Taking our Clean Power Survey is the best way to find out how well-suited your home is for a solar power system.
Here are some of the frequently asked questions we get:
Q: How does a solar power system work?
A: Panels on your roof convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity that an inverter then converts into alternating current (AC) electricity. AC is the electricity that powers all your appliances and lights. When your system produces more electricity than your home is using, it’s like making a deposit at the bank: You get credits from your utility company. When your home uses more electricity than your system is producing, you’ll use up those credits and draw electricity from the power grid, like a bank withdrawal.
Q: What happens when it’s cloudy or when it snows?
A: The ideal weather for solar panels, not surprisingly, is sunny, but your system will still be working even when the skies are overcast. It’s like a cloudy day at the beach when you can still get a sun burn. Same thing with solar panels. The system continues to soak up light, just not as much as when it’s sunny. Snow usually melts quickly on the panels, which are dark and readily absorb heat. If there’s a lot of snow, it generally slides off the slippery glass surface, cleaning the panels as it goes. When covered by snow, the panels won’t produce energy under snow.
Q: What kind of maintenance is required with a solar system?
A: None. Rain and snow keep the panel clean and operating efficiently.
Q: What about withstanding high winds and hail?
A: The panels and the racking, or mounting, systems used to secure the panels to your roof have been tested to withstand strong winds and other adverse weather conditions. The solar panels themselves are tested to withstand hail.
Q: What happens when the power goes out?
A: Your solar system shuts off as a safety feature to help protect both you and the utility company’s line workers. It will automatically go back on when the utility company restores power.
Q: What kind of a roof is good for a solar power system?
A: The best roofs for solar face south and have very little shade. On average, for every kilowatt (kW) installed, a home solar power system takes up about 100 square feet. Most residential systems run between 3 kW and 10 kW, so you would need between 300 and 1,000 square feet of unobstructed space.
Q: What type of roof is best for solar panels?
A: Systems can easily be installed on asphalt shingle roofs as well as some metal and even slate roofs. Many companies do not handle installing solar panels on slate roofs, but we have that capability. Another important consideration is the structural integrity of your roof. At the appropriate point in the process, a solar site assessment will be made to inspect your roof to ensure that it’s safe to proceed.
Q: Does it matter how old my roof is?
A: Yes. Solar panels will last for more than 25 years, so the newer your roof, the better. You can repair or replace your roof after you’d had a solar system installed, but that’s likely going to be more time-consuming and expensive than addressing any roof issues before your solar installation.
Q: What if I try to sell my house, and a prospective buyer doesn’t want the solar system?
A: It’s generally a selling point, with homeowners recouping 97 percent of the net investment they make in a solar system compared with 60 percent of an investment in a new kitchen. If need be, a solar system can be removed; the cost will vary depending on its size and complexity.
Q: How long do solar panels last?
A: Most home solar panels are warrantied to produce at least 80% of their output 25 years after being installed.