While this entire website is full of great information, here you will find simple answers to the most commonly asked Solar PV questions.
Q: Are leases better than owning your system?
A: The decision to lease vs. purchase depends on your finances and your long-term goals—whether you are primarily motivated to maximize financial benefits or to reduce your emissions. According to Energy Sage, the main practical difference between leasing and buying is ownership. If you buy a solar panel system, you own the system either outright (if purchasing with cash) or after repaying your solar loan. If you lease the system or sign a power purchase agreement (PPA), a third party owns the solar panel system. This distinction impacts the cost, maintenance, terms, financial offsets, and savings/returns on the investment of your solar panel system. In addition, not all companies offer solar leases and/or PPAs—confirm that your chosen provider offers the financing option that you want. Learn more about the pros and cons of buying and leasing on our Payment Options page. You can also use the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's Ultimate Solar Calculator to compare buying vs. leasing.
Q: Are there example solar installations in the area that I can look at?
A: Since 2010, the North Texas Renewable Energy Group (NTREG) has organized the annual DFW Solar Tour, held in early October, to showcase both large and small solar installations located across the DFW region. While most locations are not open to the public the rest of the year, you can find a list of participating locations – with brief descriptions and pictures — from previous years here. Consider also reaching out to NTREG directly because many of their members are also solar owners and/or installers.
Q: Could glare from a PV installation cause danger or nuisance to others?
A: A common misconception about solar PV is that they can cause too much glare, posing a nuisance to neighbors or a safety risk to pilots. In truth, solar PV systems rely on solar absorption rather than reflection—PV panels must absorb solar radiation to convert to electricity. Moreover, PV panels are covered with an anti-reflective coating to prevent the possibility of dangerous glare. Questions about glare from PV have been studied in depth by the Federal Aviation Administration and by Sandia National Laboratories. You can check out Sandia National Laboratory's Glare analysis tools and this fact sheet for more information.
Q: Do Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac accept mortgages with solar PV involved?
A: Yes, but only if it’s “owned” by the building owner. Leases are not considered property to be included with the sale. See the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Guidelines.
Q: How do I get more information?
A: You can sign up for our email list to receive updates on Solar PV events, trainings, legislative items, and more.
Q: How do solar panels convert the Sun’s energy into electricity?
A: Photovoltaic systems, composed of solar cells, are able to convert sunlight directly into electricity. This, as described by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is because PV cells are electricity-producing devices made of semiconductor materials. Simply put, a solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. For additional details, see our page on How Solar Energy Works or read this explanation from LiveScience.
Q: How much does a solar installation cost?
A: The cost of a solar installation depends on multiple factors: 1) how you plan to finance the installation—cash, loan, or lease; 2) how much electricity you use; 3) the size of the installation; and 4) what incentives are available to you. In recent years, the cost of solar power has dropped significantly (73% since 2006!), largely due to federal and state incentives. That being said, solar installations can involve a sizable upfront financial commitment. On average, the cost of solar installations range from $15k to $29k for a system sized between 4kW and 8kW (the average size of a residential solar system in the US is 5 kW). This will include the cost of all components - solar panels, panel mounts, inverter - and labor associated with installation. Typical payback periods, or the amount of time required to recover your cash outlay, range from 4 to 10 years. Tools for calculating a system's Return on Investment can be found on our Calculate Return on Investment page. Financing information can be found on our Payment Options page. To learn more about local incentives, visit our Available Incentives page or the comprehensive Database of State Incentives for Renewable & Efficiency (DSIRE) website.
Q: How much value will the system have at the time of sale?
A: The value must be determined by an Appraiser of appropriate certifications and experience.
Q: How much will it save us off our electric bill?
A: A common reason to install solar is to reduce your electricity bill. As with up-front costs, how much you save each month will depend on how much electricity you use and the size of your installation. Still, most can expect to see a significant decrease in your electricity bill. Homeowners and businesses across the company can save as much as $30,000 over their solar panels' lifespan.
Q: How should I prepare my home/business for solar?
A: There are two main things to consider when preparing your home for solar: 1) the condition of your roof, and 2) the energy efficiency of your home. First, before installing solar panels, you will want to ensure that your roof is in good condition and have it inspected by a professional roof contractor. Roof contractors will consider the roof age, roofing materials, ventilation and whether there are visible signs of damage. Most reputable roofing contractors provide free estimates, so this should not incur an additional cost. Second, you can maximize the benefits of solar by making your home as energy efficient as possible. For instance, you can weatherize your home and replace old inefficient appliances with Energy Star models. For more information on preparing your home/business for solar, visit our Steps for Going Solar page. You can also learn more about home energy efficiency from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Q: If the power grid goes down, will I still have electricity?
A: This depends on whether your solar system is connected to the grid. If it is, as in most cases, your system will shut down to protect your electric provider's linemen. On the other hand, if your home is off grid, you will not be impacted if the power grid is compromised. You can learn more from the Texas Solar Energy Society.
Q: If the property sells while we still have an active loan, can it be wrapped into the sale by the buyer?
A: Yes, in most cases it can. It is considered tangible property, along with the structure.
Q: If we have a security interest in the solar energy equipment, can it be insured against hail or other damage?
A: Yes, the same as the structure or any other asset you may secure under a loan.
Q: Is financing your Solar System difficult?
A: Numerous options exist on how to finance a solar system. The most common options are purchase, lease, or use of a power purchase agreement (PPA). Visit the our Payment Options to compare your financing options.
Q: Is solar buyback right for me?
A: Whether a solar buyback program is right for you depends on how much excess generation you produce, aka how much electricity your installation pushes to the grid. You can find your excess generation by downloading your daily consumption and generation meter readings (15-minute intervals) from Smart Meter Texas. To find available buy-back plans, visit the Power to Choose website.
Q: Is there software we can use to make an approximate value determination for ourselves?
A: Yes, but it will require some technical knowledge to answer some of the questions. The program “PV VALUE” was developed by the US Department of Energy and vetted though Sandia National Laboratory with the help of countless Appraisers, Real Estate Brokers and Agents, and others. It may be accessed here.
Q: We are interested in Solar, how can we get started?
A: The first steps to take are to educate yourself on the basics of solar energy systems and costs and to determine whether solar is workable for your home or business. Educational resources can be found on our Solar 101 page, which provides an introduction on the basics of solar energy, solar as an energy source, solar equipment, and key solar terminology. Helpful resources on going solar can be found on our Steps for Going Solar page, which contains a step-by-step guide on how to prepare your home for solar, size your system, explore financing and incentive options, choose a retail electric provider and a certified installer, and consider other options.
Q: What are the risk factors when lending for solar energy equipment?
A: Risk factors include the same concerns as for any other asset-based loan - financial strength and stability of the borrower, credit history, and so forth. There is also a difference. Unlike a piece of machinery, solar PV, once installed, has very little, if any, maintenance or overhead associated with it. Risk factors appear to be lower than for most equipment purchases. Properly designed and installed, a solar PV system will often have a net positive cash flow if the term of the loan and interest rate are appropriate. Calculations as of June 2016 have shown the value of energy produced to be equal to or greater than the monthly payment on a loan. If the borrower has a P&L and balance sheet that meet your criteria, odds are good to excellent that they will be paying the bank instead of the utility company. Once the loan is paid, their cash flow position improves by the amount of the loan payment and more, because the cost of the solar electricity does not increase with time as does the cost of utility energy.
Q: What benefits will the borrower inherit from installing solar PV on their home or business?
A: Benefits are several: 1) lower utility bills, 2) increased property valuation, 3) tax credits, 4) accelerated depreciation under the IRS “MACRS” program. The cost of the solar energy stays constant.
Q: What does "net zero" mean?
A: Net zero is synonymous with zero-energy consumption, meaning that the home's system requires less energy than it produces. When a home is net zero, excess produced electricity is fed into the grid.
Q: What does "PV" stand for?
A: PV stands for photovoltaics, which can literally be translated as light-electricity. This term has two parts: the first derived from the Greek word for light (photo) and the second in homage to the electricity pioneer Alessandro Volta (volt). You can learn more about PV on our Solar 101 page or at the U.S. Department of Energy's Photovoltaic Technology Basics website. Residential Solar 101 is another excellent resource to learn more about how PV cells work and solar terminology.
Q: What effect do solar panels have on value on the house on which they are mounted? If so, how much value, and how is the value estimated?
A: More than 25 years of studies and research have proven homes with solar panels generally sell from 4% to 50% faster and for a premium of $2 to $4 per installed watt than non-solar homes. The value of the solar panels are based in part on their original price and the amount of energy produced annually. This has a net effect of reducing the electrical utility bill year-round, which in turn adds value to a home - same as if the improvements were in energy efficiency aspects. In rare instances, the solar panels were a “neutral,” not aiding nor hindering the sale. In none of the thousands of sales were owned solar panels a negative. The same cannot be said of leased solar panels. In those cases, leased or third-party-owned systems on a residence where the homeowner has a contract (often long-term), buyers were wary and often walked away.
Q: What is "net metering?"
A: In some places around the country, utility companies offer net metering, which means solar owners earn money from their electricity provider if their installation generates more electricity than they can immediately use. In these cases, the excess power flows back to the utility grid, and utility companies will pay or give credit for this excess. Not all utilities offer net metering, so check with your electricity provider to see if net metering is available to you. Net metering is also known as solar buyback.
Q: What is the “PACE” program?
A: “PACE” stands for “Property Assessed Clean Energy”. PACE may be used to finance energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation upgrades to buildings. PACE pays for 100% of a project’s costs and is repaid for up to 20 years with an assessment added to the property’s tax bill. PACE financing stays with the building upon sale. For more information on PACE Financing, visit our Payment Options page.
Q: What lifespan can I expect out of my solar panels?
A: Almost all panels are guaranteed to last between 25 and 30 years; and some are able to produce electricity for much longer! Properly installed solar panels should require little maintenance, making for an excellent return on investment. Inverters (converting DC current to AC current) are now estimated to last 20 years or longer. Even then, they typically do not just quit; they gradually become less efficient.
Q: Will hail damage my solar panels?
A: Solar panels are tough. Most solar panels use low-iron tempered glass and are designed to withstand hail that is 25 mm (1 inch) at 80 km/h (50 mph). If you live in a hail-prone area, you should ask your contractor or the solar panel manufacturer for their hail impact test data.