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Solar FAQ

Solar FAQ

Welcome to our solar FAQ (frequently asked questions) page. You’ll find answers to some of the more basic and common questions surrounding home solar panel installation below. If you have a question that isn’t addressed here, feel free to:

  • Call us at 888.56.SOLAR
Click the “Live Chat” button at the left of your screen to chat now


General Solar Energy Questions

Can I use solar electricity without buying a solar energy system?

Yes. Solar leases and PPAs (power purchase agreements) allow homeowners to switch to solar electricity without purchasing a system. With an arrangement like this, Real Goods Solar owns the system and takes care of any maintenance and repairs. Many people prefer this because it’s simple, affordable and hassle-free.

What's the difference between a solar lease and a solar PPA?

Solar leases and PPAs are similar, but they are not the same. A PPA is an agreement to buy power (in this case, from us) at a fixed rate. A solar lease is a fixed monthly payment for having solar panels on your roof, regardless of how much power they generate.

Are solar panels right for my home?

There are several things that determine the feasibility of your home for a solar energy system.

  1. The size of your average electricity bill
  2. The size, condition, and material of your roof
  3. The amount of direct sunlight your roof receives
  4. The amount of shading your roof receives
  5. The availability of solar rebates, tax credits and incentives in your area

The best way to find out if solar is right for your home is to set up a free solar consultation with one of our professionals.

How large a solar energy system do I need?

This also depends on several things.

  1. The amount of electricity your home uses, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh)
  2. The amount of electricity use you want your system to cover
  3. Your available roof space
  4. Your budget

Sometimes it makes more financial sense to get a system that doesn’t cover 100% of your electricity use. We’ll be able to find the sweet spot where you’ll get the best financial return.

Can I get solar panels on my roof without getting a new roof first?

Yes, although if your roof is older than 12-15 years or is showing noticeable rot, it is highly recommended that you replace it first. Solar panels can work for 40 years or more, so by installing them on newer roofs you will avoid having to remove and replace them during a roof replacement. Keep in mind that if your panels are going on the roof they will actually help protect it from the elements and potentially extend its life.

What if I move in a few years?

You might be surprised to learn that’s no problem, and doesn’t prevent you from experiencing the financial benefits of solar. Numerous studies have shown that solar panels add value to your home and help it sell quicker – often in half the time. This is because homebuyers understand the importance of energy costs and will be happy to control them with solar panels.

If you have a solar lease or PPA and decide to sell your house, transferring the lease to the new homeowner is a snap. Alternatively, you can buy out the lease and roll the cost into your home’s asking price just as you would have done with a purchased system.

Where can I download the Real Goods Solar 87 Solar Myths eBook?

Right here!
Download 87 Solar Myths
8.12 MB 3866 downloads

What's the difference between a solar photovoltaic (PV) and a solar hot water (thermal) system?

A solar photovoltaic system converts sunlight directly into electricity. A solar hot water system absorbs sunlight and uses it to heat water for household use. Real Goods Solar does not install solar hot water systems, so any mention of “solar systems,” “solar panel systems,” “solar power systems,” “solar energy systems,” etc. on this website is referring to a solar photovoltaic system.

Financial Benefits of Solar Energy

Can government rebates reduce the cost of going solar?

Yes! Go to to find out what grants or incentives are available in your state.

What will it cost me to go solar?

It can range from $0 up to many thousands, and depends largely on how you’d like to go solar – with a system purchase or a power purchase agreement. Is the goal to purchase and own a system outright and stop paying electric bills, or is it simply to use solar power and reduce your electric bill? Solar will save you money, and you have a lot of flexibility with how much you pay and when. You can think of it as buying electricity upfront – the more you buy now, the more you’ll save later as utility rates continue to rise.

The other factors that affect how much going solar costs are the amount of energy you use, your roof’s orientation and shading, and the solar rebates and tax credits available in your area.

Does it make sense to wait for the cost of solar panels to fall further before installing them?

No. Photovoltaic technology is not expected to take another leap for many years. Rebates, however, can fluctuate much more rapidly, so capitalizing on those means acting now!

Technical Solar Energy Questions

What kind of maintenance will I have to perform on my solar panels?

If you go solar with our PowerSavings Plan™, none – we take care of all maintenance and repairs. And if you purchase a system, it’s not much more difficult. Solar panels have no moving parts so there’s nothing to grease or replace.

Do I need to clean my panels?

In many places, the occasional rainstorm or snow melt is all that’s needed to keep debris from becoming a problem. If your panels collect excessive debris like dust, fallen leaves, or bird droppings, we recommend hiring a qualified, licensed professional to clean your panels.

I’ve heard that the production of solar panels makes them more wasteful than efficient – is that true?

It was true when photovoltaic technology was young, and solar panels cost $40,000 per Watt and were used only on spacecrafts. Now, however, solar panels are highly efficient. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has done an impartial study on payback time for solar electric systems that concludes that rooftop systems installed under average U.S. conditions save enough resources to offset their production in three to four years. Considering most of them last 25 years or longer, it’s hard to call that wasteful.

Questions About Real Goods Solar

How do I contact the Real Goods Store in Hopland, CA?

The Real Goods store is open 10am – 6pm everyday, and is located at 13771 S. Highway 101 in Hopland, CA 95449. Contact the Store by phone at 707-472-2403.

Which states does Real Goods Solar install in?

We work in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.