes to about 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions per year! Love burgers? Try Meatless Monday. Buying local produce is a great way to support farmers in your community and cut down on all the resources that go into distribution. And come warmer temps, you can grow your own veggies or join a farm share.

eat local fight climate change

2. Prevent Food Waste

Drawdown Solution #3

What’s the harm in throwing away food? A lot of it ends up in landfills. It gets trapped, gets no oxygen, and decomposes into methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that gets released into the atmosphere. What can we do about it? We can be mindful of our food prep so we don’t end up with waste. When we’re chopping and peeling our veggies, we can put our discards into the compost bin. Composting (#60) allows for a natural process of decomposition and creates nutrient-rich soil that is great for gardens.

food waste climate change

3. Go Solar

Solution #10 Rooftop Solar, #8 Solar Farms

Going solar has a huge potential to reverse climate change. That’s why Rooftop Solar and Solar Farms rank in Drawdown’s top 10 out of 100! Solar use continues to rise thanks to incentives, increased production, and advances in technology — all which bring the cost down. Yay! When you use rooftop solar, the earth’s biggest resource powers your home or work place!

Solar farms (what we call Community Solar Arrays) are large-scale arrays that can harness massive amounts of sunshine. That’s a lot of clean energy being captured and distributed. Solar arrays may be the way of the future for power plants. They can be created much quicker than coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants, and they can cut emissions drastically. At SunCommon, CSAs are a lot smaller than power plant size, but they still offer big impact. CSAs distribute power to many people and are a popular solar alternative for renters and homeowners who can’t go with the rooftop option.

residential rooftop solar climate change

4. Drive EVs and Share Rides

Drawdown Solution #26 and #75

Drive an electric vehicle and you cut greenhouse gas emissions in half. Or better yet, power your EV with solar and you reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 95 percent! That’s a big difference. Both the U.S. and Canada have high rates of car ownership and people driving alone. That means we have a lot of potential for improvement. Consider this statistic from Drawdown: “For every one hundred cars being driven to work in the United States today, only five carry another commuter.” What if we started by carpooling once a week? What if many people did this?

5. Conserve Your Household Water

Drawdown Solution #46

We wash dishes, take showers, flush toilets, and do laundry. Over and over again. “At home, the average American withdraws ninety-eight gallons of water each day much more than is typical world-wide.”  How can we cut down? Lots of ways, really. We can change our habits just a little for big impact by taking shorter showers and laundering less. We can also switch to energy-efficient dishwashers and washing machines, and low-flow shower heads and toilets.

drawdown conserve water

6. Store Your Clean Energy

Drawdown Solution #77

Just like an electric vehicle operates off of battery power, so too can your home or workplace. On a practical level, battery backup, like our Tesla Powerwall, lets solar customers have power whenever they need it. The broader benefit is that this stored distributed energy ties into the grid, so that even more people can benefit from reliable, renewable energy. What a great example of how individual climate action can result in collective benefit!

Our actions really do add up. Positive climate action starts individually and builds collectively. Get started. Share your progress. Be empowered to make a difference.

(Curious about Drawdown? Learn about the discussions we’re hosting and why we’re such big fans here.)

Want to Go Solar in New York?

SunCommon helps people who want to go solar in New York

Want to Go Solar in New York?

Make Hay (And Energy) While The Sun Shines!

Some things are just better in a particular season. Like wool socks. Fresh tomatoes. Pumpkin Spice everything. It’s true, too, if you want to go solar. While adding solar to your home or business is a smart and potentially cost saving decision at any time, spring is actually the IDEAL season to go solar and save money.

Hello, Sunshine!

Here’s a fun fact: on average, there’s 15-20% more sunshine in March than in February. Plus, the amount of daylight increases by two minutes each day. More sunshine plus more daylight means more energy fueling your solar array. And that’s not just for immediate use. In New York, your utility allows you to “bank” the unused energy you produce as credits toward your energy bill in the off-season. (It’s true, check it out.)

That means that solar’s goodness keeps on giving throughout the year (unlike a Pumpkin Spice latte that only lasts you a few minutes). Installing a solar system this spring will pay back dividends next winter and every winter after that.

The Warm Fuzzies

Thinking about solar, but wondering if it’s the right direction for you? Allow us to go a little deeper…

The advantages of green energy are many, not the least of which is making a break from fossil fuels and using the sun’s clean energy to power your life. And that’s huge for our communities and  for the world. 

But we get it. Sometimes, you need a little more “What’s in it for me?” than simply saving the world. To that we say, how about reducing your electricity bill, possibly by as much as 90%? Win-win, right?!

solar company helping people go solar

Not to mention, you can also get over 50% of the cost of your solar installation covered if you’re eligible for New York State and Federal incentives!

Or how about the fact that installing residential solar will actually raise the value of your home? Or that solar plus the addition of a Tesla Powerwall energy storage system will allow you to sail through power outages without the use of a generator? Finally, did you know that going solar with SunCommon means you’re getting a custom installation from one of only nine NYSERDA Quality Installers with Gold Status?

So. Much. Winning.

Spring Into Action

If you’re ready to go solar, don’t wait until Pumpkin Spice Season. Or even the amazing Farmer’s Market fresh tomato season. NOW is the time to maximize your investment, bank as many solar credits as you can, and cut your energy bill and carbon footprint to boot. Let’s talk!

Ready to speak with a Solar Expert?

Our Guide to Building a New House with Solar

Our Guide to Building a House with Solar

There are a lot of advantages to building a modern, efficient, and “smart” home. Pairing efficient building design with the latest technology, like heat pumps, energy efficient appliances, solar, and battery storage can reduce your energy bill significantly, or (if you opt for solar) eliminate it entirely.

building a house with solar

Building a new home?

Design with solar in mind! 

Solar is a smart addition for new homes, and SunCommon has years of experience working with contractors, builders, and architects to incorporate solar right into a home’s design. Orientation and design can have a big impact on the efficiency of the solar system, so here are some of the details to keep in mind as you start dreaming-up the plans for your new home. To download our complete guide, use the form at the bottom of the page. 

SunCommon offers a classic roof or ground solar array, as well as the timber-framed Solar Canopy, any of which can be paired with an energy storage system.

Orientation to the Sun

An ideal roof for solar has a large surface facing south, southeast, or southwest. For a Solar Canopy or ground array, choose a sunny spot in your yard that’s flat or gently sloped, ideally within 150’ of your home’s utility room or meter. 

Obstructions & Shading

A wide-open roof is best. Obstructions like chimneys, vent pipes, dormers, and skylights can cast a shadow and limit the space available for your solar system. Tree shading will also factor in, so it’s best to have a shade-free roof from roughly 9 AM to 3 PM.

Roof Structure

To optimize solar production, a south-facing roof pitch between 30 to 35 degrees is recommended, though we can install solar on roofs up to 45 degrees. For east- or west-facing roofs, a pitch between 10 to 30 degrees is best. Any roof 10 degrees or less will require a professional structural review to verify the roof can accommodate the added weight of a system.

Roofing Material

Standing Seam Metal
SunCommon only works with mechanical single or double lock standing seam roofs. These roofs are ideal because they will last as long as your solar system (25+ years). Our design team can work with your roofing contractor to install junction boxes, which will allow the wiring to be concealed and hidden. 

Asphalt Shingles
We recommend a 30-year rated shingle. Talk to your contractor about using a minimum of 1/2” OSB or ⅝” plywood sheathing on the roof. 

Corrugated & Ribbed Metal
Solar can only be installed on corrugated and ribbed metal when a minimum ½”sheathing (plywood/OSB) is present. Please get in touch with us before selecting corrugated and ribbed metal and we’ll discuss options that can accommodate solar.


Arguably the most important element of any solar design. Please let your electrical contractor know right away that you are planning to incorporate solar into your new build. If SunCommon is involved in the process early on, we can work with your contractor to choose equipment that is preferred for solar interconnections. 

There are several electrical components to consider as it relates to solar: service size, main service panel location, utility requirements and existing utility infrastructure. A main breaker is required in the main service panel—no exceptions. Additionally, all projects require exterior utility equipment, such a production meter and system disconnect. For roof mounts, we strongly recommend including a 2″ conduit chase from the attic to the main service panel. To utilize this, our installers need access to your attic, and must have a clear working area by the main service panel.

To learn more and view specifics, complete the form below to download our complete Building a House with Solar Guide, or give us a call at 802-882-8170.

electrical boxes

Ready to get started?

Use the form below to download the complete
Building a Home with Solar Guide

1. The Roof (Azimuth)

A west-facing roof isn’t a dealbreaker anymore

Let’s start with the roof.  An ideal roof has a large, uninterrupted surface facing south, southeast, or southwest.  However, given advances in solar module technology and efficiencies that make them more affordable, a purely due-south roof is no longer a prerequisite. A well-producing solar home should have an orientation or “azimuth” within 90 degrees of true south. The closer the solar azimuth is to 180 degrees true south the better the system will produce. Roof angles are also something to consider. A roof pitch between 5 and 12 is ideal. The lower the slope, the less production you will see in the winter.

A good roof for solar is an empty roof; uninterrupted. That means keep your chimneys, vent pipes, dormers, and skylights away from that nice big southern expanse! We can work around these things if we have to, but if you want to maximize production, have wide-open spaces.

2. Trees

Shade on panels means less production

When you’re deciding where you want to put your home on your land it is best to avoid any trees on the solar side.  Planting a gorgeous maple in front of your array will mean shadowed solar panels in a few years.  Go ahead and tuck the northern side of your home into the trees, but any tree that casts a shadow on your solar roof for any significant portion of the day is no good for your system’s production.

3. Roof Material

Anything but cedar and slate

Roof composition really matters when building a house with solar. Asphalt shingles or metal roofs are great, slate and cedar shingles are a no go.

With asphalt roofs, it is important to choose a shingle that will last as long as your solar system. A 30-year rated shingle would be best. A minimum 3/8” sheathing on the roof is recommended. Standing seam metal roofs are ideal because the roof material will last as long as your solar system. Corrugated metal roofs are also an option. Our solar attachments are happiest if your corrugated is installed directly on top of plywood decking.

4. House Electrical

A benefit of incorporating solar into your new construction is that we will often be able to integrate the wire or pipe run into your building. We will work with you or your contractor on the specifics to make sure that you get a high-producing and aesthetically-pleasing solar system.

Our licensed electricians can run conduit and wire while your walls are open. Then, as soon as you have a roof, we’ll be happy to come out, install your solar system and celebrate with you as your meter runs backwards.

5. PV Systems Add Weight

A standard PV system adds less than 3lbs per square foot on the roof. Making sure your roof can support this weight across the house is important and your contractor should be able to factor this added weight into the design.

6. What We Need From You

In order to facilitate a Design and a cost estimate for your PV system, we will need some information about your project. Some of the things we will need are:

  • Contractor Phone Numbers (if any)
  • Design/ Architectural Drawings
  • Structural Information
  • Electrical Information
  • Building Timeline

To summarize, when building a house with solar, you want a roof that is unshaded and free of obstructions such as dormers, chimneys, or skylights; made of solar-friendly materials such as metal or asphalt shingle; and structurally supported by accounting for the weight of the panels and leaving room for the necessary electrical work to connect the panels to your circuitry.

We hope this information will be useful while you work on your home. Remember these are strictly recommendations and you should build your home to how you prefer it. If you (or your contractor) have any questions about how to better integrate your new home project into the solar system, our engineering team will be happy to assist you!

Have any specific questions, we’re happy to answer them here or via email.

Affordable Power to the People

affordable power with solar from suncommon

(Affordable) Power to the People

Every day at SunCommon, we look for new ways to advance our mission of tearing down barriers to clean energy and using our business as a force for good. One way we do that is by continually evaluating and implementing products and programs that make solar financially accessible to as many people as possible.

Cost is often a barrier for folks switching to renewable power, so we provide our customers with three different financing options. By keeping upfront costs, monthly payments, and interest rates as low as possible, we help our customers save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of their solar installation compared to what they would have paid their utility for electricity.

1. Pay in full upfront

For those that can afford it, paying for solar panels outright without financing does offer the best bang for your buck. Apart from your utility’s grid service fees (typically $15-30 per billing cycle), you will pay nothing, or nearly so, for your electricity every month, and you will have made an interest-free, debt-free investment in your energy-independent future. Because systems generally last more than 30 years, customers can expect to recoup the initial cost in 12-18 years. That’s essentially free energy for half of the life of your solar system.

2. Short-term loans that meet (or beat) your utility bill

SunCommon has partnered with VSECU, a Vermont-based credit union, to offer financing plans with zero down-payment and interest rates low enough to match or beat what you currently pay your utility each month. Switching to a fixed solar loan payment like this can also protect you from utility rate increases down the road. And once your loan term is up, your energy is essentially free for the remaining life of your solar system. (Talk about affordable power!)

3. Even lower monthly payments

Our newest financing option through Sunlight Financial, a national energy lender, offers some of the lowest monthly payments we’ve ever been able to offer. What’s more, Sunlight has lowered the minimum credit score requirement to 600, which opens up financing to even more potential customers. And Sunlight can finance projects up to $150,000 (versus the more standard $60,000) — this means that for solar installations requiring a new roof, you can bundle both projects into a single loan at an interest rate likely lower than a home equity loan or line of credit. And of course, once that loan is paid off, your energy is free for the remaining life of the panels.

Don’t forget there are also federal tax credits and state incentives that can make your solar installation even more affordable. The state incentives are slightly different in New York versus Vermont, and all incentives and tax credits do change with time, so we suggest talking to a clean energy expert (like us!) to get the most up-to-date information.

If you’re reading this, you might already be sold on many of the benefits of going solar, such as doing a good thing for the planet, or becoming more energy independent. Our aim is to make sure that going solar also has financial benefits for as many people as possible, so that we can all play a part in building a brighter clean energy future.

Ready to dig into the numbers and make affordable power a reality?