Solar Q & A


Solar Energy: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Q 1:I don’t live in a hot, sunny climate, will solar energy work for me?

A: Solar power works well in many types of climates, from the foggy weather in San Francisco to cool and cloudy Portland. Panels are actually a little more efficient when it’s cooler outside. They can work in snowy climates as well. You’ll get the most solar power on a clear, sunny day, but your panels won’t stop working when it’s cloudy.

Q 2: Solar technology is improving quickly, so isn’t it better to wait?

A: Solar panels actually have changed surprisingly little in the last several decades. There have been small improvements in solar panel efficiency, but they are at a peak in energy productivity now because it’s really a stable technology compared with something like your laptop or cell phone. Because of rebates and other incentives available for solar panels, this is an ideal time to invest in a system.

Q 3: Should I wait since solar panel pricing may decline and the technology is still improving?

A: No! You lose the “time value” of free electricity while waiting. All available incentives have limited durations and limited funding. The solar PV technology has matured, and there is no dramatic break through on horizon.

Q 4: Isn’t solar power just for rich people?

A: No. Solar power is one of the best home improvement investments you can make– it’s a way to save money (and even make money). You’ll slash your electricity bill, and you can use rebates, tax credits, and financing to make the cost of installation reasonable. An average solar power system returns 2-4 times its cost in saved electricity bills! It will pay itself back between 2-15 years, depending on your local situation.

Q 5: Is my roof strong enough to support a solar system?

A: Our approved solar installation company engineers undertake strict examinations and careful calculations to assess the integrity of your roof with a solar system. Should there be a problem related to a mistake in their assessment, the engineer’s liability insurance will cover the loss.

Q 6: Won’t solar panels damage my roof?

A: Although homeowners sometimes worry that installing solar panels might lead to leaks, or even weaken a roof so much that it might collapse, solar panels actually protect roofs from severe weather. The portion of a roof underneath solar panels won’t be hit hard by heavy rain, wind or snow. Solar panels aren’t normally attached directly to the roof, but instead go on metal rails. Any gaps are filled with sealants that offer more protection. If something does need to be repaired on your roof, your solar panels can be removed. If your roof has serious problems before your solar installation though, you’ll definitely want to fix them first (or get a new roof, if you need one, before your new solar panels go in).

Q 7: What if my roof leaks after the solar panels are installed?

A: Installing solar panels will not damage the roof. Should something unforeseen happen, the installation warranty will cover any problems caused by installing the panels.

Q 8: Won’t solar panels make my house look ugly?

A: When everyone from Brad Pitt to Pope Benedict XVI has solar panels on their houses, you know they’re in style. Not only is environmentalism (and saving money) a good thing, there are now different types of solar panels to choose from– if you don’t like the classic style, you can choose solar shingles that look like regular roofing shingles, or sleek black panels made by companies like Sun Power.

Q 9: Will I need batteries to store the excess power from my solar panels?

A: Your solar panel system will be tied to the conventional electricity grid. That means that extra energy from your panels will flow back into the grid (this is when you’ll have the fun of watching your electricity meter spin backward). Your utility company will credit you as this happens. At night, when you’re not producing power, it will come from the grid. If you really want batteries rather than being tied to the grid, that’s an option, but for most people, it’s much easier not to have them (they’re bulky, expensive, and have to replaced).

Q 10: Don’t solar panels require tracking systems to follow the sun?

A: Most homeowners don’t have tracking systems for their solar panels. By following the angle of the sun as it changes over time, they can make your solar panels more efficient, but the gains you’ll get normally aren’t significant enough to make the extra cost worth it (they also take up extra space, and may take more maintenance). They’re much more common in commercial solar farms.

Q 11: Don’t solar panels require a lot of maintenance?

A: Solar panels are easy to care for, and because they don’t have moving parts, they don’t require regular maintenance. You may choose to rinse off your panels with a hose once a year, but it’s not necessary. Many homeowners just let the rain clean off panels, and this causes only a slight loss in efficiency. If something bigger falls on your panels, it is good to remove it. You’ll be able to quickly see if your solar system isn’t performing at its best through the monitoring software that comes with it.

Q 12: Won’t solar panels increase my property tax?

A: In several states, solar installations are actually exempt from property tax. Because of that, installing solar panels will increase the resale value of your house without increasing your property tax at all.

Q 13: What if I want to sell my house soon?

A: The increased market value of your house will exceed any remaining balance you may have as a result of the installation. Solar power is increasing in popularity, and more and more people prefer solar panels on the roof and are willing to pay more for the property for the benefit of free electricity.

Q 14: Can I really sell any excess energy my solar energy system produces back to the utility companies?

A: Yes! The U.S. Government requires that 42 states and the District of Columbia to purchase surplus power from consumers. We can give you all of the answers you need.

Q 15: Why doesn’t everyone have solar?

A: It is probable that at some point, almost everyone will. People have been using energy from the utilities for over 100 years, so change to solar won’t happen overnight. Once people begin to realize the savings realized by the early adopters of solar technology, more people will convert.