Q: How do I pick a solar contractor?
A:
Track record. As with any industry, do your homework. The best indicator of the work that will be done for you as a customer is the work that has been done in the past by the solar contractor. Check references, training and certifications.

Q: Will solar energy work on my roof?
A:
A solar energy system can be installed on a variety of roof surfaces including metal, composite, shingle, membrane and a variety of others. Solar panels are mounted in a southern orientation to gain the most solar energy production. East and west facing roofs will produce less energy; however, west facing roofs produce more energy during “peak” times when the power can be worth more money and might be advantageous to utility customers with time of use charges. Active Solar recommends clients with older roofs redo their roofs in conjunction with the solar installation.

Q: How much does a solar energy system weigh?
A:
Solar panels and the associated piping or wiring add very little weight to a roofing structure. A solar electric panel (photovoltaic) will add only about 4.5 pounds per square foot to a roof structure.

Q: What if there are clouds or no sun?
A:
All solar energy systems and their energy outputs are based upon long term weather data for the area in which the system is being installed. The solar hot water or electricity system is installed independently of the building’s normal water heating or electrical systems. When the sun is not shining, the building’s backup water heating and electrical systems operate at normal levels. When the sun is shining, solar replaces the fossil fuel produced power with a clean and renewable source of energy. The amount of energy replaced depends upon the size of the solar energy system installed.

Q: How does solar electricity work?
A:
The sun’s energy in the form of photons release electrons from their bonds in the silicon semiconductors that make up the solar cells. The flow of these electrons makes up the current that will ultimately be utilized in your home or building. The inverter in a solar electricity system takes the electricity and converts it, which comes from the solar panel in a DC current, into an AC current which can then be used in your home or business.

Q: How does solar energy help the environment?
A:
Your system will reduce the demand on existing fossil-fuel power plants and help reduce the need to build new facilities. Both solar hot water and electricity systems greatly reduce the CO2 emissions that individual homes or companies produce. Whether your concern is reducing asthma producing particulates in your local town or reducing CO2 emissions globally, solar represents one of the cleanest and most abundant forms of energy available.

Q: What is the 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC)?
A:
The ITC is a reduction in the overall tax liability for individuals or businesses that make investments in a variety of pre-determined areas. For solar electric and solar water heating residential property expenditures, the credit is 30 percent of The ITC is applicable through 2016, with a true un-capped 30% tax credit. The ITC tax credit would be realized when you file your tax returns.

Q: How much maintenance does a solar energy system require?
A:
Solar electric systems are, for the most part, maintenance free. We do recommend a yearly check to ensure the system is operating properly and, depending on the area, a periodic cleaning of the panels can be beneficial. A solar electric system should still be producing 80% of the panel’s rated power after 25 years and can last 40 to 50 years. Solar hot water systems have an expected lifespan of 25 or more years. Just as a plumbing system in a home or business may need periodic maintenance, solar hot water systems may need to have some electronics, pumps, or storage tanks repaired or replaced over time. Solar electricity can be either stored in batteries or sent back into the power grid. Batteries can be a great solution when a power grid is not available or a facility is isolated. The size and number of batteries needed is determined by the size of the system, the amount of power produced and the days of power required before the solar electric panels need to recharge the batteries. Unless a client has a strong desire to be disconnected from the power grid, Active Solar recommends a grid tied system, due to the additional cost and maintenance of a battery back-up system.