Solar FAQ

Should I reroof before I go solar?

Let’s say you went solar today and then a few years later want to re-roof. Well, it’s not that pricey to pop the panels off, re-roof, and then put them back on. Often, the amount of power expenses you could have saved during that time is worth more than waiting to do the two things simultaneously.

If you’re going to do your roof this year anyway, go ahead and coordinate with a roofer and do both at the same time (it is commonplace for solar installers to coordinate like this). Otherwise, just pull the trigger on solar and worry about the roof when the time comes.

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What about thin film solar and other emerging technologies?

Thin film panels require more space to produce the same electricity as conventional photovoltaics. The upside is that they are typically prettier and are not negatively effected by heat.

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How do I apply for all the solar rebates?

Your installer will take care of this for you. We make sure that the installers we choose help you with this process. As for tax incentives, check with your tax professional to help you take advantage of the juicy 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit.

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How is the solar energy stored?

It’s not, really. During the day, you will use the solar energy in your home. If you produce more than you are using, you will sell that power back to the grid in the form of “store credit.” Then you buy it back at night or on days when you use a lot of energy. If you produce more than you use on average for the month, the extra amount carries over to the next month. Think of it like roll-over minutes on a cell phone.

In some states it all resets at the end of the year, and no states (at the moment) will actually give you cash for over-production, so getting a huge system that supplies more power than you need doesn’t make much sense yet.

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What happens when the power goes out?

Most solar systems are grid-tied, so that you can sell your excess power back to the grid. Because it’s not safe to push power onto the grid when the power is out (as workers may be working on the lines), your solar system knows to automatically turn off until power is back up. If power outages are a large concern, the best solution is typically to purchase a generator.

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How long does solar take to pay for itself?

It depends on a lot of things like how much your utility charges for power, how much sun you get, and what the temperature is where you live. Other large factors are the local, state, and federal incentives involved. Payback can be anywhere from 3 years to 30 years. The important thing is that whatever it is, 1BOG reduces that payback period.

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What maintenance is required?

Not much. Dust and grime you should rinse off twice a year, but if you never did anything and let the rain do the work you might not even notice. Big debris like leaves and bird poop MUST GO, so if you get a lot of that, you’ll have to clean it regularly.

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How much space is required?

A good rule of thumb is 100 sq. ft. of roof for each kW of system size. The average system size in the US is around 3.5kW.

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I’m a renter or a landlord. Can I still get solar?

Yes, indeed. See Solar and Renters.

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I live in a Condo, what do I do?!

Solar energy systems are basically separated 100% by meter. Who buys it, who gets the incentives, the power it generates… that’s all completely isolated by meter. The chosen solar installer will have the answers to all of your questions concerning how solar works on condos. The only logistically tricky things are A. figuring out how to divvy up the roof, and B. Making sure it’s cool with your HOA. In California, there are laws keeping the HOAs from keeping you from getting solar based on aesthetics alone, so don’t fret.

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By Dave Llorens

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