Homeowners who want to go solar will soon have a new option: Integrating leased solar panels into their roofing when building a new home or putting on a new roof. At no cost.
OneRoof Energy is launching its service in California next week, with plans to expand to Hawaii and New Jersey before the end of the year, and then on to Arizona, Colorado and many Northeastern states in the months after that. The Daily Green spoke to CEO David Field about the new venture, and what it means for homeowners considering going solar.
In several ways, OneRoof Energy is similar to other solar leasing companies, like Solar City, SunRun, Sungevity and One Block Off the Grid. Each pockets the lucrative national, state and local incentives for buying home solar technology, and in exchange offer homeowners a zero- or low-cost installation. Homeowners save thousands in upfront costs, and the monthly cost of leasing the solar array should be less than the money saved on the homeowner's electric bill. Maintenance is typically covered.
The company is also similar to the others in that it will be focusing its offerings in states with strong solar incentives.
> Related: Solar Leasing: Pro and Con
OneRoof Energy is different because it installs solar panels when a roof is being built or rebuilt, which has several benefits, according to Field:
Homeowners are already investing in a new roof when they come to OneRoof Energy, and as long as the homeowner works with a partnering roofer, there's little extra hassle. Because OneRoof Energy's partners train roofers, the installation cost is also less because roofing labor costs less than electrical labor.
OneRoof Energy works with building-integrated solar panels, which blend in with the roof. Many find them more attractive than solar panels mounted on an existing roof.
OneRoof Energy has partnered with CertainTeed, which manufactures the roofing materials for about one-quarter of all roofs installed in the U.S. The solar panel warranties will be backed by CertainTeed as well as OneRoof Energy. (Warranties are 15 years for the roof, 20 for the solar system.) All solar leasing companies have sprung up in just the last couple years in response to government incentives, so homeowners wary that their solar leasing company will still be in business as their warranties mature might find comfort in the more-established company's backing. Plus, the warranty covers a larger area of the roof against leakage. "Part of what we're selling is credibility," Field said.
One downside for homeowners considering all options is the higher cost of building-integrated solar panels relative to roof-mounted solar arrays. Field concedes that building-integrated panels cost about 7% more; because homeowners are paying off the cost with a monthly lease, they'll save less each month. OneRoof Energy's plan to save money on installation costs, however, minimizes the discrepancy, Field said, and homeowners will still save money if their homes have roofs well-situated to take advantage of the sun's energy. With the advantages the strategy offers in convenience, economics and aesthetics, Field thinks he has a winning argument.
"If we can't save you five percent," he said, "we won't sell you a lease."
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