Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a solar power system cost?
The answer to this question depends on your current energy use, your energy goals, the location of the proposed system and several other factors. The "My Solar Estimator" website can provide you with a reasonable approximation of expected upfront cost. For a more detailed and accurate estimate, please contact Full Spectrum Solar to arrange for a preliminary site assessment.
A solar power system is a long-term investment in your home or business, protected by performance warranties as long as 25 years. A solar power system built today can continue to produce revenue long after the initial investment has been recouped. As the price of purchasing electricity or gas from your utility rises over the years, the energy produced by your solar power system will only become more valuable.
How big should a solar power system be?
This depends on your typical energy use and how much of it you wish to offset with solar power. The typical home in Wisconsin uses from 5,000 to 10,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. To offset half that power here in Wisconsin, about 18 solar panels, or 320 square feet of panel area would be required.
The size of a solar thermal system depends on the application it is being used for. A domestic water heating load for an average household can be supplemented by a system that is two panels, each panel being about 25 square feet to 40 square feet. Applications such as pool heating and winter space heating are larger loads and typically utilize two to eight panels. Commercial applications vary widely, but are often between ten and fifty panels.
Is solar electric or solar thermal right for my site? What about both?
Solar thermal is best for homes and buildings that heat a lot of water. A solar thermal array can be integrated with traditional hot water or steam space heating systems for greater efficiency. Pools and hot tubs are also good applications for solar thermal, as are homes with several children, and businesses with substantial hot water needs, such as medical facilities, restaurants and many manufacturers.
Solar electricity can be a good option for any site that has a suitable sunny place to build the array. In some instances, both technologies can be used to achieve an optimal result. The experts at Full Spectrum Solar can help decide what works best for your particular site.
How long does it take to install?
This depends primarily on the size of the array. The smallest systems we build can be completed in two days, with additional visits to inspect and commission the system. Larger systems may take many weeks to build. We work closely with our clients to find a construction schedule that works best for them.
What are the current incentives available to solar purchasers?
A federal tax credit for 30% of the cost of solar power systems is slated to be available to property owners through 2016. Various other incentives are offered by utilities, manufacturers, nonprofits and state/local government. These incentives can change quickly and are usually offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact Full Spectrum Solar to get the most up-to-date information on current incentives and rebates.
What should I do about snow on my panels?
The dark materials that make up the solar electric and solar hot water panels absorb the sun's heat. Once they start heating up, the snow will begin to melt and slide off. Several factors dictate the time required for the collectors to clear, including the angle of the collectors, the depth of snow and the intensity of sunlight. We do not recommend clearing the snow for your own personal safety, and to avoid damaging the panels.
The photos below were taken the morning of February 12, 2015. Madison received about 0.1" of snow overnight that covered this array on the front of our building. The array is at a 25° pitch and faces southeast, about 135° on the compass. As you can see, once the modules start warming up, the snow will melt and evaporate even when the temperature is in the single digits.