Charles, how does this Solar PV thing work, will my house be “on the grid?”
You will still use the grid and should pay a usage charge to the power company to be connected – this pays for the grid quality and your access to power at night – even when you are producing what you need or more than what you need – you are using the grid. There are no battery solutions that I have seen yet that are affordable and reliable. When there are, you will not need the grid.
Eric, I understand I can get “free solar” from some companies – how does that work? What about adding Solar to my commercial building? Are there still tax benefits to adding solar PV?
Be aware of the “free solar” statement. There really is no free solar. The current financial benefits are tax oriented. Private individuals and businesses will qualify for a 30% federal tax credit that can be taken over 2 years. Businesses and Farms can, additionally, depreciate their solar equipment. “No money down and no upfront costs” usually refer to a “no money down, loan”. If your project will be financed with a solar loan, understand any “dealer fees” that are being passed on to you. They are used to help bring down the loan rate. When you pay out of pocket for your system, you should evaluate annual production, Return on Investment (ROI), years of payback, and always the environmental benefits. When you pay with a loan, the key metric is comparing monthly payments to your average monthly electric bill.
Charles, should I have my existing roof replaced before adding solar PV?
If your roof is not newer, you probably want a roofer to evaluate the life in it before installing solar. You don’t want to have to remove solar to replace a roof before you have gotten the value out of the solar PV.
Charles, now that you have answered a lot of our questions, where do I start?
Start with this website to determine if your roof has good solar potential.
If the answer is yes, then collect your utility bills for the past year for the solar PV company you decide to reach out to for a quote.
Ask someone like Eric Beck with Green Hill Solar to give you an estimate for installation. The way I would look at it, cost vs value – is to finance the system through a bank with a 15 – 20-year loan (panels will last a long time, but usually have a 25 year warranty). If your payment to the bank is less than your current electric bills, then you should have solar PV. If you can also use the tax credits that is icing on the cake. Solar PV does add value to your home so if / when you sell you should be able to get most if not all your money back out of the system.
Eric, final question, how long does it take to get the system up and operational once you get started.
An average residential installation should take 2-3 days. The utility application and approvals on the front and back end can take up to 30 days, so be ready for patience. Solar PV has been well designed to be very low impact and easy to retrofit on most homes, so the impact on the lifestyle of the occupants is minimal. Ultimately, be comfortable with the installer and their abilities, as you would be with any contractor. And understand, despite the rewarding nature of solar work, the unique challenges of solar work include navigating long utility review processes, local building departments, and physically demanding technical work.
What questions do you have that we can give to Charles and Eric to consider?