Frequently Asked Questions and Facts about Solar Systems
- Why should I install a solar electric system on my house?
Grid-tied solar electricity offers a way to fix your electricity rate (and protect you from price spikes) for up to 50 years. The maintenance-free panels come with a 25-year warranty but the expected lifespan is actually twice that. There has never been a more compelling time to install a system between the recent technological improvements, low cost of panels and the readily available grants, financing and government incentives. Produce your own electricity, net meter any extra you produce, and feel good about doing your part for a cleaner planet and energy independence.
- How much does a solar system cost? The cost of a solar system will depend on a home’s current energy usage and how much of their bill they want to offset but the cost of solar panels are at an all-time low while quality remains high. Between the low cost of materials and incredible new incentives, there has never been a better time to install a system. To obtain a free accurate quote, please contact us!
- How long will an installation take?
Our typical residential solar power job takes us about 8-10 hours of installation time on the roof, and about 6 hours inside the house. We typically send two -three technicians, most jobs are completed in 2-3 days.
- How long will it take to pay for itself?
Generous MA state and federal rebates and tax incentives mean a solar electric system may pay for itself in as little as 4-6 years! The cost for grid power increases by approximately 3% annually.
- Can solar panels also make hot water?
A different type of panel is used, called a solar thermal collector. In a solar hot water system, the water (or a fluid called glycol) is pumped from your hot water tank into the solar collector through copper tubing. The collector is very well insulated and painted black to concentrate the sun’s heat. The fluid circulates through the copper pipe and heats up. It is then circulated back to the tank, where a copper coil heat exchanger moves the heat to the water that comes into your home. This kind of system can be used on your home for hot water or for space heating (radiant floors). It can also be used to heat your swimming pool. These systems are highly efficient and will tolerate some shading. In the summer, the water temp in the collector can get as high as 250 degrees. Solar hot water systems for your home also qualify for the 30% federal tax credit and a state rebate in MA. Learn more about solar hot water here.
- If the grid goes down will my solar PV system provide power for me? Only if you have a battery backed system.
- Should I wait for technology improvements which will decrease the cost of solar?
Solar panels could possibly cost less in the future than they do today, but they will not drop in price exponentially as they have in the past 2 years. While you’re waiting for the price of solar to go down, you could be generating your own power! Solar panels grow more valuable as the cost of energy goes up.
- What are the incentives?
There is a federal investment tax credit (ITC) of 30% on the cost of the system, as well as local and state rebates. In Massachusetts, you may receive a federal tax credit, a state rebate (up to $4250) , a state income tax credit, and perhaps most appealing is the new the ability to sell your solar renewable energy credits SRECs on the open market. In addition, businesses are able to take advantage of accelerated depreciation, which can be substantial! For more detailed incentive information for your state visit The Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE). More on incentives our own site here.
- Does my roof need to face directly south?
Your solar system will still work effectively if it is within 50 degrees of south. More easterly and westerly roof installations are viable, especially on shallower roofs. Shading is generally more important than angle. We provide a solar pathfinder shading analysis at different roof points to determine shading for each location. In some cases tree trimming or cutting may be necessary.
- How are these systems installed?
For roof mounted systems, we mount solar panels on an aluminum rail system that is fastened approximately every 32″-48″ by penetrations into roof rafters according to the racking manufacturer’s specifications. On asphalt roofs, each mount is sealed with silicone to prevent any leaks. On a standing seam metal roof, these attachments are made directly to the standing seams, with no roof penetrations. The weight of the array is less than 5 pounds per square foot, so a typically framed roof is more than adequate to carry the weight. Your roof should be in good shape before a system is installed. We can also install pole or ground mounted photovoltaic panels on a concrete foundation, if there is limited roof space or shading issues.
- How will I know if the system is working?
Today nearly all inverters come with built-in monitoring. By reconciling your production with your electric bill, you can get a good idea what your household’s electric load is and how much of a difference the photovoltaic system is making.
- How much will I save on my utility bill with a solar electric system?
It depends on the size system you have. Generally, if we have the space and correct solar orientation we try to size a system large enough to net zero a home owners electric bill and generate close to the same amount they are using. With solar, if the sun is out and you are consuming electric power, your solar-generated power will be consumed without it ever being registered by your utility meter. If your system produces more power than you use, you will get credit from the utility company for the excess generated towards your future consumption or you can allocate it to another location nearby. This is called Net Metering.
- When power goes down, do I need batteries?
When the grid power goes down, the grid-tied solar electric system goes down also. This is to prevent any accidental back-feeding of solar electricity to the grid which might endanger line-workers. There are battery-based backup options available.
- What happens when it’s cloudy or raining or at night? There will always have electricity because you will still be be tied to the grid. If your system is producing more power than you are using, the Net Metering laws in Massachusetts allow you get credit for extra the unused kWh your system produces. See our Net Metering page for more info.
- What panels and inverters do you carry? We use a variety of high quality solar panel and inverter manufacturers depending on the application. When possible we utilize American manufactured products. All reputable solar manufacturers offer a 25-30 year warranty on their panels, which are expected to live roughly twice that long. We use SMA, Solectria, Fronius, Power One, Outback and Enphase micro inverters. All inverter companies offer at least a 10-year warranty, though the inverter is expected to last 20 years or longer.
- What is the difference between micro-inverters and string inverters? Inverters convert the DC voltage provided by the solar panel into usable AC power. The string inverter accepts DC power from a “string” of many solar panels wired to a large single inverter which produces power from all the panels. The micro inverter is a small inverter attached to the back of each panel that converts power from a single solar panel independently. Therefore the micro-inverters function more efficiently where shading is an issue but are more expensive than standard string inverters. String inverters are an older more well tested technology although may not be as efficient.