FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Solarize Connecticut is a program sparked by the CT Green Bank and administered by SmartPower 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. Fifty-eight communities in Connecticut have successfully completed campaigns resulting in over 2,000 homeowners going solar with over 17 MW of solar on homes across the state. 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 the federal tax credit. Solarize Connecticut gives residents access to significant savings on the cost of electricity for decades to come.

Town money is not used for the Solarize program. Solarize materials are paid for in large part by SmartPower with support from the CT Green Bank, Dividend Solar, and solar installers. Grassroots efforts as well as local program management are led by volunteers from Energy Task Forces or town officials.

The Solarize program works by giving residents the benefit of economies of scale. An installer can offer reduced prices by concentrating their efforts in one area and working with the community to spread the word about the program. But everyone is free to use another installer or, of course, not to go solar at all.

The process begins with SmartPower issuing a Request for Proposals from installers who were interested in serving the towns participating in Solarize. After a review process between 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.

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.

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

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 the cost is expensive.

From the day you sign a contract with an installer, it can take 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 CT Green Bank.

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. It is important to note that snow will melt off of a tilted system quickly except when there is an extremely heavy snow or prolonged freezing temperatures, which will take longer.

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.

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, except for a small charge by the utility for being connected to the grid!

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. Installers can help you determine how much money you could save if electricity prices escalate over time.

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.

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 of $20 required, in order to be connected to the grid.

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.

With the growth of Solarize, the “peer effect” of accelerated adoption should continue to drive new deployment at the local level.

To take advantage of special pricing 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 gosolarct.com.

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.

Homeowners should check with your insurance agent to add a new system to your existing insurance policy. Depending on your policy, there should be no or a minimal charge to cover your solar system.

The CT Green Bank 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.

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 the tax return that you complete after your system is operational. The tax credit can be  carried over for up to 5 years.

Through Dividend Solar you can access $0 down financing. The Smart-E Loan features both 10- and 12-year options, 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.

Check with your solar installer about the best financing options to meet your needs.

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