As founder and host of Greenovation TV (www.greenovationtv.com) and consultant on net-zero energy, among other things, it’s no surprise Matthew Grocoff wanted to have his own net-zero home in Michigan. Such a home produces as much or more energy than it consumes. After lots of planning, Grocoff and his wife realized their dream, committing to energy efficiency without sacrificing comfort.
From CFL lights to low-flow showerheads, the Grocoffs were committed to energy efficiency throughout the home. They even have a chicken coop (formed from a neighbor’s old playhouse). One of the key elements of this “Mission Zero” home is its 8.1-kW solar photovoltaic system. Grocoff says he decided to install solar because it has reached the tipping point where it’s significantly more cost effective than paying for grid power from the local utility company.
“We know what the future cost of the sun’s power is going to be years from now, but we don’t know what the cost of coal will be even 15 minutes from now,” Grocoff says.
The decision to go solar was an easy one, but convincing the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission to approve putting solar in Grocoff’s 110-year-old house was challenging.
“In a hearing for another similar solar request, the commission approved,” Grocoff says. “But their reasoning was that the guy wasn’t asking to do solar over the whole roof. And this was exactly what I was planning to request. Understandably, I was a little nervous.”
But Grocoff worked with The Solar Specialist, a division of Mechanical Energy Systems Inc., (www.mes1.com) to develop a solution that won unanimous support from the commission in the end. SunPower’s Signature Black solar modules blended in against the home’s asphalt shingles. The team also chose Unirac’s SolarMount racking with Quick Mount PV’s black-anodized flashed mounts to help blend with the roof and solar modules so the modules could be installed edge to edge across the roof.
Besides mounting close to the roof and enhancing appearance, the Quick Mounts did not require cutting shingles.
“Once the commission looked at our renderings I think they understood how the photovoltaic system’s appearance and removability would not impact the architectural integrity of the house,” says Grocoff.
In addition to the aesthetic appeal of the mounting system, Grocoff required that the mounting would do its primary job in a reliable manner – prevent leaks that could damage the roof and other areas of the home. While this is important for any home solar installation, this assurance is even more critical when installing solar on a 110-year old historic home. Quick Mount PV’s reputation for high quality mounts was a key factor in the choice of mounts.
Ron Jones, VP of marketing for Quick Mount PV, says the company’s Classic Composition Mount is designed and engineered to provide 100% code-compliant waterproofing according to roofing best practices.
In fact, says Jones, the product exceeds code. Instead of using .032 inch flashing as specified, the Classic Comp uses 0.050-inch aluminum. And while roofing code requires 4 inches of flashing on either side of the penetration, the Quick Mount flashing is 12 inches wide to give over 5.5 inches of flashed surface on the sides of the penetration.
“With flashing that is thinner and less wide, the sides can bend up when the mount is tightened down in the middle, especially if it’s over-torqued,” Jones says. This “potato chip effect” is common on inexpensive flashings and often results in wind-driven rain getting under the flashing and potentially causing water damage.
The most innovative component of Quick Mount’s patented waterproofing system is an aluminum flute in the center of the mounting block, seamlessly attached to the flashing, that elevates the EPDM rubber seal 5/8 of an inch above the roof and flashing level where the water flows.
“Any rubber seal at the roof level is vulnerable to leaks as rubber seals eventually deteriorate,” Jones says. “When you have a compromised seal at the water level, it will allow water direct entry into the attachment penetration hole. So we elevate and protect the seal from water contact.”
Jones says Quick Mount PV is committed to training installers and distributors in roofing best practices for properly installing solar racking and mounting systems. The company offers training sessions around the country to solar installers, electricians, and roofers. The company also offers free webinars every month and has a growing library of instructional videos on its website.
Thanks to the right solar modules, racking, and mounting, Grocoff is able to enjoy his solar photovoltaic system on the nation’s oldest net-zero home.
“It’s fabulous,” Grocoff says. “To say I’m happy is an understatement. The only way I could be more thrilled is if everyone who saw or read about my home would take it as inspiration for their own home. We need to redefine ‘home’ as it’s the one we all share that’s more important.” SPW