Things to Know Before Going Solar

1. Electricity Savings. No matter what incentives are available, your solar system will save you money on your electricity bills. Your system will likely be grid-tied, which means any electricity you generate but do not use will be sold to the electricity grid. Some utility companies offer time-of-use rates, which rewards conservation during peak hours (during the day) and consumption during off-peak hours, which benefits solar system owners selling electricity that peaks in production during the day. Furthermore, electricity rates are increasing across the board, so generating your own electricity hedges against further rate increases, improving your ROI. 

2. Financing Options. In more and more areas, leasing companies are offering financing that covers most or all of the upfront costs of installing a solar system. Lease payments rise gradually over time in concert with increased savings on electricity bills. At the end of the 10-20 year payment period, homeowners usually have the option to buy the system.

3. System Location and Production. Obviously limiting the amount of shade exposure to the system is preferred, but the sun doesn’t need to shine 300+ days a year to make solar a wise investment. Identical solar systems placed in the sunniest and cloudiest locations would differ by only about 15 to 20% in electricity generation (photovoltaic cells actually operate more efficiently in cooler temperatures).

The ideal position to install solar panels is on a south-facing roof, however, an east-west configured roof can still produce sufficient electricity to make it worth your while to go solar. Also, panels are typically installed at an angle, either along the roof’s curves or propped up if the roof is flat, to receive direct sunlight during peak hours of sunlight.

Solar panels have a 30-year lifespan and lose approximately 0.5% in efficiency each year. The only maintenance required is to clean them a couple times a year to remove dirt. The only part that requires replacement is the inverter.

4. Economic Incentives. In addition to electricity savings, your ROI for your system can improve based on available rebates, grants, tax credits, and solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), usually offered by state energy departments and programs. Read more about available incentives in your area!

5. Blackouts. In the event of a power outage, the inverter box, which is connected to the grid, recognizes the outage and automatically shuts down your system to protect maintenance workers repairing the grid. In states with SREC markets (which base SREC issuance on electricity generation), small system owners can often opt for a production estimate configured for the system’s size and location. In the event of a blackout, shut down systems on the production estimates still receive SRECs!

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