First Selectman considers going solar at home

Brendan Smith of Sunlight Solar shows First Selectman Timothy Herbst the potential cost and savings of installing solar panels on his house.

Brendan Smith of Sunlight Solar shows First Selectman Timothy Herbst the potential cost and savings of installing solar panels on his house.

First Selectman Timothy Herbst is seriously considering installing solar panels on his home, and since the launch of the Solarize Easton-Redding-Trumbull program, he’s not the only one.

Roughly 520 homeowners in the three towns have requested more information on the solar program. So far, more than 200 free home evaluations have been done, including the first selectman’s.

In September, Trumbull, Easton and Redding were selected to be part of a Solarize Connecticut program, offered through the state’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA). It offers group discounts on solar installations, using a pre-selected installation company. Officials from the three towns chose Sunlight Solar Energy as the installer.

Last Monday, Brendan Smith, a system designer with Sunlight Solar, completed as assessment on Herbst’s Fairview Avenue home, which he purchased in 2010.

“We look at pitch and which direction the roof is facing — due south is optimal,” Smith said. “Shading by far is one of the most important. If you have trees blocking the roof, it’s not going to be worth it.”

Age of the roof is also a major consideration. Since panels last for 30 to 40 years, homeowners due for a roof replacement may want to take care of that before installing panels. Herbst replaced his roof a couple of years ago.

Based on his assessment, Smith said they could install 24 panels that would generate enough electricity to cover 90% of his annual power bill, bringing his monthly bill to about $20.

The initial cost of panels is offset by a state rebate and a federal tax credit.

In Herbst’s case, the panels would cost $23,940, but with an $8,300 state rebate and a $4,668 federal tax credit, that number drops to $10,893. Financing and leasing options are available through the program. For example, a 15-year loan could cost Herbst $108 a month, which is still less than his projected energy savings.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Herbst said. “It’s good for economic reasons and for environmental reasons.”

With the likelihood of rising energy costs, the panels can be a great investment for those on a fixed income, Herbst said.

“A lot of retired couples and empty nesters on a fixed income are going to want to look at this,” he said. “It makes planning a budget easier.”

Herbst said he hopes more residents consider the program.

“I hope by doing this myself I’m setting an example to the rest of the community,” he said.

The program

Erin O’Sullivan, a community outreach manager with SmartPower, a nonprofit involved in promoting Solarize Connecticut, said homeowner response in Trumbull, Easton and Redding has been great so far. About 13 contracts have been signed with Sunlight Solar.

Trumbull’s director of economic development, Edward Lavernoich, said a mailing is going out to some Trumbull homeowners who have a house that is ideal for panels. The homes have been identified using satellite images.

Back in September, Lavernoich touted the program and its potential.

“I know from conversations with a lot of people that many are wondering about solar, but they never get around to doing anything about it,” Lavernoich said. “They worry about having an obligation if someone comes out for an evaluation, or getting an aggressive sales pitch. But that isn’t what happens with this program. It’s a matter-of-fact evaluation and they can tell you whether you are a good candidate for solar panels or not.”

To learn more, visit http://solarizect.com/our-towns/trumbull/ or call Sunlight Solar 203-878-9123.

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