Frequently Asked Questions

What is the HAREI model?

HAREI is here to advocate, educate, provide hands-on-experience and guidance from volunteer neighbors who have recently improved the energy efficiency of their home or business most often by adding solar power.  

How do I get started adding solar power to my home?

You've taken the first step just by reading this page! Start your journey by reading the HAREI.ORG HowTo page. Join a meeting and help out at one of our Solar Raisers to get hands-on-learning of every aspect of adding solar to your home. 

What are the advantages of being Grid-Tied versus Off-Grid?

Most of the projects HAREI helps with are Grid-Tied and use Net Metering to sell the extra power when its sunny and buy it when its not. A fully Off-Grid system requires many expensive batteries which will at least double the cost of a typical solar system.

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

Your roof orientation has some effect on how much power you can generate, but not as much as you might think. You'll generate about 80% of the solar power between 10am and 2pm so if your property has a direct view of the sun during that time, you are a good candidate for solar.

What if my roof is shaded or cloudy days?

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. Note that even bare branches shading a panel in winter will significantly lower the power generated - the panels need direct view of the sun without any obstructions. Clouds will lower the power generated but we have plenty of sunny days here in NH. You may need to cut or trim trees that are shading your roof.

How much space do I need for solar panels?

That depends on how much electricity you want to generate.  An average home that uses 10,000 kWh/year which needs approximately 30 solar panels.  A panel is about 3’x5’ so you’d need about 450 sf total. HAREI can help you compute the optimal number of panels and suggest locations.

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. 

Why not generate as much solar power as possible?

Ideally you want to add just enough solar power to "zero out" your electric usage per year. If you produce less than you use, obviously you have to pay the utility for that power. If you produce significantly more than you use, per NH law, you will receive only a fraction of the value of the power - the "Avoided Cost Rate". You also have to pay taxes on the income from your extra power. In the summer you will generate extra power that balances out the power you need in winter. The utility will "settle up" once per year usually in the spring. Consider producing a little more than you currently use for future electric cars, mini-splits or other increases in electric usage.

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. Batteries generally double the cost of a solar system and provide only a few hours of power. If you already own a generator, it is currently the most cost efficient backup power.

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. But battery technology is changing quickly so come to HAREI information sessions to learn the latest.

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.

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 tax 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.

Net Metering Rules

For system applications after Sept 1 2017, the following rules for net metering apply:

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). 

How far can a ground mount system be from my home?

A Ground Mount solar system is often used when the roof is shaded or there is not enough flat space for the panels. There are a number of challenges with ground mount systems that need to be matched with the location:

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 SunRun?

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 cost effective). 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).

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.

A utility 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.

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 solar installer? 

HAREI is a volunteer organization where you will learn how to install solar yourself with the help of like-minded solar enthusiasts.  If you're not comfortable working on your roof you may work with a local solar installer for the installation but HAREI is happy to help teach you enough about solar that you can confidently choose a vendor and know you are getting a good deal.

What is an Solar 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 the system works. 

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 other town specific permits. You are responsible for paying all permit fees. 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. 

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 can help solicit quotes and provide recent pricing from our distributors.

How much lead time is needed for a Solar Raiser project?

3 to 6 months depending on the complexity and selected technology.   Our fastest project was 9 weeks from permits filed to system commissioning. 

Links to other energy groups in New Hampshire:

PAREI - Plymouth 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

CleanEnergyNH.org is an advocate for solar policy and a great resource for Energy Committees.

NHSaves.com is a fantastic resource for ideas on improving the energy efficiency of your home and offer low or even no cost Energy Audits

Energy.Gov Federal programs for renewable energy