Roofing job qualifies for 30% federal solar tax credit

Here’s a helpful fact: in the United States, the part of a roofing job affected by the solar installation qualifies for the 30% tax credit – if it’s done as part of the same project!

This means that a big chunk of the roofing job will get a heavy 30% discount if done as one project!

Note that this is a tax credit, which means that you have to earn enough income to pay enough taxes to get the credit on those taxes.


Received initial solar project estimates

Here is the initial estimate I got from a solar marketplace people.

Instead of dealing directly with installers, I am trying out which runs a marketplace. They collect my project information, send it out to installers to bid on, and make recommendations to me, then follow through to make sure I’m happy. They get paid a referral fee from whichever vendor I choose. So far they seem helpful and above-board.

This system they put together is designed to have me pay $0 in electricity including 100% of electric car charging.  Here are the estimates:


The best estimate so far is $13k but they expect the bids to come in at $11k. (Prices have been plummeting on solar.)

What is the cost savings?

At this cost, the break-even point for this project is 6.5-7 years.  The total savings over 25 years is indicated above to be $62,190, accounting for a 5% annual increase in electricity costs from the utility company (which may be a tad aggressive).

How does this affect home value?

Aside from the energy savings, solar directly is said to adds to a house’s value. A quick Google search says a 5kW system such as mine adds nearly $30k of value to a home. That’s roughly 250% ROI on capital improvement alone, before we even start saving on electricity and gas! This is also notable, because most home improvements have negative ROI.

See also: Adding solar increases your house value

System design

Here is what the initial system design looked like, with 20 panels spread across three planes of our roof:


• The 9 southeast panels in the photo should generate 315 kWh/month, but this is the less valuable morning energy. The 8 southwest panels collect 286 kWh/month of the more valuable afternoon and early evening sunlight. You get more credit from PG&E for feeding energy into the grid at this time.

• The 3 northeast panels in the photo are not high ROI and we’re not recommended.  They were there to accommodate a greater electric car commute distance than I’m actually doing.  We took them out of the bid.

• Solar systems are normally warranted for 25 years and have an expected 30 year life. They are said to be reliable and low-maintenance.

• Solar panels seem almost too good to be true.  Are there any downstream costs?  The main future hidden cost that I learned is when you eventually need a new roof.  Extra labor will be involved in removing and re-installing the panels when replacing the roof. I read that some installers provide a one time allowance for this, doing the job for $500.

• We indeed do need a new roof. Many solar installers can take care of that, or subcontract that as part of the deal. (Many solar installers started off as roofers.)  I requested this as part of the bid from solar companies and may complement this with other bid from roofing-only companies.


Excursions into Electricity

I am looking into getting both rooftop solar and an electric car!

This was inevitable for me — I’d been thinking about it for years and waiting for the right time.  But it catalyzed by an desire to take back a bit of control after an out-of-control election year.

I’m also hoping to cash in on 30% federal incentives on solar installation, and $7,500 federal incentives on efficient cars, plus $2,500 from California, where I live.  Our president-elect denies the reality of climate change and is looking like an opponent of anything that will catalyze transition to cleaner fuel and transport.  I want to try and get in while the going is good.  

Why this blog?

I’m learning a lot in the process of researching electric cars and rooftop solar, from the perspective of a homeowner in the San Francisco Bay area.  All this stuff is pretty new and I had a lot of basic questions — questions I get from friends when we discuss it.  I thought I would capture my learnings for the benefit of old and new friends who have the same interest.

First question: BMW i3?  The brand new Chevy Bolt?  Used Tesla S?  Or wait for the Tesla 3? I think I have decided…