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Solar F A Q

How much space does the system need?

A typical system requires about 7 to 8 square feet for each dollar of your electric bill. This figure varies depending upon your electric rates. A typical solar PV panel is 3x6 or 18 Sq ft.

Do the solar panels need to be mounted on my roof?

Panels are often mounted on the roof, but can also be mounted on the ground. Ground mounts are great if the house is shaded, or if dormers or other obstructions limit available space on the roof.

Do the panels need to face south?

South is best, but panels installed facing east or west still generate a very high percentage of possible power. It is usually more effective (and more attractive) to install the panels in the same plane as the roof direction, rather than build an awkward mount to angle them.

Are the panels fragile?

No. While the panels are made of tempered glass, it is quite strong. They pass hail tests, and are regularly installed in Arctic and Antarctic conditions.

How much solar electric power do I need to power my home?

Each home is different, and the amount of electricity you use is very dependent upon your lifestyle, how your home was built, and your appliances. As part of our services, we work with you to reduce your electrical consumption in easy ways.

How much power does the system produce?

Systems come in all sizes, and produce as much or as little power as required. Many systems produce a portion of the home's required power, leaving room for additional conservation or generation in the future.

How long will the system last?

The solar panels have a 25-year power warranty from the manufacturer. This is longer than almost anything else you can buy. The rest of the system has a 5-year warranty in most areas. Inverters can have warranties up to 10 years.

What happens when the utility has a power outage?

Most systems we sell are “clean power” systems, without batteries. These systems do not generate power when the utility is out, even if it is sunny. If backup power is desired, a battery system can be added. This increases the complexity and cost. Most people find that what they want is Clean Power, and find that the very occasional outage does not bother them, so they do not purchase the battery option.

Do I need batteries with the system?

Batteries are only required if you want 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 without the utility in operation.

What is Net Metering?

Net Metering is the regulatory ability to get credit for electricity you generate with solar energy and send backwards through your utility meter. Exact provisions vary with each state, but the effect is to allow you to generate excess power during the day, and use it at night, without needing batteries.

How does the solar power get stored?

In a Clean Power, non-battery system, power is not stored. It is either used immediately in the house, or sent backwards through the meter, creating a credit. If storage is needed, large batteries and other equipment are added to the system.

What happens if the panels get covered by snow?

Solar electric panels need sunshine to generate power. While some sun does make it through several inches of snow, little electricity is generated when the panels are covered with anything. Most power is made during clear sunny days. Our estimates take that into account.

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

Solar panels will last many years (over 25). Because of this, we want the roof to be in decent condition, as it does not make sense to remove and reinstall the panels after only a few years. However, after the panels are in place, they will greatly reduce the wear on the roof by blocking ultraviolet rays, keeping most snow and ice off the roof, and keeping anything from hitting the roof. Most installations do not require a new roof prior to PV installation.

What happens if the panels are shaded?

PV panels should be installed in areas where they get significant shade-free sun every day. Even small amounts of shade can significantly reduce the output. Our designs and installations also seek to minimize the impact of any shade issues through selection of the proper equipment and good engineering.

Do I need to clean the panels periodically?

Most of our customers do not clean their panels. In most areas of the country, there is sufficient rain to clean the panels. However, if you are in a dusty area (very near a busy dirt road, very urban area, etc.) you may see a performance gain from cleaning the panels monthly. If necessary, a hose stream is usually sufficient for cleaning. Do not walk on or over the panels to clean them. Do not use metal, hard, or abrasive methods for cleaning. Do not spray water on the panels when they are very hot.

Does solar power work for commercial buildings?

We have installed solar on office buildings, retail buildings, schools, and government facilities. Anywhere electricity is used, solar electricity can be used.

Are there financial incentives for buying solar electricity?

There are many incentives for purchasing solar. These vary from state-to-state. Some common incentives include:

  • Clean electric generation
  • Stable electric cost
  • Backup power for utility outage
  • Fight climate change / global warming
  • Take care of my children's world
  • Create secure electricity supply
  • Political statement for a renewable energy future
  • Strongly dislike buying electricity from the utility
  • Feeling of empowerment
  • Remote site with no electric service
  • Sending electricity back to the utility (net metering) is cool
  • Solar energy just makes sense
  • Higher resale value for my property
  • Individual states, including NJ, NY, CT, MA, DE, RI, ME (limited), PA (limited), MD (limited), have some form of funding to decrease the up front cost of solar electric photovoltaic systems. Please contact us for more details.

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

Energy conservation and renewable generation adds value to a home. Surveys have shown that for every $1,000.00 saved per year, $20,000.00 is added to a home's value. Solar energy can be one of the best home improvement investments you make.

How long does it take to install a PV 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 take several weeks to over a month to install, depending upon size and type of installation.

How much does a Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) system cost?

Figuring out how much a particular PV system will cost is a complicated process, as the overall cost depends on a number of different factors: the size and type of the installation, the particular manufacturer, and your local installer.

Other factors include subsidies and other government incentives, which can significantly lower the overall price tag. Before such subsidies, for example, a typical residential PV system of 3.5 kilowatts would cost about $35,000 all told. After, however, that price could be $10,000 (or more) lower. Again, this all depends on where you live.

Use our FREE Cost Calculator or Contact Us for a detailed analysis and price quote.

How can I finance the purchase of a solar PV system?

There are several different ways. More and more, companies and banks are working together to provide hassle-free loans to consumers interested in purchasing solar power systems. Many people also take advantage of what are called Energy Efficient Mortgages. In some instances, your monthly loan payment may be equal to—or even less than—what you used to pay in bills to your electrical utility.

 How do solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work?

That's a great question. In brief terms, PV panels convert sunlight into electricity. For a more detailed explanation, click here.

We are certified installers and qualify for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, State and Federal Solar Rebates and Solar Energy Incentives. We will help you to apply for Solar incentives and assure your success.

With over 50 years of projects in Electrical and HVAC installations, we bring knowledge and experience that you can be assured of success. We stand behind installation with 100% service and support. You will never need to worry.

Speak to one of our Certified Energy Consultants to find a wealth of information on federal, state and municipal incentive programs for the purchase of a solar energy system.

What is the break-even point for solar energy system?

There is no single answer, but many systems pay for themselves between 7 and 14 years. Much depends on the overall cost of the system, which is a product of the type and size of the installation and the incentives available in your area. Furthermore, the break-even point is influenced by the price of electricity: if your utility charges 12 cents per kilowatt-hour (all else held constant), your break-even point would come sooner than if you were only being charged five cents per kilowatt-hour. This is because in the first case you’d be saving more money in monthly electricity charges: each kilowatt-hour produced by your PV system would save you 12 cents, as opposed to five.

What is the estimated energy payback period for Solar Photovoltaic (Solar PV) systems?

“Energy payback" refers to the relationship between the amount of energy a solar panel produces and the amount of energy that went into its manufacture. On average, the time it takes for a PV system to create the same amount of energy that went into its manufacture is anywhere from two to five years. Because well-made PV systems will operate for two decades or more, they generate far more energy than the amount that goes into making them.

What is net metering? And why is it so important?

Most solar panel systems are hooked up to the municipal electricity grid, and are therefore called “grid-tied" systems. Net metering ensures that the local utility will purchase any excess electricity that you produce. This excess electricity is commonly referred to as net excess generation, or NEG for short. PV systems create real value in this way by offsetting your monthly electricity bill. One of the first steps to take in deciding whether to get solar is to figure out what your state’s net metering policies are; 42 states participate in net metering to some degree, and the DSIRE web site can tell you precisely what policies apply in your area.

What if my state does not require net metering?

While all but eight states offer net metering, only a few require all state utilities to participate. If your local utility is not required to buy back excess power produced by residential solar systems, chances are, now is not the time for you to invest in PV panels. This situation is likely to change, however, for the following reasons: (1) the price of energy generated from conventional means will continue to rise, making options like solar and wind energy more attractive; (2) solar technology is getting more efficient everyday and the costs associated with manufacturing are falling; (3) the number of states that enact statewide net metering legislation is likely to grow.

NOTE: Even if your state does not’t require net metering, solar thermal systems remain an effective and cost-efficient option.

What’s an inverter?

Photovoltaic systems create direct current (DC). In order to make use of this form of electricity it must be converted in to alternating current (AC), the type of electricity we use in North America. For a grid-tied, non-battery system (the most common type of PV installation), this is achieved by installing an inverter. High-voltage DC inverters are the least expensive to wire, and only in special circumstances would you require a low-voltage inverter (when there’s more than three panels, shade, or batteries). In general, the most cost-effective grid-tied non-battery inverters are those in the 2- to 6-kilowatt range.

What does “energy conversion efficiency" mean?

In reference to solar power, conversion efficiency refers to the percentage of sunlight that a particular system is able to convert into electricity. Silicon-based technologies average around 12 percent, although some prototype technologies are achieving conversion rates of 20 percent or more.

How do I choose the right size for my PV system?

The best way to figure this out is to discuss your particular needs with a Solar Systems Design photovoltaic professional and have him or her do a solar-power consultation. Click HERE to contact us.

How long do PV systems last?

A quality PV system will last for over 20 years. PV modules—the actual panels—generally last for over 30 years. Inverters typically require replacement around year 15. Many manufacturers offer a 25-year warranty on their installations.

How much electricity does a PV system generate?

The greater the area of PV panels, the more electricity is generated. With decent sunshine, your typical 1.5-kilowatt system could about 2700 kilowatt-hours a year. Over a 25-year life span, this comes out to be 67,500 kilowatt-hours.

Can I sell Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC) in New Jersey?

SREC stands for Solar Renewable Energy Certificate and is a tradable certificate that represents all the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from a solar electric system. Each time a solar electric system generates 1000kWh (1MWh) of electricity, an SREC is issued which can then be sold or traded separately from the power. This makes it easy for individuals and businesses to finance and invest in clean, emission free solar power.

The New Jersey SREC Program provides a means for SREC's to be created and verified on your behalf. The SREC web site facilitates the sale of SREC's to electric suppliers who are required to invest in solar energy purchase SREC's under New Jersey`s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). This requirement increases each year, so that SREC's from the equivalent of a total of 90MW of solar electricity will be required by 2009. That`s enough electricity to power approximately 8,000 homes!

All solar system owners in New Jersey with grid-connected generators can participate in New Jersey`s SREC Program.

You must first register for an electronic account on the SREC web site. Then SREC's will be deposited in your account and you will be able to list them for sale before listing SREC's on the bulletin board.


Are renewable energy systems exempt from sales tax in New Jersey?

New Jersey offers a full exemption from the state 6% sales tax for all solar and wind equipment. This exemption is available to all taxpayers. All major types solar energy equipment, including equipment for passive solar design, is considered eligible for the exemption. The statute directed The Division of Energy Planning and Conservation in the Department of Energy to establish technical standards for solar energy systems for purposes of qualification for exemption. Although these regulations defining eligible systems expired in 2000, the exemption still exists.

What New York utilities are eligible for the NYSERDA solar incentive program?

Do you pay a New York State System Benefits Charge? - to participate in the New York Energy $martSM PV Incentive Program PV systems must be installed at a site that pays into the System Benefits Charge (SBC). If you pay into the SBC, it will say so on your utility bill. If you are uncertain, please contact your electric utility. Some commercial and industrial customers do not pay into the Systems Benefit Charge, so check with your utility to be sure. Electric customers of the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) are not eligible for funding under this program. If you are a LIPA or NYPA customer, please contact your utility to see if they have similar programs.

Where can I find more information about New York Renewable energy programs and incentives?

Click Here:

Where can I find out about Property Tax exemptions for solar systems in New York state?

Here is a link to New York State Property Tax exemptions for solar systems:

Where can I find more information about Pennsylvania Renewable energy programs and incentives?

Click Here:

How do you calculate typical solar-electric installation cost?*

Cost for less than 2kW
Cost for more than 2kW
PV Panels $3 - 5.00 per watt $3 - 5.00 per watt
Inverter $1 - 2.00 per watt $1-2.00 per watt
Installation Cost $3-5 per watt $3-5 per watt
Total $8-15 per watt $8-15 per watt

Many other factors make up the total cost; please contact us for a detailed estimate


Solar Renewable Energy Certificates - (SREC's):  SREC stands for Solar Renewable Energy Certificate and is a tradable certificate that represents all the clean energy benefits of electricity generated from your solar electric system. An SREC can be sold or traded separately from the power. It is issued once a solar facility has generated 1000kWh (1MWh), through either estimated or actual metered production.

Kilowatt-Hour (kWh): A Kilowatt-hour is 1000 watts for a one hour period of time. Ten 100-watt light bulbs left on for an hour would use one Kilowatt-hour. In New Jersey, the average cost of a kWh is 15.5 cents, and the average annual household use is 8,386 kWh.

Megawatt-Hour (MWh): A Megawatt-hour is simply 1000 kilowatt-hours.

Direct Current (DC): This is the type of electricity produced by a solar panel or a car battery.

Alternating Current (AC): This is the type of electricity you buy from the Power company and use for things like lamps, microwaves, and televisions.

Solar Inverter: This converts the DC energy produced by solar panels to AC energy used in your home.

NJBPU: New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. They require that electricity suppliers that serve New Jersey must provide a percentage of that electric portfolio produced from renewable resources, such as solar electricity.

RPS: Renewable portfolio standard. This is how much renewable energy the utility companies must provide from renewable resources, such as solar electricity. The RPS, when enacted in 1999, was initially set at 2.5 % of total electricity usage; the target is 20% renewable energy by 2020.

Photovoltaic (PV): Converts light to electricity. Traditional solar panels are photovoltaic.

Cells: Solar panels are made up of individual cells, usually less than six inches across each. They make up the pattern you can see on each panel.

Module: An individual solar panel.



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