Frequently Asked Questions
- What is solar energy?
The sun radiates a massive amount of energy, in the form of photons, which hit the Earth and provide us with light and warmth. The sun is by far the largest energy resource we have access to on Earth (3,850,000 EJ/year), big enough to meet all of humanity's energy needs forever, and it's renewable! For a sense of scale, humans use around 600 EJ of energy per year, meaning the sun provides Earth with enough energy in about one hour to power humanity for a year.
- How does solar power work?
Solar panels, also known as photovoltaics, turn solar energy into electricity for human use. When the sun is shining, solar panels allow photons in, which knock electrons lose and create a flow of DC electricity. This DC electricity is channeled to an inverter, which converts it to AC electricity, the type used to power electronics in your home. If your solar panels produce more electricity than you need, the excess is fed onto the grid for others to use.
- What happens to my solar panels during the snowy months?
Solar systems generally produce less electricity during winter months because the sun is at a lower angle and there are less daylight hours. After a big snowstorm, solar panels will not produce electricity at all if they are covered with snow. However your system is designed with winter darkness and snow cover in mind, and solar panels have darkly colored, slick glass surfaces that shed snow quickly. Additionally, solar panels actually perform more efficiently at lower temperatures, when the heat doesn't strain their electronics.
- How long will my photovoltaic system last?
Solar systems are very reliable and require little maintenance because they have no moving parts. Standard warranties for solar modules guarantee a lifecycle of 20 to 25 years, but depending on their quality, they can survive for 30 plus years. Solar panels don't die as they get old, instead their production diminishes. For example, after about 20 years, the output drops to about 80% of nominal. Inverters, another component of a solar system, have lifetimes of around 20 years, with warranties lasting between 5 and 10 years.
- When will my actual equipment be presented to me?
When the winning installers complete their final quotes you will see a detailed list of their proposed equipment. We require our installers to only use Tier 1 equipment. Your solar analyst will be there to answer any questions along the way!
- How long will it take to install a solar system on my home?
We can design a custom system for your home within 24 hours, and have installers bid on it within the next 72 hours. From there it is up to you to schedule a visit for the installer to check out your roof and once you give the go ahead, installation will only take a day or two. The whole process can be completed in 2 or 3 weeks.
- How do I know I am getting a quality solar contractor?
Every installer on the Own My Solar platform must pass through a rigorous vetting process before they can bid on any solar projects. Own My Solar evaluates potential installers on over a dozen different criteria, including past customer testimonials, publicly available reviews, years in business, number of installations completed, current workers comp and liability insurance, valid contractor licensing, equipment used, warranties offered, and more. With Own My Solar, you can be sure that you will get a high-quality, professional company.
- What do I have to do to maintain my system?
Almost nothing. Due to the glass surface of solar panels, they are self-cleaning by rain and wind (except in rare cases). In addition, your warranty ensures an energy output, meaning if your energy production dips below the set amount, the installer will come back and fix your panels free of charge.
- How much does solar energy cost?
Solar energy is cheap. It depends on your electricity usage and the solar resource at your house, but the average solar electricity rate nationwide is equal to the average utility electricity rates - at about 12 cents/kWh. After taking into account all of the incentives and rebates, solar power from your own system is usually way cheaper than utility electricity.
- Are PV Systems suitable for business use?
Yes. In general the larger the system installed, the cheaper the price will be in terms of dollars per watt ($/W). So businesses that have larger energy usage can potentially save huge amounts of money by going solar. We will analyze factors like your company's energy usage, building structure, roof space and roof pitch to see if solar would be a beneficial choice for you.
- Is financing available?
Yes. Solar loans are becoming more common for homes and businesses, as lending institutions realize that owning solar is a great investment. With a $0 down loan, solar system owners can save money from day one and have positive cash flows throughout the lifetime of their system.
- What if I want to sell my solar home?
Studies have shown that homeowners with a solar system are finding selling their homes for an extra $15,000 on average. We strongly advocate for buying your solar system. For homeowners that leased a solar system or agreed to a PPA, selling their home can become much more difficult, because the buyer either must commit to the rest of the monthly payments, or the homeowner must buy out the remaining contract.
- What rebates and incentives are available for solar energy?
The driving force behind the expansion of solar is the 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit (FITC), which gives buyers 30% of their system's cost back including installation. This credit applies for both residential and commercial projects, but it won't last forever. In addition, many states and municipalities have additional incentives to encourage solar, such as SRECs, which you can find in the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) or here.
- What is a net metering?
Net metering tracks the net amount of electricity you use from your utility minus the amount of electricity your system puts back on the grid. When your solar system produces more power than you use, the excess electricity goes back onto the grid and your electricity meter spins backwards to give credit for the electricity you produced. At the end of the month you are only charged for the net amount of electricity you took from the grid.
- What are SRECs?
Solar Renewable Energy Credits represent 1 MWh (1000 kWh) of energy produced from a certified and registered solar system. In some states like MA, utility electricity producers are required to produce a certain portion of their energy portfolio through renewable sources. Instead of producing that electricity themselves, they will buy SRECs from solar system owners like you, to show "they" produced renewable energy. Typical home systems produce 6 or 7 SRECs per year, which currently sell for over $200 each on the open market or through auction. SRECs are only available to solar system owners that are part of the first 1600 MW of installed solar in MA so they will be unavailable to new solar buyers soon.
- About your LightSpeed Estimate
Your LightSpeed Estimate was designed by a highly trained NRGTree solar analyst using state of the art technology. Your estimate, while highly accurate, can and may vary depending on several site specific details that may not become evident until physical inspection. As such, the LightSpeed Estimate should be viewed as a great starting point on your solar journey!
- How did my analyst design my system?
Using detailed satellite imagery and LIDAR measurements, your analyst was able to measure your roof planes and complete a detailed shading analysis. This process allows the analyst to design a system custom suited to your property.
- What type of equipment did you use and why?
At the LightSpeed stage of the solar process, your analyst used “Tier 1” solar equipment. While the actual manufacturers may vary by installer, you can rest assured that we are using only the best of the best. For a sample list click here.
- Why is my instant savings estimate different than my LightSpeed Estimate?
In your instant estimate we have much less information about your home and energy usage. We assume that your roof has the space and solar resource to offset 90% of your electricity usage, but in actuality due to shading, size and tilt, it may be much worse, lowering your savings. In the LightSpeed estimate we use advanced software to model your home and solar resource and then look at your electrical bill to give you the best possible solar system for your specific situation.
- How do you choose which roof faces to put solar panels on?
While we keep aesthetics in mind, your analyst has designed the system to maximize energy generation and incentive production. This may explain why we used the front of your house versus the back. Our analyst will be happy to walk you through any design concerns or requests either via email or phone.
- Can I put solar panels somewhere other than my roof, like my backyard or barn?
Yes. If your yard has lots of sunlight we can design a ground system for you. Or if you have a separate standing structure we can put solar panels there as well. Keep in mind projects like these can be more difficult to wire to your electrical box and therefore may have extra costs. Contact us if you'd like a custom solution.
- How can my monthly electric bill savings be larger than my current electric bill?
We assume that your utility electricity price will increase at a rate of 3% per year, based on historical trends. The amount you see is the average monthly savings over 30 years, during which your utility bill will heavily increase.
- Do you take into account the discount rate of money over time when calculating my savings?
No. The savings shown are assuming a discount rate of 0%. If you would like to see the net present value of your project contact us and we will send you more detailed financial information.
Installation & Maintenance
Incentives & Rebates
My Lightspeed Estimate