General Info for Homeowners and FAQs
Why install solar on your Habitat home?
- 75% of Virginia households suffer from an unaffordable electricity burden.
- Solar greatly reduces this burden for the entirety of your mortgage term.
- A 4 kW solar system (12 solar panels) produces approximately 475 kilowatt hours of electricity each month, saving homeowners $50-60, depending on the electric utility.
- Solar will protect families from proposed electricity rate increases of 3.6% each year for the next 10 years or more.
- Generating and monitoring their own electricity encourages households to pay attention to energy efficiency, electricity production, and energy usage.
- You can choose to sell your Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) to further add to your savings (SRECs are currently worth $15-20 per month for solar homeowners, Jan. 2022).
What to expect from owning a solar system
Solar systems are relatively simple. They quietly operate up on your roof, producing electricity for your home. They have no moving parts and therefore have a long life expectancy of 25 to 30 years.
The basic parts of the solar system are the solar panels, the racking (the aluminum rails on which the solar panels are attached to the roof), the flashing feet (the connectors attached to the roof trusses of your house and clamped to the racking), the inverter (a device that converts direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity), and wiring to connect your solar panels to your electrical service.
Your house will still be connected to the electricity grid so that you will have access to electricity at night and on cloudy days. If there is a power outage from your electric utility, you will also experience a power outage because your solar system does not have batteries for storage. Battery storage is possible, but adds significantly to the cost of the solar system.
Depending on how much electricity your household uses, your solar system can supply most of the electricity needs for your home. In the summer, the solar system produces more electricity than in the winter. It is possible to produce more electricity than you use. In this case, your electric utility credits your account for the excess electricity you produce. These credits can be used on days when your solar system does not keep up with your electricity usage, such as rainy or cloudy days.
Occasionally, components of your solar system may fail. For example, a solar panel or a micro-inverter may need to be replaced. These components are covered by a 25-year warranty, which will pay for the cost of replacing the parts. However, the labor cost of replacing a component is typically not covered by the warranty. This cost is the homeowner’s responsibility.
Tracking your solar system
Once your solar system is connected to your home as well as the electricity grid, you will be able to track how much electricity the system is producing, as well as how much money you are saving. The company that installs your solar system will give you instructions on how to track your system using the internet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if snow and ice accumulate on the solar panels?
Solar panels will only produce electricity when the sun is directly or indirectly (reflection) shining on the panels. Snow and ice will greatly diminish the electricity production of your panels. However, the tilt of the panels as well as their dark color will prevent snow and ice from remaining on the panels for very long. It is not advisable to go up on your roof to remove snow and ice from your panels.
Does installing a solar system cause damage to my roof?
Solar technology has been around for decades. The system that is used to attach solar panels to your roof has been refined and improved to be extremely reliable and minimally intrusive. Solar installers routinely warranty their work, protecting the homeowner from leaks or damage to the roof.
What is solar net metering?
Solar net metering is a contractual relationship between a homeowner who has a solar system and their electric utility. The utility agrees to provide a credit to the homeowner for the excess electricity the homeowner produces that is not used by their home. This electricity is sent out to the electricity grid powering other nearby homes. A credit can be built up in your account and can be used during days when your home uses more electricity than your solar system produces.
What happens when my roof needs to be replaced?
Solar systems are designed to operate for 25 to 30 years. (Asphalt roof shingles have a similar lifespan.) When it is time to replace a roof, the solar system can be easily dismantled and removed in order to reshingle the roof. If it is determined that the solar panels still have more years of useful life, the solar system can be reinstalled after the new shingles have been put up. Other components of the solar system (that are not on the roof) can remain untouched while the new roof is being installed.
What happens when there is a power outage?
If your electric utility experiences a power outage, you will also experience a power outage because your solar system does not have batteries for storage. Battery storage is possible, but adds significantly to the cost of the solar system. If a homeowner wishes, batteries can be added later.
Do I have to do anything to maintain my solar system?
Your solar system is designed to be extremely low-maintenance. If the panels are visibly developing dust or debris, it is advisable to have them cleaned. Some solar installers or window washers offer this service.
How does a solar system impact the value of my house?
A solar system adds value to a home. At a minimum, a solar system is worth the cumulative amount of money that it is projected to save on electric bills. For a 4 kW solar system, the homeowner saves approximately $500 to $600 per year on their electric bill. Solar renewable energy credits are another source of income for a solar homeowner. These credits can add an additional $200 per year in income for a 4 kW system (at Jan. 2022 prices in Virginia)
When do solar panels need to be replaced?
Solar systems are designed to last 25-30 years. Some even last more than 40 years. At the end of the useful life of a solar system, homeowners can choose to replace them with new panels or go back to purchasing all of their energy from their electric utility. If you choose to replace them, you can either pay out of pocket for the new panels or seek financing for a new solar system.