Solar Power Frequently Asked Questions

Is solar right for my home?  

Almost any house with a roof that faces south is suitable for installation; a roof facing east or west will also work well, but annual performance may drop about 15%.  Other factors that we consider include roof structure integrity and materials that affect the installation process and shading on your roof as this can reduce production.  For a free consultation, call us at 856-380-0709.

Are there other options if my roof is not suitable for solar installation?

Yes.  While roof installations are most popular because they don’t require additional space, solar energy systems may also be installed on the ground if you have space (excess land) on your property.

How much sun do I need for solar?

Sun matters but the roof and property are more important.  The best roofs or property for solar are free of shade and oriented toward the south, east or west for maximum sun exposure.

How do I get power at night with home solar? 

During the night when the sun isn’t out, your system is not producing any electricity; but a process called net metering makes it work.  During the day your system is producing a lot of electricity, often more than you need.  The extra electricity flows back into the power grid and your meter runs backwards.  At night, the credit you generated during the day carries over and you take electricity back from the grid.

What is net metering?   

Net metering is the term given to a utility meter that will literally “turn backward”.   This allows you to get credit for excess electricity produced that flows to the grid.

 How long will a home solar power system last?

Most home solar power systems are predicted to last between 25 and 35 years.  Powell recommends solar panels and micro-inverters that come with a 25 year manufacturer’s warranty. And since most home systems have no moving parts, they typically don’t have mechanical problems.

What are MICRO-inverters and what makes them better?

Micro-inverters produce 8-10% more electricity than other inverters.  They come with a 25 year manufacturer’s warranty, (most central inverters have a 10 year warranty) so they last 2 ½ times longer than standard inverters – reducing maintenance and replacement costs.  Plus, monitoring at panel level allows for maximum performance and output. For this reason, Powell Energy and Solar uses micro-inverter technology for all solar power systems we install.

How much money can I save with solar?  

A typical 5 kilowatt home system will generate 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month.  Depending on your electric utility rates (currently $10-14¢ per kWh) and usage, a 5 kilowatt system will save about $50-60 per month on your electric bill today and more in the years to come.  Historically, electricity costs have increased 5% each year over the last 25 years, so solar systems are a great hedge against further rising costs.  Additional savings accrue monthly through Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC’s) sales. To help determine your savings and return on investment, schedule a complimentary consultation.

What is the procedure for participating in the NJ Clean Energy Program?

  1.  Contact Powell Energy and Solar for a free site survey of your home, including review of your electric bill, measurements of roof, and shading.  We’ll be happy to answer questions and prepare a proposal for your review.
  2. When the decision to proceed is made, the owner will sign a contract and provide 10% deposit.  Powell will then put together the permit paperwork and submit it to the administrator of the NJ Clean Energy Program (NJCEP).
  3. Upon receipt of reservation from the NJCEP, Powell will take care of all required permits and submit applicable electrical drawings and roof loading specifications.  Once permits are approved, installation is ready to begin.
  4. Residential installations take 2-4 days.  When complete, Powell explains the operation of the system and calls for appropriate inspections.  Once the system passes the local code inspections, an interconnection agreement is drawn up which we submit to the local utility. Upon utility review, approval and acceptance, the system is officially interconnected, a net meter is installed and net metering begins connecting the system to the grid.
  5. Proof of successful local code compliance and a copy of the interconnect agreement are sent to NJCEP. Upon final approval, owner is able to sell SRECs.

How longer does it take to install an Solar Energy System?

Typical residential systems take from 2 to 5 days to install. Systems mounted on the ground and systems with batteries are more complex, and may take longer. Most of this time is spent outside your house, so there is little disturbance to you. Commercial systems can take longer to install depending upon size and type of installation.

How much are the rebates? 

While actual rebates may change in the future, Federal rebates are currently 30% of system cost.

How are payments made?

Powell, like most installers, requires a good faith (10%) deposit with the signed contract.  The balance will be broken down into three payments; the first (40%) upon receipt of the rebate reservation; the second (20%) upon delivery of the panels and inverter to the site, (20%) when work is complete and the final payment (10%) when the the local inspector approves the installation.   There is also no NJ sales tax on any part of the solar system.  Powell Energy and Solar can assist you with financing plans, including $0 down options.

Will solar electric modules detract from the “look” of my home?

Not at all. The modules are installed at the same angle of the roof and look like skylights. In addition, solar electric systems actually add value to the home upon resale.

How do I know my system is working?

All photovoltaic systems have a kilowatt-hour meter that shows how much the system is producing at that moment and also totals the kilowatts over the lifetime of the system. The owner can easily find out how much they have generated daily/monthly/annually and can monitor their system’s performance. In addition, Micro-inverter system provide a monitoring system that allows the owner to see the performance in real time and historically for every panel in the system.

Will my system work when the power goes off? 

No. The solar modules stop making power when the power goes off for safety reasons – so the lineman working on the pole nearby is protected against electricity back fed into their lines .

What is a solar cell and  solar module?

A solar cell, also called a photovoltaic (PV) cell, is the smallest element that converts light into electrical energy. Each cell is made of silicon, like a computer chip. The silicon is treated so that it generates a flow of electricity when light shines on it. Solar modules are series of solar cells wired together.

What is a solar electric power system?

A solar energy system consists of solar electric modules in lightweight panels, enclosed wires, an inverter to convert from D.C. to A.C. (house current) and sometimes an optional battery backup pack. The solar panels are typically installed on an unshaded rooftop, facing the southern sun. Systems can be installed on the ground as well if your roof is not well-suited for a solar power system. The inverters and other equipment are generally small and can be installed inside your basement or garage or micro inverters are installed on the back of each panel so there is virtually to room taken up inside your home. .

What are the different types of solar technologies?
There are currently four types of solar technologies:

  • Photovoltaic.  Photovoltaic solar cells, which directly convert sunlight into electricity, are made of semiconductor materials. This can include very simple cells that power calculators and watches and complex systems that can light houses.
  • Passive solar heating.  Buildings designed for passive solar and day-lighting combine building materials that absorb and slowly release the sun’s heat with design features such as large south-facing windows. No mechanical means are employed.
  • Concentrating solar power.  This technology uses reflective materials such as mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity.
  • Solar hot water and space heating and cooling.  Solar collectors use the sun to heat water or a heat-transfer fluid which is stored and used for domestic hot water heating and hydronic space heating.

Are solar cells a new technology?

No. Modern solar cells with practical efficiency were invented in the early 1950s, and have been used to power satellites since 1959. They became popular for global applications in the mid-1970s, mostly for remote telecommunications, navigational aids and other rugged, remote industrial uses including microwave, TV, radio and cellular repeater stations. They have been powering urban applications like roadside emergency telephones and traffic signboards since the mid-1980s. With increased demand, prices have dropped to where solar panels are now affordable for homes and businesses.

Are solar electric systems safe?

Yes. Solar cells are mostly silicon, the primary component of sand. There is no exhaust and no toxic materials to leak out of the system. The electricity coming through the inverter is just like the electricity coming from household wall sockets.  You should use the same care you would with utility power. All components are approved for utility interconnection and are installed according to standard construction practices.

Are solar power systems good for the environment?

Yes!  Energy created through our solar energy system produces no pollutants. In addition, solar panels are made from recyclable materials, so they are also sustainable too.  Our smallest system typically cuts greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 50 trees.

What do the terms on-grid and off-grid mean?

On-grid (or grid-connected or grid-tied) means the solar energy system is connected to the utility electrical power grid. Off-grid refers to systems that are not connected to the utility electrical grid.   An example of an off-grid system might be a cabin in the woods and must be designed to function without the support of the utility grid and provide 100% of the needed electrical power.

Does solar work for commercial buildings?

Yes. Solar power systems are perfect for office buildings, retail buildings, schools, and government facilities; anywhere electricity is needed can use solar electricity. Oftentimes, the large flat roof of a commercial property is perfect for a concealed and easily installed Solar Energy System.

Do I need batteries with the system?

No. Batteries are only required if you want or need  backup power when the utility is out of service. Without batteries, the system has no way to store power and for safety reasons cannot produce power when the utility grid is not in operation.

Are the solar panels durable and can they withstand wind and hail?

Yes. The panels are supported by a engineer-designed mounting system that has been tested to withstand high winds and can work on almost every type of roofing material. The panels are made of tempered glass (the same as a modern car windshield), and are impact tested to withstand snow, ice, wind and moderate hail storms.  For example, one manufacturers modules are tested to withstand one inch (2.5 cm) hailstones at 50 mph (80.5 kph). Panels generally have a 20 or 25-year warranty and are even installed in extreme Arctic and Antarctic locations.

How well do solar modules work in inclement weather? 

On cloudy days, solar modules work, but produce less electricity than they would on sunny days. Under a light overcast, the modules might produce about half as much as under full sun.  In the event the modules are covered with snow, they may stop producing power; however, snow generally melts quickly when the sun strikes the modules. When the snow comes off, they resume operation immediately.

How long will the system last?

Solar panels have no moving parts so they are not prone to failure. While most of the current designs have not been in service long enough to confirm this, it is commonly thought that panels should last for 40 years or more. Most panels have a 20 or 25-year power warranty from the manufacturer. Micro-inverters typically have a 25 year warranty. In addition, Powell systems are warranted for 5 years against all defects by the installing contractor.

Do I need to install a new roof before the solar panels are installed?

Most installations do not require a new roof prior to PV installation. Solar panels will last many years (over 25). Because of this, it is ideal that your roof is in good condition, as working around the Solar Energy System will add complexity to a future roof replacement. However, after the panels are in place, they will greatly reduce the wear on the roof by blocking ultraviolet rays and by keeping most of the snow and ice off the roof.

Do I need a building permit to install solar?

Yes. Powell Energy and Solar will obtain the necessary permits from your local government.

Do I need permission from the local utility to connect my solar system to the grid?

Yes. The local utility has rules and procedures that must be followed to connect any generator to the grid safely and legally. These rules are generally based on standards as detailed in the National Electrical Code which our systems must comply with.  Powell Energy and Solar will handle the permit.

Can I have a solar electric system on my house and still be connected to the local utility?

Yes. Our systems are designed as grid-tied systems, meaning they are designed to interconnect with utility power providing seamless electric power to your home or business. You will never know you have a solar energy system until you open your monthly utility invoice.

If I sell my property, what effect does a PV system have on the sale price?

Installing a solar energy system to your home can substantially increase its value. This value will only grow as utility costs increase over the years. The new buyers will thank you every time they get an electric bill!
The increase in home value is based on a study by the Berkeley Lab.

Are there financial incentives for buying solar electricity?

There are many incentives and benefits for purchasing a Solar Energy System. These vary from state-to-state. Some common incentives include:

  • Net metering, which means that you can get paid by the utility company when you generate more power than you use
  • Higher resale value for your property
  • Federal tax credits
  • Income from the sale of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC)
  • Decreased utility costs which will increase as utility cost rise
  • Very favorable depreciation schedules (for commercial systems)

What’s available in your state?  Visit the national database for incentives and rebates by state or contact us.

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