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Founded in 1979, Solar Oregon is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit membership organization providing public education and community outreach to encourage Oregonians to choose solar energy.
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Residential FAQs

A list of frequently asked questions for solar electric systems in Oregon.

Residential FAQs

A list of frequently asked questions for solar energy systems in Oregon.

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How much will my solar energy system cost?

For a solar electric system, the cost depends on the size of the system and the ease of installation. Before incentives and tax credits, typical costs range from $6,500–$10,000 for each kilowatt (kW) of capacity.

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Who provides financial incentives?

In the state of Oregon financial incentives are provided by: Oregon Department of Energy; Internal Revenue Service; Local Utilities; Energy Trust of Oregon

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What are my financing options?

While the net cost of solar electric or solar water heating is reduced by incentives and tax credits, only the Energy Trust and possibly other local utility incentives are paid up front. This leaves the system owner writing a substantial check to the contractor. If your savings account isn’t quite up to the task and you don’t have a rich uncle, there are special equity lending programs set up for renewable energy projects.

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Does solar work in Oregon?

Yes! Oregon has a rainy reputation, but did you know that solar energy is Oregon’s most abundant renewable energy resource? Oregon has a good solar resource that can be put to work.

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What size system do I need for my house?

Solar systems are sized according to many criteria. Available roof area, orientation, shading, energy offset considerations, and your budget are all factors that may come into play.

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Do the solar panels need to face south?

South is best, but panels installed facing east or west still generate a very high percentage of possible power. It is usually more effective (and more attractive) to install the panels in the same plane as the roof direction, rather than build an awkward mount to angle them.

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Do I need to replace my roof before the solar panels are installed?

Solar panels will last many years (over 25). Because of this, you want the roof to be in decent condition, as it does not make sense to remove and reinstall the panels after only a few years. One option if you have a limited budget is to replace the roof directly below where the solar panels will be placed.

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How much will my solar system weigh?

Solar Panels typically weigh 3-4 lbs/sqft and the dead load is generally not a problem for roofs which meet current building codes. Older homes may require an engineering analysis just for weight.

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How much space does the solar system need?

Solar Electric (photovoltaic) panels usually require about 100 sq. of roof area per kW installed. Solar Water Heating usually requires 30-50 of roof space per system for panels then depending on the type of system additional space for a tank might be needed.

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Is my house good for solar?

Solar works best on south-facing roofs, though east- or west-oriented roofs may be suitable as well. There should be little or no shading from trees, buildings, chimneys or roof gables on or adjacent to your home. Remember, locations with no shading in the winter may be shaded by spring and summer foliage.

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How much power does a solar electric system produce?

Under ideal conditions solar electric systems installed in Oregon produce between 1000-1500 KWH per year per 1000W (1KW) installed, depending on location. Array orientation and shading may reduce production.

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Will the utility pay me for my solar production?

Currently all homeowners and businesses in Oregon operate under a system of Net Metering where the utility will not pay you for your excess power generation. Instead they offer a one to one credit for every kWh produced above what you use which is sent to the grid.

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Where can I attend workshops to learn more?

Solar Oregon offers several types of workshops around the state. The Residential Solar workshop covers the basics of why solar is a smart choice for Oregon homeowners. Current financial incentives may cover 70-80% of the cost. We will show how well solar works in Oregon's climate, identify available solar technologies and financial incentives, and discuss how to go about choosing a contractor.

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What about maintenance?

In most areas of the state, there is sufficient rain to clean the panels. However, if you are in a dusty area (very near a busy dirt road, very urban area, etc.) you may see a performance gain from cleaning the panels monthly. If necessary, a hose stream is usually sufficient for cleaning.

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Are the solar panels fragile?

No. While a solar panel is made of tempered glass, it is quite strong. Many manufacturers conduct impact tests to withstand up to golf-sized hail. Furthermore, the solar panels are regularly installed in extreme conditions such as those found in Arctic and Antarctic regions.

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How long will the solar electric system last?

While photovoltaic systems are very reliable and long-lived, the inverter is the piece of equipment with the most likelihood of needing repair, maintenance or replacement within the initial 20-year time frame of the system. For this reason, an inverter replacement in year 15-20 should be considered part of any buyer’s long term ownership O & M cost plan. With modern inverters, however, complete replacement will not be necessary as much as replacement or repair of some circuit boards or components.

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Can I install my own system?

Yes. However, there are several important facts to keep in mind: Electricity can be deadly and you shouldn’t attempt any work without proper training. Installing any type of a solar system is not a weekend DIY project for the average person.

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How does solar electric work?

Sunlight strikes a semi conductor material and bumps electrons off in a continous stream called direct current (DC). Home appliance and lights use alternating current (AC), so it is the job of the inverter to change the DC to AC. If your home is using electric energy (refrigerator/lights on) the solar-produced energy is consumed there. If your solar system is making more energy than your house is using, the surplus gets sent back to the grid, which for accounting purposes acts as a bank. [See hybird & off grid for different explanation]

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How does solar hot water work?

Sunlight passes through glass, gets absorbed by a dark surface and heats a confined area, by exactly the same physics it warms the interior of your car on a sunny day. Pipes filled with water, or a heat transfer fluid absorbs this heat, and circulates to a storage tank. Various configurations are described in Types of Collectors.

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What happens if the solar panels are shaded?

Solar Electric panels should be installed in areas where they get significant shade-free sun every day. Even small amounts of shade can significantly reduce the output.

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What is Net Metering?

Net metering allows you to use the electric grid, and the company that otherwise supplies you with electricity, as if it were a big battery.

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What is a solar lease?

Solar Leasing is an increasingly popular option for individuals and businesses that want solar on their roofs but do not have the means to purchase the system. A third party owns and installs the system, and has a (usually long term) agreement with the building owner regarding the cost for purchasing the energy generated. The third party enjoys the incentives and tax credits for the system, while the building (home) owner shows their support (literally) for clean and renewable solar energy.

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What happens when the utility has a power outage?

Most systems are “clean power” systems, without batteries. These systems do not generate power when the utility is out, even if it is sunny. If backup power is desired, a battery system can be added. This increases the complexity and cost. Most people find that what they want is Clean Power, and find that the very occasional outage does not bother them, so they do not purchase the battery option.

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What are Watts, Kilowatts, and Kilowatt Hours?

The size of a solar electric system is often described in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). One kW = 1,000 W. Watts are a unit of power, just like the horsepower of an engine. They express the maximum possible output of energy the system can produce at any point in time.

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What are the incentives for solar electricity in Washington?

What are the incentives for solar electricity in Washington? Photovoltaic PV financial incentives

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What is the history of solar electricity?

The first solar cell was created in 1883. It was inefficient by today’s standards, turning only one to two percent of sunlight into electricity. The breakthrough in solar cell technology came in 1954 when researchers at Bell Laboratories stumbled across the photovoltaic properties of silicon while experimenting with new transistor technologies. Three years later, PV research began in earnest to develop an independent solar energy source for space technologies. Thanks to continuing research, modern commercial PV cells have improved to 11-15% efficiency.

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Are solar electric systems reliable?

Modern solar electric systems have been shown to be very reliable. With no moving parts, the reliability hinges on warranties of key components.

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Can I use a tankless water heater with a solar water heating system?

Tankless (or “instantaneous” or “on-demand”) water heaters are becoming popular because they are smaller and use less energy than regular tank water heaters. Tankless water heaters use natural gas, propane or electricity to rapidly heat water to a pre-set temperature as the water flows through the unit. They come in all sizes, from very small point-of-use units under a sink, to whole-house and commercial scale systems.

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Can I use solar power to heat my pool?

Solar pool heating systems are extremely cost-effective. In Oregon we have financial incentives to help pay for the cost of a new system. Every pool owner should consider heating with solar energy.

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What is solar space heating and does it work?

It is often assumed that solar can be used to heat water for a hydronic space heating system such as radiant floors or a forced air furnace with a fan coil. While this is possible, it is important to remember that in Oregon we get the least amount of sun in the winter when we would need it for space heating.

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What is a zero energy building?

Goal net zero Net Zero, or generating enough electricity on-site with renewables to offset the average annual usage, can help lead to a world where all energy is renewably generated. Unlike off-grid, the site is connected to the grid, both to draw power and share surplus generation. This fits the trend towards smaller scale distributed generation.

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Solar Rating and Certification Corp.

Solar Rating and Certification Corp.

Solar Rating and Certification Corp.

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Where can I check for Solar Water Heater product reviews?

Where can I check for Solar Water Heater product reviews?

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