Frequently Asked Questions

We want you to have all the facts that you need to make the right decision. Below is a list of common questions and/or concerns that may cross your mind while learning about solar energy.

When you install a solar energy system on your property, you save money on your electricity bills and protect yourself against rising electricity rates in the future. How much you can save depends on the utility rates and solar policies in your area, but going solar is a smart investment regardless of where you live.

Solar panel systems help you save money and protect against rising utility costs. On average, EnergySage solar shoppers achieve payback on their system in just seven and a half years, and they continue to save for the rest of their system’s 25+ year lifespan. However, your 20-year solar savings depend on where you live. There are a few major factors that influence what you can save:

Electricity rates: If you live somewhere with high electricity rates than other regions, your solar energy savings will be higher thanks to avoided electricity costs.

Local financial incentives: If your state or local government offers cash rebates, tax credits, or incentives such as SRECs, you’ll save even more.

Solar financing: There are three major solar financing options: cash purchases, solar loans, and solar leases/PPAs. Each option offers a different value proposition and long-term return.

Studies have shown that homes with solar energy systems sell for more than homes without them. However, your property value will only increase if you own, rather than lease, your solar panel system. In most parts of the country, going solar will actually increase your property value more than a kitchen renovation.

When you install solar panels on your property, you will still be connected to the grid. This allows you to draw from the grid when your system is not producing all of the power that you need, and send power back to the grid when you produce more than you use. It is possible to go off the grid with a solar energy system that includes battery storage, but it will cost significantly more and is unnecessary for the majority of homeowners.

Solar panel systems are made of durable tempered glass and require little to no maintenance for the 25 to 35 years that they will generate power. In most cases, you don’t even need to clean your solar panels regularly. If something does happen, most equipment manufacturers include warranties, although warranty terms depend on the company.

If you own your solar energy system, your solar house will sell at a premium: studies have shown that solar increases property values. However, if you lease your system, that is not the case. You will need to either buy out your lease before you sell your home, or work with your leasing company to transfer the lease agreement to the home’s new owner.

In order to go solar, you need to be on the title of the property. Therefore, most solar energy solutions are geared toward homeowners or commercial property owners. There are ways though for people who rent an apartment or a home to benefit from solar. Some utility companies offer solar programs for renters that allow people to buy solar power from remote solar installations.
Will solar work on my roof?
There are four factors that determine if your roof is a good fit for solar:
Orientation: Ideally, you should have a south-facing roof. In the northern hemisphere, south-facing roofs maximize the amount of sunlight your solar panels collect. The more sunlight they collect, the more electricity they produce, and the quicker you can pay off your system. You can still mount solar panels to your roof if it faces due east or west, but the panels will produce less energy (about 75% of what a south-facing roof would produce). If you have a flat roof, the panels can be engineered to face due south no matter how your roof is oriented.

Shading: Once you’ve determined that your roof is oriented in the right direction, the next step is to ensure that your roof is not shaded. The portions of the roof where solar will be installed should be free of shade for most of the day, as shade can significantly reduce electricity production. Trees, chimneys, dormers, and HVAC vents are factors that can cause shading on a roof. If you’re not sure if your roof is shaded, your installer can use a tool called the “solar pathfinder” to figure out if trees or other objects will cast shade during the day.

Surface: Solar arrays are most efficient when they are installed in a large, uninterrupted space. Things like dormer windows, chimneys, vents, skylights, and air conditioning units can be obstacles to installing an array.
Durability: Finally, if your roof is more than 15 years old, you may want to consider replacing it before installing solar panels. Most solar vendors recommend using roofing material that will last as long as the system (minimum of 25 years).

Solar installations come with three warranties: product warranties, power production warranties, and installation warranties.
Product warranties guarantee the physical integrity of your solar panels and inverters. For example, should a soldered connection on one of your panels fail (adversely affecting its electricity production), that panel would be replaced under the product warranty. Product warranties are offered through the manufacturer, not your installer.

For solar panels, most manufacturers offer a 10-year product warranty. Some high-end panel manufacturers offer longer product warranties, up to 25 years. Inverters come with product warranties that range from 10 to 25 years. Central (or string) inverter manufacturers offer 10- to 15-year product warranties, while microinverter manufacturers offer 25-year product warranties.
Next, the power production warranty guarantees that the solar panel will produce at least 100 percent of its nameplate capacity for a minimum of 25 years. Just like the product warranty, the power production warranty is offered by the panel manufacturer. While details vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, the power production warranty assures that your system will continue to produce power over its lifetime. In practice, identifying whether your system is experiencing a drop in performance that violates this warranty is difficult without the assistance of an installer. Despite that, production warranties serve as a proxy for the expected performance degradation of your solar panels over time.

Finally, the labor warranty covers the installer’s workmanship, including their electrical wiring work and any roof penetrations they make to attach your solar array to the roof. Unlike the product or power production warranties, the labor warranty is offered by your installer.  Labor warranties vary among installers and regional markets. That said, they typically range from three to 10 years. Some installers will offer an option to upgrade to a longer labor warranty.

Solar power, like other renewable energy resources, has many environmental and health benefits. Going solar reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change, and also results in fewer air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, which can cause health problems.

If you can afford to pay your electricity bill you can afford to go solar. $0-down solar financing options, including both solar loans and solar leases, make it easy for homeowners with good credit to start saving on their electricity bills by going solar. Register on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to compare costs and savings for multiple financing options.

Unless your solar energy system includes battery storage and you are fully off the grid, you will still receive a bill from your utility. However, you can dramatically reduce your bill, or even cut the amount you owe to $0, with a solar panel system that matches your energy use.

Solar rebates and incentives vary depending on where you live. The most significant is the 26 percent federal investment tax credit (ITC), which allows you to deduct 26 percent of the cost of your solar energy system from your taxes. Some states offer additional tax credits, and certain municipalities and utilities also offer cash rebates or other incentives.

Utility customers who produce their energy are eligible for a unique billing option called Net Energy Metering (NEM). So when you go solar, you will be switched to NEM and will receive a Settlement Bill every 12 months. You are billed annually for your energy charges because energy credits can offset your charges for the surplus electricity you supply to the grid over your 12 month billing period.

If your commercial or residential solar energy system is designed and sized correctly, this credit should offset all or part of the costs associated with the energy you consume. Under this billing option, customers are charged once a year for the “net” energy consumed over the previous 12 months, if any. Your utility provider will read your meter once a month, record the “net” amount of electricity either consumed or generated over the entire month but will receive an annual bill. Customers are also billed monthly for nominal costs associated with account administrative fees.

You will receive a bill at the end of your 12-month billing period as a customer-generator under your utility company’s’ Net Energy Metering (NEM) Program OR your electricity bill has been settled due to changes in your account. This statement includes the year-to-date energy charges for your completed 12-month billing period. If the year-to-date energy charges are positive, you have been a net consumer of energy and are being billed for your net energy consumed over your 12-month billing period. This annual billing period is called your “relevant period” and is a vital time frame to remember. During your relevant period, your net energy usage charges or credits are tracked monthly.

If your year-to-date energy charges show a credit balance, you have a net generator over your 12-month billing period and do not owe any energy charges. If your year-to-date kilowatt-hours (kWh) are negative, you may receive net surplus compensation based upon the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved value per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

We highly encourage our customers to pay the net charges monthly.

It typically takes one to two months for an installer to design your solar array and secure initial permits (from your municipal government) and interconnection agreements (from your electric utility). Depending on your exact solar permitting office and utility interconnection team, this could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Once initial permits and interconnection agreements are in hand, your installer will typically need only one to two days to physically install your array (panels, inverter, racking system, and wiring). The installer will then need to get final approval from the municipal permitting office and secure final interconnection approval from the utility. This can take an additional one to three months depending on the jurisdiction.

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