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Frequently Asked Questions
Below you'll find a collection of frequently asked questions to further help you as you explore adding solar electricity to your home or business.
Can't find what you're looking for? Check out MassCEC's Residential Guide to Solar Electricity or the Massachusetts Homeowner’s Guide to Solar Leases, Loans, and PPA’s for more information.
If you still have questions, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Is my roof suitable for solar?
- How long does it take to install a solar electric system?
- What questions should I ask a potential installer?
- How much electricity will my system generate?
- Will adding solar electricity impact my property value?
- Solar won't work for me. What other clean energy options do I have for my home? My business?
- Should I get an energy audit and adopt energy efficiency measure before installing solar?
- Is solar electricity feasible for a condo?
- What maintenance does a solar electric system need?
- Can I install the system myself?
- Does MassCEC offer any solar programs or resources for municipalities?
Only a solar installer can say for sure if your roof is ready for solar, but in general solar electricity works best on roofs that have plenty of space for panels and plenty of access to the sun throughout the day. Depending on the age and condition of your roof, your installer may work with an engineer to see if any repairs are needed before the solar system can be installed.
The timeline for installing your solar electric system can depend on a number of factors, including weather and installer availability. For residential systems, the physical installation process can be completed in as little as a few days, though it could take several weeks or months to begin generating electricity due to municipal inspection and utility connection timelines. MassCEC has seen it take an average of five months from contract signing to electricity generation for residential projects.
The timeline for larger-scale projects can sometimes take a bit longer due to the projects' size and greater potential for complications. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources tracks this on commercial-scale renewable energy interconnection and can be a resource for those looking for more information.
Information about how to find and select a solar installer can be found in the Finding an Installer section of this guide, as well as in the MassCEC Residential Guide to Solar Electricity.
The amount of electricity a site will produce is a product of the site-specific characteristics, such as system size, amount of shading, angle of the panels and orientation of the roof, as well as the annual weather patterns. With this in mind, a conservative rule of thumb is to assume that a residential solar electric system will generate around 1,100 kilowatt hours of electricity annually for every one kilowatt of system size. The average residential system in Massachusetts is about 8 kilowatts, which would produce around 8,800 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. See the SREC Capacity Factor Report for more information.
As solar electric systems become more popular in Massachusetts and across the country, more research is being done to determine the impact the systems have on property values. While there have been no Massachusetts-specific studies completed, the Lawrence Berkley National Lab (LBNL) has published several studies demonstrating that solar electric systems have increased the value of homes across the country.
Massachusetts residents and business owners unable to install solar electricity have many other options, such as clean heating and cooling and energy efficiency, as they look to take advantage of the economic and environmental benefits of clean energy. MassCEC has compiled resources for residents and businesses looking to learn more about other clean energy technologies and energy efficiency.
Yes. Making your home or business more energy efficient is often the easiest way to save money on your energy bills. Adopting energy efficiency measures can also save you money on your solar system, as you might be able use a smaller system to cover your energy needs. The Mass Save program provides free home energy audits and other services to homes and businesses, while those in areas served by municipal light plants can contact their local company directly.
Many of the same conditions that make a home or business a good candidate for solar apply to condominiums. Condo owners will also likely need to get approval from their condo association before installing a system. For more information, check out the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resource's Solar Guide for Condominium Owners and Associations.
As with many appliances, solar electric systems require some maintenance over their lifetime. This may include some tree trimming to ensure the panels are receiving unobstructed sunlight, and replacing the inverter once during the life of the solar electric project — if it is a central inverter. Most systems have an expected system life of more than 20 years. Installers should provide a minimum five-year labor warranty to protect your equipment against defective workmanship, component breakdown or significant degradation in electrical output. In addition, the solar electric equipment should have appropriate manufacturer’s warranties. Although it is uncommon for a solar PV panel or inverter to stop functioning while under warranty, you can talk to your installer to learn more about their process for equipment replacement, including whether or not their labor costs are included.
For a solar electric system to be eligible for MassCEC incentive programs, the electrical work must be completed by a Massachusetts-licensed electrician. Please see the Board of State Examiners of Electricians guidance regarding what is considered electrical work. The individual or organization installing the solar system must also be licensed to conduct business in Massachusetts to be eligible for MassCEC incentives.
The Solarize Mass program, run by MassCEC and the Department of Energy Resources, is a community outreach and education program in which a solar installer is competitively selected to provide reduced-cost solar pricing for residents in the participating community.
As part of the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Rooftop Solar Challenge program, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has partnered with the MassCEC, several area municipalities and other regional states to develop a range of resources related to municipal permitting and zoning, interconnection and community shared solar.