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?

SMA Sunny Boy Inverters

SMA SunnyBoy Inverters

  • SunCommon has installed several SMA Sunny Boy inverter models.
  • (Please note: your Sunny Boy inverter may be branded SunPower.  This is common for SunPower lease customers).
  • From left to right, the inverter models are: Sunny Boy SBXXXX-USSunny Boy SBXXXXTL-USSunny Boy  SBXXXXTL-US-22*.
  • *This is the newest model used in ground mounted installations since 2020.

Getting to know your SMA SunnyBoy Inverter

To illuminate the screen, knock (like you would on a door) on the inverter in the space above the screen.

  • Knocking will cycle through the daily energy values of the past 16 days and switch to the next text line at the bottom of the screen. 
  • Additional displays will provide the firmware version, serial number, the Bluetooth NetID, and the specified country standard, and display language.
  • Continue to knock to move through each display screen.
customer-support-sunny-boy-inverter

The display updates the values of your PV system every 5 seconds. 

A) Knocking icon. (This icon will illuminate during reboot after an Arc fault.  If it appears, knock on the inverter to clear it.)

B) Graph of system production.

C) Error icons.  If illuminated, take a photo of any errors displayed in “H” and contact support@suncommon.com.

D) Current power.

E) Daily energy.

F) Total energy generated since the inverter was installed.

G) Display of enabled functions.

H) Text line for displaying an event or error.


Troubleshooting

Common Error Messages

If you have Ground/Earth Faults or Isolation Errors, do not attempt to power cycle your device because of electrical hazards. Please contact our Customer Support Team.

1. Arc Fault Detected/Check DC Generator/AFCI detected
Power-cycle the inverter (see instructions below), and watch the inverter screen after rebooting it. You should see a prompt to knock on the inverter to officially clear the error code.

2. Unstable Operation
This typically is caused by snow on panels, when there is not enough input on the DC side. If your panels are clear of snow, get in touch with our Customer Support Team.

3. Fac-Bfr (Grid Frequency Disturbance)
This will happen when the power is out, or if the inverter has disconnected from the power distribution grid.
It could also be caused by a tripped breaker or blown fuse. To resolve, first check your breaker (if possible) and then contact our Customer Support Team .

4. K-1 Open
Error requiring replacement. Please contact our Customer Support Team with a photo of the error code to start the warranty process.


How to Power-Cycle your SMA Sunny Boy Inverter:

1) Turn off the DC disconnect. This is a dial (black or white) located on the underside or along the side of the inverter. Simply turn it to the “off” position.

2) Turn off your system’s AC disconnect. This is located outside next to your utility meter. Look for a grey box labeled AC Disconnect with a lever that you’ll pull down into the “off” position. If you do not see a grey box labeled AC disconnect, look for a breaker underneath your Net Meter (ConnectDER).  You will need to turn the breaker off.  To do this, unscrew the grey cover to access the breaker. See reference photos.

3) Wait 5 minutes and then turn them back on in reverse order. Throw the AC lever or breaker back to the “on” position and turn the dial on the inverter back to the “on” position.

4) If you are resetting an “Arc Detect” code. Watch the inverter screen after rebooting it for the Knocking icon to illuminate and knock on the inverter to clear the code.

After these steps, the inverter will start to turn back on and may take a minute or two to reboot. You should see the main screen as normal once the reboot is complete with no error message. If the issue persists, please contact support@suncommon.com.

SMA inverter
A=DC Disconnect | B=LED Indicator Lights
AC Disconnect Lever next to utility meter
AC Disconnect Lever next to utility meter
AC disconnect underneath the ConnectDER

Home Energy Storage with GMP and the Tesla Powerwall

2 Home Energy Storage Programs for Green Mountain Power Customers

Home energy storage systems, like Tesla Powerwall, can keep your lights on during electrical outages, and Green Mountain Power has two different programs to help you take advantage of this powerful technology: one where you own your batteries, and one where you lease them. The ownership program is currently enrolling new members, and the lease program opens in January 2023 — but get in touch with us now to get on the waitlist!

A network of batteries throughout our communities can help ease periods of high energy demand, and, when paired with solar, can replace dirty, expensive energy with clean energy from the sun. With these two innovative programs, GMP will crowd-source power from home batteries when demand is high, helping to bring down costs for all their customers by reducing transmission and capacity expenses. In return, homeowners participating in these programs will get the peace of mind and comfort of automatic, silent back-up power.

SunCommon is Vermont’s most experienced installer of home battery systems, and we’re ready to help you see which Powerwall program is right for you!


Option 1: Ownership, or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Program

With the BYOD program, customers own their batteries and get to choose how much stored energy to share with GMP during the “draw periods.” 

Benefits:

  • Because you’ll own your batteries, you’ll be eligible for a federal tax credit worth 30% of the cost (and if you pair your batteries with solar, that 30% applies to the cost of your solar system, too!). For enrolling in the program, you’ll receive an upfront payment of up to $10,500 (depending on how many batteries you enroll and how much power you choose to share) in exchange for GMP accessing your stored power. The tax credit combined with the one-time GMP payment results in the larger financial benefit for most customers, between the two programs.

Stipulations:

  • When you sign up for the BYOD program, you are committing to grant GMP access to your stored power for 10 years. Since you own the batteries, you will be responsible for maintaining an internet connection and ensuring they are fully charged during periods of peak demand. There is also a monthly communication fee of $3.97 for participation in the program.

Program Status:

  • Open now to new member enrollment.
home-energy-storage-with-gmp-suncommon-tesla-powerwall

Option 2: Lease Program

Like the BYOD program, leasing batteries from GMP affords you the same benefits of backup power during an outage while also sharing stored power with the grid during peak demand events.

Benefits:

  • Leasing batteries is easy and hassle free. GMP will own the double-Powerwall system and take care of all maintenance as well as pay for the removal and recycling of the batteries at the end of their useful life. GMP will also be responsible for charging your battery from the grid, ensuring you’ll have enough stored power in the event of an outage. While pairing batteries with a home solar system has its definite advantages, solar is not required — any GMP customer can sign up for this lease program.

Stipulations:

  • You can lease a double-Powerwall system from GMP for $55 per month for ten years, or you can choose to pay $5,500 upfront. There is an option to keep the batteries for up to 15 years at additional cost. Unlike the ownership model, leased battery systems are not eligible for the federal tax credit. There is also a one-time installation fee of $7,000.

Program Status:

  • Enrollment opens in January 2023, but connect with us now to get on the waitlist.
Solar powered home maintains some electricity during an outage with a solar battery home energy storage solution

Already have battery storage, or want to install a new battery system?

Connect with us at 802-882-8170 or storage@suncommon.com, or click the button below!

Green Mountain Power Logo

For all the details and fine print…

…visit GMP’s website: https://greenmountainpower.com/rebates-programs/home-energy-storage/bring-your-own-device/

Want more info on how solar works with your utility?

We build solar systems that work with your utility. That means you can produce more solar than you need all summer long, and use those credits in the winter when your system is producing less energy. You can enjoy the benefits of on-demand power and zero out your energy costs by swapping your utility bill for a solar payment. Find out more about how solar works by clicking below.

Customer Experience Q&A

Q&A with Customer Experience Manager,
Marlaina Hunter

It is fair to say that with nearly 10,000 residential solar system installations, SunCommon has a lot of experience and expertise. Over the years, we’ve dialed in our approach to transform a complicated process into a seamless and relatively easy experience for our customers. 

We sat down with Customer Experience Manager, Marlaina Hunter to learn some of the most important things a homeowner should know as they begin their solar project.

OK, so here’s the biggie. Help us understand what’s involved in going solar?

To begin, you’ll have a Zoom meeting with one of our knowledgeable Solar Home Advisors. The first thing they’ll want to know is how much electricity you are currently using—this is used to size your system properly and estimate the number of panels you’ll need. (If you have plans to purchase an EV in the near future, we’ll want to know about that too.) Your Solar Home Advisor will use a combination of satellite images and an industry leading tech called Aurora to create a 3D visual of what your home will look like with solar. From there you’ll have a preliminary system design and quote.

3D visual of home with solar

If all systems are go, then what happens?

Once you do decide to go solar with us, we’ll send an evaluator to your house. During their visit, your evaluator will map the path of the sun and measure shading, taking note of any trees that may interfere with your solar system. If it’s a roof mounted system, they’ll venture into your attic to make sure your roof is structurally up to the task of holding panels. They may even fly a drone over your house to get measurements, which is really neat. The most important thing, but probably the least exciting, is inspecting your electrical panels. 

inspecting electrical panel for solar installation

From there, all the measurements and electrical info goes to our solar design engineers. Turning sunlight into electricity is pretty technical stuff. Every system we design and build is custom to the customer’s home and energy usage—no two solar systems are alike. There are a lot of electrical and mathematical calculations that our engineers need to work through, not to mention utility requirements and property setbacks. I think once an evaluator has been to your house, customers are eager to get up and running. But our team of engineers has to analyze every. single. detail. of your electrical system before they can actually design your system. It’s a long but critical part of the process, sometimes taking 6 weeks.

Beyond the panels, what other equipment should customers be prepared to have installed on their home?

The inverter or combiner box, which is arguably the most important part of your solar system. It’s the “brain” of the system that converts DC energy into AC energy so it’s usable in your home. It’s also connected to your home’s Wifi so that you can use your phone to monitor your solar energy production. The inverter can be on the outside of your house, in your home near your electrical panel, or on a pedestal.  Most utilities will also install another meter, for net metering purposes.

So how long, on average, does the process take?

The short answer is: it depends. For most roof-mounted systems in Vermont, it’s a pretty seamless process (as long as you don’t need any electrical upgrades). So, from the time your evaluation is complete to the time you’re powered up, it’s about two months, on average. For ground mounted systems though, we need to consider the time of year. Because the ground freezes in the winter, we’re not able to install the ground screws used for the array. So if you decide to go solar in the late fall, you may not be installed until the following spring. 

In New York, every municipality has different regulations for installing solar, so timing is tricky to predict. It really depends on how quickly your municipality can process your application. It could be two months, or it could be six months. The good news for our New York customers is they don’t have to go to planning board meetings or talk to the municipality. SunCommon takes care of that for all of our customers. In fact, often when customers try to get involved with that phase, they typically end up slowing things down. 

solar monitoring example with solaredge

Let’s shift to after the system is installed. What maintenance is required?

The most important thing is “monitoring”, at least once a week. Monitoring means checking in on your solar production to make sure everything is working as it should. The easiest way to do this is by checking your solar production phone app. Most of the time everything will go like clockwork but because it’s essentially a giant electronic on your roof, that’s exposed to the elements, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it. If you let it go for two months, and then it turns out that you weren’t producing solar energy all summer, when it’s most abundant, you’re going to feel pretty frustrated.

What if you check your phone and things aren’t working?

If it’s a sunny day and your phone shows that your system isn’t producing electricity, you should go out to your inverter and take a look. Some inverters have error codes which can diagnose the problem. If you see an error code, take a photo of it or write it down. Then head to our Customer Support page and check out the instructions for power-cycling your inverter. If your system goes down, one of the best things to do first is power cycle your system, which is just a fancy way of saying restart/reboot. So basically turn it off and on again, just like you do with a glitchy computer, right?

Then, in the event of a power outage, what happens?

If the power is out, and you don’t have battery backup, your system won’t be producing electricity because it is tied to the grid.

energy independence during a power outage with tesla powerwall home energy storage app

What about the battery backup option?

Yes, we install the Tesla Powerwall. Think of it as a generator, but it’s silent and doesn’t run on fossil fuels. If the power goes out, your energy will automatically switch battery power.  If you’re considering battery back-up, it’s important to think about which appliances you want to have backed up. Most people have their refrigerator, freezer and maybe a well pump if they have one. You wouldn’t want to run an air conditioner off your battery because that is super energy intensive, and you’ll run the battery down in no time at all.

Anything else that’s helpful to share?

I like to remind our SunCommon customers that if they feel passionate about reducing the effects of climate change and enjoyed working with SunCommon, talk to your neighbors, family, and friends about the benefits of going solar. Every solar powered home makes a difference and inspiring your friends to go solar is a powerful climate action. Plus, if you refer them and they move forward with us, we’ll send you $500. There’s no limit to the number of people you can refer, so the more the merrier!

Electric Vehicles are here! So, what are you waiting for?

Electric Vehicles are here! So, what are you waiting for?

The performance and price of EVs are now comparable to, if not better than, the traditional internal combustion engine. Plus, it’s better for the planet. So why aren’t more people making the switch?

Everyday it seems like we’re seeing more and more electric vehicles (EVs) on the road. And by all predictions, that progress is not slowing down anytime soon. Recent studies say that by 2040, over 50% of new cars on the road will be all electric! So the question is, if price and car performance are comparable to (if not better than) traditional gas guzzling cars, what’s holding people back from making the switch? Similar to switching over to solar power, it feels like a no brainer for many people… Have a similar experience, save money, and support a healthier environment? Why wouldn’t you get on board?

As a company obsessed with moving towards a clean energy future (which includes clean transportation) this is one question we’ve spent some time thinking about. So, we sought out to discover the most common questions and misconceptions people may have when considering an electric car…

Electric Vehicles on display at the SunCommon SunCarnival

Are there good incentives available for EVs?

Yes! As state and federal governments want to encourage the switch to electric cars, there are a variety of incentives available to car buyers. These incentives significantly changed with the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. The Federal tax credit can still be up to $7,500, but there are new criteria that auto manufacturers need to meet in order for their EVs to apply. 

The $7,500 Federal tax credit is broken up into two halves:

  • The first $3,750 is applicable for vehicles whose “final assembly” takes place in North America. Only a handful of EV’s currently comply with that requirement, but many manufacturers are already in the process of opening new North American facilities.
  • The second $3,750 is available based on the source location for the minerals used in the electric battery. The incentive is only available for specific US trade partners and is not available for minerals from specific “foreign entities of concern.”

What you may notice is that this criteria is not fixed. It will change over time as auto manufacturers shift their operations to comply with these incentives. It will be important to do your research before buying a car to make sure your EV is applicable for these incentives.

In addition to the Federal EV incentive, many states also have an incentive available based on income bracket. Lastly, many utility companies offer an additional incentive available to ratepayers. So there are significant savings available to help get people into an EV. As an example, your writer (hello!) saved over $15,000 off the MSRP when getting into a brand new Nissan Leaf at the end of 2019. With all of these incentives, the payment plan for this car was one of the best deals around. But these incentives won’t be around forever, so now is a good time to take advantage of them while they’re here. (Plug-in America has a great map to show all the available incentives).

electric-vehicle-parking-and-charging-spot

What is the average distance you can drive on one charge?

Well, the short answer is that it depends on your car. The majority of new electric vehicles available today have a range over 200 miles which is an improvement over earlier models of EVs. While this doesn’t match the range of a gas tank, the average person in the US drives about 40-50 miles a day. So if you have an EV charger at home (recommended) you’ll have plenty of mileage to get where you need to go. And with minimal planning, you can easily stop at one of the many public chargers to extend your driving range.

What is the maintenance for an EV?

The short answer is, not much! There are fewer moving parts in an EV since there’s no internal combustion engine. That means no oil changes, spark plugs, fuel pumps, or exhaust systems. Recent studies show costs can be 35% less than a traditional internal combustion engine. That can add up to big savings over the life of the car! 

Is it more expensive to pay for electricity than gas for electric cars?

No way! Driving an electric car is consistently cheaper than filling up at the pump. It does however vary by state depending on the cost of gas and electricity where you’re charging. In general savings are between 25-50% when driving on electricity! Most people charge their EVs at home instead of at a public charging station to maximize their savings. However, public charging availability is also growing in availability for those who need it.

charging-electric-vehicles-in-the-snow

Are EVs good in the snow?

Yes! Scores of consumer reviews and show that electric vehicles handle very well in the snow. The difference is that they have a very low center of gravity due to the battery that spans the bottom of the car helping it stick to the road. Most of the available EVs right now are front wheel drive (except the Tesla AWD), so you won’t have the performance of an all wheel drive, but they still have above average performance in the snow.

Is there an all electric SUV or truck?

The two electric trucks that you now see on the road are the Rivian and the F-150 Lighting. These trucks are new to the roads in 2022, so you can get in line with a reservation.

electric-trucks-ev

So, are you ready to make your next car an EV? Many people say once they make the switch, they’d never go back. In fact, many individuals and some companies (SunCommon included!) have signed The Drive Electric Pledge! By signing this, we’ve pledged not to purchase or lease any more fossil fuel burning vehicles, whenever there is an electric alternative. Join us and sign the pledge, or check out the Sun Carnival and test drive some of the most popular EVs on the market!

Want to learn more about running on the sun?

Check out our Solar Canopy! Or, if you’ve already gone solar, why not add an EV charger?

Customer Experience Matters

suncommon solar home advisor with customer experience

When it comes to going solar, customer experience matters.

customer experience manager marlaina pointing at suncommon solar installation on roof

There are a lot of factors to weigh when deciding to go solar. From whether your property has a good solar profile, to the monthly cost, to your return on investment, it’s a decision that requires a thoughtful process. 

But once you decide to go for it, there’s one more essential step: choosing the best solar company to handle the job. That means getting to know your potential solar providers before you sign the contract so you can be sure they’ll be a good partner from day 1 and for years to come.

Here’s where SunCommon shines like a bright and cloudless sunny day: as a locally owned and operated company, we’ve built our business model on being not just a great installer of solar, but also a good neighbor, dedicated to the satisfaction of our clients.

So what does it take to give our customers an amazing solar experience?

Good communication is our first priority

At SunCommon, we never underestimate the critical role that good communication plays in ensuring that your project goes smoothly — and also in making it an exciting (and dare we say fun?) customer experience!

We set expectations upfront so that the sometimes-complex process of going solar is as clear as possible. At every stage of the project, we want our customers to know what has been completed and what’s coming next. (In fact, we hire our staff not just for their techie know-how, but also for their people skills!)

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

“From beginning to end, nothing but great service, professionalism and friendliness. Constant contact with what is happening — I was never in the dark.”

SunCommon Customer | Rhinebeck

Problem solving for the best answer

When you’re as passionate about your company’s mission as we are, everyone in the organization is committed to rolling up their sleeves to work for their customers. And it’s not always a cut-and-dry solution. Sometimes our technical knowledge and experience with financial incentives will do the trick, and other times we tap our ingenuity and perseverance to come up with the best solution.

👍

“SunCommon worked through some difficult situations with me and, in the meantime, were fighting to get an affordable loan.”

April D. | Burlington

suncommon solar installers

Integrity matters. Big time.

At SunCommon, we know our clients make decisions based on our expertise and the quality of the information we provide. That’s why we take our estimates very seriously and build our pricing models based only on historically relevant and geographically specific data. Some national companies use national data—but are utility rates in Texas relevant in New York or Vermont? Not likely!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

“I have been with this company for three years. I just reviewed the original estimates they gave me with my three years of bills. The estimates were right on target.”

SunCommon Customer | Delmar

solar homeowner

Commitment that doesn’t quit

Lastly, you want to work with a solar company that will help you out beyond “flipping the switch.” If a problem arises after your solar is up and running, SunCommon will be there for you. And whenever you want to expand your solar capacity or add battery backup, you’ll already have a great relationship with a responsive, helpful, friendly local business you trust.

When you’re a company that prioritizes the customer experience, it shows… especially on review sites like SolarReviews. And, modesty aside, we’ve shared a few testimonials (over 100 and counting) on our website.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

“We started with an 8kWh system in 2012 that took about 4 weeks and expanded it with a 5kWh system just finished in early 2014. The expansion took only 2 weeks because all of the wiring was already there, and the newer system was joined to the old system.”

Karen F. | Hudson

Here’s another great way to get a feel for who we are:

Talk to one of our expert Solar Advisors! We’re always happy to answer your toughest questions and work hard to achieve your solar aspirations. Ready, set, go solar!

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
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 Metal
Solar can only be installed on this surface when certain conditions are met. Please get in touch with us before selecting corrugated metal and we’ll discuss options that can accommodate solar. 

Tesla Solar Roof
A seamless design choice that uses solar shingles as roofing material. 

Electrical

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.

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.

Solar for Farms is a Cash Crop

Lowland Farm Solar Customer - solar for farms

Solar for Farms is a Cash Crop

Between state and federal incentives, and the ability to offset rising utility costs, there are many outstanding financial reasons for installing solar at your commercial farm. Not to mention: climate change and its effect on weather are heavily impacting farms, so taking steps to reduce our carbon impact (like going solar) is critical for all of us depending on healthy farms and a healthy planet.

Starting with the financials

A typical for-profit farm is eligible for a 30% federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) plus depreciation. That depreciation can be taken over time or all in one year, which gives farms with solar some good financial flexibility.

What does that mean in terms of dollars and cents? Almost half of the cost of installing a commercial solar system is covered by tax credits, incentives, and depreciation. In addition, through net metering, farms with solar can “bank” excess electricity produced by their solar panels as credits on their utility bill to use during times when the sun isn’t shining, or if there’s snow covering the panels. All in all, the payback timeline on a commercial solar system ranges from 5 to 10 years. After that, you’ve got free electricity for the life of the solar system.

Non-profit farms also have options for using solar power to lock in their current and future energy costs. With a special CPACE loan, farm owners can borrow off their property value, so there is no out-of-pocket expense to implement solar.

The power of community

The financial benefits of farms with solar don’t need to stop at the farm. “Remote crediting” is a relatively recent development whereby excess solar power that is not used by the farm can be assigned to other power consumers on the same utility, such as employees or neighbors.


“As dairy farmers, it’s very important for us to budget our expenses to remain a viable business. When the CSA program at SunCommon was created, we knew we had found a great fit. By hosting a CSA, we have secured predictable, constant electricity rates for our farm and also developed a new form of the working landscape.” 

— Mark Magnan, Magnan Brothers Dairy

 

Scaling up from there, farms with excess or unused property can host a community solar array (CSA), which is a big-return investment. Depending on the size of the array, community solar installations can generate power for the farm’s own use plus the use of up to 50 additional homes. That can provide a substantial and predictable stream of income for farm owners.

Truly Sustainable Agriculture

Going organic and implementing sustainable soil and water practices are important to many farms’ sustainability plans. But if you’re not factoring in energy use as a part of your overall environmental strategy, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle. We’ve already talked about the financial side, so now let’s consider the less-quantifiable benefits of going solar.

These days, customers care about sustainability, and they’ll feel good supporting businesses that share their values. Having a publicly visible commitment to clean energy in the form of an onsite solar system isn’t just good for PR and social media, it can be a draw for visitors. Many of our solar customers report that the addition of shaded picnic areas beneath solar canopies, solar powered EV charging stations, and even just plain old panels on the roof have had positive impacts on farm visits and store sales.

Reap the Rewards of Commercial Solar

Many of our customers call the decision to install solar for farms a no-brainer — especially those partnering with Organic Valley. Organic Valley has offered their co-op member farmers the opportunity to solarize their barn roofs at no upfront cost and with zero debt, pus the benefit of savings on their electric bill. We’d call that a no-brainer, too!

organic valley co-op choiniere dairy farm in vermont

Have we planted a seed of interest?
Give a Solar Advisor a call today!

Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Waitsfield Goes Solar with SunCommon

Introducing the “Sunshine Canopy” at Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Waitsfield

We’re proud to help businesses find solar solutions that work for them.

The largest Solar Canopy in the state of Vermont is now complete at the company’s Brewery and Taproom in Waitsfield, Vermont.

“From the beginning we set out to be the finest, source the best ingredients, invest in state-of-the-art equipment, brew the best beer possible and cultivate healthy, vibrant communities. That’s why our efforts in sustainability and striving to offset our brewery’s utility bill through renewable energy are so important to us.”

Sean Lawson, CEO and Founding Brewer at Lawson’s Finest Liquids

The “Sunshine Canopy” produces enough energy to power 50% of Lawson’s Waitsfield operations — equal to the brewing and pouring of up to 2,834,590 beers a year, or 7,766 a DAY!

Check out the full story here.

Ready to go solar at your business?

495 panels

System Size

$44,500 per year

Annual Savings

240,000 kWh

Est. Annual Energy Production

2,818

Equivalent Number of Trees Planted Annually

suncommon employee in front of lawson's finest solar canopy

The program is currently accepting new Organic Valley farmers to join the clean energy revolution!

Not an Organic Valley Farmer? We help dozens of farms go solar every year, whether they are part of a bigger cooperative or not.

Get in touch to find out how solar can work for your business:

What Are B Corporations, and Why Are They Important?

What Are B Corporations, and Why Are They Important?

SunCommon Tree Planting Day 2021

When it comes to the important purchases in our lives, we’ve never had more options to select from. Should you make your choice based on price? Quality? Customer reviews? Or perhaps the company behind the product is just as important to consider. Many businesses exist solely to make a profit, while others are established to also create a positive social or environmental impact. One way to know how a company stacks up is through third party certifications — like the stamp of a Certified B Corporation.

Certified B Corporation Logo with sparkle

How does a company become a B Corp?

Becoming a Certified B Corporation entails a rigorous evaluation process, administered by the non-profit B Lab, in which companies must showcase their business impact in five key areas: environment, workers, community impact, company governance, and customers. B Corps are also obligated to be accountable to and create benefit for all stakeholders — not just shareholders.

SunCommon was created with the purpose of addressing the climate crisis by breaking down the barriers to clean energy, and we’ve been a Certified B Corp from the very start. While Certified B Corps must score at least 80 out of 200 on B Lab’s annual assessment, and the median score is an 84, SunCommon scored 106.1 in our most recent certification!

Every decision is an opportunity to live our values.

Obtaining B Corp status also requires that businesses honor a triple-bottom-line commitment to people (employees, customers, and communities), planet (we focus on our proud local roots in both New York and Vermont, as well as the world at large as we work to combat climate change), and profit. In other words, this commitment ensures that profits are not valued above people or planet.

We believes that every business decision is an opportunity to live these values. For example, when needing to buy new company cars, we committed to buying electric vehicles whenever possible, and when we source our materials, we focus as much as we can on local vendors (in order to reduce our carbon footprint) as well as on vendors who share our commitment to environmental and social justice.

Chevy Bolt Under Solar Canopy

As you can see, the B Corp stamp represents much more than just providing quality products or exceptional service; any company can buy and sell things, but a B Corp certification requires that companies bring immense care into every aspect of their work. So while reading customer reviews and making sure you’re getting a quality product are certainly good ideas, choosing a Certified B Corp means you’re also making a positive impact in the world by voting with your dollar.


If going solar with a Certified B Corporation sounds good to you, give us a shout! We’ll answer any questions and then start rolling up our sleeves for you right away.