Solar FAQs

SOLARIZE Frequently Asked Questions

What is Solarize ConnecticutSM?

Solarize Connecticut is a program to make it easy and affordable for residents to go solar—that is, to convert sunlight into electricity that we can all use in our homes. It is a statewide initiative that towns compete to be part of.

Solarize Connecticut provides residents significant discounts off the cost of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, which is in addition to incentives from the state and federal governments. Solarize Connecticut gives residents access to significant savings on the cost of electricity for decades to come.

What is the cost to the town?

Town money is not used for the Solarize program. Solarize materials are paid for in large part by the installer and CEFIA grant funds to the community. Other grassroots efforts as well as local program management are handled by volunteers led by the Energy Task Forces in each town or town officials.

Why is the town promoting one installer?

The Solarize program works by giving residents the benefit of economies of scale. An installer can offer reduced prices by concentrating its efforts in one area and working with the community to spread the word about the program. The more people in the community who sign up, the lower the price goes for everyone, even the first to sign up. But everyone is free to use another installer or, of course, not to go solar at all.

How was the designated installer selected?

The process begins with the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) issuing a Request for Proposals from installers who were interested in serving the towns participating in Solarize. After a screening process between CEFIA, SmartPower and the towns, a small committee from your town interviews selected installers and ranks the proposals, based on prices, quality of the equipment to be installed, quality of service, and overall track record. The town committee also may use recommendations from other Solarize communities as well as local customers to help inform their decision. CEFIA then contracts with the designated installer for the town.

Q. How do I know if my home is suitable for solar?

A. The most suitable location for a roof-mounted solar PV system is a south-facing roof with little to no shading from nearby trees, chimneys or other obstructions. Any shading on the system can reduce energy output, so it is important to assess the locations of current trees and buildings around your home as well as that of other obstructions that may exist around your home in the future. Advances in panel and inverter technologies can allow homes with east or west-facing roofs and moderate shading to benefit from solar PV as well.

Q. Will the system produce electricity on cloudy days?

A. Yes, just not as much. Under an overcast sky, panels will produce less electricity that they produce on a clear, sunny day.

Q. Will my system produce power if there is a blackout?

A. Without a battery backup, grid-tied solar PV systems will not operate when the power grid is down. This safety requirement, called “anti-islanding” allows utility linemen to safely repair power lines during a power outage. You may choose to add a battery backup to your solar system to keep the lights on during a blackout, though they cost between $5,000 and $15,000.

Q. How long will the installation process take?

A. From the day you sign a contract with an installer, it can take between a few weeks and a few months before your solar PV system will be turned on. The physical installation of the solar system typically takes anywhere from two to three days, but the time it takes to order and receive equipment, secure permits or schedule your installation can vary.  Once installed, systems typically will need to be inspected by the town, utility and the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA).

Q. What sort of maintenance is required?

A.  Solar PV systems require very little maintenance. Rain showers will generally take care of pollen and dust that fall on your solar panels. If your system is shaded by trees, you may have to trim and maintain branches to protect your system from falling limbs and to minimize shading and maximize production. In extremely snowy winters, you may have to clear snow from your roof to protect your solar panels and maximize winter production.  It is important to note that snow will melt off of a tilted system except when there is an extremely heavy snow or prolonged freezing temperatures.  Homeowners are cautioned to use a tool specially designed for solar with a soft working surface because metal or other hard surfaces can damage the panels.

Q. What size system should I install?

A. Every home is different. As such, your system size will be determined by your roof space  and electricity needs. The average residential solar system in Connecticut is approximately 7 kW and produces approximately 8,400 kWh per year, but this could be too big or too small for your home. If you use certain technologies that are highly dependent on electricity, such as an electric car or geothermal heating and cooling, you might require a larger system. Your installer will work with you to design a system with characteristics that will meet your specific needs.

Q. How will solar affect my home’s value?

Typically, solar systems add to a property’s value. This is due to the fact that unlike electricity rates, solar rates will never go up. Thus, a solar PV system insulates you from rising electricity rates. Once the system has paid for itself, the electricity it generates is absolutely free!

Q. How much will I save by installing a solar system?

A. Your savings depend on the size of the system you choose, your annual electrical usage, electricity rates, and any financing option that you choose from your Solarize installer. To start, ask your solar installer how much electricity your new system is expected to produce on an annual basis and then compare that number to how much electricity your household uses to get an idea of how much you could save. Additionally, a homeowner’s savings are affected by the financing package chosen, as is discussed below in the “Purchase” and “Lease” sections. Installers can also help you determine how much money you could save if electricity prices escalate over time.

Q. I am confused about my electricity charges; can you explain my service rates?

A. Typically, a residential electricity bill is comprised of charges from a variety of supplier services, mainly: generation services, delivery services, transmission charge, and distribution charge. For further reference, please go to your utilities website and search for “average bill” in the “Rates” section.

Q. Will I still receive a monthly electric bill after installing a solar system?

A. Yes. You will receive a monthly bill from your utility company as you always have, but the amount owed will differ depending on your monthly electrical usage. Depending on how your system is sized, you may accrue credits in the more productive summer months which through “net metering” can be carried over and used in the less productive winter months. Even if your system entirely offsets your electrical usage, there is still a flat monthly fee required, in order to be connected to the grid.

Q. Why haven’t more solar systems been installed? Why aren’t more people doing this?

A.  People are doing this! Connecticut homeowners have commissioned over 25 MW of residential solar systems in the last decade, that’s over 3,500 systems! Although this represents the cumulative result of over a decade of dedicated work, nearly half of that total has come in the last two years alone.

Across the state, 15 communities have seen at least 20 residential solar PV installations within their borders, while 52 communities have seen at least 10 installations, and 110 have seen at least five installations. With the growth of Solarize, the “peer effect” of accelerated adoption should continue to drive new deployment at the local level.

Q. Am I required to use the Solarize installer that was preselected for my community?

A. To take advantage of the tiered pricing structure offered through the Solarize Connecticut program, you’ll need to work with your pre-selected installer. However, other solar installers may be able to offer you competitive pricing and can access many of the same financing tools available through Solarize Connecticut. Residents in your town or city are free to work with any contractor they wish to do business with, but may feel more comfortable working with the installer that was competitively selected by community leaders. If for any reason you would like to work with an installer other than the one working on the outreach efforts in your community, a list of eligible contractors is available at www.energizect.com.

Purchase:

Q. Will installing a solar system increase my tax base?

A. No. Despite the fact that your property value will increase, state law exempts residential clean energy systems from property taxes. Exemption claims must be filed with the assessor or board of assessors in the town in which the property is placed in service on or before November 1st in the applicable assessment year. Applications are not required each year as long as no major alterations are made to the renewable energy system. Make sure to contact your local tax assessor’s office for more information.

Additionally, any passive or active solar water or space heating system or geothermal energy resource is exempt from property taxes, regardless of the type of facility the system serves.

Q. Does homeowners insurance cover my system?

A. If you prefer to own your system directly and either purchase it outright or finance it via a loan, you should check with your insurance agent to find out whether your system will be covered under your existing policy. However, if you go solar using the CT Solar Lease, your system’s third-party owner will provide all necessary insurance.

Q. Are state incentives available for my system?

A. The Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) provides incentives to help Connecticut homeowners go solar. The amount of incentive provided is based on the size of your system, orientation, shading and other factors, but for an average Solarize installation, the incentive will be between 20 and 35% of your system’s total installed cost.

Q. Are federal incentives available for my system?

A. The federal government provides an investment tax credit equal to 30% of your system’s total installed cost, net of state incentives. This can be claimed on your 2013 tax return. This tax credit is set to expire in 2016.

Q. What financing options are available to help me purchase a solar system?

The Smart-E Loan features both 10- and 12-year options (at interest rates of 5.99% and 6.99%, respectively) for homeowners looking to go solar. This is a no-money-down financing option offered by participating community banks and credit unions across the state.

Your installer might have additional financing tools available as well.

Lease:

Q. Why would I lease a system?

A. Some people prefer to own their solar system directly and capture the full lifetime value of the system, while others prefer the peace of mind that comes with knowing that solar experts will be responsible for any maintenance work the system requires over its entire useful life. Under the CT Solar Lease, CEFIA provides a no-money-down option with one-call resolution for any issues you may experience with your system for the entire 20-year lease period.  Customers who cannot take advantage of the federal tax credit may find this option appealing.

Q. What happens if I move mid-lease?

A. For the CT Solar Lease, if a homeowner sells his or her property mid-lease, the solar system can be passed onto the new owners in two ways: (1) the lease can be transferred to the new owners as long as they meet the credit criteria for the CT Solar Lease or (2) the departing homeowner can buy out the remaining fair market value of the lease, and then include the value of the system outright in the asking price.  Check with your installer if they are offering a separate leasing option.

Q. Can I take the system to my new home?

A. Under the CT Solar Lease, if you choose to lease a solar system, you will not own the system, and therefore you will not be able to take it with you. Check with your installer if they are offering a separate leasing option. (Note that a customer who receives funding from CEFIA may not relocate his or her system to a new home outside of Connecticut.)

Q. What if a home purchaser doesn’t want the system?

A. For the CT Solar Lease program, if a potential purchaser does not want to be responsible for making lease payments (and would rather revert to paying full electricity bills to the utility company), the departing homeowner would have to buy out the lease at its fair market value. Check with your installer if they are offering a separate leasing option.

Q. What happens at the end of the lease?

A. After the CT Solar Lease is up after 20 years, you have two options: you can purchase your system at its fair market value and continue enjoying its production until the end of its lifetime (25-30 years), or you can have the system’s third-party owners remove it, at their expense. Check with your installer if they are offering a separate leasing option.

Q. When does the lease actually start (that is, when does the first payment occur)?

A. With the CT Solar Lease, systems that are completed from the 1st day of the month through the 15th day of the month, the first payment is due the FIRST day of the FOLLOWING month. For systems that are completed from the 16th day of the month through the end of the month, the first payment is due the FIFTEENTH day of the FOLLOWING month. Check with your installer if they are offering a separate leasing option.

Useful Links

Please visit your town’s page to learn more about Solarize in your community, or contact us at:

Database of State Incentives for Renewables + Efficiency

Connecticut Energy Information Center