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Frequently Asked Questions About Solar

A solar project can seem overwhelming at first, especially when you feel like you’re stepping into the unknown. We understand and we’re here to answer any questions you have. Take a look at our FAQ below to get started and if you have any other question don’t hesitate to contact us here on the website or you can e-mail us directly at info@gogusco.com

How is a solar system sized?

There are three main ways to size a solar system:

  • Budget – How much do you want to spend?
  • Offset – How much energy do you want to offset? Are you going for 25%, 50%, 100%?
  • Available Space – How much space do you have? What is the area of roof or ground space you want to use?

What do I need to get a solar quote?

The main information we need to start on a quote for a solar system are:

  • Address of building
  • How much energy in kilowatt hours (kWh)do you use? This would be on a utility bill which is a great place to start. 
  • What size area do you want the solar panels? How big is the roof or area of property?
  • What voltage is your electric service? Common options are 120/240V single phase, 208V three phase, and 277/480V 3 phase

Should I replace my roof before installing a solar system?

Solar energy systems can last for 25 to 35 years, and it can be costly to remove and reinstall them if you need to replace your roof. If your roof needs maintenance in the near term, you should complete it before you finish your solar installation. If you are unsure of the roofs condition we can suggest a roofing partner to take a look and make an assessment.

What is the ITC?

The ITC or (investment tax credit) allows you to deduct 26 percent of the costs associated with installing a commercial solar system from your federal taxes. The program has no limit on the value of the system that’s being installed. This will be applied to your income tax debt. For example a $30,000 tax credit allows you to pay $30,000 less in taxes.  Below is a chart of where the ITC has been and is currently set to go down to.

The ITC is a tax credit and not a tax deduction. Tax credits reduce your tax bill dollar-for-dollar, which means that a $500 tax credit will lower your tax bill by $500. Tax deductions lower your taxable income and there are two main types of deductions: the standard deduction and itemized deductions.

How long does a solar array last?

Think of your solar array as a 25-year investment. Solar panels will produce electricity for at least 25 years. Panels will continue to generate electricity after 25 years, but at a decreasing rate. While microinverters will likely last for the duration of the PV system, you may need to replace string or central inverters after 15 years. Solar panels will make power for 25 years under the warranty. Inverters have warraties of 15-25 years.

Will my system need maintenance?

Solar is a simple, minimum-maintenance technology. Unlike other energy technologies, solar PV contains no moving parts unlike solar thermal systems. This means it’s not likely your equipment will fail. You should not have to replace your panels at all during their lifetime. Wiring is the part of solar PV that most commonly requires maintenance because squirrels and other animals may tamper with it. Depending on your inverter type, you may also need to have your inverter replaced 10 to 20 years after installation.

 

In most cases, solar panels do not need to be washed, as rain and snow naturally clean them.  We do not recommend climbing up to your panels to wash them. Even though solar is low maintenance, we recommend having a qualified solar professional  inspect the array every two to five years to make sure things remain in good operating order. They’ll do a visual inspection of all equipment, take electrical measurements, conduct thermal scans, check for things like wire damage from critters, and make sure your system is performing properly.

What happens during a power outage?

Most solar arrays are grid-tied, meaning they are connected to the local power grid. This allows customers to use their solar electricity when the sun is shining and then switch seamlessly over to utility electricity on cloudy days or at night. For grid-tied solar arrays it’s important to understand how a power outage will affect your solar panels and your home. One thing to consider is when the power grid goes down your solar system will automatically stop exporting electricity and the inverter(s) will monitor the AC grid until proper voltage and frequency are stable before inverting any more DC power. This is a required safety feature designed to prevent your panels from feeding electricity onto the grid and injuring the utility linesmen who are servicing the wires. 

 

If you want your solar system to continue producing electricity even when the grid goes down you will need to pair your solar array with  some form of batteries that would act as a storage. This pairing – called solar + storage – allows your system to produce electricity while remaining isolated from the grid, avoiding any safety issues. Your solar electricity will be stored in the batteries and can be consumed  when the grid is down, allowing your building to remain powered during a grid outage. Solar + storage systems have a lot of variables and if you have more questions about them please contact us.

What happens if I produce more electricity than I use?

It is common for systems to produce more energy than a building consumes in a day. While a solar system produces power during daylight hours, the peak power produced is in a small time frame, usually between 10:00am to 2:00pm. The solar system needs produce energy to offset the building’s consumption over its 24 hour use. However, it is uncommon for systems to be sized to produce more energy than you will consume over the course of a year. If you produce more energy than you consume on an annual basis you will be compensated in different ways depending on the local utility company. We do not recommend that you install a system that will produce more than 100 percent of your yearly energy consumption because you are often compensated for the excess electricity at a lower wholesale rate.

What happens on cloudy and raining days?

Photovoltaic panels can use direct, indirect or diffuse sunlight to generate power, though they are most effective in direct sunlight. Solar panels will still work even when the light is reflected or partially blocked by clouds. Solar panels will still work when covered with snow. Rain actually helps to keep your panels operating efficiently by washing away any dust or dirt.

Why is shade a problem?

Because of the internal wiring design of a solar module, all of the individual solar cells on a module must receive full sunlight for the module to work properly. While early morning or late afternoon shade can be designed around, a system without shade accounted for will under-produce every day. To reduce shading effects modules are wired to each other in a position that situates them away from early morning or late afternoon shadows from trees and buildings that would reduce the system output as little as possible.