Frequently Asked Questions

Should I go solar?

  • Solar will reduce or eliminate your electric costs.
  • Solar will protect you against future electric rate hikes.
  • Solar offers a huge return on investment, which only improves over time.
  • Solar will increase the value of your home.
  • Solar will help reduce our usage of fossil fuels. It is a good thing to do.

Will solar work for me?

You need good sun for solar to be cost effective. Trees are a big problem – particularly in the Northeast.  Optimal times for solar exposure are from 10am to 4pm. Orientation is also key. While a south facing roof works best, if you have a sunny roof that faces east, west or anywhere in between, solar modules will effectively produce electricity on your roof. Important to note that the sun drops to 30 degrees off the horizon during winter months. An easy way to check your orientation is to look on google or bing maps.

What size is right for me?

Electric use varies from home to home. Most system sizes are dictated by roof space, or the parameters of state incentives. Depending on the efficiency of the panels, solar electric systems can cover 60 – 100% of usage. For larger homes often a groundmount array is required to cover the electrical use.

What happens to the excess electricity?

The excess electricity flows back out through your electric meter, and spins your meter backwards. You earn a credit at your high retail rate until the sun goes down and your meter spins forward again. The law allowing homeowners to spin their meter backwards is called Net Metering.

Is Solar Expensive?

Panel prices have dropped over 70% per cent over the last 5 years. And with state and federal incentives, prices for solar electric system can be surprisingly affordable compared to just 3-4 years back. There are also financing models available that avoid any upfront costs: PPA and lease programs require no out of pocket expense and can reduce one’s electric bill by 10-20 percent.  See our description of financing options.

  1. What should I look for when considering solar?

    1. Look at the Financial Return. ROI. Check the numbers. Return on investment. Think of solar as you would any investment. Compare its return to other places you might put your money. Solar stocks have taken a beating in recent years but people who invested in owning solar panels have made a fantastic return on their investment. Since utility rates historically rise higher than inflation – on average 5% a year, solar has the advantage of returning ever higher yields as time passes. And the return on investment in solar  is also tax free. Besides saving on electricity, some states like New Jersey and Massechusetts offer additional income from SRECs payments made to the solar owner by the utility. This income is often equal to our great than the electrical savings, thus doubling the return, or cutting the ROI in half.
    2. Look at the product. Purchase. Consider the product being put on your roof. Solar panels vary in their productivity, their quality and their providence. Many manufacturers have gone out of business in recent years and more recent articles point to the lack of quality control on many of the low cost panels flooding the market today see story. This is a piece of equipment that is projected to work for 30 – 40 years.  So purchase equipment that has a good track record, and affords you protection as a consumer. This solar electric system is an extension of your house. It is adding value to your house, so make sure it is a quality item that truly does add value, rather than become a liability.

What if I move?

According to the Appraisal Institute (a national trade association of real estate appraisers), an energy improvement to a house, like solar, increases the value of the home by almost $21 for every dollar in annual energy savings realized.

What about clouds?

Yes. Solar electric systems produce power even at low light levels, but they produce the most in clear sunny conditions.

Is the Northeast good for solar?

Yes, surprisingly good. In fact, we receive about 70% as much solar energy as in sunny San Diego because we have a coastal weather pattern.  We also get more consistent rain to keep the solar panels clean of dust, soot and pollen (in San Diego it doesn’t rain for about 8-9 months a year.)

How much space will I need on my roof or in my yard for a solar system?

Solar panels are high efficiency panel and as efficiency increases, the amount of space required goes down. But generally speaking, each 1000 watts of solar modules occupies an area of about 80-100 square feet. So a 5000-watt system, a typical size system, needs a space of about 450-500 square feet (e.g., about 20 ft. by 25 ft., 15 ft. by 33 ft., etc.).

How long will my solar modules last?

Solar modules generally have performance warranties of 20-25 years and are expected to last at least 30 years. Inverters carry  10 year warranties, but are expected to last at least 15-20 years (they are now fully solid-state electronic, and have essentially no moving parts so they are expected to last longer and replacement costs should continue to be reduced over time).

Will my solar electric system operate when my utility has an outage?

The normal solar electric system stops producing AC electricity when the electric grid is down, then restarts five minutes after the grid is once again operating. There are solar-powered emergency backup systems available that charge batteries during the day, and then instantly powers critical electric loads whenever the grid goes down. These solar backup systems operate as a silent, fumeless emergency generator when electric outages occur. These systems are expensive relative to natural gas generators, but as battery technology improves and cost are driven down by the advent of the electrical car, these system will become much more cost competitive.

My head is about to explode – now what?

You are doing great. Remember  it is estimated that as high as 70% of all wine sales are based on label design. So if you have read this far, you’ve already done a lot more research than the average consumer of Pinot Noir. If you are still uncertain, find someone who already has solar and talk to them.  Spoiler Alert! Most everyone who has solar is really happy with it.

If you live in the northeast and get good sun on your roof, you are one of the fortunate few. The economics for solar should be very good for you. So get off carbon. Take advantage of your good fortune. How often do you have the opportunity to cut down on your expenses and help save the planet at the same time.

Going Solar is a form of conscious investing, or what might be called Enlightened Self-Interest.

Leave a Comment