Ask Eartha: What is there to consider when installing solar? | SummitDaily.com

Ask Eartha: What is there to consider when installing solar?

Eartha Steward
Ask Eartha

Dear Eartha,

I'm considering installing solar on my home in Silverthorne. What things should I consider as I head down this road?

-Brad, Silverthorne

Brad, thank you for your question this week.

In recent years, we've seen a steep increase in residential solar photovoltaic installations across the nation. While solar photovoltaic systems have come down in price and market dynamics naturally continue to favor renewable energy, it can still be a big step to invest in a solar system at your home.

Summit County poses unique challenges as well as advantages to on-site electricity production at your home. Longer, snowy winters can pose a unique challenge to engineering systems for snow loads and wind. The additional factor of potentially needing to clear snow loads off your solar system is certainly something to consider. Some of our local High Country solar contractors may suggest that our colder climate helps to ensure systems don't overheat which can lead to a loss in system efficiency and durability.

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In our unique Summit County environment, our energy expenditures fall heavily within the realm of heating during the winter months. For many utility customers however, this winter-time energy expenditure is in the form of gas for running boilers, furnaces or other combustion-operated heating appliances. For the most part, our winter-time energy expenditure is billed to us in the unit of therms, rather than kWh (electricity). This is one reason why going solar may make immediate sense for your friends, but oftentimes comes along after the building's efficiency has been maximized.

Before pursuing a new solar installation for your mountain home, we suggest taking a deeper look at the current energy efficiencies at play in your home. For this reason, when customers call us with questions regarding solar, we often steer them toward receiving a comprehensive energy assessment of their property first. While solar can help reduce your monthly electric bill, it should be looked at as a secondary measure, after first addressing how efficiently your home retains its heat, or conserves the electricity it currently consumes.

Fortunately for us in Summit County, we have some of the best local solar contractors who are truly versed in the specific conditions of our environment. On Sept. 13, HC3 will be hosting a free 'Know Before You Go' solar workshop at the Frisco Community Senior Center from 5:30-7 p.m. Attendees will be educated on various solar programs available locally, solar myths and will offer opportunities to have any additional questions answered. If you're unable to make the educational workshop, please contact HC3 with all your home energy questions. We look forward to helping more Summit County residents pursue clean renewable energy at their mountain homes.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at info@highcountryconservation.org.