There is a lot to learn when making the decision to invest in a renewable energy system for your home or business. Our goal is to guide you through the process of determining if a renewable energy system makes sense for you.
We offer a consultative approach with a focus on communicating clearly and providing the information that you need to make an informed decision. Through our process, you can learn which solar PV system options will work best for you while getting answers to all of your solar questions. Below, you will find answers to some of the most common questions we get about solar.
Do solar electric (PV) systems work in Maine?
Yes, Maine receives enough sun to make solar PV effective and affordable. Germany is the world leader in solar installations; Maine receives nearly 20% more sunlight annually than Germany.
What type of solar electric systems do you install?
Most of our customers install grid-tied PV systems. Grid-tied systems allow for seamless integration with your utilities electricity supply. This allows you to net meter your energy production, ensuring that all of the electricity your system produces offsets your usage. For clients who desire a battery backup system, Maine Solar Solutions offers grid-tied systems with battery backup as well as off-grid systems.
How does a grid-tied solar electric system work?
- Photovoltaic panels convert the solar radiation that strikes them into low-voltage DC electricity.
- That DC electricity travels to an inverter where it is converted into the AC electricity used by household outlets and appliances.
- From the inverter, the AC electricity heads to your electrical panel, where it is distributed throughout your house as needed.
During the daytime when your system is producing power, any electrical demands in your home are satisfied by the electricity that you produce first. If your home's demand is greater than the amount of electricity being produced on the roof (such as during the evening or inclement weather), the electric utility, or grid, will provide the rest. If, on the other hand, your system's electrical production is greater than your home's electrical demand, the excess power is sent out on the grid, building up a credit.
At the end of your billing period, CMP will subtract the energy you put out on the grid from the energy that you imported from the grid and charge you for the difference. This is called net metering.
What is net metering?
Net metering is a purchasing agreement between you and the electric utility (CMP, for example) that allows you to receive credit for excess energy that your solar array may produce. Net metering is a simple concept; power created from your solar system is connected to the electric grid and credited in real-time. Any excess power created by the solar system that you are not using, at that moment, is fed back into the power grid. As this excess power is 'back-fed', your meter operates in reverse. CMP subtracts the excess kW hours that you produce from the kW hours that you get from the grid and only charges for only the "net" electricity that you receive from the grid.
Typically, energy credits that are built up during the day are "traded in" at night. Not only are credits built up and "cashed in" on a daily basis, but credits are accrued and credited on a rolling 12-month period, allowing greater summertime electricity production to offset greater wintertime use.
Do the solar panels need to face south?
South facing is best, but solar panels installed facing south-east or south-west can generate a very high percentage (>90%) of energy as compared to a south facing solar array.
Do I have to put the solar panels on my roof?
No. There are other options such as ground mount or wall mounted awning systems. Mounting on a garage, barn, or outbuilding is also an option.
How does a ground mounted system work?
Ground mounts are a good option if your roof is not properly oriented, if your roof is heavily shaded, or if you do not want to install solar panels on your roof. With a ground mounted system, you may either have fixed panels or trackers, which move on two axises to be oriented to the sun throughout the day and year.
My roof is partially shaded. Will solar work for me?
During our site evaluation, we will determine how much of your roof is shaded throughout the year. We can factor this into your estimated electricity production. We offer system designs that work effectively to provide maximum performance from partially shaded arrays.
Will the condition of my roof affect the installation?
We assess your roof's condition as part of our site survey. A typical three tab asphalt shingle roof will last an average of 20 years. Architectural shingles can be warrantied for 30 to 50 years. Most roofers can replace shingles around a solar array. Installing a PV array will shade the underlying roof, protecting it from damaging sunlight and weather, possibly extending the roof's lifespan. If we determine that your roof needs replacement, we can refer you to a trusted roofing contractor.
Do I need to worry about holes in my roof with solar installation?
No. We always use an industry standard flashed attachment point with our installations, protecting the integrity of your roof and ensuring a waterproof connection.
Do I need batteries if I go solar?
Grid-tied PV systems do not require batteries. Maine Solar Solutions does offer grid-tied battery backup system in addition to true off-grid systems, but for most customers, a grid-tied system offers the best value and performance.
What if I want battery storage?
For clients who desire a battery backup system, Maine Solar Solutions offers grid-tied systems with battery backup as well as off-grid systems. We install both traditional lead acid battery systems and lithium ion battery systems.
Will my solar system work during power outages? What if I have a generator?
Most grid-tied systems are designed to shut off automatically during power outages when the grid goes down. When power returns, your system will restart automatically. For customers with generators, we design a manual or automatic PV system shut-off based on your generator type. For customers with a keen interest in investing in a battery-based PV system, we can design and install a grid-tied battery backup that will allow them to power certain parts of their home during a power outage.
How long will my solar electric system last?
All of the solar panels that we install have power output warrantied for 25 years (at 80% of the original power output.) The lifespan of a PV array is expected to be greater than 30 years. Inverter warranties range between 10 and 25 years.
What kind of maintenance will the system require?
Grid-tied solar electric systems require very little maintenance. Our grid-tied installations include system monitoring, which provides output information and alerts in case there is a problem.
How long does it take to install a solar PV system?
Typical residential systems typically take 3 to 5 days to install. Ground mount systems and larger systems can take longer. We usually schedule our installations on a first come, first serve basis; however, installations can be scheduled for specific blocks of time. Most installs can be started 10 business days after execution of an installation contract. Needless to say, inclement weather may impact our installation schedule.
What size system will I need?
During our free site evaluation, we will work with you to determine what size system will meet your needs. Every home is different, so the size of your system will depend on your energy needs, available space, and budget. Residential solar power systems are typically 3 to 10 kW. Based on the information that we gather during our site evaluation, we will custom design a solar power system to meet your specific needs and offset as much of your utility bill as you desire.
How much will going solar cost?
Your system's cost is determined by three factors: current electrical usage, the percentage of your usage that you wish to offset, and your budget. We will gather information during your free site evaluation and if appropriate present a couple of different options.
We typically show our customers a system that offsets 50% to 90% of their annual electrical usage.
Typical residential systems have a pre-incentive cost of $12,000 to $20,000 with a final cost of $8,400 to $14,000 after rebates and tax credits have been factored in.
Will my electricity bill go down when I install solar? How much can I save?
Your annual electric bill will go down. How much you save will depend on the size of your system and the percentage of your electrical usage that you wish to offset.
What does a solar PV array do to my property value?
Energy conservation and renewable energy generation adds value to a home. National surveys have shown that for every $1,000 saved per year, $20,000 is added to a home's value.
What rebates and incentives are available?
Solar photovoltaic systems qualify for a 30% federal tax credit. This credit is a dollar-for-dollar tax credit and will reduce the amount of tax owed by the system owner before any deductions are applied.
Do you provide financing?
Maine Solar Solutions is a qualified Efficiency Maine Partner and offers financing through the Maine PowerSaver loan programs. Many of our clients also finance their systems with home equity loans or with home refinancing.
Will a solar electric system make financial sense for me?
Solar is cleaner and less expensive than power from the utility company. It is a smart financial investment because you will save money on electrical costs for years to come and increase your home value. Our customers who purchase their system typically see a strong return on investment (ROI) and expect to recoup their solar system investment within 5-10 years. After the system has paid for itself, it continues to pay by providing free electricity. As electrical utility rates rise, your solar investment becomes even more valuable and your property's value increases as well!