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Solar FAQ

The first question in going solar is one you should ask yourself: 

What value do you place on producing your own power? 

Do you see an inherent value in consolidating your energy usage and becoming more self sufficient? You ultimately have to determine what is more appealing – going through the solar installation process and making your own power, or not changing anything and buying power through your local power company.

 

Q: What makes a site viable for solar?

A: There are three factors that affect how efficiently a solar system performs:

  1. Roof Orientation.  A south-facing roof is ideal.
  2. Shading.  Ideally, there should be no shade on the roof during the hours of greatest solar production (9am – 3pm).
  3. Roof Pitch.  About 35-40 degrees is optimal, but a steeper or shallower pitch won’t make much of a difference in the efficiency of the system.  It is really the roof orientation and shading that are the most important.

Q: How does a solar electric system work?

A: Solar electric systems work by directly converting sunlight into electricity.  Light from the sun strikes the solar panels and produces direct current (DC) energy.  A system component called an inverter, changes the DC energy into alternating current (AC), which is what your everyday household items run on.  From there, the system is tied into your circuit breaker panel, and the electricity is distributed throughout your house to any items that run on electricity.

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Q: What incentives are available?

A: There are two incentives available to homeowners in Connecticut:

  1. A state rebate from the Connecticut Green Bank.  This rebate can vary from site to site, but typically covers in the range of 15-20% of the total system cost.
  2. A federal tax credit for 30% of the out-of-pocket investment.  This credit is utilized when the homeowner files their taxes at the end of the year.

Q: What is the difference in financing if I use solar as a monthly savings/budgeting tool, or an investment?

If you would prefer monthly savings/budgeting, the fixed payment, no money down lease option is likely the best option. You would not pay any more for your electricity in year 1 that if you bought the same amount of power from the power company, and your cost would be fixed for 20 yrs, so any rate increases from your power company would not affect you.

If you would like to use solar as an Investment, then purchasing – either outright, or via a 0-down loan – would be the best option. One of our designers can help walk you through investment analysis and cost vs benefit which will give you a better idea of which route works better for you. You will save the most if you purchase outright, but you need to leverage more cash upfront. You save less if you use the loan (due to finance charges), but you don’t have to leverage as much cash upfront. Both options give you a very attractive rate of return over 25 years.

Q: How does the solar system interact with the utility company?

A: The electricity produced by your solar panels is sent directly into your home, to be used by anything at your site that runs off of electricity.  If at any time your solar electric system produces more electricity than you use, the system sends the excess electricity back onto the grid.  A Connecticut law allows individuals and businesses that generate excess renewable energy to send the excess electricity back to the grid through a process called Net Metering.  When you install a solar electric system at your home, Eversource or UI install a new meter at your site.  This meter, called either a bi-directional meter or a net meter, measures both the electricity you use from the grid as well as the electricity that your solar system sends back onto the grid.  Your utility company gives you a fair credit for the excess electricity you send back onto the grid.

Q: What happens to a solar electric system during a power outage?

A: When a solar electric system senses a power failure from the grid, it automatically shuts the system down to ensure that no electricity is sent onto the grid while the utility is working on the power lines.  The system will sense once grid power is restored, and automatically turns back on.

Q: Is it possible to power 100% of my home’s electrical needs?

A: It is possible for a solar electric system to produce 100% of a home’s annual electric usage, however, the exact amount a system can cover will vary according to the specifics of the site.  We need to know how large the available roof space is as well as the annual electric consumption before we can provide an estimate on how much of a house’s annual electric usage we can cover.

Q: What happens if an object such as a tree branch damages my solar panels?

A: In general, any damage that occurs to a solar system would fall under homeowners’ insurance. It is important to tell your insurance agent when you get a solar system installed. Some policies have a small increase in your premium, but most do not.

Q: What happens when it snows?

A: We install solar systems on the sunniest spots of the roof, so snow naturally melts off that area first.  Additionally, once the panels warm up in the sunlight, the snow often melts off the roof pretty quickly.  Only in rare heavy snow storms will the snow cover the panels for multiple days.

Q: Does the age of my roof matter?

A: It is best to install solar on a roof that has at least 15 years of life remaining.  If your roof is nearing the end of its useful life, you may wish to consider getting a new roof where the solar panels will be placed.

Q: If I own my solar system and then sell my house, does it increase my resale value?

A: Home buyers consistently have been willing to pay more for a property with PV across a variety of states, housing and PV markets, and home types. Berkeley Labs has done studies on this. The original study was based on California homes, but a more recent study has used data from homes in east coast states, including Connecticut and Massachusetts. The full report can be viewed here.

Q: What sort of maintenance is required of a solar electric system?

A: Photovoltaic systems are durable, long-lived and require little maintenance. We recommend checking your inverter and/or data monitoring system on a regular basis to ensure the system is operating properly. If possible, visually inspecting the array for debris (leaves, sticks, branches) on or under the panels is also a good practice. If you notice any potential problems, call your installer.

Q: Can I refinance my home with a solar lease?

A: Yes- the lease is not classified as a lien on the property and therefore does not have to be satisfied (i.e. paid off) prior to refinancing. The homeowner should inform any potential lenders of the leased system prior to refinancing.