Here at Solar Power Rocks, we pride ourselves on bringing you the most current, informative, accurate, and entertaining information on the web about solar. Unfortunately, we’re just a small group of solar-loving dudes, and there’s a whole big country out there.
Each state has different laws and rules, and each electric company has their own way of doing business. That means we sometimes miss a legislative achievement or change in net metering rules until we get around to our yearly update of state information.
For states we haven’t updated recently, the best way to get the latest rebate and policy info is to get a free solar quote from a local installer. Seriously. They’re on the ground, they work with the electric companies every day, and they know all the latest ways to save money on solar.
That said, we have spent a lot of time learning, thinking, and writing about solar policy in these here United States, and we have a lot of answers that will help anyone interested in solar. In fact, we’ve written a book about it: Get our Ultimate Guide to Powering your Home with Solar. The book contains the best knowledge we’ve collected about going solar since the site began in 2007, and it’s awesome.
If you’d just like the answer to one or two questions, here are the Top Solar Questions, our pithy answers, and links to relevant posts to read and cherish and share on Facebook and Twitter with your friends and admirers:
FAQ Table of Contents:
- How does solar power work?
- How much does solar cost for my home?
- Am I or my home right for solar?
- How many square feet do I need for solar panels on my roof?
- What should I look for in an installer?
- How do they keep those damn solar panels from sliding off my roof?
- Should I get thin film? Silicon? What’s the difference?
- What’s an inverter and why should I care?
- What the Hell is the Difference Between a Kilowatt (kW) and a Kilowatt-hour (kWh)
- Should my Solar Quote be in AC Watts? DC Watts. Watt’s the deal?
- What’s Net Metering?
- Do I Need Batteries?
- What’s a Feed-in-Tariff (FiT)?
- What is Time of Use and Why Should I Care?
- What are Tiered Rates and Why Should I Be Grateful for them if I go Solar?
- What’s a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and Why Should I Demand My State Have One?
- What are SRECS, RECS, and Green Tags and Why Do They Make Us Drink Heavily?
- Have you ever heard of CitzenRe. Is it a scam?
- Have you heard of Earth-4-Energy DIY Kits? Is it a scam?
- Tell me all about Solar Leases and Solar PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements)
- What’s all this that I hear about BerkelyFirst and Municipal Solar Financing for Residents?
- I’ve learned so much here that I want to get into the Solar Biz. Tips?
See Solar 101- How Sunlight converts into electricity. This space isn’t big enough for all the information you’ll find there.
For you? 2 bucks. Ha! Just procrastinating from giving you the truth, which I think you can handle: Actually, it depends on a lot of things, including your state, your roof, and how you finance it, how much electricity you use. See How much, Solar Fred?. Bottom line, all solar is local. You might also read “What are the environmental and financial benefits of going solar.” After you read those, get a free custom, local quote and you’ll know for sure. Have I said that already? Alzheimer’s.
I’d like to lie and say that every person, home, business and your dog are right for solar. But that’s not how we roll here at SolarPowerRocks. So, I’m going to direct you to this handy post. If that doesn’t help, you know what I’m going to say. It’s a phrase that has the word “free” in it. For the really clueless, the answer lies here.
As with many questions in life, the answer is “it depends.” It’s a hard lesson to learn, but we’re here to break it to you easy. In fact, the answer to this question is actually less straightforward than you might think. That why we’ve dedicated a whole page of our website to it.. We also cover a few more questions like “how much energy will my panels produce?” and “how much money can I save?”
We’ve written two posts about this with slightly different perspectives. Read both. Basically, it’s all about experience and a little homework on your part. Check out the first: Nine Crucial Installer Considerations and the second: 10 key tips to finding a great installer.
Two words: Duct … Tape. Kidding! There is certainly a science to installing roof top solar panels and making sure there are no leaks. Check out Mr. Dave’s most excellent post, entitled, “How are Solar Panels Attached to My Roof.” There are more new and simpler ways to tack those suckers down since the writing of this post. So expect even better results.
Excellent question. The answer is that, for right now, stick with silicon panels for your home, especially if you don’t have a lot roof space. That may change as thin film gets better. But why not read this lovely post about thin film and silicon panel differences.
You really should care about an inverter because it’s going to conk out in 10 to 15 years and you’ll have to replace it. A necessary evil, however, because inverters convert solar panel “DC” energy into Microwave Popcorn “AC” energy. Dave also wrote another post devoted to what’s called micro-inverters. You may be seeing a lot more of these little guys in the coming years. They’re so cute and easy to install, but …they ain’t cheap. Do they pay for themselves? Eventually.
Dave answers this simply in his colorful and informative post of the same name. He says, “A kilowatt-hour is the amount of energy equivalent to a power of 1 kilowatt running for 1 hour. If you leave a 100 Watt light bulb on for 1 hour, you’ve done gone and used up 100 watt-hours, and PG&E is going to bill you accordingly.” Still confused? Bummer. Try reading the full post.
Get it? “Watt’s” the deal? Solar Power pun. Hee-hee. You’ll hear that one a lot from solar installers. In any case, the answer is, generally, DC STC. Huh? It would do thee well to read The Difference Between DC and AC (and PTC/STC).
Net Metering is your virtual solar battery. Without net metering, you might as well not go solar unless you’ve got a really great Feed-in-Tariff. See next question, but read this very basic net metering explanation first. If you can’t get enough of net metering, well, Dan also wrote a more detailed and righteous net metering post. Have at it.
Not unless you’ve got a pace maker or otherwise you’re bionic. Your solar system doesn’t need batteries either. In fact, it’s much “more affordable” (code word for “lots cheaper”) when you DON’T have batteries. So stay on the grid. No batteries.
It’s a type of incentive program that worked well in Europe. There aren’t that many FiT programs in the States right now, and quite honestly, net metering with a rebate and Time of Use is a pretty good deal. Read some basics here, but appreciate and use net metering for now. It really is a good deal, which is why utilities hate it.
Time of Use (TOU) is a type of special solar electric rate that your utility may or may not offer. Not surprisingly, the rate depends on your…wait for it….time of use. In other words, when you use electricity in your home. Generally, TOU rates are better for solar people, but they’re not always offered by every utility or State.
Tiered rates (instead of flat electric rates)is the utility’s way of punishing energy hogs for using so much damn energy with their old light bulbs and their old refrigerators. The more you use, the higher your rate. The good news? Solar can make it seem like you’re in the cheapest rate tier, hee-hee, ha-ha, it is to laugh. Read all about tiered rates here.
An RPS is a law, state or national, that says that a utility must get some percentage of its power from renewable resources like solar and wind. More info and you win a prize if you read all about the RPS here. (Not really about the prize.)
Oy, vey. This post was a pain in our tuchus and probably won’t help you because every state has a different system. So don’t feel you have to read it. We only slaved over it, trying to make it simple for you, and what do we get? Perhaps it would make us feel better if you got a free solar quote in your local area. But don’t push yourself, honey. We’ll manage somehow. Here’s the SREC/Green Tag explanation. Enjoy it if you can. No guilt here.
Not quite a scam. Not really in business either. Their own website says not to wait for them. So don’t. But read this post if you want to be truly convinced that CitzenRe is not in business.
This multi-level-marketing (MLM) truly is a waste of time and money in our opinion. We don’t even want to waste your time reading why we think that, but go ahead and judge the Earth4Energy post for yourself.
Well, there are lot of innovative ways to finance solar these days. Solar Leasing and Solar PPAs are one of them. They all have their advantages….and disadvantages. I tell you no lies: Low money down, good. But…in the long run, you’re financially better off buying through a home equity loan or line of credit or municipal financing. Learn about the difference between a solar lease and a solar ppa here.
Municipal financing is the nectar of the solar financing gods. Period. It allows you to get your solar through your city. No home equity worries.Decent interest rate. 20 year loan through a special tax assessment on your house. You sell the house, the new owner pays the rest of the solar loan/assessment. So, it’s sort of solar financing as you go, and you get all of the net metering and other benefits besides. We love this so much, we wrote two posts about it. Hell yes, do we love municipal financing.
We get a lot of these types of questions. This is why we Dan wrote a solid post called How do I get started in the solar industry. Read that for some tips. You might also want to sign up for some courses at The Solar Living Institute and/or Solar Energy International. These are the two best places to get hands on experience with solar, as well as some sales and marketing classes.
Now that you know all the basics, click below if you’re ready to get a free quote from a local installer. You rock!