Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call Rosie Romero’s radio show with questions about everything from preventing fires in their chimneys to getting rid of tree roots invading their sewer system. His goal is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona.
QUESTION: We aren’t too interested in putting solar panels on our house, but we are interested in other new roofing products, like glass tiles that also act as mini solar modules. When you buy them, you also get a battery that will let you use the solar power your roof produces and possibly keep the lights on if the electrical grid goes out. They are pretty expensive, but are they a good alternative?
ANSWER: A lot of the appeal of these roofing products seems to be based on the fact that homeowners like their looks better than that of traditional solar panels. They look like tiles that have been made out of glass. However, some versions of these tiles have been around for a while and generally don’t seem to be too effective. The tiles get too hot and then they stop working. Then they have to be replaced. Generally, they only last five to 10 years while traditional solar panels can have a 25-year life expectancy. One Web site we saw said they could cost about $22 a square foot, compared with $5 a square foot for traditional shingles.
Q: I recently had a contractor come in to do a whole house energy audit and to talk to me about installing solar electric panels. But he also suggested a lot of other energy saving alternatives like buying a variable speed pool pump and adding more insulation in the attic. Why did they do that?
A: It’s always a good thing to find ways to make more of your house energy efficient. But not all home energy audit companies are the same. Many times, they promote the items that have the highest profit margin and could greatly benefit the contractor if you installed them. So proceed with caution.
Q: Off and on for a long time, we’ve been considering installing solar panels for electricity. But we’re afraid that tighter regulations to solar might be coming along in future. The solar industry and the utilities always seem to be fighting with each other.
A: Yes, the two parties have had their issues in the past, but they seem to be getting along better now.
As for more regulations, that could happen. But so far, every time the utility companies have tightened up the rules and cut back on solar benefits, homeowners that already have their solar systems have been “grandfathered in” under the old regulations. The federal tax benefits of solar have also been retained.
Q: I had a new air conditioning system installed and when the installers did that job, I had them put in an extra vent and some extra ductwork designed to help cool off a bedroom located over the garage in my home. That bedroom is one of the hottest rooms in the house and the new vent doesn’t seem to have helped very much. How can I fix this problem?
A: You may need to install some insulation in your garage in order to solve the problem. You might also be able to install a mini-split air conditioner in the bedroom or in the garage in order to cool that part of your house. A mini-split consists of a very small indoor air handler that has its own small outdoor condenser. They’re not cheap, but they’re an effective way of cooling an especially hot room or a garage.