It’s only a matter of time before solar applications will revolutionize the roofing industry, and the sooner roofing contractors see the light, the better off they’ll be. That’s the thinking at LUMA Resources LLC, a newly formed sister company of Allen Brothers Inc. (ABI), a multifaceted roofing contractor located in Rochester Hills, Mich. ABI, owned and operated by brothers Robert Allen and Gary Allen, has been in roofing business since 1950. The company hopes its new product will help other roofing contractors enter the world of solar roofing.
“It’s time to reinvent yourself as more than just a roofing contractor,” said Robert Allen, President of ABI. “For us it just kind of happened as natural progression, in an almost providential kind of way. However, for roofing contractors across America we now have the experience and the products to help them deliberately enter the fastest-growing industry in our world today - alternative energy.”
LUMA Resources was formed in 2007 to market the company’s recent breakthrough, a solar system designed for residential applications. The patented system, which won the “Best New Product” award at the 2008 International Roofing Expo, is the brainchild of Gary Allen. Noting the lack of solar systems compatible with residential roofs, he tapped into his years of experience designing and installing metal roofs to invent his own solution.
“All of the solar applications I had seen were vertical, designed to work with standing seam roofs,” he said. “But that wouldn’t work in most residential roofs, where almost all of the systems are set up with horizontal lines. I immediately visualized it as a horizontal application on metal panels, with room for the wires to run underneath. The rest of the system and its components were designed over time, along with the method of terminating the sides of the kit.”
The Solar Kit
The kit must be located on one side of the roof and installed in one piece, but it can be placed virtually anywhere on the roof - in the middle of the roof, or terminating at the eaves, ridge, or at the side of the house.
Each interlocking panel has a splice plate and wiring with quick-connectors at each end. The result is just one lead that carries the DC power, which can be dropped into the attic or run down the side of the house for connection to the inverter. “The electrician has to take it from there and hook up the DC leads to the inverter. It’s perfect for both new construction and re-roofing applications as well.” said Gary Allen.
Besides being aesthetically pleasing, the kit is easy to install and compatible with standard roofing systems, noted Gary Allen. “We wanted to make the product as easy as possible to install, so that’s why we set it up as a kit,” he said. “I remember when Velux came out with a flashing kit to make its skylights easy to install, with all of the pieces cut to fit. That’s the type of system we wanted to provide - a complete kit, with all of the pieces, including the inverter. A drill, and a few tools, and you’re ready to go. However, it is an electrical array, so there is a learning curve. But it’s really easy to grasp.”
“Contractors will have to be trained in how to install the system, but the training process is quick and easy,” said Robert Allen. “The system was designed to be put together by two experienced installers in just a few hours. It fits together as a system of interlocking panels. Each panel is locked in place by the panel below it, and several clips hold each panel at the top. The clip also holds the panels off the deck, for ease of installation.”
The kit is installed directly over an underlayment and can be incorporated into a variety of roofing systems. “The flashing pieces can butt up to clay and concrete tiles, slate, cedar, and asphalt shingles,” said Gary Allen.
This system is different from typical solar applications that are installed over the existing roof, often resulting in multiple penetrations. “We don’t want another roofing product underneath the solar section of the roof,” said Robert Allen. “For the area this kit takes up - under 400 square feet of roof for the typical 2 kilowatt system- it is the roof. With some of the more expensive roofing products on the market like tile, slate, or even high-end asphalt shingles - that means a significant cost savings.”
The Allens believe the end result will be a roofing option that’s a moneymaking upgrade for contractors and a money-saver for homeowners. “Think of it as another upsell,” Gary Allen said. “People are going to want solar, and the roofing contractor has to be in a position to offer a solar application. We feel this is the perfect solar application, and roofers can understand it.”
“The kit can substantially reduce the electric bill for an average home,” said Robert Allen. “We’re estimating that the system will have a five to seven year payback, depending on state and local incentives and sunlight conditions. Of course, the exact savings will depend on future energy cost.”
Adapting to Change
The Allen brothers believe contractors have to change to adapt to the economic downturn, and they have never seen a downturn quite like this one. “Before this solar opportunity came along, things were starting to look pretty bleak,” said Robert Allen. “We saw an opportunity to take control of our own future with the invention of the LUMA Solar Roofing Kit. I had started to hear the buzz about green this and green that well before the solar kit came into being; the trouble was I had no idea how our roofing company could capitalize on it. Now by being able to offer a solar option to its own local customer base, Allen Brothers Roofing Co. will see a 73 percent increase in its residential roof sales for the first quarter of 2010.”
Gary and Robert Allen have enlisted the help of Dr. Richard Blieden as a consultant to help them penetrate the solar market. Blieden, formerly the director of government and international sales for a large solar modular manufacturer, has worked in the field of alternative energy technology for over 30 years. He organized and directed the first USA National Program for Terrestrial Applications of Photovoltaic Technology at the National Science Foundation, and he directed the Office of Solar Electric Applications at the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration. After a lifetime of pioneering work in the field of solar energy, he believes solar applications are poised for exponential growth.
“The roofs of the future are going to have solar,” said Blieden. “The energy situation is critical enough that the investment will be made in solar applications, and that means opportunity for those in the roofing industry.”
“This residential solar kit is something that’s from within the industry,” he continued. “Solar has been a missed opportunity because no one had an easy solution. This is an excellent solution, in part because it’s so easy to install, this truly is the first of its kind - solar for the masses.”
LUMA Resources is in the process of training contractors to install the system.
“This product was developed by roofers for roofers,” said Robert Allen. “We want to make sure that the solar industry installation is put in the hands of contractors, and we feel like we have the best solution out there. This product has opened up solar to the average builder, roofer and electrical professional.”
For more information on LUMA Resources, please call 888-733-5862 or visit www.lumaresources.com.