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Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Panels For Your Home

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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?

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 joshin’. Here’s the truth: It depends.

It depends on a lot of things, including your state, your roof, and how you finance it, how much electricity you use. See our page all about the cost of going solar. Bottom line, all solar is local. You might also read about why you should get multiple solar quotes and some of the ways your solar installation can get more expensive. After you read those, get a free custom, local solar quote and you’ll know for sure. Have we said that already? Alzheimer’s.

How am I going to pay for solar?

In the beforetimes, there was only cash, but that was before solar was proven long-term to perform as promised, save you money, and increase your home’s value. In the past 15 years or so, there have been many big changes in solar financing. You can still pay cash of course, or take one of a number of kids of loans for solar. On top of that, you can lease the panels or sign a Power-Purchase Agreement and get the energy for $0 down.

How do I negotiate with a solar installer?

The best way to enter any negotiation is with lots of information, and the way to have that is to get multiple quotes, read the special solar state page for your state, and read through our Ultimate Guide to Going Solar. For more tips, check out our blog about negotiating with a solar installer.

Will solar panels add value to my home?

The verdict is in: solar panels add value to your home. We actually made a really nice infographic about it. But if you don’t like super-informative images, you can also read about the research that’s been done regarding the price premiums paid for solar homes.

Am I right for solar?

I’d like to lie and say that every person, home, business and doghouse is right for solar. But that’s not how we roll here at SolarPowerRocks. So, we’re going to direct you to this handy post. If that doesn’t help, you know what we’re 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 kind of maintenance do solar panels need?

You’ll be pleased to know that solar panels need almost no regular maintenance, outside a quick cleaning every now and again. Read our solar panel maintenance blog for more.

How long do solar panels last?

Back of the envelope? 30-40 years. But the truth is, nobody knows for sure, because some of the earliest commercially-available solar panels are hitting that age now, and still kicking out the kilowatts. Read our full post about solar panel lifespan, and if you’re curious about disasters, both man-made and natural, read about solar panels in a hurricane and solar panels after a nuclear EMP.

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 check out our net metering explanation first. Enjoy!

Do I Need Batteries?

Not unless you’ve got a pacemaker or you’re augmented with the latest bionic technologies. 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 if you can.

But batteries, like the Tesla Powerwall, are getting cheaper all the time, and it’s worth looking into if you’re setting up solar in a remote area or a place with super-high electric prices. Read more about adding batteries, and even keeping the lights on through power outages without them.

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. We’ll 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

Last modified: September 18, 2018

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Victoria
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Victoria

Hi there, I currently live in the midwest which is one of the windiest parts of the country, so I would love to be able to add a wind-turbine to the system as well as solar power. Would I be able to connect two sources into the same group of batteries (assuming I have enough batteries to hold the power of course) or would I have to have a separate system? I guess this can be simplified as “Can I have multiple power inputs from multiple sources but still one output?”

Jan Greene
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Jan Greene

I installed solar panels on the roof of my home in Rhode Island in September of 2018. Your chart says that RI electric companies pay 37.75 cents for KWh, but my provider (National Grid) is only paying me 32.25 cents per KWh. Has the law changed?

Char
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Char

Is Fuel cell property is the same name as solar property? I’m looking and filling out the 5695 residential energy credit form for my taxes.

Ben Zientara
Admin

Nope, qualifying fuel cell property is different than solar. If you installed solar, you’re looking at line 1 of form 5695, “Qualified solar electric property.” People who installed fuel cells use lines 7-11.

Athena bauerle
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Athena bauerle

I am getting sued by my hoa. This effects me directly, please contact our representatives.. just a few clicks https://nwphillysolarcoop.com/2018/03/20/ask-your-state-senator-to-support-sb1039/

Lynn P
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Lynn P

I had solar water panels installed for my pool ay my residence. They have not been functional for several years. Would fixing this system qualify for the tax credit?

Ben Zientara
Admin

Thanks, Robert-

In our new version of the document, those links have been fixed!

Anthony
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Anthony

I have already installed solar panels on my home. With that said I have already also claimed the 30% tax credit. I was thinking of getting more panels on my home and perhaps even a rental property that I own. With that said am I able to again claim the 30% federal tax credit on the additional costs that would be associated with those systems? I would love for someone to reach out to me personally on my email address with additional information about the inquiry.

Joanne
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Joanne

I love the idea of solar; but, I do NOT want any auto payments where some entity puts its paws into my bank account!

roy
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roy

can intermittent sun light from shading damage your panels? I have hard wood trees in my yard that have some branches that would shade the house in the winter

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