Frequently Asked Questions
Have questions? We’ve compiled answers to some of the most common questions below, but if you have others, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
How do panels turn solar energy into electricity?
Solar panels convert the infinite energy from the sun into electricity—even on cloudy days. Unlike power generated by fossil fuels, solar energy does not create noise, air, or water pollution. Solar panels, which are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells, convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity throughout the day. Since most homes in the United States run on alternating current (AC) electricity, the DC electricity generated by solar panels is then converted into AC electricity through inverters. You can use the converted electricity to power your home. Any excess energy you produce will be contributed back to the grid and can become a credit on your next energy bill.
How do the PV cells work?
PV cells allow particles of light, which are called photons, to knock electrons free from atoms. This process generates electricity, a form of power you can use just about anywhere.
Will my house still be connected to the grid?
When you go solar, you will still be connected to the grid. This allows you to draw from the grid when your system is not producing all the electricity you may need. This also allows you to be compensated for providing power to the grid when you are producing more electricity than you need.
While most New Yorkers choose a grid-connected system, it is possible to go off the grid with solar if your house has energy storage capabilities. However, energy storage does present additional costs. Learn more at NYSERDA’s energy storage page.
Where can I learn more about solar terms and technologies?
If you are interested in learning more about how solar works, we encourage you to visit:
What Are the Benefits of Solar?
What are the financial benefits of solar energy?
By reducing the electricity you get from the grid, solar lowers your bill. How much you can save depends on the electric rates in your area. There may also be significant federal, State, and local tax credits for installing solar at your home.
What are the environmental and health benefits of solar energy?
Solar is one of the cleanest forms of renewable energy. By switching to solar, you reduce your carbon footprint and help New York fight climate change. Solar also reduces the presence of harmful air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, which may cause serious health problems. Ultimately, by going solar, you are contributing to a cleaner and healthier community.
How will I be compensated for my solar energy?
With solar, your home can go from being an energy consumer to being an energy producer. Electric utilities will credit your bill for the power your home produces using solar panels. You’ll only pay for electricity if you use more than what your solar panels generate during that billing cycle. Any excess electricity you produce that month becomes a credit on your next electricity bill (though you may still have to pay other charges and fees).
Am I Ready for Solar?
Is my property a good candidate for going solar?
Solar panels work best when installed on a sunny south-facing roof or area on your property with little to no shade and enough space. Get in touch with a qualified contractor for a detailed assessment of your home. If your property isn’t a great candidate for rooftop or ground-mounted solar, community solar may be right for you.
Where would the solar PV panels go on my house?
Solar panels can be mounted on either the roof of your home or to the ground, wherever conditions are best on your property.
How many panels will I need for my home?
It depends on your home’s energy needs. Your solar contractor will work with you to assess those needs. A good starting place is to gather a year’s worth of your electricity bills. Your solar contractor will use that information and assess your home or building’s sun exposure, the size and slope of your roof, available roof space, and other factors to determine the how big your system will need to be. Your contractor can also tell you if a ground-mounted system may be a better fit for your site than a rooftop system. Get in touch with a contractor to schedule a detailed assessment of your home.
How do I maintain my solar panels, and how long will they last?
You can expect your solar panels to generate electricity reliably for approximately 20 to 25 years. Before you go solar, we recommend you consult your contractor for tips on how to extend the lifespan of your system. Solar panels require very little maintenance, and can last longer than 25 years with proper care. Some contractors include warranties, although the terms will depend on the company.
What if I don’t own my home?
If your home isn’t ideal for solar panels or you do not want to install them on your property, community solar may be the way to go.
Community solar is new to New York State, and more and more projects are becoming available. It allows participants to reap the benefits of solar without having to install panels on their property, and makes the benefits of clean energy a possibility for more New Yorkers than ever before.
How Do I Get Started with Solar?
I’m interested in installing solar at my home. What’s the first step?
In addition to educating yourself about solar, the first step is to conduct a self-assessment of your home to determine its viability for a solar installation. We recommend you check the condition of your roof. Solar panels should not be installed on old or damaged roofs. If your roof has visible damage, such as cracked or missing singles, you may need to repair the roof prior to an installation. Roofs should also have no more than two layers of shingles.
Can my homeowners’ association (HOA) or neighbors prevent me from installing solar?
This depends. You will need to verify if installing solar panels is okay with your HOA/neighborhood association before you reach out to a contractor.
What do I need to know before contacting a solar contractor?
We put together additional information with tips and pointers for finding and preparing for a contractor.
How can I find a participating solar contractor in New York State?
To access incentives, you can choose out of the hundreds of available participating contractors. Before hiring a contractor, we encourage you to check their references and talk to people who have previously hired the contractor. You should also request proposals from at least three participating contractors that service your area.
Where is solar being installed in New York?
How Do I Pay for Solar?
How much does solar cost?
The cost will depend on your system’s size, site conditions, equipment selected, and method of payment. Be sure to check references and get a few price quotes from participating contractors to determine the cost and purchasing method that is best fit for your home. NY-Sun also offers financing options and incentives for New York residents looking to go solar.
What are my options to pay for solar?
There are three popular ways for residents to pay for solar: leases, power purchase agreements (PPAs), and loans. For detailed information on which option is right for you, download and review our homeowner’s guide [PDF] to solar.
If I install solar at my home, will my property taxes increase?
New York State Real Property Tax Law 487 provides a 15-year real property tax exemption for renewable energy systems. However, some local governments and school districts have opted out of this exemption; this means residents who install solar may have to pay additional property taxes. To find out if your municipality has opted out of RPTL 487, call your local tax assessor's office and/or review the list of municipalities that have opted out.
Instead of the tax exemption, property owners in New York City who go solar may apply for the Real Property Tax Abatement Program. Visit the NYC Department of Buildings to download the PTA4 form and PTA4 instructions to get more information on the city’s solar installations.