What does it typically cost?
There are many variables that can impact system cost. Solar systems are always priced by DC Watt installed. A typical system will cost between $2.90 and $4.00 per Watt. Larger systems cost less per Watt. Long wire runs from the solar array to the point of connection can drive the cost up slightly. Battery backup capability will also add cost to the overall system
How much will I save?
Savings will depend on the size of the system installed and your current utility rate. Typical savings can range from $1,000 to $3,000 per year.
How long does the installation take?
A typical residential system can take 2-3 weeks, plus any time needed for local and utility inspections. Larger farm or small commercial systems can take 4-6 weeks.
What incentives are available?
There is a 30% federal tax credit that is available for everyone. This incentive is scheduled to expire on Dec 31, 2016. There is also a 25% cash grant available from the USDA, for qualified farmers and small rural businesses. Also, for any business, there are tax savings from depreciation.
What kind of maintenance is required?
Solar systems require minimal maintenance. The solar panels tend to get cleaned on a regular basis from rain. Melting snow also does a good job of cleaning the panels. The inverters require their filters be cleaned every 6-12 months. This takes about 10 minutes.
How does solar power work?
Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. The cells are made of semiconductors such as crystalline silicon or various thin-film materials. The energy generated from the solar panel is direct current (DC). An inverter is an electronic transformer device that converts direct current power into alternating current (AC) power. Alternating current is the type of power that operates lights, appliances, electronic devices, and anything else that normally operates on the power that comes from the utility grid. The AC power, once converted at the inverter, will travel to the electric service panel to be consumed in the home or building. Excess solar energy that’s not consumed will export to the utility power grid.
What types of solar systems are there?
Photovoltaic (PV) systems can either be stand-alone (off-grid) or grid connected. In an off-grid application, the solar power generated travels to a battery bank which supplies the site with power and charges the battery bank. The battery bank will supply the site with power when the solar energy system is not producing electricity. Off-grid applications are ideal for remote locations and conservative energy users.
Most solar energy systems are grid connected, meaning that they work in cooperation with your utility provided power to cover the energy needs for your home. It is possible to include battery storage with your system in situations where back-up power is essential.
What is net metering?
Net metering in Ohio requires all investor owned utilities (i.e., AEP, First Energy, Duke, etc.) to purchase all excess solar energy that you might put onto the grid. They are mandated to purchase this energy at the current generation rate. The generation rate is typically approximately 50% of your “full retail” rate. All the solar energy that you produce and use, you will be paid “full retail” for (that is transmission + distribution + generation). Given this, it is often best to size your system so that most of the solar energy is used by you. This ensures you get the maximum rate for it and improves the overall return on investment.
What is the ideal orientation (Azimuth) and tilt angle for the solar panels to perform best?
A solar energy system needs to have a southern exposure to produce the greatest amount of energy over the systems life. Solar panels can be installed facing east or west, and will still generate 85% – 90% of what a south facing array will produce. It is usually more cost effective (and more attractive) to install the panels flush mount to the roof shingles, as opposed to building a custom mounting solution to angle them South. It is recommended to mount the solar panels so the panel array has an angle of 20 – 30 degree’s. Thirty degree’s is ideal for our latitude in Central Ohio.
What if my house has shade?
The daily peak sun hours are typically from 9 AM to 3 PM. The location of the solar system needs to be free of any shade between the peak sun hours for the greatest energy production. Any shading issues will cause the solar energy system to be less efficient. Ground mount solar systems are an option if there is shade on the house. Micro inverters can also be used to minimize the negative affect of shading.
How much space does the solar panel system need?
Typically, you will need 90 to 100 square feet of roof or ground space for every 1 kW of solar. For example, a 3,000 watt (3kW) system would require 270 – 300sf. A typical solar hot water system requires 120 square feet, and a typical solar pool heating system requires 450 square feet.
Is a ground or roof mount solar system best for my property?
Solar panels can be installed on the roof or on the ground. The type of installation will depend on several factors. These factors are: the energy usage (kWh), amount of roof surface area, orientation & exposure of the site, the financial budget, the number of solar panels, and your preference on where you might want to have the array installed.
Should I replace the shingles or the metal roof before installation?
We recommend you consider roof replacement before installing a solar energy system if your asphalt shingle roof is older than 15 years, depending on the quality of the roofing material. For a metal roof, we might just recommend recoating the roof surface but we want to ensure your roof is in good condition prior to installation. Additionally, we offer labor services to remove and re-install the solar panels for replacement of the shingles or a metal roof for any client or system owner who wishes to wait on the roof replacement expense.
Will I have power when the grid is down?
No. The solar inverters are mandated to shut-down when the grid goes down. This is for the protection of the utility linemen working to repair the grid. They think the power is down and it could be deadly for a lineman if a solar panel system feeds power back onto the grid. This would be a good application for Battery Backup power. The inverter will isolate itself from the electrical system and will use the battery storage and the solar array to supply power to the house or business. The solar panels will re-charge the battery bank to provide power to the home for the next day’s energy needs and overnight when it’s dark. Most solar energy systems are “simple grid-tie” systems, meaning that they do not include batteries. These systems are the most cost effective and have the greatest return on investment. However, if you would like to have backup power for occasional blackouts & for when the grid is down, a solar energy system can be installed with batteries. Solar energy systems cannot store power without batteries. Battery backup power is a nice “insurance” against blackouts, but it adds complexity and cost to a solar energy system. A generator can also be used for backup power.