Harness Power


Posted On: February 6, 2020

The Complete FAQ Guide to Home Solar in 2020

home solar

Home solar systems have evolved tremendously over the last couple of decades, and the industry shows no signs of slowing down. This FAQ guide is designed to answer any questions you might have before you book a home solar consultation.

Home Solar System Function

What is clean energy? And are solar systems considered clean?

Clean energy does not cause any type of emissions. Many renewable resources are clean but not all. Solar power, wind, hydropower, and geothermal energy are among the most popular forms of clean energy.

Do solar panels work at night?

Technically solar panels do not generate electricity at night, as photovoltaic cells require sunlight to produce solar energy. However, net metering and solar battery storage are two solutions that allow your home to “bank” energy during the day for your home to use at night.

What is net metering?

When your home solar system is connected to the grid, net metering allows your home to store its excess energy within your local power grid. Your electric company reimburses you through bill credits, and in turn, your home always has a steady flow of electricity.

Do solar panels insulate your roof?

Yes, according to research conducted at the University of California San Diego. Solar panels block the sun from directly hitting your roof, which works out to roughly a 5 percent discount on the price of your solar system over its lifetime. home solar panels also keep heat from escaping during cooler temperatures, so it helps with heating costs as well.

Can I connect solar panels directly to a battery?

Connecting solar panels to a bank of batteries could work in theory, but it isn’t worth the risk. Solar panels can easily end up generating more voltage than the battery can handle, which overcharges the battery and drastically reduces its life span.  This is why solar + storage is best configured by interconnecting with the grid through Net Metering.

Do solar panels work in rain?

Yes. Solar panels work best in direct sunlight, but some light still gets through on cloudy days. Also, rain is beneficial for solar panel maintenance since it washes away dirt and other debris.

Do solar panels heat the earth?

According to an extreme research scenario created and analyzed by Science Magazine, solar panels could raise a location’s average temperature by less than .5 degrees over 50 years if nearly every building in the area was powered by solar.

Will solar panels overcharge a battery?

If they are connected directly (as in the case of an off-grid system) then yes.  However, the vast majority of solar system installations are not off-grid due to attractive Net Metering laws upheld by solar-friendly states.  Solar + Battery solutions in these states are installed to avoid this issue.

Do solar panels work with Moonlight?

Since moonlight is just reflected sunlight, the answer is yes, but at a much smaller rate of energy production. The typical ratio is 345:1, so if a panel produces 3450 watts of energy at noon, it will produce 10 watts of energy at midnight.

How well do solar panels work in the winter?

Yes. Solar panels work as long as there is sunlight, regardless of how hot or cold it is. Home solar panels run more efficiently in colder weather since there is no risk of the panels reaching their maximum temperature. The only difference between winter and summer is the number of daylight hours.

What time of day do solar panels work best?

Solar panels work best between 11 am and 4 pm, when the sun is at its strongest.

Will my solar panels be connected to the grid?

You can choose to have a grid-tied solar system or an off-grid system, but an overwhelming majority of homeowners choose to connect their solar panels to the grid. Net metering allows the grid to essentially function like a communal battery, which keeps your home supplied with electricity.

How many solar panels are needed to run a house?

There is no uniform answer to this question, as the number of solar panels depends on the size of your home, energy usage, the amount of sunlight your roof receives, and several other factors. Only a home solar consultant can give you an exact answer.

Which solar panel is best for a home?

Monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient solar panel for home use. SunPower makes a monocrystalline panel that has 22% efficiency.

How long does a residential solar system take to install?

The average residential solar system installation time ranges from one to three days. The actual installation time depends on the sophistication of the solar system and the number of panels being installed.

Can you get a solar panel system for your home if your roof doesn’t qualify?

Yes. Ground mount solar systems are an option for you so long as you have enough land. Schedule a solar consultation with us to learn more about ground mount options.

Is my roof suitable for installing solar panels?

Asphalt shingle roofs are the most compatible type of roof for solar panels. Tiled roofs can also work well, so long as the tiles are not old and fragile. Slate roofs are tricky, so the cost is often higher than other roof types.  Metal roofs vary when it comes to installation complexity – the best way to determine eligibility is to schedule a site assessment.

Do I need to buy a solar battery if I install solar energy panels on my house?

No, solar batteries are only required if you want to control your energy storage. Net metering allows you to use your local power grid as your energy storage system.

Who are the best solar panel installation companies near me?

The best solar panel installation companies are the ones who have the best reputation. Do your homework and ask people you know who have solar if they are happy with their solar installation company.

Can a house run on solar power alone?

The short answer is yes, but this rarely is the case. How many panels and what type of system you need depends on your roof’s solar access, as well as your energy consumption.  The system as designed is then interconnected with the grid, so while it can cover 100% of your home’s needs year-round, it does so by producing excess during the day while the sun is out in exchange for utility credit.  That way, at nighttime you can still draw power from the grid at little to no cost.

Residential Solar Cost

How much do residential solar panels cost?

There are a lot of factors that go into the actual cost of getting solar panels installed on your home. The average price-per-watt for a cash purchase in CA, for example, is roughly $3.50, but this cost is very market-specific.  After-tax credits, the average cost of solar panels for an average-sized home across the country is around $14,874.

How much do solar panels cost for a 1500 square foot house?

The typical solar system size for a 1500 square foot house is 6kW. This would cost roughly $18,000-$24,000, with some wiggle room depending on roof type, pitch, and solar access.

How long does it take for solar panels to pay for themselves?

It depends on where you live. It can be as quick as 5 years, but the average in the U.S. is 8 years.

How much does a 4000-watt solar system cost?

The National average cost-per-watt is $2.96, which means a system this size would cost about $11,840 in less-expensive markets. After the 26% tax credit, the cost in those markets goes down to $8,762.

How much does a 20kW solar system cost?

The cost of a home solar system of this size is roughly $70,000 in CA, whereas in Oregon it can be $10,000 less. The actual cost depends on the brand of solar panels, installation costs, market, and several other factors.

Is there a sales tax on solar panels?

It depends on your state. As of 2020, 25 states offer a sales tax exemption for solar panels.

Do you still have an electric bill with solar panels?

Yes, at least initially. Depending on your offset (how much energy your system displaces compared to what you used to pull from the grid) your solar panels may reduce your electric bill down to virtually $0/mo, but there will always be minimum fees to pay to the utility to remain connected for nighttime and backup consumption.

How much has the price of solar for residential dropped in recent years?

Back in 2010, the pre-incentive price of an average-sized home solar system was $40,000. Now that cost is down to $18,000 in 2020.

How long does it take for your solar savings to pay back the cost of residential solar panels (solar payback period)?

It can take anywhere between 7 and 20 years for your solar panels to cover the initial cost depending on your state. The savings after 20 years can reach as high as $20,000.

How many solar panels are needed to power a house?

This depends on two main factors – the size of your home and the amount of energy you use. There are solar calculators you can use to help you estimate this information.

What can I expect for home solar system maintenance costs?

The average total cost for getting solar panels professionally cleaned is $150 to $330. Some companies charge a flat rate, and others charge between $15 and $35 a panel.

Does the government help pay for solar panels?

Yes, in the form of solar tax credits at the state and federal level. The federal tax credit is called the investment tax credit, or ITC.

How much does it cost to rent solar panels?

Leasing costs depend on the number of solar panels rented, and that is determined by your usage, shading, roof pitch, and other factors.  Typically Leases are structured so that you pay less for the Lease payment than you would for the Utility’s power.

Can I get solar panels for free?

Nothing is ever free. You can Lease solar panels or Finance them through a Loan, making the switch $0 (“free”) upfront. The finance payment is often lower than what you were paying in utility fees prior to going Solar, so this makes switching easy to justify since there are often savings from Day 1.  Schedule a solar consultation to talk about your solar financing options.

Residential Solar Panel Durability

How long do solar panels last?

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are typically backed by a warranty for 20-25 years, which is their estimated lifespan. Thin-Film panels, on the other hand, are usually only expected to last 2-5 years.

Do solar panels lose efficiency over time?

Yes. Solar panel manufacturers estimate a 0.8% loss of efficiency each passing year.

Can I walk on solar panels?

Some panels are more durable than others, but even the most durable ones shouldn’t be walked on. You don’t want to risk damaging your investment.

What happens to solar panels after 25 years?

Some recent studies have shown solar panels experience a drop in efficiency between 6% and 8% over 25 years. This means the lifespan of solar panels is longer than initially estimated.

Can solar panels cause roof leaks?

Properly installed solar panels will never cause your roof to leak. That said, incorrect installation could cause your roof to leak which highlights the importance of finding a trusted Contractor.

Can solar panels break?

Yes, but usually not in the way one would suppose. It is very rare to see a visibly broken solar panel. When they break, it is by micro-cracks that are invisible to the naked eye.

Can solar panels withstand hail?

Yes. The most durable panels on the market are designed to withstand golf ball-sized hail.

Does rain damage solar panels?

Rain is beneficial in terms of panel maintenance since it washes away dirt and debris.

Do solar panels work if covered in snow?

No, because the snow blocks the sunlight from reaching the panels. Many solar panels are installed at an angle so the snow eventually slides right off.

Should I wash my solar panels?

It depends. Home solar panels are mostly able to be cleaned by rain. In areas without a lot of rain or with roofs that have a minimal pitch, your solar panels are more likely to need a periodic washing.

Do solar panels need maintenance?

They need very little maintenance over the first 25-30 years of their lifespan. The only maintenance that might be required is washing away dirt, which can be done with a hose.

Can you pressure wash solar panels?

No, the pressurized water can damage your panels. All you need is soap, water, and a gentle brush. There are also professional solar panel cleaning companies you can hire.

Residential Solar Eco-Friendliness

What is clean energy?

Clean energy does not cause any type of emissions. The most popular forms of clean energy are solar power, wind, geothermal energy, and hydropower.

Do solar panels leak toxic chemicals?

They should not leak toxic chemicals unless decommissioned solar panels are disposed of improperly.

What toxic chemicals are in solar panels?

Solar Panels may contain silicon tetrachloride, polyvinyl fluoride, lead, hexafluoroethane, copper indium gallium diselenide, cadmium gallium diselenide, copper indium selenide, and cadmium telluride.  It depends on the manufacturer, a check with your consultant on the materials used during the manufacturing process.

Are old solar panels hazardous waste?

They can be, which means they must be properly recycled instead of disposed of in a landfill. Some companies specialize in recycling electronic waste, also known as e-waste, in an environmentally friendly way.

Are old solar panels worth anything?

Yes. As long as there is no visible damage, used solar panels can be sold on the secondary market.

Do solar panels kill birds?

No, home solar panels present no dangers to birds or other wildlife.

Home Solar in 2020 - The complete FAQ Guide - Harness Power

Residential Solar Homeowner Questions

Do solar panels void your roof warranty?

A properly installed solar system will still alter your roof warranty for the portion of the roof that is affected, but most systems come with their own penetration warranty to make up for any loss in coverage.  In addition, solar panels help protect your roof from natural wear and tear.

Do solar panels increase home insurance?

It depends on your insurance provider. Most home insurance policies don’t cause an increase, but it’s not unheard of.

Do solar panels increase property tax?

It depends on your state. Some states do provide a property tax exemption that allows homeowners to invest in solar without adding to the valuation of their homes.

Is solar panels tax deductible?

Yes, the ITC federal solar tax credit allows you to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a home solar system.

Do solar panels affect the mortgage?

They can only affect your ability to get a mortgage if you are using a solar financing option since it counts in your debt-to-income ratio. It won’t affect your current mortgage, though.

Does California have a solar property tax exemption?

Yes, California has a 100% solar property tax exemption.

Do solar panels increase the value of your home?

Yes. The actual value involves a variety of factors, but the average 5kW home solar system adds about $29,000 in retail value.

Does solar make sense if I don’t plan on being in my home for 25 years?

Yes, purchasing solar panels adds value to your home and can make it easier to sell.

Are solar panels worth the investment has given 2020 solar prices and tax credits?

They are according to millions of homeowners across the country that have already chosen to go solar. The benefits of installing solar panels can far outweigh any negatives.

Do solar panel companies own your roof?

If you lease your solar panels, then essentially the solar company has created a mini power plant that they own on your roof, and they sell you the electricity at a discount. This isn’t the case if you buy your panels outright.

Can you cancel a solar panel lease?

Every solar financing company is different, but getting out of a solar lease often involves remitting the remaining payments of the lease.


Hopefully, all of the questions you have about getting a home solar system are answered. If you have any questions not mentioned here, put them in the comment box below and we will be happy to answer them. Schedule a home solar consultation with us if you’re ready to come up with a customized solar solution for your home.


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