Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Panel Systems
- Why should I install solar panels?
- What’s the difference between off-grid and grid-tied (on-grid) solar panel systems?
- What size solar panel system do I need?
- Can solar energy power my whole house?
- How long does a solar panel system last?
- How much does a solar panel system cost?
- Can I sell extra electricity back to the power company?
- Is financing available for solar panel systems?
Why should I install solar panels?
While myths remain about the costs of solar, there are plenty of reasons for switching to solar, including:
- Solar saves money on energy costs by generating all the electric you want from freely-available sunlight.
- Solar panels increase the value of your property, and last for more than 20 years.
- Solar can give you freedom from the grid, especially in remote locations.
- Solar helps the environment by reducing our usage of fossil fuels to generate electric.
- Thanks to federal subsidies and tax rebates, solar is more affordable than you think.
With current advancements in solar technology and falling panel prices, now’s the best time to switch to solar!
What’s the difference between off-grid and grid-tied (on-grid) solar panel systems?
An off-grid solar panel system is not connected to the electrical grid (it’s a stand-alone system). A grid-tied (aka “on-grid”) solar panel system is connected to the electrical grid. Think of an off-grid system as not needing any power lines coming into the building, but an on-grid system requires power lines to connect with the power company.
An off-grid solar panel system generates energy for a specific task or use, without connecting to the electric grid. This system can be used for nearly anything: a street sign, hunting cabin, or remote agriculture pump. Batteries are installed to store energy for use at night or during cloudy days.
A grid-tied solar panel system works in conjunction with the electric grid, ensuring you always have enough energy for your home or business. When the system is generating electricity, it is offsetting the energy you are currently using in your home. If the system generates more energy than you are using, the extra electric will go back to the grid. When this happens, you can actually see your electric meter spinning in reverse!
For more of a breakdown between solar systems, check out our Comparison Page.
What size solar panel system do I need?
For off-grid applications, the system needs to be large enough for the electric demands, including charging the battery. With a grid-tied solar system, where the solar supplements the grid’s electric, any size solar system can work – even as small as one kilowatt per hour (kWh)! Contact us for a free solar consultation »
Can solar energy power my whole house?
Yes! Your home, location, and energy use is unique, so you need a solar system that’s custom-designed to your needs. Broadly speaking, a system producing 1,100 kWh/month – the amount an average home uses in south-central Pennsylvania – would fit on a normal home roof. Our team will design a system that fits your needs and space; we can also offer practical tips and suggestions to make your home more energy efficient.
How long does a solar panel system last?
When we install a new solar system, we tell customers it will last them 20-25 years. After that, the system will continue to work, but there will be a drop in efficiency, to the point where it might not produce enough energy for your needs. Most systems pay for themselves within 8 years, so that gives you 12-17 additional years of free electric.
How much does a solar panel system cost?
The cost of a solar system varies based on size and installation location. It is a significant investment, but one that lasts for more than 20 years. Through savings on their energy bill, many of our customers recover the cost of the system by the 8th year. Add in the substantial government tax credits, and the system pays for itself even sooner!
Can I sell extra electricity back to the power company?
Yes! Most power companies have net-metering; this means if your meter is back where it started at the beginning of the year, you don’t pay for any usage. For off-grid systems, batteries store any excess energy for nighttime and winter usage.
Is financing available for solar panel systems?
Financing companies are available to help you pay for your solar system. Contact us and we will recommend a company for you.
There are also significant federal and local tax credits available for your new solar system. The federal tax credit, which lasts through 2021, will cover up to 30% of your investment in a solar system for your home. Additional loans, grants, and rebates are available from state and local organizations, many of which can be found on the DSIRE website.
UnderstandSolar has written about some financial incentives, rebates, and tax credits for the Pennsylvania homeowner in their article Solar Panels in PA, as well as other useful information about solar options in Pennsylvania.
Contact us and we can help you find those you qualify for.