1. Q. I live in an area where we get a lot of cloudy days. Is solar power for my home really worthwhile exploring?
A. Yes. You may end up needing more photovoltaic panels, or you might need to configure them differently, but there are very few places in the world where solar energy can’t be captured and either used to supplement existing power needs, or totally supplant it.
2. Q. Can I afford solar power?
A. Solar power energy systems remain somewhat higher than fossil fuel (coal, gas, oil) at the initial installation. The question may turn itself around to “Wow do you believe how much I’m saving with my solar power installation?” once you add up all the returns, like state and federal tax credits, rebates, net metering, and the money you won’t be paying…increasingly…to the utility company year after year.
3. Q. What is the difference between a solar hot water system and a solar power system?
A. Well, a solar hot water system is one component of a solar power system. It’s generally just a radiant hot water heater that in one of several ways captures sunlight and uses it to create hot water for your home. A solar power system, on the other hand, is a system that may consist of a solar panel array made up of photovoltaic (PV) panels, or a parabolic trough, or some other collection tool that uses the sun’s energy, converts it into electricity which you use to power your home in the same manner you would as if you were getting that electricity from the utility company.
4. Q. What maintenance do solar power systems require?
A. Very little. You’ll need to keep your collectors…photovoltaic (PV) panels, or whatever other collection system you have, free of debris, leaves and heavy snow. And that’s just about it.
5. Q. Is financing available for a solar power system?
A. Yes. It falls into the same arena as most other home improvement projects that are eligible for home equity loans. Check with your financial institution before you sign up, but since solar power systems add value to your real estate, most lenders are happy to help…assuming you have good credit of course.
6. Q. Do I need to consult a solar professional before I start?
A. That’s up to you. You can certainly proceed without one, especially if you’re willing to do a lot of research and develop a plan before you start. Often, though, having a professional pays big dividends in the end. They already know the mistakes you’re most likely to make, and can help you avoid them. Be sure to look for someone who’s been in the business for awhile and has a good reputation.
7. Q. Should I get more than one bid?
A. Several bids are almost always the best option. Not only can multiple bidders help you find the best price, they can also provide you with different installation options. Once you’ve made your selection of who to use, set realistic expectations on how long the work will take, and agree on exactly what you’re going to end up with. This can help to get your project completed when you want it done, and at the cost you are willing to pay.
8. Q. Will my photovoltaic (PV) system take up my whole roof?
A. This depends on how much power you need. For a 1000 watt system, you’ll need between 100-200 square feet of area (about the size of an average bedroom).
9. Q. What does net metering mean?
A. If you’re connected to a local utility, in most cases, they will install an additional meter that tracks how much energy you produce with your solar system, and how much you use during what hours. If you produce excess energy, it goes into the power grid and provides electricity for others. Your account is credited for this excess energy produced against any electricity you may pull from the utility grid.
10. Q. Am I really going to be making a difference in global warming if I move to a solar power system?
A. Yes, every little bit counts. Maybe you won’t see it today or tomorrow, but every person who’s not getting their power from a fossil fuel energy source is making a difference. When you consider 53,000 pounds of carbon dioxide is what the average American puts into the atmosphere every year with the fossil fuel energy they use, consider how much cleaner the air becomes when even one average American doesn’t put 53,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Yes…you can make a difference.