Frequently Asked Questions

Common questions we hear when speaking to homeowners about installing solar panels, batteries, EV chargers, and roofs.

Frequently asked questions about home solar energy and solar power panels

  • How does solar power work? 

    Solar PV (photovoltaics) works by absorbing the photons within the sun’s rays and converting them into electricity in a process known as the photovoltaic effect. The solar energy that hits a solar module creates electrical charges by moving free electrons in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.

    Electricity then flows through a junction box on the backside of the module where the Direct Current (DC) power is converted to Alternating Current (AC) power now ready for household use.

    The first stop of the AC power off the roof is to power any demand from within the household. Any overage will be sent to the grid for a credit while any additional power needed will be pulled from the grid.

  • How many solar panels do I need?

    How many solar modules end up on your roof depends on a few factors. One of the first things we will want to see before we meet with you is a copy of a recent electric bill. What we want to determine is what your annual kWh usage is. From here, we can measure your roof online using the latest satellite technologies and determine how many modules we can fit. We then remove any extra modules we don’t need and aim to get you to as close to 100% offset as possible. To put simply, the number of solar panels you need is determined by your home’s usage and available roof space.

  • What is a solar inverter?

    A solar inverter is one of the most important devices within a solar electric system. A solar electric system produces DC (Direct Current) power while your house uses AC (Alternating Current) power. The inverter converts the direct current (DC) electricity produced by a solar module into alternating current (AC) electricity ready to be used by the home and electric grid. There three main types of solar inverters, microinverters, central inverters (string inverters), and power optimizers.

    A Central Inverter, or String Inverter, will have one or more inverters usually installed on the side of the house, garage, or basement near the home’s electrical panel and meter. All the power from the solar array is converted in one place. This would be the most economical option with plenty of use cases, but it has some limitations today in its single point of failure and its inability to optimize the power at the panel level.

    A Central Inverter is Optimized when each module, or every other module, is equipped with a Power Optimizer which can help regulate voltage and allow each module to operate independently. An optimized system can keep a high efficiency level and provide protection against module shading. However, the power is still collected and converted at one centralized location with a central inverter.

    Public Service Solar exclusively installs Microinverters from Enphase. In a microinverter system, each solar panel is equipped with its own inverter; turning DC power to AC power right at the source. The power then flows off the roof right into the home’s electrical panel as usable AC power. Microinverters have many advantages over traditional central inverter systems. In allowing each module to operate individually, if there is shading on one portion of the solar array, the unaffected modules in the array will remain at peak efficiency. A microinverter also eliminates a single failure point. If one microinverter were to go out of service, the rest of the system would continue to produce power. Whereas, in a central inverter system, when an inverter goes down, all the modules feeding power into that device will be out of service. In addition, microinverters from Enphase come with a 25-year warranty and panel by panel monitoring.

  • What is the ROI for solar?

    For an outright purchase of solar, a standard solar installation will meet its return on investment within approximately 5 – 8 years. From the upfront investment in year one, 30% of the system cost can be returned dollar for dollar off your income taxes. From there, expect energy savings and SRECs to make up the remainder of the savings. After the ROI has been reached, there are years of “free” power being produced by the home and years of SRECs to be collected as income.

  • Will my solar panels work if I lose power?

    For a solar electric system to produce power, the inverters must detect power from both the solar array and the grid. In the case of a grid outage, the solar inverter will not operate if it is not detecting current from the grid. Since a solar array can backfeed the grid, this serves as a protection for lineworkers.

    In order to have solar power available in the event of an outage, battery systems can be installed with a new solar array or even retrofitted onto an existing system. A battery backup system can range in capacity and a recommended solution would be based on the home’s unique energy needs.

  • What is Free Solar or $0 Down Solar?

    “Free Solar” is just solar which has been financed and paid for monthly. Most homeowners who go solar do so with a $0 money down financing option. The most common solar financing arrangements are a solar lease, solar ppa (power purchase agreement), and solar loan.

    With a solar lease or solar ppa the system is essentially rented. This can provide monthly savings and a production guarantee to the homeowner, however in a lease or ppa you do not own the system, so you may not be entitled to the SRECs or Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

    Public Service Solar recommends ownership through a solar loan. Solar loans have flexible terms ranging from 5 to 25 years, the transfer of ownership is simple, and all the SRECs and the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) belong to the homeowner.

  • How long does the solar installation process take?

    The solar installation process involves gaining the necessary municipal, state, and utility approvals. We prioritize expediting this process by completing the permitting in house and in many instances conducting the site survey even before a commitment has been made. With a township’s prompt approval of our submitted permit package, and the cooperation of the weather, we can move quickly.

    The typical solar installation itself can be completed in just one day, while some larger installations do require more time on site. While the approval process can be completed in just a couple weeks it can sometimes take four to six weeks depending on the municipality.

    Expect 2-3 months from the time you sign up for your solar installation to be completed.

  • What is the lifespan and warranty of a solar installation?

    A Public Service Solar installation is designed to be a viable energy producer for a minimum of 25-years. As a Panasonic Platinum Elite installer, we offer their exclusive AllGuard and TripleGuard Solar System Warranties. The AllGuard warranty covers product, performance, and labor for EVERVOLT series solar modules while the TripleGuard Warranty covers product, performance, and labor on the racking, and microinverters. That’s total system protection, and Public Service Solar even takes it a step further with our Lifetime Warranty on our solar workmanship. Whether it’s year 3 or year 25, Public Service Solar and Panasonic (in business since 1918) are here for you.

  • Will solar panels void my roof warranty?

    Public Service Solar is a GAF Master Elite Roofer. Our solar installations will not void your roof warranty. This is a unique claim to our company based on our expertise in the roofing industry. When it comes to your roof, we take care in protecting your home against damage and leaks and provide a lifetime warranty on our solar workmanship. Our solar modules are connected to your roof through a flashing system which creates a watertight seal between the mounting bracket for the solar modules and your shingles.

  • How much does solar cost?

    A Public Service Solar installation is always a custom job. The price you will pay for a solar installation depends on how much available space there is for the solar modules and how many we need to install in order to offset the home’s energy consumption. With that said, solar costs are calculated based on a price-per-watt (PPW) model. Public Service Solar uses only premium components in order to support our 25-year product and performance warranty and our lifetime workmanship warranty. Expect the price-per-watt to fall into a range between $2.75-$3.50/watt, a larger system will see a lower PPW due to the economics of scale. In other words, expect solar installation to start at around $20,000 and top out around $70,000.

    The great news is that this is a cost saving investment, with 30% of the system available as a dollar for dollar tax credit thanks to the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Most of our customers will actually have their solar installed with absolutely no money out of pocket. Instead choosing our competitive financing options while still experiencing long term savings by hedging against rate increases, saving off their electric bill, and collecting a tax credit and incentives.

  • What is net metering?

    Net metering is a billing mechanism which allows for unused solar production to be put back into the grid for a credit towards future grid usage. The solar powered home will pay the “net” of the home’s electric usage at the end of each month which is the balance between the electricity pulled from the grid and the electricity put back into the grid.

    For example, if it is a nice sunny day, and no one is home to use any power, your solar array will likely produce more electricity than the home needs at the time. In this case, the electricity produced by the solar panels will go through the home’s electric meter back into the grid for credits on the power bill.

    At night time, when the family is at home using electricity and the sun is down, the home will need to pull electricity from the grid, however a charge won’t occur until the bank of recorded credits has been depleted.

    Once a year, there is a “true up” event in which the bank of unused credits can be sold.

  • What are SRECs?

    SRECs stand for Solar Renewable Energy Certificates. Each time a solar array in NJ or PA produces 1,000 kWh (1 MWh) of electricity, one SREC is issued to the account holder which can be sold for cash. Unlike Net Metering, SRECs have nothing to do with how much you use or don’t use in power. It is simply an extra incentive for producing solar energy and a major financial incentive for solar producers.

    When solar is installed on the home, a revenue grade meter is installed to record solar production. Once per month, homeowners can enter the reading on the meter into an online generation portal linked to their bank account. Each time a full 1 MWh of solar production has been entered, a direct deposit is initiated.

    In NJ and PA, the SREC term is 15-years. In NJ, an SREC, now known as SREC-II, is set at a fixed price of $85. IN PA, SRECs prices can fluctuate. As of 1/24/24, the “sell now” price of a PA SREC is $31.

    At Public Service Solar, we make it easy and provide complimentary SREC account set up for our customers. This means our customers don’t worry about entering all the technical system details and rather just enter the number directly off their meter at their convenience.

  • What is the Solar Tax Credit (ITC)?

    The Investment Tax Credit (ITC), allows eligible businesses and homeowners to claim a 30% of their qualifying renewable energy investment costs as a dollar for dollar tax credit off their federal tax liability. The ITC is worth 30% for both businesses and homeowners through 2032. Qualifying investments would include solar, solar plus storage, and stand alone battery storage systems.

    For example, a homeowner invests in a new solar electric system for $50,000. In the taxable year that the system is placed in service, the homeowner is eligible for a $15,000 credit towards their federal tax liability. The credit can be used all at once or even roll over to subsequent years.

  • What happens when I sell my home?

    A solar electric system can increase the value of a home just like any home upgrade would whether it be a swimming pool or finished basement. Sellers can expect an increase in sale price due to the premium components installed and the reduction in the home’s operating costs.

  • What is the difference between a kWh and a kW?

    A kW is a measurement of raw power and defines the system size. For example, (10) 400 watt solar panels is 4,000 watts worth of power or 4 kW. While kWh is a measurement of energy over time and will define how much the system will produce. On your solar proposal you will see both a kW rating and the kWh production. The system production is influenced by several factors including roof pitch, orientation, and shading. In our service areas it is common to see a 10 kW system having a yearly kWh production of approximately 12,000 kWh. That is a 1.2 production factor. In most cases, take your system size, multiply it by 1.2, and you can find your estimated yearly production that way. Public Service Solar will clearly define the estimated production for you taking into consideration the orientation, pitch, shading, product, inverter, and weather.

  • Will solar panels increase my property taxes?

    In New Jersey, solar electric systems are exempt from increasing your property taxes. This means that solar panels can add value to your property without increasing the tax bill from your local municipality. In Pennsylvania there is not currently a property tax exemption for solar electric systems although homeowners can expect an increase in property value, tax and state incentives, along with electric savings.

  • Should solar be added to my homeowner’s insurance?

    We do recommend that you contact your insurer and add your solar installation to your policy. Although Public Service Solar provides a 25-year product and performance warranty and lifetime workmanship warranty, there can be rare instances of “force majeure” events like a fire or hurricane damage where your homeowner’s insurance will come in handy. In our experience the added premium is quite minimal if any at all.

Frequently asked questions about battery storage

  • How much can I power with my battery?

    How much your battery can power in your home depends on the kWh “capacity” of the battery unit. The battery units range in size and can also be “stackable” allowing you to connect multiple batteries together at one time. For example, The EVERVOLT home battery system from Panasonic ranges in sizes. They offer a 9 kWh unit, a 13.5 kWh unit, and an 18 kWh unit. Four 18 kWh units may be connected together for a max capacity of 72 kWh.

    For example, in your home, a 100 watt light bulb running for 10 hours will use 1 kWh. The good news for solar batteries is that they have the ability to recharge while the sun is shining allowing you to have backup power indefinitely. A best practice would be engineering a system size which allows you to power the critical loads in your home for 72 hours without the solar modules seeing sunshine. Expect to identify critical loads in the home to be selected for the battery to power in an outage. A refrigerator, lights, well pump, computer, phone, tv, electric oven and range, and microwave operating during normal daily conditions will collectively use just over 15 kWh in a day.

  • Can I get the 30% tax credit for my batteries?

    Yes, battery storage is eligible for the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. Previously, in order to be eligible for the 30% tax credit it had to be a combination of solar plus storage. Now since the IRA passed in 2022, stand alone battery storage can be eligible for the 30% ITC.

  • Can I install battery storage without solar?

    Yes, you can install batteries without solar but they will be limited to their rated capacity without an ability to recharge. Stand alone battery storage without solar will get its initial charge from the grid.

    One of the benefits of solar batteries is the ability of the solar modules to directly recharge the battery. Some battery solutions like the Encharge system from Enphase have the ability to directly power the home from with solar power, bypassing the battery altogether. This allows the battery to stay fully charged going into the night.

    In an area where a traditional gas generator is not possible due to an HOA regulation for example, battery storage can be a good option. Just be sure that you are installing a large enough battery unit or units to meet your needs and are comfortable with the fact that the battery will not recharge.

  • How much does battery storage cost?

    Like solar, the cost of battery storage can vary based on how much energy storage is needed. Batteries are scalable, meaning you can add just one for smaller applications or several for a larger use case. On average, expect a battery system to add $15,000-$30,000 to your solar energy project. From that initial investment, the project will be eligible for the Solar Tax Credit (ITC). This applies to solar plus storage projects as well as stand-alone battery projects.

    This brings the net cost to a price comparable to a fossil fuel powered generator. Some considerations when comparing the cost of a battery storage compared to traditional generators are the fuel cost needed to operate the generator as well as the yearly motor maintenance which may be required. Battery projects are eligible for solar financing projects with no issue. Many of our customers can have a solar plus battery storage system installed for no money down. The monthly payments are often attractive because of the electric savings and SREC income from the solar portion of the project.

Frequently asked questions about EV charging

  • What is Level 2 EV Charging?

    Level 2 Charging is fast charging. When purchasing an electric vehicle, a Level 1 charger will likely be supplied. A Level 1 charger simply plugs into a home’s standard 120 V outlet. A Level 1 charge can charge your EV of course, it just takes a long time. Expect a Level 1 charger to charge 5 miles of range per hour.

    Many EV owners will opt to have a Level 2 charger installed. A Level 2 charger offers much faster charging than a Level 1 with the installation of a NEMA 14-50 outlet on a 50 Amp breaker with 240 volts of power. A Level 2 charger is like having your own gas pump in your home. Compared to a Level 1, which can charge just 5 miles of range per hour, a Level 2 can deliver 20-80 miles of range per hour.

    The Level 2 NEMA 14-50 outlet can be used to plug directly into the vehicle with a Level 2 charger cord, or additional charging equipment like the Tesla Wall Connector for example can be installed with a NEMA-40 outlet in order to provide more intelligent and potentially even faster charging features.

  • How many solar panels will I need to charge my electric vehicle?

    The kWh production from a solar array needed to offset the charging of an EV depends on the EV itself and the average number of miles driven in a year. According to The Federal Highway Administration the average American drives 16,500 miles per year. A high efficiency EV will have a miles per kWh rating of 4 miles per kWh. Driven 16,500 miles per year, the EV will require an additional 4,125 kWh of either grid or solar power in a year. With 400 watt solar modules and a 1.2 production factor, it would require 9 additional solar modules. The cost savings from EV Charging with solar can be substantial. In New Jersey for example, with an average price of $.162/kWh, the vehicle that requires 4,125 kWh of energy would cost a homeowner $668/year.

  • Are there incentives available for my EV charging installation?

    An EV charging installation is not eligible for the 30% tax credit (ITC), however programs do exist to offset the costs of some EV charging features. Through the Charge Up NJ Program, certain EV chargers themselves may be eligible for a $250 savings off of approved EV charging equipment (not the installation itself). A list of the approved EV chargers can be found on the Charge Up New Jersey website. For customers in PSE&G territory, The Electric Vehicle Charging Program can provide a $1,500 bill credit to eligible customers with eligible Consumer-Side Make-Ready (CSMR) assets for the installation of an EV charger. Federally, through the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit, homeowners may be eligible for a credit worth up to $1,000 of the EV charging installation costs. None of these incentives are guaranteed and depend on program availability and eligibility and components purchased.

  • Can my EV charger be installed outside?

    Yes, most residential EV charging units are water resistant and have an outdoor rating. The NEMA-40 outlet would need an outdoor rated receptacle box and cover.

  • Are permits required for my EV charging installation?

    Yes, in most municipalities, an electrical permit is required for the electrical work needed to install the 50 amp breaker and NEMA-40 outlet. Public Service Solar will file for and pay for these permits on your behalf and even sit for the inspection.

Frequently asked questions about roofing installation and repair

  • What is the lifespan and warranty on a new roof?

    Public Service Roofing is a GAF Master Elite Roofing Installer which is a status offered to less than 2% of North American roof installers. This means that we can offer a limited lifetime (40-50 years) shingle warranty on our roofing installations using Timberline HDZ Shingles installed above Storm Guard and Deck Armor with our waterproof Cobra SnowCountry Advanced Ridge Caps. With aforementioned components, expect to enjoy your roof for 40 to 50 years.

  • How long does the roof installation process take?

    In most cases, roof work does not require any permitting or approvals which speeds up the process quite a bit compared to solar. Within the first week of signing up for a roofing project we come onsite to conduct our site survey. From there you will be on our schedule for a roof installation and you can expect 2-3 weeks from the completed site survey for us to be onsite for your installation. The actual roofing installation itself is completed on the majority of homes in just one work day.

  • How much does a new roof cost?

    For a standard new roof installation from Public Service Roofing, and without add ons, the range for a new roof can start as low as $800/square and topping out at $1,500/square In roofing, a “square” is a common term which simply stands for square yard. For the 24 square foot roof expect a range between $4,800 to $9,000. The price range can depend on whether or not additional site work is needed, the ease of installation, and what components have been selected by the homeowner. Financing is available for roofing customers with flexible terms.

  • Is the roofing installation completed by subcontractors?

    Our roofs are installed using only Public Service Roofing employees. This is an important differentiator as in many cases, the company that sells you a roof won’t actually be the ones installing it. Keeping our process totally in house allows for us to have trained and trustworthy roofers on site while maintaining full quality control from beginning to end. For your roof to see 40 + years of service, we must ensure the quality and components are of the highest standard.

  • Can I claim the 30% Solar Tax Credit on my solar and roof project?

    We do not advertise or claim that the 30% Tax Credit can be used on the roofing portion of your solar and roofing project. When you file for taxes after having installed solar you will use Tax Form 5695 in which you are asked to enter the costs associated with your solar electric system. We are not tax professionals nor do we claim to be. Consult your tax professional when filing for your Tax Credit for a professional recommendation on your unique situation.

  • How many sheets of wood are included?

    Many times, beneath a roof at the end of its lifetime can be plywood in need of replacement. To control your costs as a customer with what can’t be seen beneath the shingles, four sheets of plywood are included with your roofing project and each additional sheet is charged at $75 per sheet thereafter.

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Home solar power systems for New Jersey and Pennsylvania