Solar Basics

Solar FAQs

Is solar right for my home?

If your home has a south facing roof that gets plenty of sunlight, then your home is probably solar viable. East/west can work as well, but anything past due west/east will not be viable. You can see if your home gets enough sunlight by using some basic online assessments that utilize satellite data such as Northern Virginia’s Solar Map or Google Project Sunroof  for other regions in Virginia.

You can also ask LEAP to perform a free satellite assessment on your property. LEAP takes other factors into account including the age of your roof and your home’s overall energy efficiency. Solar installers will conduct further tests for structural soundness and other details.

Unfortunately, solar doesn’t work for every situation. Even if solar is not a good fit for a home, LEAP can help determine a plan for reducing energy bills and increasing the health, comfort, and value of a home through energy efficiency.

Can I put a solar system on my town home?

Yes, a solar system can be installed on a town home.

How much does it cost?

The cost depends on the number of panels installed and whether your site is suitable for rooftop solar or ground-mounted solar. Ground-mounted systems typically cost more. On average, rooftop solar panels cost between $10,000 – $25,000.

Is there a tax credit?

Yes. Currently, there is a 30% federal tax credit under the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). This tax credit will stay at 30% through 2019. After that, it will be reduced.

If you owe federal taxes in an amount greater than the tax credit, the entire 30% federal tax credit can be used in the tax year you install your solar system. If you owe less than the tax credit amount, it can be spread over five tax years. We recommend for you to contact your tax adviser for more detailed information.

When will it pay off? What’s the return on investment?

On average, payoff is around 9-12 years. However, with some financing options, payoff can begin immediately in that your monthly payment on the loan could be less than the amount of money you save on your electric bill. Commercial properties can have an even better payoff due to depreciation.

The estimated annual returns for solar are around 6% which over 20 years comes to a double in return on investment. An additional savings bonus for solar is that it’s estimated that there will be a 2% annual increase in the cost of electricity.

Is there any financing available for solar?

Through a partnership with Admirals Bank, all Solarize participants will be eligible to apply for the Solar StepDown and Solar Plus Loans. These loans are designed specifically for solar energy projects and include 0% interest financing for up to 30% of your project over 18 months and another $25,000 over 20 years at competitive interest rates between 4.59% – 9.95%.

We also encourage participants to consult their local financial institutions for other financing opportunities. Some installers may offer their own in-house financing.

How will I power my home when the sun’s not shining?

Since your system will be “grid-tied”, you will purchase electricity from your electric utility to power your home just as you do now.

If the power goes out in the neighborhood, will I still have electricity?

Some systems are capable of generating power during outages as long as the sun is out and if there are battery backup systems. “Grid-tied” or interconnected solar PV systems typically do not have battery backup systems. If a power outage occurs, your solar PV system will automatically shutdown to protect utility workers.

Will my HOA allow solar panels on my roof?

In 2014, legislation was passed in the state of Virginia stating that an HOA may not outright restrict the installation of a solar power system, but they are entitled to “reasonable restrictions” such as size, place and manner of of placement. For more information, please visit MDV-SEIA’s Guidelines for HOA’s on Solar Installations in Virginia.

Does installing a solar system increase my Homeowner’s Insurance?

Typically, solar systems do not increase homeowner’s insurance premium, however, it is possible for a small increase. We always recommend that you notify your insurance provider of the new solar system addition so that it will be covered in the case of any damage.

What happens if a solar panel is damaged?

Solar panels are constructed to be durable and rigorously tested. If a panel is damaged in a weather event, a homeowner’s insurance claim will need to be filed to cover the repair cost.

Will my solar system require yearly maintenance?

There is no recurring maintenance required.  We receive enough rain in our area to provide the needed minimal cleaning of the solar panels.

Will I need to clean or remove snow from my solar panels?

In general, solar panels do not need to be cleaned or have snow removed.  During a typical NOVA winter, only 2-3 days are affected by snowfall which has a minimal impact on panel production. Solarize NOVA installers’ proposal calculations account for average weather conditions throughout the year.

LEAP and Solarize NOVA installers recommend against getting on top of roofs to clean panels. We receive enough rain in our area to provide the needed minimal cleaning of the solar panels.

What’s the lifespan on a solar panel?

Solar panels lose about 0.5% of production every year. However, even after 25 years, systems can still perform at 87.5%. Generally, solar panel warranties guarantee that performance will not go below 80% after 25 years.

Is there a warranty on solar installations?

Solarize solar panels have a 25-year power output warranty. Inverters are warranted free of defects for at least 10 years and mounting systems are warranted free of defects for at least 5 years. Participating Solarize solar installers will also provide a minimum of 10 years on all installation labor, if not so covered by the manufacturers’ warranties.

Can the solar installations damage my roof or cause roof leaks?

When installed correctly, solar installations will not damage your roof or cause leaks. Furthermore, the solar panels will actually help to protect your roofing from weather.

How does a solar system affect my roof warranty?

Typically, installing a solar system does not affect a roof warranty, but you should always check with your roof contractor before having any work done.

What happens when I need to replace my roof? Do all the solar panels need to come down?

When re-roofing, the solar panels will have to come down. Though depending on the roof set up, the actual mounts may be able to stay in place while re-roofing, unless boards and/or joists have to be replaced as well. For this reason, if you are within the last third of a roof’s lifespan, then either wait to get solar panels or go ahead and replace early.

Solar panels will be taking the brunt of the weather, so they will actually protect the roof and allow for a longer roof life. But if your roof needs replacing, the cost to have the solar company come out and remove the panels/hardware, and then reinstall it is usually a couple thousand dollars, so it may push the payoff an additional year or more. However, some homeowners have negotiated to place a clause in their initial contract to have a set price to do this service once in the future. This way, you can plan on the future cost and incorporate it into the financial analysis.

How much do the solar panels weigh?

Each panel weighs approximately 42 pounds.

How will I know how much electricity my solar system is producing?

Your solar system will include a monitoring service so both homeowners and the Solarize NOVA installers can check the system output, and be alerted if issues arise.

Can my electricity payments rise in the future?

Your monthly payments for solar will never increase, protecting you from utility rate increases. And you can expect your system to perform efficiently for 25 years or more, providing you with decades of free electricity.

One of solar power’s many advantages is that the sun will always be free. It’s like buying a house instead of renting an apartment. Your mortgage won’t ever change, even as landlords constantly increase their rents. Once your panels are installed, you never have to worry about the price for your solar PV system going up.

Can I still use a generator after installing a solar system?

Yes, a generator can still be used after installing a solar system.

What is an inverter?

Your solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity. The DC electricity travels to your solar power inverter, which converts it into the alternating current (AC) electricity used to run your home’s appliances.

What is net metering?

Net energy metering is a special metering and billing agreement between you and your electric utility. Normally your electric meter spins forward as it measures how many kilowatt-hours of electricity you buy. A net energy metering agreement allows you to use the electricity you generate first, reducing what you would normally buy from your electric utility. If you generate more electricity than you use, the excess goes through your electric meter and into the grid, spinning your meter backward. Your meter records the net amount, measured as the difference between the electricity your system generates and the electricity you purchase from your electric utility.

About Solarize Campaign

What is Solarize?

Solarize is a grassroots community-based outreach event to make going solar easier and more affordable. LEAP and other local partners have organized to provide a one-stop shop for education, installations, and financing for your solar project. Solarize will use concepts such as bulk purchasing and free solar site assessments to make the process easy and affordable.

What to expect when joining Solarize?

By joining Solarize, you will receive a free solar site assessment performed by a participating Solarize solar installer. After your solar site assessment, your installer will provide you with a proposal tailored for you, your budget, and your home’s energy needs. Once you receive your proposal, you will have a specified period of time to make a decision on signing the contract. Solar installers will also be tasked with handling all of the technical details, including permitting, utility interconnection, design, and installation. After the Solarize campaign period, the Solarize discount will expire and installers will revert back to original market prices.

How will Solarize bring down the price?

The foundation of this program is community engagement. As members of a community rally behind solar, the installers are able to lower their prices. This is a result of bulk purchasing, offset marketing expenses, reduced travel expenses, and the guarantee that solar installation crews will be kept busy. In addition to the reduced price produced by Solarize’s economies of scale, LEAP will help you access a 30% federal tax credit, affordable financing, and navigate the Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) market.

I’m not sure I’ll be ready to sign a contract before the campaign is over. Can I still participate?

You are not required to sign a contract by the campaign deadline. This deadline is for homeowners and business owners to sign up for the program. If you let the Solarize NOVA installer know your time frame requirements, they will do their best to offer the campaign price.

How are Solarize installers selected?

A competitively based Request for Proposals was released and distributed to many of the area’s best solar installation companies. LEAP reviews all proposals and selects the contractor(s) based on competitive pricing, quality of equipment/systems/warranties, and overall experience and qualifications working in the local region.

Do Solarize participants get to select their installer?

Only the selected installers working with the campaign offer the special pricing and other assistance.