Why should I get solar?
First and foremost, you can reduce the carbon footprint of your home to near, if not absolute, zero. This is also a solid investment. Most solar systems pay for themselves in 2 to 10 years with savings from electric bills that you will be paying anyhow. Any output from the system after that is pure profit.
Is my house right for solar?
There are two main aspects we look at when considering solar- One, Is there a good solid roof, preferably facing south, and two, Is there any shading. Shingled or metal open roofs are ideal, but solar systems can be put almost anywhere there is enough sun. Although shed roofs are a first choice, we can also install ground mounts if open space is available. Unfortunately, we cannot install solar on mobile homes.
How much does solar cost?
With the price drops in the last several years we are able to install systems from $2.75 - 3.50/watt. For example, a 10KW system of 36 modules would cost about $28-30,000 before incentives. Smaller systems are slightly less, but much of the costs are fixed- electrician, permitting, labor, ect.
What financial incentives are there?
There is a 30% Federal Tax Credit that can be carried over several years. Also, some states and utilities offer various other incentives. For commercial projects, there is a grant from the USDA for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) for up to 25%, so commercial projects on Rural COOPs pay off really fast. Check www.dsireusa.org for your state's incentives.
What is the effect on the environment?
Solar energy is a renewable resource, so there is an unlimited amount of it available. When you put on a solar system, not only are you no longer putting harmful gases into the atmosphere, you can actually put energy back onto the grid, offsetting even more of our collective carbon footprint during peak usage hours.
How else can I decrease my carbon footprint?
It is much cheaper to reduce electric consumption than to produce new electricity. There are some simple, cheap ways to make your home more environmentally friendly. One is adding insulation where you house needs it, like walls and attic. This makes your house easier to heat and cool, and doesn’t make your heater or air condition work as hard. You can also install an efficient heat pump in your home, or replace your electric water heater with a water heater heat pump. Inefficient appliances use more energy, and some, like dehumidifiers and cable boxes, use much more energy than you would expect. Also, recirculating hot water pumps increase energy usage greatly.
How long will the system last? How does hail or other weather affect it?
These panels are fairly simple, but they are also durable. They have done very well against hail smaller than 2-3 inch diameter and other weather. This same technology has been operating on the Space Station for over 50 years. The front of the panels, exposed to the elements, has a layer of very strong tempered glass. The engineered life span is 25 years, but will very likely last from 30-50 years.
How can I have a net zero home?
Net zero refers to when a home or business produces as much, or more electricity than they consume.
What does grid tied and off grid mean? What are the advantages of each?
Grid tied means that the solar system is tied directly to the utility grid through a two way meter that measures the electricity that comes in from the grid when too little is being produced by the solar, such as at night, and how much goes back to the grid when the solar is producing and not being used. At the end of the month, if the solar has produced more than what has been used, that is considered net zero. Advantages are simplicity in the system, no moving parts or maintenance needed all the power you need whenever it is wanted. The grid acts as the battery, so all the power is either used now or later, with no need to dump excess power like if the battery would be fully charged. A disadvantage is that if the utility power is down, the solar is down as well for safety reasons, unless a generator or other source of power is used. Off grid is a solar system running a specific load or building and isolated from the utility. Usually batteries are needed to store the power. The advantage is for situations where a stable grid is not easily accessible or where one wants to be totally disconnected from the grid. Disadvantages are that one needs a much larger system, is limited to power usage when battery or solar is available, is much more complicated with batteries and charge controllers, and may cost half again as much as a grid tied system.
What is net metering?
Net metering is the arrangement with the utility company whereby through use of a two way meter that measures the power coming in from the utility and the power going out from the solar system, the difference at the end of the month is measured. If there is more energy used than produced, the customer is billed for the difference. If there is more produced than used, then depending upon the utility policy or current law, either a new month starts from zero, or the credit carries over month to month to the end of the calendar year. This is a real advantage to the customer, because like there are some days that produce more energy, this can balance it out over the month or even over the year.