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Clear info on home solar power rebates, tax credits, and other benefits

Ye Old Solar FAQ & More

QuestionHere 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?

See Solar 101- How Sunlight converts into electricity. This space isn’t big enough for all the information you’ll find there.


How much does solar cost on my home?

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.


Am I right for solar?

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.

How many square feet do I need for solar panels on my roof?

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?”


What Should I Look for in an Installer?

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.


How do they Keep those Damn Solar Panels from Sliding Off my Roof?

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.


Should I Get Thin Film Panels? Silicon? What’s the difference?

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.


What’s an inverter and why should I care?

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.


What the Hell is the Difference Between a Kilowatt (kW) and a Kilowatt-hour (kWh) ?

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.


Should my Solar Quote be in AC Watts? DC Watts? Watt’s the deal?

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).


What’s Net Metering?

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.


Do I Need Batteries?

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.


What’s a Feed-in-Tariff (FiT)?

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.


What is Time of Use and Why Should I Give a Twinkie?

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.


What are Tiered Rates and Why Should I Be Grateful for them if I go Solar?

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.


What’s a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and Why Should I Demand My State Have One?

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.)


What are SRECS, RECS, and Green Tags and Why Do They Make Us Drink Heavily?

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.


Have you ever heard of CitzenRe. Is it a scam?

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.


Have you heard of Earth-4-Energy DIY Kits? Is it a scam?

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.


Tell me all about Solar Leases and Solar PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements)

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.


What’s all this that I hear about BerkelyFirst and Municipal Solar Financing for Residents?

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.


I’ve learned so much here that I want to get into the Solar Biz. Tips?

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!

Click here to get hooked up with a local solar installer for your home or business

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14 thoughts on “Ye Old Solar FAQ & More

  1. John Kimball says:

    Been in the solar business 43 years, since 1973. This is the best web site I’ve ever seen on going solar electric.

    1. Ben Zientara says:

      Thanks, John! Really glad you’re enjoying it. We’re blushing over here!

  2. Anonymous says:

    We need HELP! Our Pettycoat Junction county in Virginia randomly assessed our solar array at $100k, adding this to our property tax assessment!!!! They never bothered to find out the real cost of this system, which for parts only was about $40k! We now have a permanent increase of our property of $100k, which is double our assessment prior to adding solar. We’ve managed to get a 30% reduction, for 5 years, of this hyper-inflated figure but the main argument is that some guy came out here, asked the installer what ‘one of them thar solar systems would cost him?” and a figure of $100k was tossed out. That’s it!!! And they will NOT consider depreciation of this equipment, which it most certainly has done in the 2 years we’ve had it up and running (it sits in a pasture next to our home, in ground racks). I think we should be able to sue for this! We cannot sell our home because of this over-inflated assessment. Our normal taxes for 42 acres, remodeled farm house, barn, garage etc. is $800/year. It’s NOW $1800/year!!!! HELP!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I’m an electrician, and manufacturer of thermal solar collectors, I have an experience of 11 years only on solar energy and manual welding with autogenous and ultrasonic several years of experience in the field of maintenance as an electrician coach’s football, I need to work in kauai because I have no direct family there, I’m Spanish and I live in Spain, a greeting

  4. Anonymous says:

    ​ Hi! I came across your website and really enjoyed reading through it. I wanted to see if you were open to guest contributions? I currently work for Modernize.com and we’re looking to contribute to websites and blogs that write about home improvement & home decor. Here are a couple examples of recent articles our writers have written: http://modernize.com/home-ideas/3802/4-ways-find-qualified-home-energy-auditor http://modernize.com/home-ideas/3930/hottest-solar-energy-facts Let me know if you have a topic in mind and we can get started right away. Thanks, Kevin

  5. Anonymous says:

    So…. Kind of in love with this site. Thanks, guys! Back to reading now :-)

    1. Ben Zientara says:

      Thanks! The sun makes us feel all warm and fuzzy, too.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “I have seen solar panels on an asphalt shingle roof. Can solar panels be installed on a metal roof or are they restricted to asphalt shingle roofs?” Solar panels have a variety of attachment methods and are not limited to asphalt shingled roofs. There are different attachments based on the profile of each metal roof, but it can be done. Just for a bit more information, there are methods to attach to slate roofs, tile roofs, flat roofs, roll composition.. the possibilities are endless these days!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have seen solar panels on an asphalt shingle roof. Can solar panels be installed on a metal roof or are they restricted to asphalt shingle roofs?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hey guys! (Sorry, hit enter too soon earlier)…… I’m a USMC veteran and have started a renewable energy consulting firm with a few of my Marine buddies. How can we get our company listed as one of your “service providers”? What is the criteria tobe added or selected? We are absolutely a “start up” company that is new to renewable energy, but not new to business, helping people and protecting the planet! Help? Thoughts? Suggestions? Thanks!! Alex

  9. Anonymous says:

    I heard if you don’t have enough sun coming onto your roof that your city cannot get in the way of building a structure to support the solar arrays. Do I understand it is in the federal law that the city government must let us build our structure to support our solar panel system?

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  11. Keith says:

    Hi, I would like to know why solar panel installations in the States are so expensive. I have just had an installation for a 4Kw system installed in my main residence in Scotland. The complete installation price including 16x 250w monocrytstaline panels, fitted to a typical two-story tiled roof (split east/west), top performing Power-one Aurora grid tie inverter with secondary solar generation monitor, fitted and working in 1 1/2 days, all for 6,500 BPS ($10,400). This installation was fitted by government approved certified solar system installers backed by a 25yr warranty.

    I would like to have a similar system installed in my Nevada residence (currently rented) but am put off by the significant disparity in costs between the UK and US. Britain is not known for it’s access to low-cost products (hence nickname Rip-off Britain). So why can I not even get a similar deal here in the States? I have priced the component parts and can’t understand what all that money is going towards. Are labor costs just that much greater or is this more about greed?

    Regards, Keith

    1. Dave Llorens says:

      The economics are still great here because of the incentives and high power costs, but you are right. Germany and UK are cheaper, mostly for soft cost reasons. Wrote a little about it here
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-llorens/a-better-solyndra-how-to-_b_1974797.html

      Basically, thing are more standard there and while the products of panels/inverter/racking are basically the same, and labor is actually ever so slightly higher, the soft costs of installs are a fraction.

      We have five trillion utilities, eight gadjillion different local rebates, permitting that varies all the way down to the neighborhood level, a pretty freaking archaic grid that is governed very weirdly. It adds a lot to the cost. However, I’ll take the Pepsi challenge on the economics of a $400 power bill in California vs. UK or Germany any day of the week.

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