+ How does solar energy work?
- The Solar Panels on your roof/property take the energy from the sun (photons) and turns it into Direct Current (DC) Electricity.
- That electricity travels to an Inverter, which changes that DC Electricity to Alternating (AC) Current.
- The AC electricity (which powers your home/business and all your appliances) gets sent to the Electrical Distribution Panel (EDP) in your home/business.
- The extra electricity that your household does not use gets redirected by your EDP and sent to the Electric Meter outside your house/building.
- If you solar panels are producing more electricity than what your property needs, your meter will spin backwards while feeding the excess electricity to your Electricity Provider, crediting your bill. Your credited excess energy goes back to the grid until you use or sell it later in the future.
+ How are solar panels made?
It’s important to know what exactly is going on your property before you invest and use it. That being said…no worries! The materials do not cause radiation or turn you green like the Hulk--see for yourself at How Solar Panel Parts Are Made!
A typical layout of the inside of a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel:
+ How long do solar panels/inverters last?
The average solar panel is functional and warrantied for 25 years. Based on a study done by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), solar panels lose about 0.5% efficiency per year. That means at the end of 25 yrs., you will still have 88% efficiency from your panels. Does your car do that?
Inverters last from 10-15 years. Unlike solar panels, inverters do not slowly degrade until they stop--they just stop working (at which point your solar system provider should come and replace it as part of your insurance and warranty with the company that installs it).
For more information: How Long Will Solar Panels Last?
+ How do the seasons and weather changes affect solar panels?
The sun is not going to shine every day of the year. Solar Panels are built to sustain in rain, snow, wind, sunlight, and heat. The seasonal changes that we experience outdoors are not a reason to be concerned when it comes to your solar panels.
Your panels should be warranted for 25 years and most companies insure them for about 10 years. This means that even if something does happen to your panels, your solar providers will take care of it. Unless, of course, you take a bat to them and try to call it an accident!
Panels are like an extension of your roof, meaning they are made to last and withstand the “tests” of nature:
- Snow: Slides off when panels are positioned at an angle. Can withstand over 700 pounds of snow if needed. The parts used for the system are encased with material that are made to withstand harsh temperatures. Since the panels are always working and have a black surface, they will always attract and produce heat. Making the lifespan of snow very short on its surface. In addition, studies show that solar panels operate better in colder temperatures.
- Rain: Is your free cleaning service from mother nature. The panels and other system parts are water proof. So, when it rains, it is mother nature making sure that dirt stays off your stuff. On top of that, rain reflects those cloudy days’ sunlight. So, since sunlight is what your panels need…Bonus! Since the system is constructed to be an extension of your roof, you don’t need to worry about leaks. So long as you choose a company that is credible and will properly inspect your property and install your system.
- Heat: Yes, the system can overheat…after outside temperatures reach 107˚F. Even if you live in the dessert, there will be a more major concern if it starts to get that hot. Even so, not only are the panels made adaptable to heat, they are also distanced from flat surfaces to allow air to circulate and ventilate the panels in EXTREME heat conditions to avoid that issue.
- Sunlight: Solar panel use sunlight as an energy source. If you can see your hands, then there is sunlight. Also, by ESTIMATE, in NJ we get at least around 205 days of sunlight. Regardless of snow, rain, wind, and any other weather conditions. That’s more than enough time to use and while saving electricity for the remaining 160 days.
+ How do you maintain solar panels?
If you are with the RIGHT company, it shouldn't be something you need to take care of yourself. For the most part, over time the panels clean themselves and continue to operate. If 10 years go by and it is time for a checkup, give your solar company a call. If your company does not want to take responsibility for the maintenance of the panels, review your contract and confirm what services you paid for.
If you really want to touch the panels, just be gentle, and call your solar provider anyway as it we strongly advise not to touch the panels unless you are a professional solar technician (lest you risk causing accidental damage!). However, during winter the melting of the snow may cause longer icicles on your roof edges which you can easily take care of yourself: just take a stick, scrape off the icicles from the edges in the morning, and you're good to go!
+ What are the risks and benefits of going solar?
Like every other decision and action you make, there are certain risks to going solar. However, there are great benefits, too. (And if you ask us, those benefits definitely outweight the risks!)
Monetary Investment: There is no money out of pocket, but when you purchase, you are most likely taking a loan. Unless you’re paying the total sum out of pocket, you are making a huge investment. If you are not financially stable and organized, you can put yourself in a tight position. That is why we make sure you have a strong credit and meet qualifications. If you lease, you don’t need to worry about a bold investment, but you risk losing the opportunity to make a profit.
Company Choice: If you don’t pay attention to whom you are investing with, then you are taking the risk of not getting your money’s worth. When investing in solar you should also take notice that you are investing your trust in a credible professional of the field as a bad company can put not only your solar system, but any part of your property that is affected by it at risk.
Reduced Energy Bills: Even on cloudy days, you can still generate solar power. If there are only a couple of sunny hours or only indirect sunlight hits your home, the panels still produce some energy. If your home needs a bit more power, it comes from your typical power-company electrical grid.
Tax Incentives and Rebates: You can take 30% of total solar energy system costs for your primary home as a federal income tax credit (installation plus equipment with no upper limit). The state of New Jersey also offers a variety of different tax incentives and rebate programs through various organizations and financial institutions.
Profit: You start saving immediately after NJ solar panel installation due to sharply lower energy bills. Once your tax credits and utility bill savings equal your installation costs, you can actually profit from your solar panels.
Property Value: Your home should sell faster with a solar energy system already installed--and that fact has value on its own. In addition, you can ask a higher price for your home. Some estimates say homeowners gain about $6000 per kw of system capacity in additional home resale value for solar.
Product Quality: Solar panel manufacturers often provide up to a 25-year warranty, and the actual lifespan of solar panels is much longer, up to 30 or 40 years with minimal maintenance.
Environmental Impact: Solar power is natural and clean energy from the sun. By using solar energy to power your NJ home, you are lowering greenhouse gas emissions and reducing our country’s need for fossil fuels.
+ What are the NJ state incentives of going solar?
Despite its orientation and relatively unfavorable geographical location in terms of sunshine exposure, New Jersey is among the leading states when it comes to solar energy consumption.
Since 2010, the state has seen more than 50% increase in the number of solar installations and this is largely attributed to the state’s aggressive incentive and rebate programs. Although a good number of the residents in NJ have installed solar panels in their homes, a good number have not dared to take the bold step because of the lack of sufficient information on the solar financial rebates and tax programs.
NEW JERSEY SOLAR REBATES
New Jersey offers lucrative incentives and financial rebates to both commercial and residential properties that adopt solar energy and other renewable energy sources. The financial rebates range from one hundred to thousands of dollars depending on the size of the energy system and the program adopted.
There are very many organizations and financial institutions in New Jersey that are championing the solar energy campaign and together with the state, they offer a number of financial incentives and rebates depending on the nature of facility and performance of the solar systems. These include utility financing programs such as the ACE, JCP&L, RECO, Edison Innovation Clean Energy Manufacturing Grants and performance-based incentives such as the grid-connected renewable programs.
Other rebate programs include the Energy Star Homes Programs, Energy Star Product Rebates, WARMADvantage Program and many other programs. The state offers loans and grants as well to encourage the installation and consumption of renewable sources of energy.
NEW JERSEY TAX INCENTIVES ON SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS
Tax incentives, just like the financial rebates, are aimed at encouraging more people to adopt sustainable renewable energy systems like solar.
New Jersey waives sales tax for solar panels and reduces the property tax on all commercial and residential properties which have solar energy systems installed.
The tax incentive is so good that some eligible renewable energy systems get a property tax exemption of up to 100% of the value of their renewable energy systems. These systems are not limited to solar but other sustainable systems such as geothermal, hydroelectric, tidal systems and biomass.
For more information on the tax incentives and rebate programs in New Jersey, visit your local assessor’s office. Alternatively, you can visit their official website and fill out the forms to get your property assessed and get started.
+ Which is better: lease or purchase?
Honestly, that all depends on you. It’s important for you to know where you are financially and what your plans are, or where they will take you in the foreseeable future. Use those factors to determine which deal is best for you! It's also important to sit down with someone who can consult you on what your options are and how they will each affect you!
Generally, there are three main contract types in going solar:
Basic Lease: This is basically like leasing a car from a dealership. The solar company is the dealership and the electric company is the gas station. Meaning you basically “rent” your panels from the company for a price and if your panels size do not eliminate your electric bill, you pay the electric company also. However, you will always pay less and save money at the end of the day. The contract term is usually 15-20 yrs.
- Benefit: $0 down payment; lower cost for system compared to ownership; you pay less for electricity; the solar company is responsible for panel maintenance
- Points to Notice: You have two bills: a bill from your 15-20-year contract and your service charge from your utility company
Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) a.k.a. "Fixed Rate Lease": This contract is like a partnership. A lot like a basic lease, except you basically switch out your electricity provider to the owner of the panels. A third party buys the panels for you and in exchange they provide you a fixed lower rated price compared to the electric company. The contract term can range from 10-20 years.
- Benefit: $O down payment; lower cost for system compared to ownership; the solar company is responsible for panel maintenance; regardless of what the panels produce, your bill is the same
- Points of Notice: You pay to a third party; 10-20 year contract; ALL benefits of ownership goes to third party owner
Complete Purchase: In this contract, you become the owner of the system. Usually $0 down payment, but you pay installments for the ownership. Like buying a car, you apply for a loan and finance the system. You get all the benefits of going solar. Like access to the SREC system, the Federal ITC program, and Rebates. This ownership contract is for 25 years.
- Benefits: $0 down payment; YOU are the owner (NO third parties); a lower electricity bill; the solar company is responsible for panel maintenance; SREC access; Federal ITC program Rebates
- Points to Notice: Larger loan amount; higher standards for qualification
Every company has different variations of how they proceed with each contract. Again, what is important is knowing your financial standing, your plans for your life and home, and being properly educated before making a commitment. Study about going solar and speak to a professional about what your best options are and how they each affect you. Now and in the future, going solar is always a great investment, but how you invest is just as important!
+ What about insurance?
Insurance coverage for solar energy systems vary depending on where you live and what kind of property you are installing it to.
Private Property: Like a house or an open yard instillation, the terms vary depending on where on the property the panels are, the people that live there, the current insurance that you have and a few other things that can affect what your insured on. Generally, the solar panels are “umbrellaed” as part of your current home or property insurance plan.
Commercial Property: For the most part, the process is just like that of a home solar plan. Expect the determining factors are based on a company insuring mindset. However, just like for a private property, your solar energy system generally gets “umbrellaed” into part of your current insurance plan.
For the most part, your insurance for your solar energy system is dependent on your individual qualifications, but generally insure you for the basics. Like the aftermath of a storm. So, to really understand how your panels will be insured, speak to a professional of the company that you chose (and trust) and discuss how and what you are insured for.