Solar FAQs​

Here are some of the most popular questions we get asked.

Solar Financial Incentives

Why should I go solar?

Photovoltaic (PV) systems provide several benefits conventional grid-powered electricity does not.

  • Free fuel (photons from the sun)
  • Stable energy costs for decades to come
  • 98% reduction in greenhouse emissions
  • Locally produced fuel for electric vehicles
  • Solar panels leave no waste
  • Energy independence

What is LCOE?

We use LCOE, (Levelized Cost of Energy) to contrast the cost of owning versus “renting” electricity from the utility.

LCOE for solar calculates energy costs over a time period using two variables: the cost of the system and the total amount of energy (kilowatts) it will produce. 

The total amount paid for a system varies depending upon whether a customer is paying with cash or if financing.

We use a time period of 25 years, the warrantied lifespan of a PV system. Several other variables impact the panels energy production such as shading, roof orientation, efficiency and degradation rate of the panel. Therefore, each roof scenario is unique. 

We include a 5% annual increase when calculating the utility LCOE. 

Our proposals show customers three LCOE options focusing on the cost per kWh (kilowatt hour).  We contrast the 1) cash, or 2) financed cost per kWh with owning solar versus 3) buying kWh from the utility.

Is the roof eligible for the Federal Tax Credit?

Does Solar Really Work in Western Washington?

Yes, solar works in the Pacific Northwest. We benefit from long summer days where we receive 74% of our annual sunlight in just six months, enabling residents to generate enough solar energy credits (net metering) to offset winter bills. Despite receiving only 70% of the sunlight compared to Los Angeles, Seattle’s cooler summers boost solar panel efficiency, allowing them to produce 80% as much power.

Even on cloudy days, panels can still produce 50% of their potential output.

How to pay for solar?

There are several ways to pay for a solar PV system. The most financially beneficial method is to pay cash and avoid financing charges like interest. Many of our customers finance their systems through credit unions who tend to offer lower interest rates than traditional banks.  Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union and Verity Credit Union both offer loan programs for solar PV systems. 

What is “no cost” solar?

“No-cost solar” is a term that can be misleading. It’s often used by marketers to grab homeowners’ attention with the promise of an incredible deal. However, the reality is different. When advertisements claim “no-cost solar,” they are actually referring to “no upfront cost solar.” This means that the solar panels and installation have been financed through loans or leases, so homeowners don’t have to pay at the time of installation. While this lack of upfront cost can be useful, it’s essential to understand that the cost for the homeowner is not zero but spread out over time. In other words, it’s not truly free; it’s just deferred.

Does the government pay people to go solar?

The government doesn’t directly hand out cash payments for going solar. It does incentivize and support solar adoption through tax credits, grants, and other programs.

What happens to my home value?

Studies have consistently shown that homes with solar panels sell for more than comparable homes without them. A well-designed, efficient and properly installed solar panel system adds value. Aesthetically pleasing panels and energy-efficient homes are appreciated by homebuyers. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) conducted a large-scale study across eight states. Buyers in six of those states were willing to pay $15,000 more for homes with solar panels. 
  • The added value directly correlates with long-term energy savings. For every $1 reduction in yearly utility bills, home value increases by $20. So, if your solar energy system saves you $500 per year, it can increase your home value by $10,000.
Zillow found that on average, homes with solar panels sell for 4.1% higher than those without. In Seattle, with an average home valued at $847,000, this means potentially selling for an extra $34,727.

Solar PV, Batteries And Technology

How many panels do I need to power my home?

Every home and homeowner is unique, so we ask customers for a copy of a recent electrical bill so we can see their annual usage. Most utility bills include a bar graph showing monthly and annual usage over the past year. Now that we know how much electricity you need each year, we start to look at the roof. We look to see if there’s enough roof space to produce enough electricity to offset your annual usage. We use sophisticated solar design software that calculates how many panels can fit on the roof and how much electricity they will produce annually. If there is enough roof space, our initial PV design will offset 100% of your annual electrical usage, or we’ll let you know what percentage solar can offset. We typically do not “oversize” PV systems unless the customer anticipates an increased future electrical load such as buying an electrical vehicle or switching from gas to electric heating, adding housemates/family members to the residence.

The best way to find out how many panels you need is to fill out a Free Quote form and send us a copy of your electric bill. We’ll give you a no pressure proposal so you can see how many solar panels it will take to power your home. 

What is a kilowatt hour, and how can I tell what I’m using?

A kilowatt hour (kWh) is a unit of energy that represents the amount of electricity used by a device that consumes 1,000 watts over the course of an hour. To put it simply, if you have a 100-watt light bulb, it would take 10 hours to consume one kWh of energy. 

You can check your electricity bill for how many kWh you use in a month or annually. We can help you decipher your usage if you send us a copy of your bill. 

Can my HOA ban solar?

No, but while HOAs cannot prevent solar panel installation in Washington state, they can still place some restrictions upon their placement. We’ve generally found that HOA’s simply want to review and approve designs and we’re happy to meet with an HOA to discuss solar.

What kinds of roof material are good for solar?

Our favorite material is standing seam metal roofs (no penetrations), but we install on almost any kind of roofing material including composition and membrane roofs. We do not install on shake roofs and to a very limited degree on tile and concrete tile roofs.

Do you install solar on manufactured homes?

No. There is not enough structural support for solar to be installed on manufactured homes.

Do solar panels get recycled?

Yes, however the solar panel recycling industry is in its infancy and developing rapidly. Today’s solar panels are mostly made of recyclable materials like glass, aluminum and silicon, perovskite, silver and copper. Older solar panels did contain some more toxic materials like lead, cadmium, and selenium.  Locally, Silfab Solar will be partnering with SOLARCYCLE a PV recycler and purchasing domestic, recycled PV glass for use in new solar modules.

What about maintenance?

Very dirty solar panels lose 5 to 10% of their efficiency until cleaned however there is really very minimal maintenance needed with most solar PV systems in the Pacific Northwest due to our moderate climate and frequent rainfall. Some PNW system owners never wash their panels. I f PV systems are located in high pollen or dusty areas, we suggest washing them off with a hose after late springtime. Wash the panels in the early morning, late afternoon or on a cloudy day when temperatures are cooler to avoid abrupt temperature changes to the glass. Do not use soapy water to aid in cleaning as the chemicals can damage the sealant on the edges of the solar panels.

Ideally, use deionized water and a microfiber towel. If your system is not easy to reach with a hose, we suggest contacting a window washer in your area familiar with cleaning solar panels. Never walk on solar panels as this will damage them.

How long do solar panels last?

The solar panels we sell and install typically come with a 90%, 25 year manufacturer’s Performance Warranty. (A 400 watt solar panel should still produce 360 watts at Standard Test Conditions [STC] in 25 years.) Given this slow degradation rate, the expectation is that the panels’ usable lifespan will be 30 to 40 years.

How long do microinverters, string inverters and dc optimizers last?

The microinverters and dc optimizers we sell typically come with a manufacturer’s 25 year Performance Warranty which we match with our industry leading 25 year PSS Workmanship Warranty. String inverters typically come with a 10 year warranty, again, matched by our PSS Workmanship Warranty.  

Do solar panels produce electricity even when it’s cloudy?

Yes, solar panels produce electricity on cloudy days. Depending on the cloud cover and solar panel, the efficiency can drop to 10 to 25% of the output of a sunny day.  Fortunately, here in the PNW, we get some of the best solar conditions in the country during the summer with our long 16 hour days and moderate temperatures. 

What happens when the grid’s power goes out?

If you have solar BUT NOT battery backup, you will lose power when the grid goes out, even if it’s daytime. This is a safety measure so that utility linemen do not get shocked by electricity being back fed into their grid by solar when trying to make repairs.  If you have solar AND batteries, an almost instantaneous transfer occurs when a smart controller recognizes the lack of grid electricity. The house isolates itself from the rest of the utility grid and begins to discharge electricity from the batteries to your home’s electrical loads, like lighting, refrigerators, electric stovetop, etc…  In this case, your solar PV system remains active and will either power the home or replenish discharged electricity from your batteries – during daylight hours. 

What kind of disruption at my house during an installation?

We do our best to minimize any disruption to your household during your solar installation. We’re typically able to install the entire system in a day or two. Most of our work occurs outside the home but we do need some access to your electrical panel. Our crews work Monday through Thursday 7AM to 4PM and our Project Managers plan ahead with you to find ways to mitigate disruptions.  

Does the utility pay me for electricity?

No. You do not get paid for your electricity by your utility in Washington state. Previous incentive programs did pay for electrical generation, however those programs have been closed to enrollment for years. Utilities may agree to an interconnection agreement with you such as Net Metering but that is a 1-1 exchange of kilowatt hour credits and not a payment.

Where are your solar panels manufactured?

We purchase solar panels brands from several US and overseas manufacturers and we always include the most updated brands, model/wattage and origin of manufacture in our solar proposals. For those interested in buying locally, we sell Made in Washington Silfab Solar. We are constantly reviewing solar panel options to find the right combination of value and reliability.  

Will I still get an electric bill?

You will most likely still have a minimal electric bill, for base service charges. These are the fees your utility needs to pay for billing and customer service. If we’re able to design a net-zero PV system, you won’t be paying for any electricity, just for the costs associated with keeping the grid running which varies for each utility. 

Will I still be connected to the utility?

Yes, you will still be connected to your utility. We do not install off-grid solar. 

Do roofs have to be engineered for solar?

Typically, no. Most roofs use 2×6 or larger rafters which can easily support a solar PV system. If your roof is older and supported by 2×4 rafters, we may need to add some supports. We are cautious and we’ll ask for more information if we’re not certain about the suitability of a roof for solar.  

What is a smart electrical panel? (SPAN)

A smart electrical panel is an advanced version of a traditional electrical panel with integrated smart technology. It allows for more efficient control, monitoring, and management of a home’s electrical system. Here are some key features:

Energy Monitoring: Smart panels provide real-time data on energy consumption for each circuit in your home.

Remote Access: Homeowners can control and monitor their electrical system remotely using a smartphone app.

Load Management: The panel can manage electrical loads by turning circuits on or off to optimize energy usage, especially during peak demand times.

Integration with Renewable Energy: Smart panels work well with solar and battery systems, allowing homeowners to make the most of their renewable energy sources.

Customization and Scheduling: Users can prioritize which circuits stay on during an outage and schedule operations based on their energy needs and preferences.

In essence, smart electrical panels offer a level of customization and control that traditional panels do not, making them an ideal choice for modern, energy-efficient homes.

Puget Sound Solar is a certified SPAN smart electrical panel installer.

Selecting an Installer

How to select a solar installer?

There are many ways to decide upon what solar installer is best for you. Our top two suggestions are to 1) get multiple quotes and 2) get quotes from WASEIA, (Washington Solar Energy Industries Association) members. Some other considerations …

How long has the solar company been in business? We suggest selecting a company in business for 10 years or more. (We’ve been in business since 2001!)

Are they a local, regional or national solar installer? Our experience shows us that local installers tend to provide the best value and quality of work. They are familiar with local building and electrical codes and inspectors, permit review processes and are invested in being a good community member.

Has the installer been involved in any solar advocacy or public policy work and are they familiar with the ever changing landscape of national and local incentives?

Find out if the solar installer subcontracts any of its work. If problems arise down the road, you only want to make one phone call or email to get something fixed. 

It is important to do some research about the companies you are considering by looking them up online and checking reviews from multiple sources. We suggest checking Google and Yelp reviews as well as looking for complaints (not just ratings) on the Better Business Bureau website. If you cannot find a company on BBB, look up their hometown. Oftentimes regional and national companies don’t have local BBB review and complaint pages. 

Having NABCEP, (North American Board Certified Energy Practitioner) certified staff members is is a positive indicator  

Be sure to compare solar installer Workmanship Warranties. Puget Sound Solar offers an industry best 25 year Workmanship Warranty to match our products 25 year  Performance Warranty. 

Also compare Performance Guarantees. We offer a 10 year Performance Guarantee.

Do you use any subcontractors to do the work?

No. Puget Sound Solar does not use subcontractors. Our team includes salespeople, installers, electricians, project managers, permit technicians and service technicians  who all work together to build great solar projects we can support with excellent customer service. We have some of the most experienced employees in the industry.

Do you sell to DIYers?

No. We only sell turnkey solar PV systems. Fire Mountain Solar in Mount Vernon does sell to and work with DIYers. 

How do I compare solar quotes?

There are different kinds of “values” to consider when evaluating solar quotes, including the equipment and installer. This is not an exhaustive list but something to get you started. 

You should see equipment specific, model #’s, wattage and efficiency ratings and country of origin. For example, a REC 410 watt, 22.2% efficient solar panel from Singapore. An Enphase IQ8A microinverter. Do not settle for “Tier 1” panels as you do not know what you will be receiving. Efficiencies, degradation rate and warranty are important considerations. 

You should see production estimates such as kWh/yr for the entire system. For example this system will produce 4500 kWh/yr (4500 kilowatt hours per year). Ideally, you can match your system’s annual solar PV production to your annual electrical consumption to achieve “net zero” status. The solar quote should include an estimation about how much of your electric bill solar can offset. 

Compare equipment Performance Warranties which can vary from 10 to 25 years on solar panels and micro inverters. We suggest only selecting equipment with a warranty of 25 years or more.

Solar quotes should have a clear system price without any consideration of financial incentives. 

Dollars per watt is commonly used to compare solar equipment or entire installation costs, but it shouldn’t be the only value you consider. Installing a poor quality solar panel with a bad warranty will cost you a lot more in the long run with service calls and replacement costs.

You should see line items showcasing financial benefits such as Washington’s Sales Tax Exemption and the 30% Federal Tax Credit. There should also be disclaimers about the 30% Federal Tax Credit to ensure people understand the eligibility criteria.

Another value that should be called out in the solar proposal is the value of Net Metering – your savings from producing and banking kWh credits with your utility in summer for use in winter. That value should only escalate over time as utility electrical rates are escalating at a rate of about 5% per year.  Our solar proposals include the preceding items and more. You can check out a sample quote or fill out our contact form to get a free custom solar quote.  

Why work with Puget Sound Solar?

We’re locally owned and we were established in 2001 making us the most experienced solar installation company in the Pacific Northwest region. We are ethical and feel we offer the best combination of competitive pricing for our services. We offer an industry best 25 year Workmanship Warranty, a 10 year Performance Guarantee and a 10 year Labor Warranty, all giving you peace of mind.

Who is WASEIA? Why is it important?

The Washington Solar Energy Industries Association , (WASEIA), formerly known as Solar Installers of Washington (SIW), is a professional trade association established to be a unified voice for the common business interests of its members, particularly related to public policy, legislation, and governmental relations. WASEIA educates legislators and regulators while promoting public understanding about the impacts of policies related to solar energy in the State of Washington.

Are you licensed, bonded and insured?

Yes. Puget Sound Solar’s General Contractor license is PUGETSS932MU and our General Electrical Contractor license is PUGETSS920RH. We can provide bonding and insurance information on request. 

What is Net Metering?

Net Metering, established in 1996 and extended in 2019, allows energy exchange with utilities at retail rates, crediting excess production. In Seattle, solar excess in summer is banked for winter, with the fiscal year ending in April, when unused credits are forfeited to prevent exceeding annual consumption. The program’s threshold was increased in 2019, ensuring broader availability. It applies to PV systems up to 100 kW, though Seattle City Light allows larger systems for commercial use under a different rate. As solar adoption grows, new models for grid interconnection and self-consumption are anticipated to emerge.

A Downloadable Tip Sheet

For Architects, Builders and Designers considering solar.

Rough In Tip Sheet​

An example of a rough in tip sheet with resources.​