Rooftop Solar FAQs

General Solar Questions

Q. How do I know if my home is suitable for solar?

A. The most suitable location for a roof-mounted solar PV system is a south-facing roof with little to no shading from nearby trees, chimneys or other obstructions. Any shading on the system can reduce energy output, so it is important to assess the locations of current trees and buildings around your home as well as that of other obstructions that may exist around your home in the future. Advances in panel and inverter technologies can allow homes with east or west-facing roofs and moderate shading to benefit from solar PV as well.

Q. Will the system produce electricity on cloudy days?

A. Yes, just not as much. Under an overcast sky, panels will produce less electricity than they produce on a clear, sunny day.

Q. Will my system produce power if there is a blackout?

A. Without a battery backup, grid-tied solar PV systems will not operate when the power grid is down. This safety requirement, called “anti-islanding” allows utility linemen to safely repair power lines during a power outage. You may choose to add a battery backup to your solar system to keep the lights on during a blackout, though they cost between $5,000 and $15,000.

Q. What sort of maintenance is required?

A. Solar PV systems require very little maintenance. Rain showers will generally take care of pollen and dust that fall on your solar panels. If your system is shaded by trees, you may have to trim and maintain branches to protect your system from falling limbs and to minimize shading and maximize production. In extremely snowy winters, you may have to clear snow from your roof to protect your solar panels and maximize winter production. It is important to note that snow will melt off of a tilted system except when there is an extremely heavy snow or prolonged freezing temperatures. Homeowners are cautioned to use a tool specially designed for solar with a soft working surface because metal or other hard surfaces can damage the panels.

Financing Questions

Q. Are state incentives available for my system?

A. The New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) provides incentives to help New York homeowners go solar. The NYSERDA incentive is declining as more solar is deployed across the state. It started at $1.00/watt and as of Septmember 2017 is $0.35/watt. Additionally, New York State offers a income tax rebate of 25% of the cost of the system after the NYSERDA rebate.

Q. Are federal incentives available for my system?

A. The federal government provides an investment tax credit equal to 30% of your system’s total installed cost, net of state incentives. This can be claimed on your federal tax return. This tax credit is set to expire in 2023 but will begin decreasing in 2019.

Q. What financing options are available to help me purchase a solar system?

A. NYSERDA supports two different loan options to help homeowners go solar. There are no upfront costs for either: Option A: On-BillRecovery Loan Program NYSERDA 1-866-NYSERDAFinance energy efficiency improvements to your home through a charge on your utility bill. Repayment amount will be based on projected savings on your energy bills. Interest rate is 3.49% and loan is transferable if you sell your property. Option B: HomePerformance with Energy Star® Residential Loan You may qualify for a loan up to $25,000. Interest rate is 3.99% or 3.49% with autopay. You select a term of 5, 10, or 15 years.

Your installer might have additional financing tools available as well.

Installation Questions

Q. How long will the installation process take?

A. From the day you sign a contract with an installer, it can take between a few weeks and a few months before your solar PV system will be turned on. The physical installation of the solar system typically takes anywhere from two to three days, but the time it takes to order and receive equipment, secure permits or schedule your installation can vary.

Q. What size system should I install?

A. Every home is different. As such, your system size will be determined by your roof space and electricity needs. The average residential solar system in New York is approximately 7 kW and produces approximately 8,400 kWh per year, but this could be too big or too small for your home. If you use certain technologies that are highly dependent on electricity, such as an electric car or geothermal heating and cooling, you might require a larger system. Your installer will work with you to design a system with characteristics that will meet your specific needs.

Q. How will solar affect my home’s value?

A.Typically, solar systems add to a property’s value. When you own your own source of electricity generation, like a solar PV system, you are insulated you from rising electricity rates. Once the system has paid for itself, the electricity it generates is absolutely free aside from the basic service charge (approx $15). Please note that increases in your home value will not add to your property taxes unless you live in a town or municipality that has opted out of RPTL 487. You can find out if your municipality has opted out by checking out THIS website.

Q. How much will I save by installing a solar system?

A. Your savings depend on the size of the system you choose, your annual electrical usage, electricity rates, and any financing option that you choose from your installer. To start, ask your solar installer how much electricity your new system is expected to produce on an annual basis and then compare that number to how much electricity your household uses to get an idea of how much you could save. Additionally, a homeowner’s savings are affected by the financing package chosen. Installers can also help you determine how much money you could save if electricity prices escalate over time. 

Q. I am confused about my electricity charges; can you explain my service rates?

A. Typically, a residential electricity bill is comprised of three main types of charges: basic service charge, supply charges, and delivery charges. For further reference, please go to your utilities website and search for “average bill” in the “Rates” section or call your utility company.

Q. Will I still receive a monthly electric bill after installing a solar system?

A. Yes. You will receive a monthly bill from your utility company as you always have, but the amount owed will differ depending on your monthly electrical usage. Depending on how your system is sized, you may accrue credits in the more productive summer months which through “net metering” can be carried over and used in the less productive winter months. Even if your system entirely offsets your electrical usage, there is still a flat monthly fee required in order to be connected to the grid called the basic service charge. This is something that you are already paying.

Solar Myths

1. A Solar Installation Requires a Lot of Cash Upfront.

Home and building owners have three options for acquiring a solar electric system: buying, leasing, or entering into a power purchase agreement (PPA).

Buying. If you choose to buy, you will indeed need cash up front. To make the buying process easier, NYSERDA offers two low interest-rate loan options for residential installations, as well as for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations. Visit the NY-Sun Financing page to learn more.

Leasing. Many solar companies offer leases, which means essentially renting the system with the benefit of all the power it produces. Typically, with a solar lease, you will pay monthly with little to no money down at the start of your contract. The company assumes responsibility for all system maintenance. Note that maintenance of a solar electric system today is typically negligible as solar panels are highly durable and come with lengthy warranties. The panels will typically still be placed on your property.

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). This relatively new financing choice offers affordable energy, a power source that is clean, and a market rate that is locked in—without having to purchase the equipment associated with a solar installation. Through a PPA, you will enter into a contract with a third-party installer who will offer energy at a fixed rate that is generally lower than the price you would pay your utility. The installer takes on all responsibility for maintenance. Unlike a lease, where you pay a set monthly fee, you typically pay per kilowatt-hour with a PPA.

2. The Price of Solar Will Go Down, So It’s Better to Wait.

Pricing for solar is currently very competitive, the result of a robust and fast-maturing market. It’s true that both pricing and technology will continue to evolve. However, as the market continues to mature, and prices drop, there is less need for incentives. Under the NY-Sun Incentive Program, incentives will decrease on a prescribed basis over time. Now is the best time to go solar.

NY-Sun incentives are granted on a first-come, first-served basis, and applications will be received until December 31, 2023, or until allocated funds are fully committed. In addition, you may be able to claim 30% of the cost of your solar electric system that is installed prior to the end of the year on your federal tax return. There is also a 25% New York State tax credit for systems installed on a primary residence.

3. I Won’t Own My Home Long Enough to Make My Investment Back.

The return on investment on a solar installation is estimated to be less than 10 years on average, although it depends on several variables including the cost of your system, the incentives available to you, and the electric rate you pay. If you’re planning on owning your home for 10 years or longer, your home’s value could increase by 20 times the amount you save on your energy bill. According to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimate, if you save $1,000 a year on energy, you could add approximately $20,000 to the overall value of your home (assuming you own your solar electric system).

Some New York State municipalities offer homeowners a tax exemption should their property values increase as a result of adding a solar electric system. To access a list of municipalities that have opted out of the exemption, visit the NY Department of Tax and Finance’s website.


Last updated July 26, 2019