Frequently Asked Questions

Is solar cost effective for my home?

If you plan to stay in your home 5 years, and you have a large mostly unshaded area of roof or nearby on your property – yes.

What about cloudy days?

New Hampshire gets plenty of sunny days. Correctly sized, your system can generate more on sunny days than you use, which then offset usage at night or on cloudy days.

What about snow covering my panels?

Solar panels are dark colored glass - they're quite slick, and snow generally slides and/or melts off them fairly quickly. You can accelerate this using a roof rake that won't scratch the panels.

What if my roof faces east or west instead of south?

This has some effect on how much power you can generate, but not as much as you probably think. It has more effect on which time of day your maximum power is generated.

What if my roof is shaded?

Shade that is only on your roof for part of the day may not be prohibitive, or you may be able to install your panels on a separate structure or ground mount in a sunnier area.

How much space do I need for solar panels?

It depends on how much electricity you want to generate.  An average home that uses 7500 kWh/year ($110/month), might need 24 solar panels (each 265w).  A panel is about 3’x5’ so you’d need about 360 sf total (2 rows of 12 =10’ x 36’, or 4 rows of 6 = 20’ x 18’, or other combinations).

What is the HAREI model?

HAREI helps reduce the costs of buying and installing your system by group ordering and helping each other with labor intensive installation tasks.

Can I use solar panels instead of a generator for power outages?

You can if you include batteries to store power; how long an outage you can store power for depends on how much you use.

Do I need batteries?

Most of the systems HAREI members have installed do not include batteries; instead, they send any excess power to the grid to be used by others and get a credit that can be used later when the sun is not generating enough.

Can I put up solar panels as part of a car port, or shed, or gazebo?

Yes.

How are the panels attached to my roof?

There are a few different methods available; we can help you evaluate the pros and cons for your structure.

What if my roof is old?

You may want to replace the roof before installing panels over it, since removing and replacing them later would add cost. Having panels over your roof may have some protective value, extending the life of your roof.

How will solar panels affect the value of my home?

A recent study found that solar electric panels INCREASED the value of your home by about the net cost of the solar system (after incentive payments).  The same study found that homes with solar panels sold as quickly as other homes.  Note that this study only applies to homes where the homeowner owns the panels – not leased or PPA situations.

How does the federal tax credit work?

You will receive a credit (not a deduction) that reduces the amount of tax you owe dollar for dollar.  If you have already had your tax withheld, you will receive a refund.  If the credit is more than your tax, you can carryforward unused credit to future years – at least through 2021.

Do I qualify for the tax credit if I’m part of a community-shared solar array?

Yes – if you own your share of the array, you use your share of electricity for your own home, and the array and your home are in the same state with the same utility.

Will solar panels work on different types of roofing material?

Solar panels work well on asphalt shingles.  The mounting racks are bolted to the roof with waterproof connections.  Mounting racks on metal roofs are connected to the metal seams.  Solar panels will not work on a roof with wooden shingles because waterproof connections are not possible and the combustibility of the wood.

What about using a no-cost solar installer like SolarCity?

The offers we have evaluated do not have the same long term benefits as owning your own system; we can help you evaluate the alternatives.
Usually, you can borrow the full up front cost of a self-installed system using a Home Equity or Green (unsecured) loan and use the savings on your electric bill to pay off the loan.

What maintenance is required for a solar system?

Solar systems have no scheduled maintenance.  If easily reachable, you may consider using a soft brush, or squeegee-like device to brush snow off the panels.  (Note that heating tape is not feasible).
If you have monitoring software, you should review the performance of the panels and note any panel that is not producing (other than for obvious reasons such as shading).

What if I don’t have unshaded space on my property?

If the shading is from trees, you may be able to hire someone to cut down the trees, perhaps in exchange for the lumber, reduce the risk of falling limbs on your home, and make the interior lighter.  Or you may be able to share a solar system with a neighbor by using Group Net Metering.

Do I need to worry about a hurricane blowing the panels off the roof?

The racking system is generally good enough that you are more likely to lose the roof than the panels (another reason to consider an unvented attic). 

Are the panels covered by my homeowner’s insurance?

Yes, in general the panels are covered the same way that any home improvement would be covered.  But you should consult with your insurance agent to possibly increase the coverage on your home by the value of the system.

How long will my solar system last?

Modern solar panels are expected to product at least 80% of their original output 25 years later.

What is Group Net Metering?

A customer may become a group host for a group of customers who do not generate their own energy, to share energy from the host solar system.  This might be an option if you generate more energy than you can use, or a group of neighbors share a system when their own homes are not suitable sites.

Recent NH Developments relative to renewable energy and solar PV

NH Rebate Program Suspended
The New Hampshire rebate for solar installs has run out of funds, and applications for it are not being accepted at this time. We don't know when or if the legislature will restore funding or what the amount might be if they do. We have removed the rebate from our payback calculations - the good news is that it only adds slightly over a year to the payback time.

New Net Metering Rules
For system applications after Sept 1 2017, new rules for net metering will apply.
  • Instead of being credited in kilowatt-hours for any surplus power your system produces, you will be credited in dollars
  • Power you pull from the grid when your system is not producing enough will be charged at the normal retail rate (currently about 18¢)
  • Power you push to the grid when your system is producing more than you need will be paid for at the normal rates except that you'll only be paid 25% of the distribution charge; we estimate that this means at current rates you'll be paid about 14¢
This makes it a little more difficult to estimate the payback, since it depends more on when you use electricity. If you can arrange to use more electricity when your system is producing power (doing laundry or running other appliances on sunny days, for example). At this time, we have not attempted to adjust our payback calculations to account for this, so they may be slightly optimistic.

What services does HAREI provide?

Tools available to members include interaction opportunities with like-minded people, internet-based social networking, organizationally-sponsored state and federal grant funds, and the creative power of people working as a team for the common good. Activities include “energy-raiser” events, where a renewable resource such as a residential solar-thermal water heating system is installed in a day with some volunteer labor and donated materials. This approach reduces cost for the member-beneficiary, spawns more knowledge of renewable resources and links people with businesses.

What is the advantage of working with HAREI vs going straight to a green vendor?

Benefits of HAREI membership include:
  • Renewable energy-related product and service discounts
  • Energy Assessment and Planning Sessions
  • Initial Renewable Energy Site Visit
  • Guidance on Planning for your Energy Future
  • Networking and Information Sharing Opportunities
  • Access to Educational Information Sessions
  • Opportunities for Energy Raisers and Energy Exchanges
 love the idea... How do I join HAREI?
Just show up at one of our twice-monthly meetings, or 
Call or send e-mail to a Board of Directors member (contact info on FB and the web site)

Is HAREI paid for its work?

No. HAREI is an organization of like-minded volunteers.
What is the advantage of working with HAREI vs going straight to a green vendor? 

Benefits of HAREI membership include:
Renewable energy-related product and service discounts:

As a member, you will opportunity for significant savings on renewable energy materials, supplies, services and shipping rates from an ever-increasing network of related businesses.

Energy Assessment and Planning Sessions:

As a member you can schedule an Energy Assessment and Planning Session at your home/business with a HAREI staff or volunteer to formulate an energy plan. This plan will help you identify steps toward energy reduction and
efficiency. You will be given information and ideas that will help you further your energy conservation goals.

Initial Renewable Energy Site Visit:

The purpose of this visit is to discuss the best alternatives for renewable energy resources at your site. This visit is recommended as the first step for people contemplating installing a renewable energy system such as solar electric or a solar water heating system.
Guidance on Planning for your Energy Future

HAREI will provide you with contacts and resources to aid in the completion
of the details of your energy plan.
Networking and Information Sharing Opportunities:

Some current members of the Initiative have agreed to share their experience and acquired knowledge with others seeking to do energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy installations. The Initiative will work with you to set up one on one meetings with these volunteers...called HAREI’s Energy Advisors. HAREI members are encouraged to put their name on the Energy Advisor list if they have something they’d like to share with other members. When a fellow member requests information the HAREI office will contact you first to see if you are available to set up a meeting.
Access to Educational Information Sessions:

Information Sessions for homeowners and tradespeople on such things as solar water heating, solar photovoltaic systems, wood boilers etc. will be offered regularly by the Organization. Free Educational Sessions will be provided on such things as Energy Basics, Netmetering and Energy Efficiency Products during break out sessions at HAREI Energy Exchange Membership Meetings. In addition, HAREI will help you schedule a tour of a renewable energy installation similar to the chosen alternative for your site.
Opportunities for Energy Raisers and Energy Exchanges:

Energy Exchanges – a gathering of members will be scheduled regularly for inspiration, networking and resource sharing. These will be announced in the Membership Updates.
Energy Raisers – Modeled after community barn raisers, Energy Raisers are productive, hands on educational events that take place on the day of a member’s solar installation. Travel restrictions apply.
Notification of special programs and resources through Membership Updates:

Members will receive regular e-mails on regional events, products and news articles on energy related issues
What is an Energy Raiser?

A renewable energy resource installation project that is planned and organized by HAREI members, funded and managed by the homeowner, executed by a largely volunteer team that is modeled after an Amish “barn-raising” & the tradition of neighbor helping neighbor.

Helps bring down installation costs & educate homeowners about how system works.

Installations include solar hot water/thermal, solar photovoltaic, windmills.
Who files permits for the work?
As the homeowner, you must apply to your local building department to arrange for the proper permits. Depending on the work planned, you may need a building permit, an electrical permit, and/or a plumbing permit. You may be able to fill out the permit online, or you may be required to apply in person. You will also be responsible for paying the fee (typically under $200). Each town will have their own procedures, and requirements for supporting documentation. You will also be responsible for applying for the permit in a timely fashion before the work starts, and arranging for inspection (if needed) after the work is complete.

HAREI can help identify what permits are necessary, and provide some or all of the supporting documentation, such as a site survey and the equipment installation manuals.

As the homeowner, you may have free or low-cost access to the town recycle center to dispose of materials, such as roofing material and old water heaters.
Who acquires and pays for the materials/equipment?
The homeowner is responsible for paying for all the materials and equipment, and possibly rental of tools for the project. HAREI would expect to arrange for discounted or at-cost pricing of some of the materials.
How do I get the rebates, tax credits, tax abatements, etc?
There are many beneficial one-time and/or on-going cost-offsets and potential income from residential energy projects. These are dependent on many variables, such as the type of project, where you live, what your tax situation is, and what rebate/credits are currently available. In 2013, these options could include

Federal tax credits for solar projects
Federal tax credits for energy efficient appliances
Local utility credits for solar projects
State utility commission credits for energy efficient appliances
On-going local property tax abatement
On-going income from generating renewable solar energy
On-going credits toward your electric bill for energy you generate but don't use

You, with the help of your tax preparer for some of the items, are responsible for applying for the benefits in a timely fashion. HAREI will help you by identifying your options and submission schedules, and providing supporting documentation.
What is an Energy Exchange?

A gathering of members for inspiration, information, networking and resource sharing. Energy exchanges are great ways to network with supportive vendors. 
What are my responsibilities as the homeowner / ER recipient of an Energy Raiser?
Be the Project Manager
Procure supplies and materials
Feed the volunteer crew
Plan to protect worker/member volunteers
Accept liability for the safety of worker/member volunteers
Enable planning and execution
Obtain building permits and submit rebate/credit apps

How much lead time is needed for an Energy Raiser project?

2 to 4 months depending on the complexity and selected technology
May also depend on availability of rebates/credits
How does HAREI identify and recommend vendors to partner with?

Networking, solicitation and experience

Links:

PAREI - Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative
BAREI - Berlin Area Renewable Energy Initiative
SEAREI - Seacoast Area Renewable Energy Initiative
TMREI - Tin Mountain Area Renewable Energy Initiative 

NH Energy Initiatives - Lots of tools and links to other initiatives here in NH

Energy Initiatives Database for NH

Energy.Gov Federal programs for renewable energy