Tapping Into the Sun at Home: Residential Solar Benefits, ROI, Installation, and Upkeep

Home Solar Panel System

Solar panels convert light from the sun into electricity. They are used to charge remote power systems, operate telecommunications equipment, and keep homes and businesses running. Although a solar array requires a substantial initial investment, solar panels are an energy-efficient upgrade that have many benefits, including major cost savings that can make the array worthwhile. At one time, these systems were an uncommon feature on homes and businesses. Today, they can be found on structures around the country, in all climates and regions.

Solar systems are popular due to their energy efficiency, money savings, high value to property buyers, and the tax rebates that make them more affordable. Homeowners and business owners interested in adding solar panels to their property have a lot of information to consider before moving forward, such as system cost, leasing versus buying, system longevity, and return on investment.

Standard solar array systems last 20 years or longer with proper maintenance. Therefore, it is critical for those interested in solar panels to learn as much as they can before making their final decisions.

 

The History of Solar

People have been using energy from the sun to improve quality of life for thousands of years. In the 3rd century BCE, Greeks and Romans used light reflected off burning mirrors to ignite torches during sacred ceremonies. Greek legend tells a story of a scientist named Archimedes who set fire to enemy ships by reflecting sunlight off bronze shields and focusing energy beams on the wooden structures.

Photoconductors were discovered in the 19th century, and by the late 1800s, materials that could generate electricity when exposed to sunlight were discovered. While these primitive solar cells were different from present technology, these discoveries paved the way for modern solar energy systems that power today’s homes and businesses.

The next leap in solar technology came in the early part of the 20th century when Einstein published a paper on the effects of light and how it carries energy. In the 1950s and 60s, scientists used solar energy to power certain systems on spacecrafts. Later, this same technology was converted into more everyday uses. The energy crisis of the 1970s forced scientists to explore new potential energy sources. Solar panels were installed on the roof of the White House, but at that time, solar was highly inefficient. Groups like energy providers began investing in solar research to determine if this type of energy could be improved.

It’s estimated that the first solar panels operated at 1% efficiency and produced electricity at a cost of approximately $300 per watt. Those statistics changed dramatically as scientists found ways to improve solar energy. Today, solar power can be generated at a cost of approximately $0.50 per watt. While this is much better than earlier versions of the technology, most solar panels operate between 15% and 18% efficiency. There is still room for improvement, and the technology continues to progress.

Advantages of Solar

 

Reasons to Get Solar Panels

 

There are so many advantages to solar power that for many homeowners and business owners, installation of a system is an obvious choice. In addition to energy efficiency and money savings for property owners, solar panel installation can be a display of a company’s dedication to eco-friendly construction for those who want to attract clientele that prioritize eco-friendly businesses.

For homeowners, installing solar panels can raise property values and make the house overall more attractive to buyers seeking an energy-efficient house. Some homeowners also value solar panels because they want energy independence, which allows them to not have to rely on the services provided by standard utility companies.

 

Save or Eliminate Energy Costs

One of the first and foremost reasons that property owners choose to install solar panels in their home is because they’re seeking energy savings. Solar power, generated by the sun, is in theory completely free — after the solar panels have been purchased and installed.

However, some property owners choose to lease their system rather than purchase it. In this case, energy savings depends on a variety of factors, including the structure’s energy consumption, size of the solar energy system, whether the system is leased or purchased, direct hours of daily sunlight, size, and angle to the roof and local electricity rates.

 

Increase in Property Value

Return on investment is another common reason that property owners choose to install solar panels. Structures that are inherently energy efficient often sell for more money than structures that are older and less energy efficient. Solar panels are viewed as an upgrade, with a standard return on investment of about $15,000. However, ROI can vary based on factors like the age, cost of the system, size, and so on.

Tax Credits and Rebates

Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is the federal solar tax credit that allows both residential and commercial property owners to deduct 26% of the cost of their solar panel installation from their federal taxes in 2020. This federal tax credit was originally instituted in 2005, set to expire in 2007. It has been extended several times since, and is currently set to expire in 2021. While the tax credit may be extended again, there is no guarantee.

The ITC only applies to property owners who own their solar system. However, other tax credits and rebates may apply on the state or local level.

 

Solar is Universal

Solar power is universal because even those living in low-light areas can take advantage of solar power. Those seeking solar panels do not have to be located in areas where the sun shines frequently. Solar energy systems can be installed and be effective in parts of the country where regular rainstorms are common.

When installing an effective solar energy system, the most important thing for people to remember is to ensure the system is properly positioned to absorb solar energy. Solar panels must be placed in high-light parts of the property, away from trees and objects in the landscape that could block the system from the sun.

 

Potential Drawbacks of Solar Power

In general, there are more advantages of solar power than disadvantages. However, it is important to understand that solar power is not the right option for every property or every owner. Before deciding if solar power is right for them, people should know the potential challenges associated with solar power, and have an understanding of their own goals associated with getting a solar power system.

 

Solar Panels Have High Upfront Costs

Solar power has always been expensive, although systems become more affordable over time. The current average price to install solar panels is about $19,000 before the federal tax credit.

Some people are able to manage this high up-front cost by leasing a system, although leasing has its own disadvantages. As already stated, ownership of the system is what qualifies the homeowner for the federal tax credit. Leasing locks the homeowner into a regular monthly payment, often for the life of the solar system.

 

Solar Panels Aren’t Compatible With Every Rooftop

Most modern homes can accommodate solar panels. However, sometimes the material the rooftop is made from, and sometimes the structure of the house itself, is incompatible with solar panels. This is often true of older and historic homes. Historic Preservation Review Boards sometimes prevent the addition of solar panels if they are prominently displayed, while other review boards make concessions for these structural additions.

Solar panels can be installed on slate, clay, and wood rooftop shingles. However, the mounting method must be adapted for the type of roofing material the system is being installed on. Rooftops that are in poor condition may need to be repaired before solar panels can be installed. Weakened slate, for example, can be broken during the installation process.

 

Solar Panels Take Time to Reflect Their Savings

Because of the cost of solar panels and their installation, people who buy their system may wait about 7.5 years before they see a payback. Additionally, if someone chooses to install a solar system on their home and then moves before they start to see savings, they may not recover their money.

 

Finding and Comparing Solar Contractors Can Be Difficult

In some areas, solar contractors pop up frequently and disappear as quickly. Often, offers from contractors differ dramatically. Some contractors offer leased systems only, others may only sell, and still other contractors may have a mixture of packages for homeowners. Financing options make the process of choosing a contractor even more complicated, because payment terms may vary from one contractor to the next. These factors make comparing offers and systems challenging.

Some tips for finding a reputable contractor include:

  • Know the licensing requirements in your state and ensure the solar contractor you choose meets those requirements.
  • Meet with multiple contractors to compare bids.
  • Get references from satisfied customers.
  • Use online tools and resources to compare bids and make the process easier.

Planning a Solar Electric System

 

Home Solar Panel Research and Planning

 

Before installing a solar electric system, it’s important for people to plan properly, do their research, meet with contractors, and compare bids before committing to a system. They should know the questions they should be asking contractors, and familiarize themselves with the process so that they can be fully prepared in advance.

 

What Is the Home’s Current Energy Usage and Needs?

During the evaluation process, solar contractors will need to know how much energy a home uses in an average month. Because energy usage may vary throughout the year, contractors may ask to see the owner’s utility bills for the last year to see how energy usage fluctuates.

An energy audit can also be performed to assess a home’s energy usage. An energy auditor will suggest changes that the owner can make to reduce how much energy their home or property uses. Changes made to a home’s energy usage just before installing a solar panel system can change the solar system’s needs. Solar contractors fit the system to the needs of the house, so homeowners should talk about any changes they’re planning to make to their home that may reduce their home’s energy usage. If someone is trying to save money on their system, they may choose to make changes to their home’s energy efficiency before installing a solar system.

If possible, homeowners should plan to make these changes a full year before meeting with solar installation contractors. Making these changes early will ensure that the full effects of energy-reducing changes can be reflected in their utility bills, which in turn will give their solar panel installation contractor a tool that can help them gauge the best system for the home.

 

Does the Home Have the Potential for Solar?

Not all homes are a good fit for solar power. While it’s true that this type of power can be used in nearly all regions of the country, if the property is located in the woods or surrounded by trees, then the constant shade may reduce the effectiveness of the solar system just enough that the cost is not worth the price.

 

Age and Condition of Roof

Roofing materials have a service life. Therefore, if a roof is old enough that it should be replaced soon, a solar panel installation contractor may suggest replacing the roof before installing solar panels. Additionally, the panels will need to be moved for repairs and re-roofing projects, which can increase the cost.

 

HOA Restrictions

Homeowner associations and historic preservation societies often place restrictions on alterations to properties that may affect the appearance of the home. Those unfamiliar with their local HOA’s restrictions on solar should read their contract or agreement before meeting with installation contractors.

 

Nearby Structures and Landscape Features that Shade the Roof

Landscaping features and large structures or objects that block the path of the sun can prevent solar panels from being effective. For large properties with areas of intense sunlight set away from the house, people may also install panels on the ground.

 

What Are the Options for Using Solar?

Solar is not a one-size-fits-all fixture. Community and shared solar, solar leases, power purchase agreements, and solarize programs are all options for homeowners and businesses to consider.

 

Solar Lease

Leasing is one of the most common alternatives to purchasing a solar energy system. A solar lease is an agreement that exists between a solar contractor and a property owner. The contractor owns and maintains the solar system, and the property owner pays the contractor for the use of the system.

Solar leases are not a way to save money on energy, because the lease incurs a monthly cost, just like a utility bill. However, homeowners who are only interested in clean energy and who are not so interested in energy savings often turn to solar leases. Some homeowners prefer the lease rather than an outright purchase because system maintenance is included in the cost of most leases.

Leasing can complicate the home selling process because the home buyer must want the lease and be approved to take over the lease. Some home buyers would not be interested in leasing a solar system, while other home buyers may not be approved.

 

Power Purchase Agreement

A power purchase agreement (PPA) is an arrangement wherein a solar company installs an array on a property at no cost to the homeowner, and the homeowner purchases power from the array for less than the going rate for electricity from the power grid. The contractor maintains ownership of the solar array and performs all maintenance of the system.

While this type of arrangement is similar to leasing, it is not the same. For example, in a solar leasing situation, the property owner pays a fixed rate to rent the array from the solar leasing company. In a PPA, the property owner pays for energy itself, which can fluctuate based on the property owner’s lifestyle, technology needs, number of people in the household, and so on.

 

Shared/Community Solar

A shared solar array is a single array that serves several homes or buildings. Shared solar is often considered for homeowners and property owners who want solar, but who are unable to install it on their home.

Sometimes, people turn to shared/community solar because purchasing a single system is unaffordable. Often, property owners turn to shared/community solar because they do not have an appropriate rooftop for an array. Shared or community solar may be a purchased or leased system; agreements are flexible based on the needs of the property owners.

 

Solarize

Solarize programs are sometimes confused with shared and community solar, but there are significant differences. Whereas a community solar program consists of multiple property owners sharing one system, solarize programs allow homeowners or property owners in a community to enter into an agreement with one company to install solar panels on their rooftops, and as a result, get a bulk rate.

Solarize programs usually kick off with a campaign from the solar company. During the campaign, the company educates homeowners in the community about the benefits of solar power and how a solarize system can help them. At the end of the campaign, homeowners who are signed up get their solar array. The more homeowners who participate in the program, the deeper the discount.

 

Which Bids and Site Assessments Are Available from Solar Installers?

In recent years, solar contractors have become far more common, which can make selecting a proper contractor difficult. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners certifies contractors. This certification gives property owners a way to measure the qualifications of the contractor they’d like to hire.

The NABCEP has established a code of ethics and standard of conduct to ensure that solar contractors engage in ethical and professional practices. Homeowners who hire contractors certified by the NABCEP can report violations and complaints to the board, which in turn can investigate claims and take disciplinary action if needed. The NABCEP has a search function on its website to enable homeowners to find board-certified contractors. Homeowners reviewing bids from contractors should be aware that all agreements with solar contractors are required to state the maximum generating capacity of the system being installed.

 

Are There Any Financial Incentives Available?

Small solar energy systems are eligible for a varying federal tax credit through December 31, 2021, but leases and power-purchase agreements are excluded. Other financial incentives vary by state.

To find out what the solar incentives are in each state, people may contact their state’s department or agency of energy, or look up their incentives online. While some sources may publish a national compilation of incentives state by state, the best way to get the most accurate information is to contact a state’s energy authority.

 

How Will People Work With Their Solar Panel Installer?

The installer will determine how many panels are required, where the panels should be installed, how the system should be oriented, what the tilt should be, how efficiently the system will convert energy, and what other electricity sources should remain available to power the home.

It is the homeowner’s or business owner’s job to review the contract, ensure the contractor is properly licensed and certified, and confirm that the cost of the system will fit their budget. It is also the homeowner’s or business owner’s job to produce all the information the contractor needs to verify that the solar array being installed will be adequate for the home’s needs.

 

Solar Panel Cleaning and Maintenance

 

Taking Proper Care of Solar Panels

 

Once the installation process is complete, it’s important for people to consider solar panel cleaning and maintenance. Cleaning a solar array may only be necessary in areas with heavy particulates in the air, and rain can sometimes be enough to naturally and safely do the work. People leasing a solar system should read their agreement with their contractor to find out whether their contractor will handle the maintenance.

 

How to Clean Solar Panels DIY

People who want to clean their own panels should only do so if it can be done safely. There are many contractors who will clean panels for a reasonable cost, and it is safer to hire someone who has experience and the proper safety equipment.

Before cleaning their panels, people should read the warranty or instructions that came with the panels to determine whether the panels require any special equipment or cleaning product. Next, people should consider sending a few pictures of the solar array to the contractor who installed them to determine whether a cleaning is even necessary. Most panels don’t need to be cleaned very often.

Those who decide to go forward with the cleaning process should not scratch or damage the glass in any way, as this will reduce the panel’s energy production. Unless otherwise directed by the instructions from the solar panel manufacturer, dish soap, warm water, and a soft sponge should be used to clean dirt from the panels. Isopropyl alcohol can help with any oils or sticky debris.

 

Solar Panel Cleaning Service

Cleaning services that specialize in solar array cleaning are equipped with the safety equipment and skills to clean and maintain rooftop units. Sometimes, installers can do this for an extra fee; if they cannot, people can contact one of these specialized companies to clean their array for them.

 

Consider If the Lease Includes Maintenance

Maintenance and cleaning may be an add-on option for leased solar panels. Some companies even include this service, while others only cover damages to the array.

 

Determine How Often the Solar Array Needs Cleaning

Solar panels don’t need to be cleaned as often as one might think. A contractor can inform someone how often their panels should be cleaned.

Solar panels should not be cleaned because some standard dirt or grit has accumulated there. They should only be cleaned under extraordinary circumstances (the panels have become exceptionally dirty for whatever reason), and the contractor believes cleaning is necessary to maintain functioning.

 

Maintenance Over Cleanliness

Solar panels have few moving parts, so most systems need little maintenance over the course of many decades. Unless the panels are installed incorrectly, they’re unlikely to need much repair. Sometimes, arrays can be damaged by hail, falling trees, and other debris carried on strong winds. Unless the system is hit by a fast-moving, devastating storm, it may be difficult to tell when something is damaged or broken. Electricity bills should be monitored, because the most obvious indication of a problem may be a sudden failure to produce energy.

The good news is that most of the time, solar arrays are often covered under good warranties. In fact, this is something else to look for when shopping for a solar array: a good warranty. Many warranties will cover the first 10 to 25 years, including the one part that’s most likely to break: the inverter. If something does go wrong, people should contact their installer as soon as possible to get more information about how to proceed.

 

Is Solar Worth the Investment?

With a positive impact on the environment, a good return on investment when it comes time to sell a home, and savings on energy bills throughout the year, solar offers many rewards to property owners who invest in them. However, solar doesn’t always make sense for everyone.

Once someone understands how solar works, what it takes to get a system installed in their home, and what the payment options are, they’ll be able to decide for themselves whether solar is a good option. They should take time to explore the benefits and the challenges of solar, and of course, find the right contractor for the job. Working with a reputable and knowledgeable professional can help make the experience of installing solar in a home or business worthwhile.

If you are a landowner, you may be interested in making money from a commercial solar farm. Learn how you can view your property’s solar worth for free here or read more about how solar farms can be a lucrative economic opportunity for landowners.

 

Article originally published at https://www.newjerseyrealestatenetwork.com/solar-panel-guide/.

 

LeakFREE® Roof Certifications: The Next Step in the Evolution of the Home Inspection Industry

Most people in the market to purchase a new home trust that a professional home inspector will perform a thorough evaluation of their potential new property. In fact, the majority of people are so used to the idea of home inspections that they seldom think twice about where the concept came from in the first place. 

 

The truth is home inspections, in their current form, are actually quite new to the real estate industry. Our modern understanding of the home inspection process has only been around for half a century at best. Before that, home buyers were very literally left on their own. 

 

So how did the home inspection process get its foundation in our modern world? And when it comes to more specific situations like roofing issues, what systems are in place to protect today’s home inspectors from negligence and liability cases?

 

 

How Professional Home Inspections Began

 

If you wanted to buy a home at any time period from the beginning of private property up until the past hundred years or so, you had little choice but to inspect the property yourself before paying the seller. Without a professional inspector, unless you were well-trained or experienced enough to notice minor details like faulty appliances or a damaged roof, you were simply out of luck. 

 

Later, when your appliances stopped working properly or the roof leaked at the very first rain, it was nobody’s fault but your own. In fact, the Romans had a term for it: Caveat Emptor, or “Let the Buyer Beware.”

 

This system stayed in place all the way up to the early 20th century, when buyers’ rights began to slowly take shape in the legal systems of civilized countries worldwide. Soon, professionals known as “home inspectors” began lending their services to real estate agents, buyers, sellers, and others involved in the sale of residential properties. But this popular new system was not developed fully until several important court cases helped define the industry as we know it today. 

 

 

Lingsch v. Savage

 

In 1962, a real estate broker sold a property “As Is” to a group of buyers. The property was in a state of disrepair, so much so that proper officials had placed the structure under condemnation. The buyers sued the real estate broker, saying they were led to believe the property was in “legal tenantable and properly repaired condition, as required by law.” This led to Lingsch v. Savage, a court case that determined that an “As Is” sale does not relieve real estate agents from their “duty” to have a full inspection performed on a property. 

 

 

Easton v. Strassburger

 

In 1984, a case called Easton v. Strassburger set a precedent for all states to look to in litigating disclosure cases related to home inspections. The reason the case was brought forth was simple: a homeowner sued her real estate broker when massive earth slides on her property destroyed part of her driveway and damaged the foundation of her home. The decision in the case cemented the Case Law that real estate brokers are responsible for investigating and disclosing any defects they discover in a property they list for sale – also known as Civil Code 2079. 

 

After Easton v. Strassburger, the home inspection profession began to resemble its modern-day form – however, there were too few practices standardized to establish what each home inspection should include. Associations like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) were created to publish standards of practice, but they were neither widely known nor strictly adhered to by real estate brokers. Instead, those brokers would use contractors or engineers for specific purposes, which eventually led to a far more decisive case in how home inspectors could legally operate: Wilson v. Century 21 GWR.

 

 

Wilson v. Century 21 GWR

 

After the Wilson family purchased a home in 1987, they discovered some severe foundation problems and sued the seller’s real estate brokerage for fraud. However, the defendants from Century 21 GWR argued that they had indeed used professionals to perform inspections and therefore should not be held responsible for the results of those inspections. The appellate judge ruled that real estate agents using professionals to conduct inspections for disclosure must ensure that the information they produce meets the requirements of Civil Code 2079, thus relieving sellers and selling agents of further duty with respect to those items of information. However, they were still liable for any items not inspected or disclosed by themselves or a professional, which led to Civil Code 1102.4 and the expanded use of home inspectors. 

 

 

The New Norm

 

These days, home inspections are performed in the vast majority of residential property sales. If you are a home inspector, you are most likely a very busy professional – an integral part of the real estate process. 

 

However, the case of Wilson v. Century 21 GWR created a serious legal burden for home inspectors, as they can now be held liable for errors and omissions in their inspections. Instead of Caveat Emptor, we now have Caveat Inspector: “You Inspect It, You Own It.”

 

It’s critical for home inspectors to remember that they are generalists. In other words, it’s their responsibility to “Refer and Defer” when they suspect there may be an issue with a property’s foundation, structure, roof, electrical, plumbing, or otherwise. 

 

Civil Code 1102.4 states clearly that “…the expert shall not be responsible for any items of information or parts thereof, other than those expressly set forth in the statement.” This means that home inspectors must be extremely careful about every word they write in a report and always defer to the experts when it comes to specific aspects of the inspection. In other words, if they see a structure that could collapse in the future but is standing strong at the time of inspection, they only need to say that it is currently standing in their report. If they see a roof that could possibly leak within a certain period of time, they only have to report that it is not currently leaking.

 

 

From Home Inspectors to Roof Inspectors

 

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there were very few home inspectors in the United States. When real estate agents and homebuyers wanted a thorough inspection, they would reach out to general contractors. One of those contractors was Les Watrous, who specialized in roofs and roofing structures. Watrous quickly realized that the inspection process was nowhere near as thorough as it should have been and often led to liability lawsuits for the inspectors involved. As home inspection associations formed and sent out their inspectors to provide reports, Watrous noticed that many inspectors neglected to bring ladders to inspect two-story buildings and instead referred out to inspectors in more appropriate trades to complete inspections. 

 

As the years went by, homebuyers began to complain about the roofing contractors they were referred to by their inspectors. Rather than a detailed inspection report, buyers would simply receive an estimate written on the back of a business card or letterhead. They felt that the roofing contractors were merely trying to sell them on future services instead of educating them on the true health of their roofs. 

 

Noticing this trend, Watrous decided to create a company that focused solely on providing roof inspections. In 1993, he formed a local company to meet buyers’ growing need for high-quality, detailed roof inspections. His goal was to set aside free estimates and instead work to educate buyers, sellers, and agents on the conditions of their roofs. His customers wanted assurance that their roofs were in proper shape, so he created a roof certification to provide the stamp of approval buyers so desperately wanted. This certification was designed to protect not only the buyers but also sellers and real estate agents who wanted certainty that the roof in question would be leak-free for a minimum of 2 years. The detailed report Watrous issued his customers acted as an unbiased evaluation of their roof system, enlightening the property owner as to exactly what was wrong with it and how to fix it. Then, when the time came to shop around for contractors, they could refer to their report with confidence and avoid being upsold. 

 

Providing the LeakFREE® certification as part of the roof inspection process gave further credibility to roof inspections. As he performed his inspections, Watrous would examine the interior of the house, the attic when accessible, the exterior perimeter of the house, and finally, the rooftop itself. If he noticed spots that were leaking or were likely to leak in the future, he took pictures and created detailed inspection reports so that buyers, sellers, and agents could fully understand what was wrong. The idea behind this practice was to create a report that had total transparency so that nobody could question its validity. Watrous found that in many instances, contractors would perform simple patchwork when, in reality, a complete roof replacement was necessary. With their report in hand, his customers could avoid being undersold by contractors who would only perform a fraction of the work required to ensure the roof was in the best possible condition. 

 

Ultimately, by creating the LeakFREE® certification, Watrous established a new industry altogether. 

 

 

The Establishment of the NRCIA

 

In 1995, Watrous noticed that reports from other contractors in his industry were still lacking in detail, professionalism, and quality. Thus, he took out a trademark for the National Roof Certification Association and sought to create an industry standard for roofing inspections similar to the standards for professionalism set by home inspection associations. 

 

In the year 2000, Watrous changed the name of his association to the National Roof Certification and Inspection Association (NRCIA) so as to avoid confusion with the National Roofing Contractors Association. In 2001, Watrous developed an inspection reporting software that set the standard for what a roof inspection should look like. As the industry leader in roof inspections and certifications, the NRCIA has played a major role in the evolution of the home inspection industry. The purpose of the NRCIA is to establish and maintain a standard of excellence for the roof inspection process that did not previously exist. When customers deal with an NRCIA-certified member, they always know what to expect: detail, professionalism, and quality. Members are able to use web-based inspection reporting software from their desktop PCs or mobile devices and issue LeakFREE® certifications as part of the proprietary system provided under NRCIA membership. 

 

Today, more and more buyers, mortgage underwriters, and homeowners insurance companies are requesting roof inspections that come with LeakFREE® certifications because they want assurance that roofs are not going to leak. When home inspectors refer out through the NRCIA, they are able to dramatically lower their risk for negligence lawsuits because they are referring to a professional association guaranteed to issue genuine, comprehensive inspection reports. Plus, roofing inspectors associated with the NRCIA are trained to be both transaction- and inspector-sensitive. This means that home inspectors will find peace of mind that the roofing system on the property they are responsible for inspecting will be in responsible, trustworthy hands. 

 

NRCIA certified roof inspectors perform in-depth inspections, examining interior walls, ceilings, attics, attached garages, perimeters, and rooftops for visual evidence of leaks and provide thoroughly written inspection reports. Then, they determine whether or not the roof in question has a likelihood of leaking within a given period of time, establishing a LeakFREE® certification for two to five years, depending on the state of the roof. 

 

As we move further into the 21st century, we may see even more developments in the home inspection industry. For now, we can all breathe easy knowing that trustworthy, talented professionals are available to ensure that properties everywhere are fully inspected for their safety and their value. And with associations like the NRCIA on their side, home inspectors can feel confident that every aspect of their inspections is thorough and professional – especially when it comes to the roof. However, if a home inspector does see a roofing red flag, they have the option of recommending a LeakFREE® roof certification for their customers’ properties. 

 

 

Join the NRCIA

 

Are you a home inspector interested in becoming a member of the NRCIA? Joining the NRCIA means gaining an increased competitive advantage and a new source of revenue for your business. Whether your goal is to perform roof inspections as part of a comprehensive home inspection package or simply as a standalone service, your membership with the NRCIA will naturally complement your position as a home inspection professional. All home inspectors qualify for Affiliate or Certified Roof Inspector membership levels with the NRCIA. 

 

 

NRCIA Certified Roof Inspectors

 

Becoming a member of the NRCIA is ideal for roofing contractors looking to add credibility to their businesses. Not only will you have the privilege of issuing LeakFREE® roof certifications for your customers, but you will also have access to many educational courses on NRCIA inspection procedures and protocols. Homebuyers believe that by choosing a roofing contractor who is a member of a professional association, they’ll be dealing with a skillful professional who is a master of their craft. Once you are a certified member of the NRCIA, you can even use our affiliate logo on your business website to guarantee the higher standards of service your customers expect. For more information on becoming an NRCIA Certified roof inspector, visit NRCIA.org. 

 

 

Curling Shingles – A Key Sign of Roof Aging

Asphalt based shingles have four layers. During the aging process the two asphalt layers begin to contract around the base mat layer. The base mat layer is commonly a fiberglass layer and will not shrink. As the asphalt layers contract they will pull on the mat layer causing it to pull away from the layer of shingle underneath giving the edge a curl look.

 

Typical curling looks like this with shingle roofs:

 

OR

 

It is rare to find curling in shingles younger than 12 years of age on a roof. If it does exist for young shingles, you may have a more serious problem than just the shingle. Curling in young shingles is commonly sourced from improper ventilation in the attic. Other causes include improper installation, poorly made shingle or even the wrong shingle type on your roof.

 

Curling with shingles older than 12 years of age is not uncommon, but it is a sign the shingle is in its second half of life. During the 2nd half of life, shingles deteriorate at an accelerating rate. Thus, it is a good idea to have your roof inspected by a certified inspector. Inspectors determine the remaining life of the roof membrane, identify potential or existing issues and provide guidance to the property owner of the next best set of steps to maintain roof integrity.

 

The National Roof Certification and Inspection Association trains and certifies roof inspectors across the country. If you wish to be placed in contact with a Certified Inspector, fill out this NRCIA Contact Form and a qualified inspector will reach out to you. 

 

Guide to Choosing a Professional Roofing Contractor

Having your roof repaired or replaced is a daunting endeavor. There will be four to six workers on your roof making noise and exposing your property to potential water intrusion if not conducted properly. The financial exposure is significant given the potential losses, and this is with homeowner’s insurance.

So how do you select a professional roofing contractor to minimize this risk and ensure that your roof project is executed in the best possible manner?

There are six key elements in selecting a professional roofing contractor.

 

Legal Name and Address

This is important for several reasons, primarily you need to know what is the legal name and address of the roofer that is responsible for your roof. This is required to validate their license and credentials. Furthermore, having the correct legal name provides the foundation of the financial exchanges between the parties. In addition, you need this information as it should match the third-party sources when you investigate this contractor’s legitimacy.

There are several indicators that the name is legitimate including letterhead, marketing materials, office location, and the next most important key element: insurance.

 

Insurance

Every professional roofing contractor will provide insurance documentation with their proposal. A standard Accord certificate of insurance is customarily presented without you having to ask. If you have to ask for the insurance certificate after receiving the proposal, you may want to exclude this contractor from the selection pool.

The two minimum insurance policies required include general liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Without either, the homeowner is liable for the respective claims associated with the property address if they arise.

 

License and Credentials

Most states in the US require roofing contractors to carry or obtain a license to perform construction work. In some states, it is a simple contractor’s license. A good ratio of states mandates the roofing contractor carry a specialty license to perform roofing work. Your roofing contractor should carry a license.

They should have TWO licenses. The first relates to construction, i.e. a contractor’s or roofer’s license as explained above. The second required license is a business license. For most states, it is referred to as a franchise license issued by the state’s Secretary of State; some states mandate this at the local level where a Commissioner of the Revenue issues business licenses. The key here is that your roofing contractor should provide copies of both licenses. The business license should match the legal name as explained above. Contractor licenses and specialty licenses are often issued to individuals and the state’s contractors license board will have a database to associate the individual with a company. 

Credentials go above and beyond licenses and demonstrate a higher level of professionalism with the company. Credentials include:

  * Certifications – such as those advocated by the NRCIA,
  * Safety Cards – OASHA 10 Hour Training and Fall Protection, 
  * Manufacturer’s Approval – required to issue manufacturer’s warranty for the materials,
  * Formal Degrees – engineering, construction 4-year institution or trade programs
  * Memberships – including membership in the National Roof Certification and Inspection Association 

 

Referrals

A fourth key element is referrals from prior customers. Many roofing contractors provide testimonials on their website and the better organizations will include an e-mail address from that customer. Thus, you have an opportunity to ask questions and get an idea of the level of conduct and outcomes related to past projects.

 

Warranty

It is common to receive two warranties when a roofing project is completed. The first comes from the manufacturer of the roof materials. Their warranty often extends to five years and on a limited basis beyond that period. The second warranty is for workmanship. This is the roofing contractor’s assurance that the labor cost associated with any callback is completely free. The best professionals include two communication contacts after the installation. The first is done 30 days after the install to verify no leaks. Customarily, the roofing contractor calls you and asks that you walk inside of the home looking for water stains or other indications of possible leaks. The second contact is physical and occurs after one year whereby the roofer stops at your home and walks around your property to inspect and look for any obvious issues that may have arisen during the prior twelve months.

The workmanship warranty customarily extends out for two years and with higher quality materials, five years. There are exceptions to workmanship which include storms, hail, or tornados. In this case, they are defined as winds over 80MPH or hail storms causing a certain size of the hailstone. But in general, the workmanship warranty covers all other incidents or issues on your roof.

 

Resolution Process

Finally, you want to know the process to resolve any issues that arise. The better roofing contractors want you to contact them and give them access to the roof so they may investigate and determine the source of the issue you identify. Many minor items can be addressed right then and thereby the inspector. For more significant issues, the contractor will want to have the opportunity to correct the defect in a period such as within seven days. 

For egregious issues or differences, many contracts between the homeowner and the roofing contractor allow for an independent assessment of the issue paid by the contractor. Often the third party opinion is the position taken by the roofing contractor. The more professional roofing contractors will absorb the associated cost of repairs or cures if the third-party investigator determines culpability on the contractor. However, if the third-party investigator determines it is an act of God or homeowner neglect, the contractor will extend a proposal to make repairs. 

In this case, many homeowners feel slighted or disagree with the results; thus, they feel the roofing contractor is still at fault. In this case, many roofing contractors will allow the homeowner to engage their inspector and get a determination from that third party. The key here is that the second outside inspector is paid by the homeowner and not the roofing professional. Depending on the results, determines the follow-up steps.

Overall, a professional roofing contractor stipulates these steps of action in the contract forcing both parties to behave in a preset fashion.

 

Summary

There are six key elements required before engaging a roofing contractor to perform services on your home. They include an understanding of the legal name and address of the company; presentation of insurance certificates and licenses. Furthermore, professional roofing contractors will extend a warranty, provide referrals and stipulate the process to address problems once the project is completed.

If you want to hire a professional roofing contractor, then consider an NRCIA approved professional or authorized contractor. If you need your home inspected, use one of our certified inspectors or forensic inspector.

 

Contact us here: NRCIA Contact Form.

 

Difference Between an Estimate and a Proposal

Many roofing contractors offer a ‘Free’ estimate for services to your roof. From the homeowner’s perspective, this is a price to perform the services they explain. However, estimates are just that; in accordance with Webster’s Dictionary, estimates are “an approximate calculation or judgment of the value, number, quantity, or extent of something”.

In general, you want an accurate assessment of what it will cost to perform the services and supply the materials to do the work on your roof. What you really want is called a ‘Proposal’.

There are two distinctly different methods to present the cost to perform roof repairs and replacements. One is an estimate, the other is a proposal. The following will succinctly explain the differences between the two.

Estimates

Estimates are a verbal communication of value to the homeowner. In addition, estimates have restrictions and include:

1) Nonbinding, in effect, no offer is rendered with the verbal conveyance of value; AND

2) The value is typically plus or minus 20% of the final price.

The key is that estimates can be delivered over the phone to the homeowner. Many professional roofing contractors simply look at Google Earth and confirm your home’s attributes (number of buildings, height, surface area and logistics) and can easily identify the number of squares of work involved. The best roofing professionals use other software tools such as EagleView to quantify requirements. From here, they can easily and quickly estimate how much to charge. Again, it is verbal, nonbinding and generally within 20% of the final actual dollar amount.

If you want the exact amount, then you need a proposal.

Proposals

Unlike estimates, proposals are written and require a physical visit to your property by an estimator. During the visit, the roofing professional will want to know your concerns and perform a physical evaluation of your roof. Modern day roofing contractors can prepare the estimate right there on the spot depending on responses to several questions they pose. Many use software to prepare a written offer to perform services.

Take note of the distinct differences with an estimate. Proposals are written and they are accurate. In effect, a proposal qualifies as the first step in creating a contract between two parties. Since most states require a written document between parties when dealing with real estate, a proposal qualifies for two of the required four elements of a contract. This doesn’t mean you are obligated, it simply means the roofer has initiated two of the elements.

By the way, the four required elements of a contract are:

      • Offer – what the written proposal states;
      • Consideration – the price of the proposal;
      • Acceptance – the homeowner must agree to the proposal and price;
      • Performance – either party must either do the work or pay a deposit.

The National Roof Certification and Inspection Association pushes for integrity, not only with the roof but from its members. The NRCIA advocates that its members prepare proposals as a pre-requirement to creation of a contract. In addition, the NRCIA stresses to its members the value of providing options to homeowners, primarily a minimum of three different price levels depending on materials, warranties and substitutions.

In summary, there differences between an estimate and a proposal. Estimates are VERBAL, NONBINDING and an APPROXIMATION of the price to perform roof repairs or replacements. Whereas proposals are WRITTEN, ACCURATE and FORMAL OFFERS to the homeowner to render services.

If you desire to engage a roofing professional to perform work at your home, consider using an NRCIA member. Simply click here and fill out the contact form, an NRCIA member will contact you within 24 hours: NRCIA Contact

Roof Pitches – A Basic Understanding of Impact With Proposals

Your roof pitch plays a critical role in determining the cost to replace your roof. As the pitch increases, the volume of materials needed increases at an increasing rate. In effect, the cost of the roof goes higher at incrementally increasing rates.

Look at this basic illustration of a roof pitch.

As the pitch increases, more surface area is required to meet the rise of the roof. Look at the angles of various roof pitches here to grasp the change.

The change in the roof pitch adds two additional costs. First are materials. At a 5/12th’s pitch, material requirements to satisfy the rise change are 9% greater than on a flat surface, a 1/1 pitch. At 9/12th’s pitch, it takes 25% more material to cover the additional rise.

The second cost that is directly tied to the roof pitch is labor. A 5/12th’s pitch or lower is considered ‘Walkable’ which means the labor crew does not have to implement additional safety requirements. Once the pitch reaches 6/12th’s (1/2); the crews are required to exercise additional safety protection, specifically fall protection. This additional requirement significantly increases the amount of time to do the work. In effect, on a 7/12th’s pitch, the additional safety standard adds about 20% more time to the labor. At 9/12th’s pitch, compliance requires more than 50% additional time to properly comply with safety and the additional work associated with the extra materials.

So why do roofs have different pitches?

In general, a roof needs at least a 3/12th’s pitch to get rain moving as runoff at a fast enough pace so as not to pool on the roof deck. Depending on where you are located in the country, determines the more common roof pitch for your home. In the Southeast, 5/12th’s is quite common. But up North, higher roof pitches are required in order to reduce and/or prevent snow accumulation which is additional weight for the roof structure. 

Thus, your roof pitch greatly impacts the proposal prices presented to you. The additional cost of materials and labor, especially at the higher pitches, can make your roof replacement much more expensive per square foot than your neighbor’s lower pitched roof.

If you desire a quality proposal from a professional roofer, use an NRCIA member. Contact a professional roofer by filling out this contact form: NRCIA Member Contact for a Proposal

Certificate of Insurance – What to Look For as a Homeowner

No other step is so important as the roofing contractor providing insurance when it comes time to perform work on your home. Your failure to ensure that coverage exists exposes you to the possibility of a lawsuit. Think about this for a moment. You have workers on the roof of your home and one of them falls and requires medical care. Who pays for that accident?

If your contractor isn’t carrying insurance at the time of the accident, the cost falls on you. Many home policies only cover $5,000 of medical care for accidents around the house. Do you really believe that the costs for medical care for somebody falling off your home is going to be less than $5,000?

How do you know if your roofing contractor has coverage? What do you look for to verify coverage?

The primary document every contractor should put forth without being asked is a Certificate of Insurance (commonly referred to as a COI). It looks like this:

This is a nationally recognized form called the ‘Accord’ presentation format. Here are the four critical parts to review:

Block 2 – The name of the insurance broker managing the contractor’s insurance. The agent is in Block 9.

Block 3 – The name of the roofing contractor. This should match the name of the contractor you want to engage and to whom you will make payment for services.

Block 5 – This reflects the actual coverage. As a homeowner, you want two critical pieces of insurance. One is general liability coverage, which is always marked with an ‘A’, is typically the first insurance presented. At the bottom of the page (commonly marked with a ‘C’) is Worker’s Compensation Insurance which covers injuries sustained when a worker falls off the roof or steps on a nail etc. 

Check that the policies are in force during the time the work will get done on your property; there are two columns reflecting effective date and date of termination. DO NOT LET YOUR ROOFING CONTRACTOR RENDER SERVICES IF THE INSURANCE HAS LAPSED!

All legitimate professionals will have insurance in place and the date range is always within the time frame of services. If the work is nearing the limits of the date range, professional contractors provide both the current Certificate of Insurance and the future coverage form which is typically provided about two weeks prior to lapsing of coverage. 

Many contractors include the auto policy coverage, property coverage (their equipment and tools) along with specialty coverage such as an umbrella policy or errors and omissions policy. 

Policy Limits – In block 5, at the far right-hand side are limits of coverage. Each state is different in what is required as a minimum level of coverage. And yes, many contractors try to keep costs low by selecting the bare minimum required level of coverage. As for general liability, their level of coverage should cover the cost to replace your home in case they cause a fire or water damage wrecks havoc on your home and belongings. Most contractors will have no less than $1,000,000 as coverage.

With worker’s compensation insurance, coverage should never be less than $500,000; but the best roofing contractors include $1,000,000 as the coverage per incident. Again, imagine a critical accident whereby one guy is falling and he grabs his fellow worker for stability and the two of them end up on the ground injured.

The National Roof Certification and Inspection Association advocates for policy limits of $1,000,000 for both general liability and worker’s compensation. If you want to get in contact with a member that serves your area, fill out the contact form here: Contact an NRCIA Roof Professional

 

What to Expect at the First Meeting With Your Roofing Contractor

As a homeowner, you are concerned about the integrity of your roof. Is it leaking? Will it start leaking soon? Many questions exist and you need someone to provide answers. Well, a professional roofing contractor will provide answers. The better trained professional roofers listen to your concerns, evaluate the situation and then if necessary provide a proposal to you to resolve the problem.

The following sections describe and illustrate what you should expect during that first meeting with your roofing contractor.

Listens to Your Concerns

After arranging a time to meet at your home, a professional roofing contractor will text you ahead of time to alert you that he is on his/her way to your home. Upon arrival, customary pleasantries are exchanged and the roofing contractor should ask three critical questions.

    1. What is it about your roof that concerns you?
    2. When was the last time any form of roof repair or replacement occurred?
    3. How can I help?

A professional will listen and after your response to the help question, they will guide you towards the appropriate answer. This process includes describing the current type of roof on the structure then the various types of options customarily found in your area for a roof. If they are well-prepared, he/she should provide brochures that explain these types of roofs and their corresponding benefits and drawbacks.

Once done explaining and illustrating the types of roofs commonly used for your area and structure; the roofing professional will move on and ask permission to evaluate the roof.

Evaluates Your Roof

 This step typically takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to conduct. Many roofers will actually get up on the roof to walk it and get a closer look at the existing condition of the materials. They’ll investigate by inspecting flashing, collars, drip edge and valleys. They will take measurements and review your current air flow system for the attic.

Most of this work is done on the outside; sometimes though, they may request access to your attic. This is to discover leaks but more importantly look at the roof structure and the underside of the roof deck (the planking materials used to support walking on the roof).

Once done, they will report back to you to explain and discuss with you the current condition of your roof. In many cases, you may only need minor repairs; commonly due to maintenance failures. Many homeowners are unaware that roofs do require regular maintenance; at least every five years the roof should be inspected and critical points are either recaulked or replaced (such as pipe boots).

From here, a roofing professional will ask if it is OK to provide a proposal for services.

Submits a Proposal

The better roof professionals currently use customer management software and they have access right there at your home to load the information into their software. If you respond that you are interested in receiving a proposal, many roofing contractors can prepare this for you on the spot. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to load the measurements and roofing layout and then generate a proper proposal. Often, they will e-mail it to you and complete meeting by explaining and answering any questions or concerns you may have. In some situations, the roofing professional will have to get answers prior to issuing a proposal to you. But they often will explain to you why and get a proposal to you within one business day. It is rare for it to take longer.

With this proposal, a professional roofer will include copies of their business license, insurance compliance, contractor’s license and a copy of the contract. When they submit the proposal to you, they will schedule a phone meeting to answer your questions and explain the next step in the process. 

As with any roof, this is an exterior function and as such, weather plays a big part related to scheduling and completion. The roofer will cover this too during the proposal submittal.

Summary

The key here is that this is all about integrity. The integrity of your roof and that of the roofing professional. Roofing professionals should listen to your concerns, ask appropriate questions and identify solutions to your problem. Before submitting a proposal, a roofing professional investigates and evaluates your roof. This allows them to have accurate information to load into software to prepare a proposal. The best roofing professionals provide three pricing options: good, better and best.

If you are need of a professional roofer, please fill out the contact form at this link and a roofing professional will contact you soon to arrange the first meeting. Contact an NRCIA Roof Professional

Good, Better and Best – Roofing Contractor Proposal Standard

As a homeowner, you should only expect the best from your roofing contractor. Professional roofing contractors present proposals with three pricing structures: good, better and best. Well prepared proposals clarify the respective value the three price points provide.

 

For homeowners, each price point provides distinct advantages over the other two. Your decision model as to which price point to select often ties to the respective value advantages you seek. The following three subsections help homeowners understand the decision model applicable to assist in choosing which price point is your optimum selection.

 

Decision Model for the ‘Good’ Option

Naturally, the good option has the lowest price point of the three selections. It is enticing to immediately select this price point due to human instinct to select the lowest price. If you are interested in this price point, please be sure to select this value only for any of the following reasons:

 

First, your goal with the roof replacement is to meet the minimum standard required to fulfill a legal obligation such as placing the home on the market for sale or to comply with your community association standards. This includes a townhome restriction.

 

Secondly, and the most common is a budget limitation. Since this price point is the lowest of the three, it also means the quality of materials used are generally the minimum required by industry standards or life expectancy of the roof. In general, the materials used are for the 25 year life expectancy requirements; the lowest in the industry. In addition, many roofing contractors will limit their respective warranty, especially the workmanship aspect of the warranty to around one year. To acquire a longer term workmanship warranty or even manufacturer’s warranty requires a higher price point found with ‘Better’ and ‘Best’.

 

A third reason for selecting the ‘Good’ price over others is for rental property. It is normal to seek the lowest price to meet the minimum requirements of maintenance related to rental properties. In order to maintain cash flow based on market rents, landlords choose this price point for roof repairs or replacements.

 

Finally, a fourth reason exists to choose this price point over the others. The life expectancy of the structure is limited; thus a higher price point would waste dollars that could be used for other structural purposes or to minimize capital investment in property that has a short window of time before demolition or full restoration.

 

At this price point, the decision model is driven more by the lower price than actual value a homeowner derives from a roof. The window of time for the roof’s purpose is short, often less than five years; thus, there is no need to acquire greater value. However, when value is important, upgrade the roof to the better price point.

 

The ‘Better’ Price Point

The better price point typically includes the longer life or higher quality of the roofing materials installed. Often the roofing materials will have no less than 30 year life expectancies. In addition, roofing contractors use a thicker or non-felt based underlayment. Common examples include synthetic underlayment such as CertainTeed’s DiamondDeck.

 

This higher grade underlayment in combination with a longer life top layer of shingles, shake or tile provides the best protection from extreme foul weather. Whether your home is located in a hurricane zone, tornado alley or way up in the northern parts of the US where ice is common; choosing the better price for the upgrade in materials is a must.

 

If you want true protection from the elements, select this price point. This price point provides the best option within the range of materials available associated with one of the three most common roofing materials.

 

In general, many roofing contractors will extend their workmanship warranty to no less than two years and often many will include a one year check-up as a part of this price point in the proposal. Thus, as a homeowner, this price provides the absolute best in materials and a higher level of protection related to labor.

 

So why choose a higher price point?

 

The ‘Best’

The ‘Best’ price point with a proposal is different, not due to its higher price but due to the additional details, quality and of course warranty involved. Professional roofing contractors add tremendous value at this price point. First, all the roofing materials are of the highest quality and selection. For example, instead of traditional shingles, this price point may include architectural shingles.

 

In addition, more options are available at this price point for roof looks. For example, the roofing contractor may include the option to choose one of the three different looks: 1) woven, 2) closed-cut and 3) open. The proposal would include photos of each allowing the homeowner to choose the look they desire. Other options include roof ventilation systems, replacement of soft roof deck spots, style of flashing and more. In effect, this price point allows the homeowner the ability to get a look on their roof they desire.

 

The most important value this price point provides is warranty, especially workmanship. Many roofing contractors include a five year workmanship warranty with a one year return inspection and a five year inspection with reports to the homeowner.

 

For those reading this article, this price point is the perfect selection if you plan on living in your home for more than 10 years. In addition, there is greater sense of security knowing that your roof has been installed under the most rigid requirements; it is no longer there to prevent water intrusion, it is there to add value for looks and long-term protection.

 

Choose this price point when you need the most out of the looks and quality of your roof.

 

For a qualified roofing job, select an NRCIA authorized Roofer or Contractor to install your next roof. Click here to make contact with a qualified roofer in your area: Contact an NRCIA Roof Professional