It's cloudy in Pennsylvania, does solar work well here?
YES! Solar-modules generate electricity from direct sunlight and indirect light from clouds. A good rule of thumb is that “If it’s bright enough to drive without headlights, then it’s bright enough for solar modules to generate power.” You would be surprised at how often your meter would spin backwards even on cloudy or rainy days. In Central Pennsylvania each kW of installed solar in a good location generates about 1150 kWh of electricity each year. In a really great location it can be as much as 1300 kWh per year. The vast majority of this solar energy is generated in the summer half of the year.
What makes a good location for solar?
You want the sun to shine wherever you put solar modules. So under a big shade tree is not a good location. You want a clear location away from nearby trees and mountains. It helps if your roof faces south, but east and west facing is still pretty good. And there are times when a low-slope north facing roof can still yield a reasonable return on investment.
I’m already in my 60’s. What’s the point of getting solar now?
If you are in your 60’s, then you are very much thinking about life after retirement or already living that life. The whole point of saving for retirement is so that your day-to-day living expenses are met with the returns you get from all your retirement savings. You already know that a return on investment of more than 6-8% comes with a very healthy risk. But solar energy can provide returns higher than that with very little risk due to its warranty. Thus solar energy is probably the best retirement savings plan available. Plus you will be increasing the equity of your home by more than the after tax cost of the solar. Solar is indeed an excellent way to secure your retirement.
What will happen to my home value?
In a very exhaustive study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, it was found that home values in Pennsylvania were increased by about $3/watt of installed solar. For a 10,000 Watt solar array, that would be $30,000. For a 14,000 Watt solar array, that would be $42,000. This was determined by comparing the sales prices of homes with solar and similar homes without solar. Thus you can be assured that your investment in solar is secure even if you decide to move and sell your house.
What about batteries?
You DON’T need batteries. Virtually all of today’s solar arrays are designed for use without batteries. If you want batteries for backup power in the event of a power outage, it is recommended that you contact Groundhog Solar with your particular needs. A gas, propane, or natural gas powered generator is virtually always a better option.
However if you want to live off the grid, then batteries are essential. Groundhog Solar can help you to do this.
I want a backup supply of energy for power outages.
A fueled generator is the best form of reliable 24/7 backup power. However, if you want something to just keep your fridge or freezer cold, or to run your TV or internet during the day, then a standalone power option on your solar array may work. Groundhog Solar can install a manual option that allows you to power 120 V devices directly from your solar array even during power outages. This option only works when there is adequate sunshine and may be enough to keep your freezer cold even during extended power outages. But remember, it won’t do anything at night, and you may need to clear the snow off the panels to make this work. There are battery options that Groundhog Solar can install. But the cost would likely be the same or more than a fueled generator without giving the same reliability.
What kind of maintenance is needed?
There is no routine maintenance. You don’t need to clean them. You don’t need to clear snow off them. You don’t need to do any oil-changes or tune-ups to keep solar panels working. If something goes wrong, you will likely be contacted by Groundhog Solar before you even know something is amiss… and it’s almost certain to be covered by our warranty or the manufacturer’s warranty. Groundhog Solar installs an internet monitoring system on all solar arrays (access to your router is required). This monitoring system can be used to check on your system via the internet or mobile device.
Will the utility really pay me for the excess power I generate?
YES, but only after a full year. During the year, the utility will give you credit for that excess power and apply the credit toward the next month’s bill. This credit typically accumulates during the summer and gets used up during the winter. If you have any credit left over at the year’s end, that is when the utility will pay you for it.
What happens when the power goes out?
To protect the linemen working to restore power, the solar array will shut itself down automatically during a power outage. If you want backup power, and there is daylight, Groundhog Solar can install a system that will give you a safe and secure independent power source using your solar array.
What about bad weather like hail, snow, and strong winds?
Most of today’s solar modules must pass a ‘hail’ test which consists of shooting a 1-inch steel ball at 50 mph at the solar module. Groundhog Solar will design a solar array for your site capable of withstanding 90 mph wind gusts and at least 30 pounds per square foot of snow. For many houses, the solar modules actually make the roof stronger with respect to snow because the snow will slide off the solar modules instead of sticking and collecting on asphalt shingles. Be sure to see the photo page for pictures of 1” hail stones falling and bouncing off of a Groundhog Solar installed array. There was no damage to the modules, and even better, the modules protected the asphalt shingles from being damaged by the hail.
Still not convinced?? Watch this video made by SolarWorld.
I have a system that was installed five years ago. Something is wrong, and I can’t contact the original installer. Can you help?
Certainly. It is a sad fact that many fly-by-night companies set up shop in Pennsylvania in 2009-2011 when there was lots of state grant money flying around for solar. When the grants dried up, most of them left the area. Groundhog Solar has been in business since 2010 and is located right here in Altoona, PA. Groundhog Solar also understands how to trouble shoot a solar array and get your system running again, often better than it was before.