20 of the Most Common Solar Questions — Answered and Explained
You may know the basics of how solar energy works, but do you know the answers to all these solar FAQs? Learn the facts about solar today:
Using solar energy to power your home may seem like magic.
Sure, you understand the trick, but maybe not every sleight of hand used by the magician.
So if you only understand the basics of how solar energy works, you’re missing quite a bit of information. And you’re probably bursting with questions.
Whether you’re a solar energy newbie or a curious solar supporter not quite sure you’re ready to make the switch, today we’ll be covering the most frequently asked questions about solar energy to cover all your bases.
The big question: How much will switching to solar energy lower my electricity bills every month? To learn the answers to solar’s money-saving side, grab our free guide now!
20 Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Energy
When you’re an informed consumer, it will be easier to discuss all your options for saving money with solar.
From how solar panels work to qualifying for tax credits to lower the cost of installation, use the answers to these 20 top solar questions as your personal cheat sheet.
1. How do solar panels actually work?
Solar panels are made of highly excitable, conductive materials. When the sun’s rays hit the solar panels, the reaction creates direct current (DC) electricity.
Since most homes and businesses use alternating current (AC) electricity, your solar-generated DC energy will pass through an inverter to become AC electricity. Then it flows through your property’s wiring and behaves just like the power you’ve been using your whole life.
2. Is solar energy reliable and powerful enough for my home or business?
The only time your solar panels stop generating electricity is when the sun’s not out. That means at night and during eclipses.
The sun is constant. It rises and sets pretty routinely. It’s more predictable and reliable than power plants, which often experience outages several thousand times every year.
Maybe that’s why the U.S. Department of Defense pledged to purchase 3 gigawatts of clean energy for its bases by 2025. As of 2016, they’re on track to meet that goal.
That’s renewable energy contributing power equivalent to nearly six coal plants!
This kind of recommendation seems to give people more trust in clean energy like solar power. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA):
- There are currently more than 1.5 million residential solar systems in the U.S.
- One consumer makes the switch to residential solar every 90 seconds
Solar energy isn’t a passing fad. It’s the key to a future of lower electricity bills and a cleaner environment.
3. Will my solar panels generate electricity during cloudy, rainy, or snowy days? What about at night?
Your solar panels don’t need sunshine, per se, to generate electricity as much as they need direct, unobstructed access to the sun’s UV rays.
Similar to how your skin still tans when it’s overcast outside, your solar panels will still generate electricity during cloudy, rainy, or snowy days — they just won’t produce as much energy as they do during clear days.
Solar panels do not generate electricity at night since the sun’s not out. This is when staying connected to the power grid comes in handy as you’ll still have electricity to Netflix and chill.
4. Do I have to go off the grid when I switch to solar energy?
In reality, you probably won’t want to go off grid. The practice is known as “islanding”, or when you connect your solar array to batteries so you’ll be able to power your home or business entirely on solar energy instead of using the utility company for power.
The thing is, this practice is incredibly expensive and inefficient for most people.
Batteries are not only expensive, they’re not as technically developed as solar panels (read: they clunk up the operation). They also need to be maintained and replaced routinely.
Most solar adopters choose to stay on the grid out of convenience and money-saving.
When you stay connected to the grid, you’ll be able to generate credits with the electric company to lower the price of your bills.
This practice is known as net metering.
5. What is net metering?
You know how you have an electric meter on your property to record how much energy your home or business uses every month?
When you switch to solar energy, you’ll have an electric meter that works both ways:
- It will show the utility company how much energy you consume when your solar panels aren’t generating electricity (like at night)
- It will show how much energy your solar panels generated during the day
See, your solar panels will produce a lot of energy during the day when the sun’s the strongest. You most likely won’t use all this solar-generated power. Your excess solar energy will feed back to the grid and help supply power for the utility company.
Your utility company will pay for your solar-generated electricity by giving you credits to lower your monthly electricity bill.
So at the end of the month, you’ll only pay for the net amount of electricity.
Let’s say you banked $100 in solar energy credits and used $150 worth of electricity for the month. Instead of paying $150 like you normally would, you’ll only have to pay $50.
6. How much will I really save on my electricity bills every month?
That depends on how much electricity your home or business uses, where you live, the rate your utility company charges for electricity, and several other factors.
Most solar providers aim to offset 70–90% of your monthly electricity bill, so that’s a good place to start your calculations.
If you want specifics on exactly how to do that, check out our super easy crash course to saving money with solar energy.
7. How will switching to solar energy help me budget better?
Right now you don’t have any control over the electricity rate your utility company charges. And trends show that electricity rates will continue to rise.
When you install solar panels on your property, you’ll be generating more electricity than you use from the utility company at the price of free.
Then you’ll also generate more than enough to sell back to the utility company as credits to further lower your monthly bills. No more surprise electricity bills to tank your budget again.
8. How soon will I notice a difference in my electricity bills after switching to solar energy?
Your solar panels will start generating usable energy for your property the day they’re installed. Depending on when you receive your electric bill, you could start noticing lower bills the very first month.
9. Will I qualify for tax credits, rebates, or incentives to help lower the cost of switching to solar?
Even though the price of solar panels and the cost of installing a solar array have never been lower, you may still qualify for extra rebates or incentives to make the total investment as low as possible for your home or business.
Check with your trusted solar provider for the best deals in your area.
[bctt tweet=”Almost every state offers tax credits for citizens to lower the cost of switching to solar.” username=”1stLightSolar”]
Don’t forget that almost every state now offers tax credits as an incentive for citizens to switch to solar. Depending on where you live, you may be able to subsidize a large portion of your solar installation using tax credits.
10. What is the best option for installing solar panels with my budget?
If you happen to have a home or business improvement fund, owning your own solar array is the way to go. The price of installation is low, you’ll qualify for tax incentives and rebates, you’ll enjoy lower electricity bills, and your property value will improve.
While you can definitely pay for your solar installation up front, most home and business owners don’t have that kind of cash sitting around.
Go with a solar loan and you’ll be able to finance your own solar system and own it by making monthly payments over time. You’ll enjoy all the benefits of solar energy while you pay your loan off.
Choose a solar lease, or a power purchase agreement (PPA), and you’ll be able to make the switch to solar with little or zero money down.
Just partner with a trusted solar provider, they’ll take on all the upfront costs of installation, and you’ll enjoy lower electricity bills every month. You’ll score a low fixed electricity rate and take on zero of the expenses.
11. Do solar panels only work in sunny areas like California or Florida?
Your solar array will still work when it’s cloudy outside because ambient light and UV light still make it through to your solar panels to generate electricity.
Your solar array may not be as effective during an overcast day as it is during a bright day without clouds, but it will still power your home or business.
Germany, which boasts about as many sunny days as Alaska, now gets 85% of their energy from renewables including solar power.
12. Are solar panels difficult to maintain?
Solar panels are easier to maintain than your property’s HVAC, appliances, and maybe even your cell phone. That’s because solar panels have zero moving parts to break.
The most you’ll have to do to maintain your solar panels is make sure they’re free of dust, pollen, leaves, and other debris. Whatever’s obstructing your panels will make for less efficient energy production.
You’ll also need to trim branches that may get in the way of your solar panels and dust off heavy snow. That’s not so hard, right?
13. Will I ever need to replace my solar panels?
Reputable solar providers now offer solar panels with manufacturer’s warranties that last between 20–30 years.
Since solar panels are so easy to maintain and have zero moving parts, they’ll keep generating energy for you home long enough to see a sizable return on your investment. Newer models have expected lifespans of 50+ years.
14. Will installing solar panels damage my roof?
If anything, solar panels will protect your roof from damage and may even keep your home cooler. Check out all the different solar mounting options you can choose from. Each method aims to do as little damage to your roof as possible.
15. Can I install solar panels on my property myself?
While you can certainly take the DIY route and install solar panels on your property all on your own, you’ll want the trusted advice of a knowledgeable electrician and the insider knowledge of a seasoned PV professional. They’ll be able to determine the best placement for your solar panels, apply for the right permits, and do what they do best so you don’t have to worry (or get hurt!).
16. How long do solar panels take to install? Do you have to rewire my house?
Installing your solar array may take two to a few hours, depending on the size of your solar array, your mounting choice, and your property.
Your solar provider will not have to rewire your house as all the wiring stays exactly the same.
Your new solar system will consist of a few additional parts to your existing electricity system: your solar panels, the inverter, and your new two-way utility meter.
17. Will solar panels raise my home or business’ property value?
Everyone loves saving money.
A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development study discovered that for every $1,000 you save in electric costs thanks to a solar array every year, you gain an additional $20,000 in property value.
[bctt tweet=”Adding solar panels to your home or business could raise your property value by $20k. ” username=”1stLightSolar”]
18. Who’s saving the most money by switching to solar energy?
Thanks to new solar loans and solar leasing programs, middle class Americans are saving the most money every month by switching to solar energy.
Data from a Center for American Progress study shows that rooftop solar has been exploding in all states in neighborhoods with median incomes between $40,000–$90,000.
That’s because middle class families spend a large portion of their monthly budget on electricity. By lowering that expense, or at least getting it to a low, predictable amount each month, families can make a big difference in their savings.
19. How does solar energy benefit the environment?
Solar power is a renewable resource, which means there’s so much of it freely available we never have to dig for coal or refine other toxic energy sources just to keep the lights on.
Solar energy reduces your carbon footprint by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions (which contribute to climate change). Since it doesn’t produce any pollution, it also means we’ll have less harmful pollutants in our air, land, and water.
20. How will I know if my property is a good candidate for solar panels?
The best place for a solar array will be a south-facing area of your property with very little obstruction. That means no tall buildings or trees in the way and no shade from chimneys or neighboring houses to block the sun’s rays.
East- and west-facing properties with little to moderate shading can also gain the benefits of switching to solar.
Don’t despair if your property doesn’t fit this criteria on paper. Only a trained solar panel installer will be able to assess your property to know for sure.
You know all the answers, but how much will your home or business really save every month by switching to solar energy? Click here for our free guide about the financial perks of going solar now!
Still Have More Questions? 1st Light Energy Has the Answers
Now that you have all the facts, find out what to look for in a solar energy provider and stop making these common excuses people use to delay switching to solar.
Our experts here at 1st Light Energy will help you create the best solar array for saving money on your property.
Contact 1st Light Energy today to request your no-obligation solar quote!
Don’t forget to share, pin, and save this infographic about why installing rooftop solar panels has never been more affordable: