Simplify Solar Answers your FAQ

Have a question that could be answered without picking up the phone and dialing a solar specialist? You’ve come to the right place! Below is a list of frequently asked questions that may be helpful to you. If you can’t find the answer to your question here, don’t hesitate to call 1-877-974-6754.

Isn’t solar expensive?

You’re not alone in thinking that solar is expensive. In fact, from our experience in talking to people, most people assume solar panels for their average-sized home (think 5 kW or 20 panels) would cost over $20,000. The reality is closer to $10,000, less than half of most peoples’ guess. The combination of the sharp drop in solar panel prices and government tax credit of 30% has made installing solar a rational investment for many. In fact, the payback period in Hawaii is just 5 years, in California 6 years, and in Texas 7 years. Any electricity generated after that is free energy.

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Is my home a good candidate for solar panels?

All aspects of the property – the roof, siding, structure, electrical system, orientation, and site –interface with the solar power system. Solar arrays can be mounted on east or west facing roofs, but southern exposures are always preferred. Arrays can also be mounted on siding or on the ground. Shading by trees or other obstructions will have a major impact on system performance. The residence’s electrical service equipment has to be large enough to accommodate the solar power system and free from major code violations. Because solar panels add to and redistribute weight on the roof, the building structure may need to be upgraded for solar panel installation. The surest way to determine the suitability of your home for solar installation is to contact us for an assessment!

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Is switching to solar difficult?

Simplify Solar makes it easy to make the switch. Though there are a number of steps involved in installing a solar power system, we manage the entire process to the maximum extent possible for all our customers.

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Should I buy or lease a solar panel system?

That answer depends on your goals – immediate savings shouldn’t be your only concern since you are able to lower your electricity costs whether you lease or purchase your solar panels.

Homeowners who choose to purchase a solar panel system usually have cash on hand to invest and are focused on maximizing the financial benefits. They also tend to be able to benefit from investment tax credits available to investors in home solar systems. Finally, homeowners planning to sell their properties within the next several years may opt to purchase a solar system because it can increase the value of the home.

When you lease, your solar panels are installed for free and they’re maintained at no cost to you for the duration of your solar lease. Leasing is a hassle-free way to use solar power without having to pay upfront costs, take out loans or deal with long-term maintenance. You start saving as soon as your solar energy system is switched on. If you move, you can transfer your solar lease to the new owner.

If you need help deciding whether leasing or buying a solar panel system is most beneficial to you, contact us for a free consultation. Our experts will complete a thorough evaluation of your particular needs and goals before making any recommendations.

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Will my home’s property taxes go up with solar panels?

In 29 states, including California and Texas, solar installations are property-tax exempt. This means installing solar panels will increase the resale value of the house without costing an extra dime in property taxes. The same cannot be said for other home investments such as swimming pools, a new deck, etc. For a full list, take a look at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE).

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How much does my property value go up with a home solar system installed?

A good rule of thumb is every $1,000 saved in annual energy expenditures increases a home’s value by $20,000. For most homes, this is about 50–75% of the system cost before incentives! For additional information, click here.

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How much can I save on my energy bills with a residential solar system?

This really depends on your home’s consumption information as every home is fundamentally different; however, the average solar system can save between 20–50% of an average home’s energy bills. Depending on your house’s roof size and availability, you could potentially install a system that would off-set most of the home’s energy consumption. Please note that solar panels in the northern latitudes (which include the US) are only installed on the south-facing or southwest-facing roof(s) in order to receive the most sunlight possible.

Before you go solar, we highly recommend cutting down on energy consumption. Going solar before making the home more efficient is like pouring water into a bucket that has a giant hole. To reduce the size of the hole, here are some suggestions for a more energy-efficient home. They include:

  • Replace old appliances with new energy-efficient models.
  • Replace older water heaters with new ones.
  • Insulate the home if it has no insulation.
  • Caulk doors and windows.
  • Replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs.

For additional information, click here.

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When will I start saving money on my electric bill?

Immediately! As soon as the system is installed and hooked up to the grid, electricity will be generated, saving you utility costs immediately.

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Do I need to get approval from my Home Owner’s Association?

While a Home Owner’s Association (HOA) cannot “prohibit or restrict homeowners from installing a solar energy device”, they can stipulate “where the solar device should be located on a roof.” Every HOA is different, so we recommend you contact your HOA before making a solar purchase as a precautionary measure.

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What happens if I sell my home?

Recent studies show a solar power system increases a property’s value by a substantial amount, most often recovering 100 percent or more of the original cost. The actual answer depends on whether you purchased or leased your solar system.

If you purchased your solar power system using cash or by taking a loan, there are no encumbrances on the home sale. Purchasing a home solar system is an economic investment.

If you have a leased solar power system, the terms of the lease will dictate how the lease can be transferred to the new homeowners.

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What is a Photovoltaic (PV) System?

Photovoltaic (PV) is a scientific term used to describe the process of converting sunlight directly into electricity. Your solar panels are made of individual cells with negatively-charged and positively-charged wafers. When light hits the cells, it energizes electrons from the negatively-charged wafers that flow as an electrical current through the conductor to the positively-charged wafers. This current can then be used to power loads that are connected to this conductor.

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What’s the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels?

The typical monocrystalline solar cell is a dark black color, and the corners of cells are usually missing as a result of the production process. Polycrystalline, on the other hand, is identifiable by its signature light or dark blue color. Historically, monocrystalline solar cells have had a higher peak efficiency and were more readily available than polycrystalline solar cells. The blanket statement that monocrystalline panels are better than polycrystalline cells, however, is not accurate. Each panel and its manufacturer should be considered on a case-by-case basis. At Simplify Solar, we offer three packages, with the Gold and Platinum packages both being monocrystalline cells.

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Do I need to get insurance on the solar PV system? How much would it cost?

Just as with any other additions to the house, like a pool or a deck, as long as the damage doesn’t exceed the home coverage, the insurance premium should not increase much, if at all. However, every insurance plan is different and we encourage looking into your policy before going solar. Solar panels themselves usually have a warranty up to 25 years.

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What is a grid-tied system?

Currently, you receive your electricity from the “grid.” The electricity produced by your solar power system can replace up to 100 percent of the electricity you normally receive from the grid through your electricity provider. On those occasions when your solar power system produces more electricity than you are consuming at any given moment, the excess is sent from your system to the grid. At night, on very cloudy days, or during stormy days when your solar power system is producing less electricity than you are consuming, your electricity will come from the grid.

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Can my home go completely off the grid?

Yes, but we don’t recommend it for most people because batteries drastically increase the cost of the system and require more maintenance than a regular grid-tied system. Until battery prices come down in the coming few years, a grid-tied system is the best way to go solar.

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Can I sell excess electricity back to the grid?

Net metering is when a PV system produces more electricity than the home uses. The extra kilowatts are fed into the utility grid and you as the homeowner are either paid the full amount per kilowatt-hour (which is how much you pay for the utility rate) or a partial amount. Depending on your utility provider, net metering may or may not be possible.

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What is net metering?

For homes with solar power systems, special billing arrangements are needed in order to account for the energy produced by the solar system. Owners with net metering get credit for the electricity they have used from their solar power system at its full retail value. Typically, the utility provider keeps track of the energy flowing from the utility and “nets” it against the energy flowing back into the grid from the PV system each month. Adjustments are made for seasonal variations over the course of a whole year. The customer then only has to pay for the electricity used in excess of what their PV system provided.

Net metering is usually mandated by state law, and not all utilities offer net metering. Municipal utilities, in particular, are sometimes not required to offer true net metering. All utilities are mandated to offer interconnection and financial consideration for the power produced, but instead of the full retail amount for the solar energy production, they offer an “avoided cost” amount that is less than the retail electricity rate.

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How much power can my system produce?

In good conditions, on average over the whole year, a one kW system will produce 3.5 kWH of electricity per day, or over 1,300 kWH per year, resulting in an offset of more than one ton of greenhouse emissions.

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How big a system can I fit on my roof?

Standard PV modules are rated about 13.8 watts per square foot. The energy produced by a PV panel depends on the site conditions. Ultimately, the number of solar panels appropriate for
your house will depend on the available area and the amount of electricity consumed.

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Are solar panels all I need?

A typical grid-tied solar PV system includes the solar panels, an inverter (to convert direct
current generated by the solar panels into the alternating current that your house uses), a racking system (to attach the panels to your roof without causing leaks), an AC disconnect (a safety measure to ensure that when the power goes out the system will not back feed into the grid), the wiring, the maintenance and other smaller components. These other components are called the balance of system (BOS).

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How many solar panels do I need for my home?

A small home of about 1,500 square feet needs 4 kilowatts (kW), which is 16 panels, to offset up to 50% of electricity usage. Each panel can provide about 250 watts (W). An average-sized home can require 6–8kW, which is 24–32 panels. We do not anticipate most homes have enough roof space to support 10kW, or 40 panels, although here at Simplify Solar we do provide solar packages up to 10kW.

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How large is the average solar panel?

An average solar panel is 65” x 39” (within 2 inches). In other words, about 5′ x 3′. The area is roughly 17.5 square feet.

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How long will a solar panel last?

A solar panel typically lasts 25–30 years, during which time most systems require little to no maintenance beyond removing leaves or snow and hosing off debris. In general, the lifespan of solar panels depends on the quality of the solar panel technology used, including the photovoltaics (PV), and the quality of the overall installation.

Annually, solar panels lose close to half a percent in overall performance. After 25 years of operation, high-quality panels will still be operating at almost 90 percent efficiency.

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What direction do solar panels need to be facing?

In the northern hemisphere, the highest energy production comes from panels which face south. Any roof face extending up to due east or west would also yield good production due to higher peak demands in the mornings and evenings, but anything north of east or west is not recommended. 

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What happens when it’s cloudy?

As long as there is light, solar panels will be still be producing power, albeit at a fraction of their peak capacity.

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What happens if it hails? Or if there are high-speed winds?

Solar panels need to be able to withstand whatever Mother Nature throws at them. In fact, most manufacturers put their panels through rigorous testing, shooting 1″ metal balls at high speeds at the panels to simulate severe hail conditions. Solar panels are also designed to be structurally sound. On the southern coast, solar panels are built to withstand the pressure of 150 mph winds. Anything more and home insurance would have to cover the damages. At that point, the house would probably have bigger issues than just the condition of the solar panels!

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What happens when the power goes out?

Unfortunately, even if the panels are producing energy, your home will not be able to use it. The solar panel system would get disconnected from the grid so any energy that is produced does not backfeed into the transmission lines and put utility workers at risk. Backfeeding is when power runs in reverse. The solar panel distributes the power to the rest of the house, but it also feeds power out through the main breaker to the transformer, which then converts it back to thousands of volts and attempts to energize all neighborhood utility lines. Energizing the utility lines in this fashion is dangerous and illegal. Workers attempting to restore power to the neighborhood may unexpectedly encounter high voltage on the utility lines and suffer a fatal shock. This is why an AC disconnect is needed so that in case of power outages, the home’s solar PV system does not backfeed.

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What about batteries to backup power?

Nearly all modern solar panel systems are grid tied, which means they’re connected to the conventional electricity grid. When a home uses more than its panels can provide, the home draws power from the grid like all grid-tied homes, i.e., homes that pay a utility company. Batteries are an option for those who really want them, but they’re expensive, bulky, and have to be replaced every five to ten years. From an economic perspective, we do not recommend going with battery backup unless you are really concerned about having backup power.

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Isn’t solar hard to maintain?

Exactly the opposite! Solar panels require almost no maintenance. The only maintenance for the panels could include is annual cleaning if rainfall is light.

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How often do I need to clean my panels?

Exactly the opposite! Solar panels require almost no maintenance. The only maintenance that might be necessary is an annual rinsing if rainfall has been light.

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I want solar for my home! What now?

Once we have your agreement for us to conduct a free site assessment, we will arrange for that to happen as quickly as possible, usually within a week. We require you to be present for this assessment. It is necessary to verify your house is suitable for solar panel installation and to evaluate the details needed for engineering the system. The site surveyor will determine the optimal positioning for your system and give you detailed information about system options, expected return on investment, and the products we employ.

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How long does it take to install the system?

It depends – the property location (city, state) and project complexity are the biggest determinants. Typical installations take 30–90 days, depending on many variables.  Solar power system installation requires multiple permits and applications to be filed with building departments, utilities, and state-based rebate authorities, as well as financial institutions if a loan or lease is being used to finance the purchase. Every one of these agencies has its own requirements and timeframes that may either expedite or delay the installation, and more complex projects may take extra time to design and plan.

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Why does Simplify Solar need pictures of my attic?

These will help us determine how the panels will be attached to the roof, while making sure we maintain the structural integrity of the roof and meet wind load requirements. Most jurisdictions that require permitting also require a structural engineer’s stamp of approval to be able to install solar, and these pictures will help speed up the process by which we can get approved.

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Why does Simplify Solar need pictures of my home’s meter and electric panel?

These will help us get a better idea of how to tie in the solar panels to the home’s current electric system. Based on these pictures, we can design a full electrical diagram to gain utility interconnection approval, pull electrical permits from the home’s local jurisdiction, and make sure the installer understands the full scope of the installation before bidding on the project.

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