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.

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

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