CAMPBELL, USA: Westinghouse Solar Inc., a designer and manufacturer of solar power systems, released its all-in-one rooftop solar kits. The combination of affordable pricing -- along with the ease of installation that the Westinghouse Solar Power System provides -- makes these new kits very appealing to contractors and do-it-yourself (DIY) homeowners who, until now, have been put off by the high price of a rooftop system.
Each rooftop solar kit includes Westinghouse Solar AC panels with integrated racking and inverters, roof brackets with fasteners, roof flashings, and panel splices. All that needs to be added is wiring to the rooftop and a circuit breaker installed in the home's electrical service panel. Westinghouse Solar recommends that an electrician or other licensed professional provide an electrical code-compliant connection into the service panel.
"What has been lost in the recent news about the solar industry is that solar panels are less than half the price they were just two years ago. These cost reductions are terrific news for consumers. Now, paybacks in many states are less than five years – after which homeowners get free electricity from their system," said Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Westinghouse Solar. "What these dramatically lower prices mean is that 'going solar' is now a terrific investment and, like in Germany, the rooftop solar industry has the potential to grow faster than any other market segment."
The combination of low solar panel prices, low installation costs and federal and state solar incentives makes paybacks surprisingly short in some locations, even when professionally installed by an electrical contractor.
For example, a simple four panel installation in Hawaii is less than $1,500 after federal and state incentives, and at an electric rate of $0.40/kwh will save $660 a year with a two year payback. A similar four panel system in New York is less than $900 after federal and state incentives, and at an electric rate of $0.20/kwh will save $230 a year with a four year payback.
In California, historically the largest solar market in the US, a four panel system is approximately $2,300 after federal incentives (not considering state incentives), and at an electric rate of $0.30/kwh will save $450 a year with a five year payback. Many DIY customers do the system installation themselves and simply hire an electrician to run the wires from their rooftop solar panels to their home's electrical box – making the paybacks even faster.
Reducing the costs of "going solar"
As the costs for solar panels have declined, installation costs have become the biggest factor for homeowners. Technology pioneered by Westinghouse Solar – specifically its AC solar panels with integrated racking, wiring, grounding and inverters – has made it much easier for contractors and DIY homeowners to install systems, further reducing installed costs.
"We began our retail trials about two years ago with Lowe's Home Improvement stores. There was a lot of interest from both homeowners and contractors – usually electricians and home improvement specialists," said Jeff Kiel, executive VP of Sales and Marketing for Westinghouse Solar. "What we learned was that the two key issues were, obviously, cost – but also 'out of the box' simplicity. Equipment costs are literally half of what they were two years ago, so we have made terrific progress on that front. Moreover, our second-generation AC panels are now packaged in a complete kit with all the mounting hardware needed for a typical rooftop system. It's like buying a ready-to-assemble furniture kit from Ikea. Everything you need except wiring and ordinary tools is included."
Kits for different rooftops
Westinghouse Solar kits are available in three sizes. The 20-panel contractor kit provides enough power for about 70 percent of a typical home's energy needs. The four-panel "starter" kit is perfect for small installations – for example, on the sunny roof of a garage. The single panel "try it" kit is great for people who want to experiment with solar out for themselves on a budget. All Westinghouse Solar panels are modular so that homeowners can easily add onto the system in the future.
Westinghouse Solar kits are available from home improvement retailers, electrical distributors, contractors and local solar installers.