FAQ

DOES SOLAR WORK UP HERE?

Absolutely. The Pacific Northwest’s long summer days were made for solar. Thanks to all that sunlight and utility net metering programs, we can build energy credits in the summer months and work off of them in the shoulder months.

Solar panels also operate more efficiently in our cooler summer weather, which means more power than hotter climates, not less. Solar energy systems keep on working on cloudy days too, collecting scattered light and focusing it into energy.

Sure, we don't produce as much power the southern deserts, but we still generate enough to make solar a financially viable solution. In fact, our solar resource is similar to Germany’s, which leads the world in solar energy installations.

WILL MY METER REALLY SPIN BACKWARDS?

It really will. When your PV system makes more power than your home uses, your electrical service meter reverses — you can watch it go backward.

This is called “net metering,” and you can sell the extra power back to the utility at retail rates. If you’re “off-grid,” this doesn’t apply, since you’re not hooked up to a utility, but it’s still cool.

WHAT INCENTIVES ARE IN PLACE FOR SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS?

Tons. Federal, state and local incentives make solar more affordable. Check out these most current incentives, and let us know if you hear of any new incentives in your area.

Federal

These apply to solar electric (PV) and solar hot water (SHW) Systems:

Homeowner’s can get a Residential Income Tax Credit of 30% of the total cost of an installed system. This incentive is available until 2016 and can be “carried over” each year until it’s used up, or until time is up, whichever comes first.

Washington State

Applicable to Solar Electric (PV) Systems Only:

There’s no sales tax on any equipment or labor for solar electric systems 10 kW or smaller.

Not only will your system offset CO2 emissions and lower your utility bills, but Washington State will also pay you a base rate of $0.15 per kWh on ALL energy your system produces, whether it’s used in the building or sent back to the grid. Which means, if ”the sun rises,” you’re making money. We know, it almost sounds too good to be true. But it is!

The state sweetened the pot even further by offering additional incentives for installing solar equipment made in Washington. Currently, Silicon Energy (Marysville) and iTek Energy (Bellingham) are hard at work making solar panels and inverters so you can take advantage of these higher incentives. When you buy locally made equipment, the base rate jumps from $0.15 to $0.54 per kWh, speeding up payback and helping to make solar a no-brainer.

In the future you can also sell Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) during the lifetime of your system, which is pretty sweet. As of right now, no one is buying RECs for residential solar systems in WA State. We’ll keep you posted as this hopefully changes.

RECs are also called Carbon Credits, Green Tags, Renewable Energy Credits, or Tradable Renewable Certificates (TRCs). By any name they are tradable, non-tangible energy commodities in the U.S., representing that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource.

That’s a jumble of jargon but what it means is that you can sell the "green attributes" of your power to someone else. You might have heard of companies like Whole Foods or New Belgium Brewing going "100% Wind Powered" — they haven't installed a bunch of turbines, they've bought RECs to offset their usage.

By selling RECs on the open market, you're allowing other companies to do the same with solar power.

HOW LONG DOES A SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM LAST?

Depends on the technology and the climate the system is placed in. Thanks to our mild weather, we should see extended lifespans on our systems. A&R Solar also takes care to use best practices developed in our climate. That means you're getting a system designed for you, not by someone in another state that doesn't understand our local micro-climates.

Generally, solar electric panels will produce power for 30-50 years. Manufacturers usually warranty the power output for 25 years, but most people agree they’ll continue producing well beyond that.

For solar hot water, the collectors usually have 10-year warranties and are expected to last 15-20 years.

In most cases, the balance of system (BOS) components will need to be replaced at some point. This includes parts like pumps, automatic valves, inverters and sometimes storage tanks.

Personally, A&R Solar offers an industry-leading 10-year craftsmanship warranty on all our solar installations.

HOW MUCH MAINTENANCE IS REQUIRED?

Not much. Even if you slack off, your solar energy system will operate effectively. If you want your system to soak up its maximum potential, though, you can do a few simple things on a regular basis:

Hose off the panels and collectors once or twice a year. This can boost performance, especially if pollen, dirt or debris has accumulated.

Keep an eye on your system's production and look for significant changes in output.

Completely drain and refill you solar hot water system’s antifreeze solution every five years.

If you’re not sure about doing this yourself, A&R Solar offers flat fee service calls to customers in our service territory.

DOES SOLAR ADD VALUE TO MY HOME?

Yes it does. Several studies have shown that homes with solar sell faster and for more money than comparable homes without.

A recent study out of California concluded that the premium for which solar homes sell is about the same as what the homeowner paid for the system in the first place. In the mean time, you're saving money on your bill every month.

So, unlike stainless appliances in the kitchen or a new tile backsplash in the bathroom, the investment of adding solar energy is preserved by permanently increasing your home's value.

More details about these findings can be found at Berkeley Lab.

HOW DO I GET STARTED?

Give us a call. We'll ask some questions about your home or business, and we can even give you a preliminary site analysis over the phone, using aerial imagery.

We can talk about how solar might help you achieve your goals, and we’ll help you set a budget.

Once we've gathered this basic information, we schedule a time to look at your site. We’ll measure your solar resource, check out existing site conditions and let you know more about how our company operates.

Then, if you decide solar is the way forward, we’ll design a system that meets your specific needs. Give us a call, 206-707-9937, or email us.

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION?

As the employee-owners of A&R Solar, we’re always trying to improve ourselves. You can help us out by asking questions that aren’t currently on our website. Just drop us an email—we’d be grateful.