It’s Easy to Lower Energy Bills – Insulate!

BuilderLiveI continue to be amazed at tradeshows how attracted attendees are to photovoltaic (PV) products. It is admittedly an exciting technology and I saw this again at the Greenbuild and the International Builders’ Shows.  At this past IBS show, our Builders’ Resource Center answered many questions on many topics but clearly the most interest was again regarding integrated photovoltaic roofing and PV panels.

I guess what I find so amazing is how much time people will dedicate to evaluating the return on investment (ROI) for PV while remaining so unwilling to spend even a little effort going after low hanging fruit that might not be as exciting or visible. PV can be a good investment for many folks but it could be a great investment if they improved their baseline consumption first.

Insulate, tighten up that ductwork and envelope while ensuring proper fresh air and then the same PV investment can go from providing say 50 percent of your power needs to providing 75 percent. There’s an old African proverb that says: “if you want to go fast go alone but if you want to go far go together.” Nothing could be truer in a situation such as this. Every little effort you make can combine to have an impact greater than the sum of the parts.

Another thing I often hear during trade show discussions about solar is that folks are going to wait a little longer until they get into the PV roofing (they have a new roof they don’t want to disturb just yet, they are waiting for the right client to force their hand, they heard that prices are going to keep dropping as more folks get into it, etc…). I understand. It’s not a small investment and so it should be done with prudence.

But…. adding insulation and improving the building envelope need not wait. Material prices for these types of products are near historic lows and labor is trained, willing, and eager to do the job. You will begin saving money on your energy bill immediately and perhaps your new cash flow properties will actually allow you to get that super sexy solar even sooner.

 

Comments
  • The “green” ROI (for those people that actually care about ROI in this sense), the effectiveness has always been (in the order of diminishing return) insulation -> solar water heating -> more efficient lighting -> solar PV
    I wonder if you guys are seeing new technologies coming to the market that might pull the solar PV from the very end of that list closer to the front? Would you say the improvement would come sooner from the “Investment” parts of the equation (i.e. prices are coming down for both product and installation) or the “Return” side of it – more efficient generation or perhaps more features, such as PV roof shingles and so forth?

    I can kinda-sorta see the prices coming down at somewhat predictable pace but how do you account for new technology? In other words, do we know that there won’t be a more efficient technology available in 5 years which would make the investment in today’s technology an imprudent one? I mean, if you delayed an iPod purchase for 5 years, you would have gotten something that’s 100 times more capable and still a bit cheaper. So, do you think there’s this kind of anxiety of anticipating something new and better every year that we now associate with all things electronics that may also be holding PV back?

    Thanks!

    • I think your question is on a lot of people’s minds and it is certainly a fast moving target so I asked one of our industry leading experts, Mr. Mark Stancroff, Director, CertainTeed Solar Business, how he felt about this. Mark’s response to your question was this; “The biggest thing to remember is that currently there are significant incentives (tax credits, state/utility rebates) in place to make solar affordable. As the technology improves and solar becomes more efficient / economical, the rebates offered decrease. So in the world of solar, waiting doesn’t necessarily provide any economic benefit since if the price of solar decreases over 5 years, the corresponding rebates/credits will most likely decrease also, leaving the net cost of solar to the homeowner the same.” Based on my life experience that rings pretty true.

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