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Frequently asked questions
1How much does a typical residential solar system cost?
While system sizes can vary greatly, a typical residential solar system will have a post rebate cost between $15,000 and $40,000.
2Do the solar modules need to mount on the roof?
No. Though the roof is the most common location for mounting solar modules, they can also be mounted on the ground or in other architecturally integrated ways such as on walls or shade structures. Ground mounted systems tend to cost more than roof mounted systems because of the need for trenching, concrete footings and (typically) a steel sub-structure. Ground mounted systems are, however, viable and common.
3How long will a solar system last?
The main component of a solar system, the solar modules, are typically warranted for 25 years but have a design life of over 40. There are modules still operating today that were manufactured in the 1970’s. The inverters are typically warranted for 10 years. It is not certain how long they may last beyond their warranty period. A conservative set of assumptions when considering the long term financial performance of your system is to figure the performance at 30 years with the replacement of the inverters at year 15. The inverters may represent roughly 10% of the post rebate cost of the system depending on system size, configuration and system installation cost.
4What kind of maintenance does a solar system require?
Washing the solar array with water a few times a year is a good idea but not strictly critical. Most good solar designers have factored the effect of seasonal dust on your projected system output over time. Occasional visual inspection of the array is wise in order to identify any serious soiling of the array such as significant bird droppings or other types of opaque soiling. Checking the integrity of mechanical and electrical connections, checking the electrical characteristics of the system and logging data are other good annual maintenance practices.
5Will a solar system provide power during an electrical power outage?
Most grid tied solar electric systems do not provide electrical power during electrical power outages. As a requirement of a grid tied inverter’s safety listing, it must shut down in the event of grid power loss. Backup power systems can be designed into a grid tied solar system with the addition of a battery bank and a battery powered inverter. This option adds complexity and expense that should be weighed agaist the benefit of having backup power.