What is a PV system?
A PV system is a solar-electricity system, which is technically called a photovoltaic system (PV for short); “photo” means light and “voltaic” means electricity. PV systems collect sunlight (the light from the sun, not the heat) and changes it to electricity through the photovoltaic process, during which semiconducting materials generate voltage and current when exposed to light.
How does solar energy work?
Solar panels (officially called solar modules) are made of silicon heated to extremely high temperatures and then formed into very thin wafers called solar cells. When sunlight hits a solar panel, it makes electrons in the silicon move around. These electrons flow through wires that are built into the solar panel, producing direct current (DC power) electricity. An inverter – the brains behind the operation – converts the DC power into alternating current (AC power), the standard type of current used in U.S. homes and buildings. (More about inverters below.)
What are a PV system’s components?
Basically, a solar electric system, or photovoltaics (PV for short) system, consists of a mounting system on the roof (or sometimes, ground-mounted), the solar panels (actually called solar modules) attached to the roof, and an inverter, the latter the brains of the system either located next to the utility meter on the exterior of a house or in the home's basement or garage where the electric service panel may be. The system connects to the power lines through the existing digital electric meter, enabling the power to be sent to the utility grid and the solar production to be credited.
Are we grid-tied on Long Island?
On Long Island, our systems are grid-tied, meaning they are connected to our utility grid. This enable net metering, which means the solar energy produced is sent back through the meter to the utility when not immediately used, and stored as an “energy bank” on your utility bills for use at night or days without sun. The goal is to collect enough solar production to offset electrical consumption over the course of a year. It’s a bit like the stock market, as you can’t obsess over daily results, but consider performance over the longer-term. By the way, stand-alone systems independent of the utility grid are not permitted on Long Island.
Is Long Island suited to solar?
Long Island’s abundance of natural sunshine makes it perfect to harness solar energy, and perfect for savings with solar energy because our electricity rates are the third highest in the nation. It’s the perfect combination for saving money, and of course, helping to save our planet with clean energy. (See “What's Unique About Solar on Long Island?” at bottom of our "Residential Solar" page, here
How much can solar energy save me?
Most Long Island homeowners and many building owners can save the entire cost of their current electricity bills. The specific savings amount varies because every house -- and every commercial building -- is different. Obviously, if you have sufficient roof space to fit enough solar panels to offset your full electricity consumption, you eliminate your entire current electric bills, except for a standard monthly meter/interconnection fee of about $12 or any other fees the utility may impose. You pay for the purchase of your system (we do not lease because we feel it is not best for the consumer) with the money you now pay for your electric bills, and the payback is usually just 4 ½ to 5 ½ years for a house inclusive of federal and state tax credits. (Commercial buildings vary because their tax credits and depreciation are more complex.) In short, after that brief payback you have FREE electricity for 25+ years!
Are there solar tax credits?
Yes, there are federal and New York State tax credits for solar energy. Under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the federal solar energy tax credit was increased from 26% to 30% of purchase cost, effective for 2022 through 2032. The federal credit applies to eligible taxpayers who purchase residential or commercial solar energy systems. For informational purposes, the federal solar tax credit requires IRS Form 5695 for Residential Renewable Energy Credits and IRS Form 3468 for Investment Tax Credit (commercial solar). The New York State solar tax credit is currently 25% of purchase cost up to a cap of $5,000. The NYS tax credit applies to eligible taxpayers who purchase residential solar energy systems; there is no commercial state tax credit at this time, although equipment depreciation may apply. NOTE: Please consult your own accountant or tax advisor. Built Well Solar does not provide financial or tax advice.
Why is solar especially worth it on Long Island?
You pay more, so you save more. Long Island’s electric rates are among the highest in the United States! Overall, as your electricity costs are eliminated or significantly reduced when you switch to solar energy, some experts say that the return on investment for solar on Long Island averages a whopping 20% over 25 years, or hundreds of thousands of dollars, when future rate increases and the after-tax savings are considered. This is an amazing investment return given the stock market has averaged only a 9.7% return since 1962 and money in the bank earns less than 2%. That’s why solar is the only home or building improvement that pays you back! Don’t take our word for it. Ask your financial advisor or accountant.
Are there different types of solar panels?
Yes. Most home solar panels are either monocrystalline or multicrystalline (also known as ‘polycrystalline’). The terms describe the different ways that the silicon cells in the solar panels are manufactured. Monocrystalline panels are usually black and are considered more efficient, and these are the type that Built Well Solar selects for nearly all applications. Additionally, there are different quality attributions to panels, considered Tier 1, 2 and 3, with 1 being the highest quality, which is the type Built Well Solar uses in all applications.
Are there different types of inverters?
Yes, there are basically three types of inverters – string inverters, which were once the only types made and are still sometimes used for commercial buildings; microinverters, which include electronics attached to each individual solar panel on the roof, and the most recent type, main inverters with optimizers which are essentially sensors attached to each individual panel. Both microinverters and optimizers allow each panel's production to function “optimally” on its own, rather than be impacted by others in case of shading conditions in different roof areas or at different times during the day.
What is net metering?
The connection to the grid enables “net metering,” the measuring of the amount and source of electricity being used. On Long Island, this determines whether electricity is utility provided or solar provided. When the sun shines (or even on a cloudy day when some sunlight peeks through to offer ambient light), a PV system generates solar electricity and the meter literally runs backwards because that power is fed back to the grid. At the end of a full year, a customer is billed the “net” amount of what is sent to the grid versus what is pulled from the grid. The goal is to produce enough solar electricity to match a home's electricity use for the entire year, offsetting 100% of the annual kilowatt hours used, which in general is achievable for a home suitable for solar (few if any trees or other shading) about 90% of the time, unless a home has insufficient roof space or excessively high usage. This is also achievable for most commercial buildings; again unless roof space is limited or consumption is excessive.
Do PV systems require a lot of maintenance?
Since it has no moving parts, a quality PV system properly installed by the experienced contractors at Built Well Solar requires virtually no service or maintenance. Typically, a system lasts for 25 years on average, and can operate decades longer. Also, manufacturers provide a warranty typically for 25 years on the solar panels and inverters for added peace of mind. All solar-electric (PV) systems installed by Built Well Solar are provided a free two-year warrantee on the installation, including parts, labor and materials. Extended service contracts are available, although their cost usually far exceeds any costs that may possibly apply if minor repairs arise. Solar Critter Stop is included with all new PV systems installed by Built Well Solar to protect from pigeon or squirrel issues, generally the only cause of system issues. See our "Home"page or our other webpage SolarCritterStop.com for more information about this.