FAQ


Source material: SolrizeCT
(http://solarizect.com/solarize-u/solarize-u-frequently-asked-questions/)


Solarize: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Solarize?

Solarize is an online community solar marketplace providing bulk-purchase leverage from local installers so interested citizens can compare prices and find the best solar solution for their homes.  you can register online through SolarizeAlbany(SA) and request more precise bids from the selected local installer(s).  Some may request a site visit before providing a more precise quote.  Ineligible roofs will be offered participation in our local solar-farm, Helderberg Community Energy (HCE).

How are participating installers selected?

SolarizeAlbany pre-screens and qualifies all participating installers so you can be assured you are working with competitive, reputable and trusted companies.

Q. How do I know if my home is suitable for solar?

A. The most suitable location for a roof-mounted solar PV system is a south-facing roof with little to no shading from nearby trees, chimneys or other obstructions. Any shading on the system can reduce energy output, so it is important to assess the locations of current trees and buildings around your home as well as that of other obstructions that may exist around your home in the future. Advances in panel and inverter technologies can allow homes with east or west-facing roofs and moderate shading to benefit from solar PV as well.

Q. Will the system produce electricity on cloudy days?

A. Yes, just not as much. Under an overcast sky, panels will produce less electricity that they produce on a clear, sunny day.

Q. Will my system produce power if there is a blackout?

A. Without a battery backup, grid-tied solar PV systems will not operate when the power grid is down. This safety requirement, called “anti-islanding” allows utility linemen to safely repair power lines during a power outage. You may choose to add a battery backup to your solar system to keep the lights on during a blackout, though they cost between $5,000 and $15,000.

Q. How long will the installation process take?

A. From the day you sign a contract with an installer, it can take between a few weeks and a few months before your solar PV system will be turned on. The physical installation of the solar system typically takes anywhere from two to three days, but the time it takes to order and receive equipment, secure permits or schedule your installation can vary. Once installed, systems typically will need to be inspected by the town, utility and NYSERDA-approved contractor.

Q. What sort of maintenance is required?

A. Solar PV systems require very little maintenance. Rain showers will generally take care of pollen and dust that fall on your solar panels. If your system is shaded by trees, you may have to trim and maintain branches to protect your system from falling limbs and to minimize shading and maximize production. In extremely snowy winters, you may have to clear snow from your roof to protect your solar panels and maximize winter production. It is important to note that snow will melt off of a tilted system except when there is an extremely heavy snow or prolonged freezing temperatures.

Q. What size system should I install?

A. Every home is different. As such, your system size will be determined by your roof space and electricity needs. The average residential solar system is approximately 7 kW and produces approximately 8,400 kWh per year, but this could be too big or too small for your home. If you use certain technologies that are highly dependent on electricity, such as an electric car or geothermal heating and cooling, you might require a larger system. Your installer will work with you to design a system with characteristics that will meet your specific needs.

Q. How will solar affect my home’s value?

Typically, solar systems add to a property’s value. This is due to the fact that unlike electricity rates, solar rates will never go up. Thus, a solar PV system insulates you from rising electricity rates. Once the system has paid for itself, the electricity it generates is absolutely free!

Q. How much will I save by installing a solar system?

A. Your savings depend on the size of the system you choose, your annual electrical usage, electricity rates, and any financing option that you choose from your Solarize installer. To start, ask your solar installer how much electricity your new system is expected to produce on an annual basis and then compare that number to how much electricity your household uses to get an idea of how much you could save. Additionally, a homeowner’s savings are affected by the financing package chosen, as is discussed below in the “Purchase” and “Lease” sections. Installers can also help you determine how much money you could save if electricity prices escalate over time.

Q. Will I still receive a monthly electric bill after installing a solar system?

A. Yes. You will receive a monthly bill from your utility company as you always have, but the amount owed will differ depending on your monthly electrical usage. Depending on how your system is sized, you may accrue credits in the more productive summer months which through “net metering” can be carried over and used in the less productive winter months. Even if your system entirely offsets your electrical usage, there is still a flat monthly fee required, in order to be connected to the grid.

Q. Will installing a solar system increase my tax base?

A. Likely not. Despite the fact that your property value will increase, state law exempts residential clean energy systems from property taxes. Applications are not required each year as long as no major alterations are made to the renewable energy system. Make sure to contact your local tax assessor’s office for more detailed and timely information.

Additionally, any passive or active solar water or space heating system or geothermal energy resource is exempt from property taxes, regardless of the type of facility the system serves.

Q. Does homeowners insurance cover my system?

A. If you prefer to own your system directly and either purchase it outright or finance it via a loan, you should check with your insurance agent to find out whether your system will be covered under your existing policy. However, if you go solar using the Solar Lease, your system’s third-party owner will provide all necessary insurance.

Q. Are state incentives available for my system?

A. The NYSERDA provides incentives to help New Yorkers homeowners go solar. The amount of incentive provided is based on the size of your system, orientation, shading and other factors.

Q. Are federal incentives available for my system?

A. The federal government provides an investment tax credit equal to 30% of your system’s total installed cost, net of state incentives. This can be claimed on your tax return.

Lease:

Q. Why would I lease a system?

A. Some people prefer to own their solar system directly and capture the full lifetime value of the system, while others prefer the peace of mind that comes with knowing that solar experts will be responsible for any maintenance work the system requires over its entire useful life.  Customers who cannot take advantage of the federal tax credit may find this option appealing.

Q. What happens if I move mid-lease?

A. For the Solar Lease, if a homeowner sells his or her property mid-lease, the solar system can be passed onto the new owners in two ways: (1) the lease can be transferred to the new owners as long as they meet the credit criteria for the Solar Lease or (2) the departing homeowner can buy out the remaining fair market value of the lease, and then include the value of the system outright in the asking price. Check with your installer if they are offering a separate leasing option.

Q. Can I take the system to my new home?

A. Under the Solar Lease, if you choose to lease a solar system, you will not own the system, and therefore you will not be able to take it with you. Check with your installer if they are offering a separate leasing option. 

Q. What if a home purchaser doesn’t want the system?

A. For the Solar Lease program, if a potential purchaser does not want to be responsible for making lease payments (and would rather revert to paying full electricity bills to the utility company), the departing homeowner would have to buy out the lease at its fair market value. Check with your installer if they are offering a separate leasing option.

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