Sunny outlook for solar power at Home Improvement Expo

September 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

By Long Hwa-shu
For Sun-Times Media

September 15, 2013 2:32PM

Chicago resident Ben Gerdes gets a brochure from Jim Sisty of Renewable Energy Alternatives of Arlington Heights which sells solar panels and wind turbines. | TINA JOHANSSON~FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

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Updated: September 16, 2013 2:32AM

Jim Sisty wanted to convince anyone approaching his booth that by installing solar panels on the roof, you can reduce your electric bill and may even be able to sell your surplus power.

“And you stand to get 30 percent in federal tax credits for your investment and 25 percent in state rebate,” said he, not in hard sales talk but with a soft voice.

With rising electric cost and concerns for the environment, he seemed to carry plenty of punch.

Sisty, who called himself an energy specialist, represented Renewable Energy Alternatives at the annual Lake County Home Improvement Remodeling Expo held over the weekend at the fairgrounds in Grayslake.

The two-day show was expected to attract 5,000 people, according to Martin Andras, president of Brilliant Event Planning of Willowbrook, the show’s organizer. There were 150 exhibitors, and they came more to get leads than outright sales since home improvement usually is a slow process. The public came to see what’s new and to talk to exhibitors and prospective contractors.

A Libertyville couple said they came to look for ideas to model their bathroom.

“Things change and there are different products each year,” said Linda Rich.

“We talked to several contractors about our project and got some good ideas about what we’re going to do,” added her husband Rich.

What stood out at the show this year — amid windows, sidings, gutters, bathroom fixtures, cabinets, counter tops and roofing materials — was how homeowners can harness solar energy by installing solar panels on the roof.

There was even a wind-turbine model with blades like those on a fan although the exhibitor acknowledged that it might not be practical to install one in the backyard because it had to be high enough to catch the wind.

Neighbors might not like it, she cautioned.

More practical are solar panels, said Sisty who added that his company, based in Arlington Heights, can sell you “a turn-key operation.”

For a single,family home, that can cost $15,000-$20,000 but it may turn you into a itsy-bitsy ComEd.

“It goes on the roof and there are no moving parts.” said Sisty, formerly of Waukegan who studied marketing at Lake Forest College.

According to him, if you produce any surplus power, you can sell it to the power grid and receive a check after accumulating “enough solar energy renewal credits.”

“There are companies out there that’ll buy your surplus power and give you the credits,” he said.

That may be far-fetched. What is true is that by installing solar panels, a homeowner may recoup a combined 55-percent return of the investment in renewable energy from federal tax credits and state-tax rebate.

Renewable Energy Alternatives counts among its clients, the Joliet Armory, Chicago Public Schools, Boy Scouts of America and more than 150 homes.

“We’re talking to the fairgrounds people,” he said, motioning his hand skyward with the hope of putting solar panels on the roof of the huge exhibition building where the expo was being held.

Solar energy, according to him, is “big on the East Coast but people in the Midwest are beginning to warm to it.”

Asked how he fared at the show, he said, “I got quite a few leads.”

He added that with an address of a homeowner and his or her electric bills, his company “can look from the sky and give you an estimate as to how many solar panels you need and the cost.”

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