Solar FAQ

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS

Breaking down frequently asked questions about solar energy

Learn about solar energy, incentives, and financing in the FAQ below.

Also check out our other FAQ pages:

Does solar work in Washington State and Oregon?

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 long summer months and work off of them in the shorter winter months.

Solar panels also operate more efficiently in our cooler summer weather, which means more efficient 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 as 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.

Learn more about Solar in the Northwest.

Is there really a federal incentive to go solar?

Yes! Homeowners can get an Income Tax Credit of 30 percent of the total cost of an installed system. This incentive reduces from 30 percent to 26 percent in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021. Businesses and rental property owners are also eligible for a 30 percent tax credit, in addition to federal depreciation savings (MACRS).

What are the state incentives?

WASHINGTON: A new state production incentive was passed by the state legislature in 2017.  A production incentive is a program managed by your utility that pays you for every kilowatt hour (kWh) your PV system produces regardless of how much electricity you use. You can receive cash payments for eight years of energy production or until you have received up to 50 percent of your total system cost, whichever comes first.

Learn more about Washington State solar incentives.

OREGON: Oregon residents can get a credit on their state income taxes for adding a solar energy system to their homes. The tax credit is based on $1.70 for every watt up to $6,000 per residence taken over four years ($1,500 per year) limited to 50 percent of the cost of the system.

Learn more about Oregon solar incentives.

What is net metering?

Net metering is an agreement between you and your utility where you are allowed to bank credits whenever your system is producing more energy than your home is using.

Typically, this occurs in the sunny summer months, when your system is most productive. In the winter, you can draw from those credits, keeping your bills low.

There is a net metering fiscal year, which runs from May-April in Washington State. On April 30, you will forfeit any credits that you may have with the utility. The year resets on May 1, coinciding with the long summer days to start building up credits again.

In Oregon, the fiscal year runs from April-March. If you still have kWh “in the bank” at the end of March, the utility may credit you or transfer those credits to customers in their low-income program. Having extra credits is rare: Systems aren’t usually designed to produce more than 100 percent of your annual consumption.

Learn more about solar rebates and incentives.

Do solar panels increase home value?

Yes they do. There is evidence that homes with solar sell faster and for more money than comparable homes without.

A 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 meantime, you’re saving money on your bill every month.

One exception is if the solar system is leased, in which case the home value may not increase, and buyers may be hesitant to assume the lease payments.

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

Can my HOA ban my solar energy system?

No. State law in both Washington and Oregon prevents homeowner associations from outright prohibiting the installation of solar PV systems as long as the system meets all health, safety and performance standards required by state and local permitting authorities.

We’ve had dozens of customers over the years who belonged to an HOA. We’ve found that many times, the design that we include in our quote is enough to soothe concerns. We are also happy to meet with the HOA board, answer any questions, and go through the state law to show how our system will comply.

Here are some helpful links from Northwest Solar Communities about HOAs and solar:

HOAs & Solar PV (Washington & Oregon)
HOA Letter from Oregon Department of Energy
Solar on Condos

Will my system cause glare for my neighbors?

This shouldn’t happen. The whole goal of a solar panel is to absorb, not reflect, sunlight. In fact, solar panels incorporate anti-reflective glass that’s rated for installation at airports where glare is a serious concern for pilots.

Should I replace my roof before installing solar?

Since solar panels tend to last more than 25 years, your roof should be in good condition before you get a system installed.

Panels have additional benefits—once they are in place, they will actually protect your roof by blocking UV rays. Solar panels are surprisingly sturdy and can withstand hail and extreme environments. We recommend replacing your roof before installing solar if it has less than 10-12 years of life remaining.

How long do solar panels last?

Depends on the technology and the climate the system is placed in.

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.

Some balance of system (BOS) components may need to be replaced before the solar panels lose their effectiveness, including the inverter, which typically has a 10-year or 25-year warranty.

Thanks to our mild weather, we should see extended lifetimes 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.

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

How long does it take to install solar?

The installation piece is fairly straightforward and usually takes between one and three days, depending on system size and installation complexity.

Do I need to get permits or have any engineering done?

No. Our team does all of the permitting paperwork and engineering.

Do you use any subcontractors to perform the work?

For our system installs, we only use our in-house employees, including licensed electricians and installers.

In certain situations, we might contract out non-solar related work like installing membrane roof flashings or drywall repair.

Do you sell equipment or design plans to DIYers?

We really recommend that you hire experienced professionals to add a solar system to your home (remember, your system will need to pass inspection with your local permitting jurisdiction).

However, we will provide our equipment, including panels, racking, and inverters, for a modest markup and can create designs and plans for up to $2,000.

Why do I need another meter?

Your utility meter measures only your home’s energy consumption.

A production meter is a separate device that tracks your energy production. It is also required to receive production incentives from the State of Washington. If you live in Oregon, you might not need a production meter if your utility doesn’t require it.

Will my meter really spin backward?

If you have an old-school analog meter, 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.

However, most utilities have moved to digital metering. These will not give you the same level of satisfaction of watching the meter spin backward, but the blinking reverse arrow is still satisfying.

How "green" are solar panels?

Short answer:  The energy that goes in to making a module “pays for itself” as it generates energy in the field over time, depending on where it was manufactured and where it’s installed.

Longer answer: A 2016 study concludes that the energy payback for solar modules is now two years or less, and declining as efficiencies improve.

Much depends upon where and when it was manufactured. A panel made in China, for example, costs nearly double the greenhouse-gas emissions of one made in Europe because China relies more on fossil fuels for generating power. However, the environmental benefits of installing solar panels will be greater in China than in Europe, as the clean power they produce replaces electricity that would otherwise be generated largely by burning coal or gas.

As more panels are made, the manufacturing process becomes more efficient. The team found that for every doubling of the world’s solar capacity, the energy required to make a panel fell by around 12% and associated carbon-dioxide emissions by 17-24%.

“I am very high maintenance and yet they made it all happen with no issues. On time and on budget.”

RANDY, SEATTLE