Frequently Asked Questions About Going Solar in Michigan
Does solar work in Michigan?
Michigan was rated 15th best in the country for return on investment but 38th for the adoption of solar. Michigan has more sunlight per year than Germany (approximately 8.5% more according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory), yet Germany leads the world in solar power produced for decades. Solar electric panels actually work better when they are cold. Michigan's latitude and climate allow for excellent solar production. Further, the Net-Metering laws in Michigan benefit solar owners, enabling solar to make good sense! This allows homeowners to offset most, if not all, of their electrical usage. Larger energy consumers, like businesses and farms, can offset the most expensive electricity they use, with solar. For 25 years (the production warranty for most solar panels) this can result in savings of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Solar works GREAT in Michigan...
What is a good location for solar?
For solar electric, the best location is one where you have unobstructed southern exposure without any shading. East and West facing roofs are good too, but require a few more panels to create the same amount of power. Michigan Solar Solutions can also install ground-mounted solar arrays. Note: Neighborhood associations often do not allow ground mount arrays.
How Much Does Solar Cost?
The cost of solar depends on several factors:
- How much electricity do you use? A family of four with all electric appliances will use more electricity than a family of two with gas appliances
- Are you trying to offset all of your electricity, so as to pay the electric company as little as possible, or just some of your electricity?
- Do you have an area for the solar panels with good sun exposure and no shading? South facing arrays will produce the most electricity, but East/West facing arrays are also good options
- Do you live in an area where you get a lot of lake-effect snow? If yes, more panels may be required to offset your energy usage
Michigan Solar Solutions will provide you with answers, free of charge, to let you know exactly what your investment will be to accomplish your goals. Contact Us for a free solar analysis.
If I can’t afford a whole solar array to offset all of my electricity now, do I have options?
Yes! Solar is modular: You can start small, and add-on when you can afford it. We suggest you start with at least an eight (8) panel system and add on from there.
Is there financing available or can I lease my solar array?
Michigan Solar Solutions is happy to discuss financing. We work with a couple of different financial companies that can provide you with multiple options. Depending on your situation, some times the payments can be lower than what you are currently paying for your monthly electricity bills. And with our financing, your bill will never increase.
Leasing is a tool that is used in other states across the U.S. However, the state laws of Michigan do not make leasing an excellent financial option. The exception to this is non-profit organizations: They can realize an annual saving for electrical usage of 20% or more through leasing programs. Contact Michigan Solar Solutions to discuss financing options for solar, or lease options for non-profit entities.
Do you offer discounts for payment in full, without using financing?
Currently, we have two discounts; customer sourced financing receives a discount. When a contractor sources financing, they pay a percentage of the job to the financial institution. This fee is passed on to the customer as a discount if they source their financing. The next discount is what is called a parts and smarts system. We will substantially discount the system if you take over some of the installation; contact us for specific details.
Do I need batteries for solar?
Most solar arrays are grid-tied, which allows you to function without batteries if you chose. This is because the arrays are connected to the public utility electrical grid. You could say, these arrays use the electric company as their batteries. This works well in Michigan because of the Net Metering Laws (See the next section for info on Net Metering.)
In some situations, solar arrays can be off-grid and use batteries. These types of systems are typically used for remote locations when it is not cost effective for the electric company to run power lines to a residence. Some customers desire a hybrid grid-tied battery backup solution, which is connected to the grid and has batteries in case of power outages.
Current battery technology is expensive. However, with evolving battery technology and prices dropping, it will make more sense in the future. Most solar arrays are forward compatible with battery systems. We recommend making your home as energy efficient as possible, installing solar and then in a few years installing battery solutions.
Michigan Solar Solutions is well versed in solar battery technology: Our staff engineer can advise you on your battery needs for off-grid or hybrid grid-tied battery systems.
If my home is more energy efficient, will solar cost me less?
Yes! There are inexpensive and straightforward steps you can take to reduce your electrical usage. The less energy you use, the less solar you will need to offset your usage. Energy efficiency is the best investment you can make to reduce your bills.
Will a solar array work with my generator?
Michigan Solar Solution’s certified Master Electricians are well versed in ensuring the solar array and your generator work effectively together.
Net Metering: Can I sell my extra power to the utility company?
In October of 2008, Michigan adopted true Net Metering Laws. This means that the utility company has to accept any electricity that you put onto the grid. When your system produces more power than you consume, digital meters will quantify inflow and outflow to and from the power grid. You will be charged only for your net consumption.
The Net Metering Laws in areas served by public utility companies (DTE and Consumers Energy) do not allow for them to "pay" you for excess electricity. Instead, excesses will be carried forward each month as a credit on your bill. Because there are fewer hours of sunlight in the winter months, those excess credits will then be used to meet your electricity needs. But the public utility companies will never "pay" customers for excesses.
In regions of Michigan that are serviced by Co-Operative Electric Companies, some have “Buy-All/Sell-All” policies that will allow customers to sell electricity to the electric company. Their rules change regularly, so it is best to contact your company and ask for their current policies.
For more information on Net Metering, click HERE.
How does solar power work?
The solar panels convert the photons from sunlight into D.C. current. In a grid-tied system, the D.C. current is converted to A.C. current with an inverter. From the inverter, the current flows into your electric panel.
Click here to watch the short video Solar Power Explained
Do solar panels work when it is cloudy?
Yes, they do. Think about the calculator on your desk that has the little solar panel in it. It has never seen the sun but works great. All solar panels need is light. When it is cloudy, the light is defused, just like household lighting. See the two photos below of Michigan Solar Solutions office in Riverdale, Michigan, and the solar inverter display, on a cloudy day in October. Notice the value under Pac [W] shows the array is still making nearly 500W of power.
Michigan Solar Solutions Riverdale, Michigan office on an overcast cloudy day in October.
Inverter Display on the Cloudy Day, proving solar works even when it is overcast.
Do Solar panels work in a blackout?
Solar panels work whenever there is light going through them. They will produce D.C. current. When the grid goes down, the inverter can no longer switch this D.C. current to grid quality A.C. power. The inverter needs the grid to have a reference to sync the D.C. current with our 60Hz A.C. waveform – 60 times every second the A.C. waveform goes up and down. When the grid is down the inverter cannot operate since it does not have a reference. To make your system work during a grid failure, you need a battery system added to it.
What about hail hitting my solar panels?
Do Solar Panels Reflect Light?
Solar Electric panels reflect very, very little light. Any reflected light is wasted power. Over the last several years, one of the technological innovations has been in laminates that pull the light in. If they reflected light they wouldn't be allowed to be at airports (they face up, not down). Denver International has one of the largest in the country.
Do solar panels create a fire hazard risk?
Crystalline solar panels are non-flammable. If placed in a fire, there are laminate layers on the panel that will melt. Many types of thin-film solar panels will burn and give off hazardous fumes. MSS does not use thin-film solar panels.
Do solar panels have a natural tendency to attract lightning strikes?
No, they do not attract lightning. Lightning is drawn to the highest items in the area. Solar arrays are often that item for the simple fact that many of them are roof installations. Rest assured we are prepared. A lightning rod or lightning arrestor system will mitigate this by placing a grounding rod above the roof surface. In the case that lightning does hit a system, it will damage the system. While this may or may not happen eventually, we have not had a system hit in eleven years regarding hundreds of systems installed.
Can I use wind power at my house or business?
Wind makes sense if you are living off-grid in Michigan, and need to keep your battery bank charged on the shortest days of the year (November through February.) Note that building and zoning codes regulate the use of wind turbines. Most municipalities require that the tower be able to drop in any direction without hitting any structure while meeting setback clauses from the municipalities. This involves property of at least 1.5 acres typically. Due to the decrease in the price of solar over the past few years, it has come out as the clear winner when it comes to a return on your investment. Solar has a 25-year production warranty with little to no maintenance requirements, where wind generators normally come with a 3-year warranty and require maintenance every couple of years.
Isn’t solar expensive?
Not as expensive as paying an ever-increasing bill every year for the rest of your life! Solar power pricing has come down significantly in the past few years, while panel efficiency has gone up. With skyrocketing electricity prices and federal incentives, renewable energy has never been cheaper, and electric rates have never been more expensive. Solar has over an 8% annual return on investment.
Basically, there are two choices – Buy your electricity from the utility company, paying more each year as rates go up, or install solar and freeze your bill. Once your solar is paid for, you can retire and never have to pay for your electrical usage again.
How long does it take to get a payback?
The average customer will see a return between six and ten years. Electric rates in Michigan increase an average of 4-6% every year. The EPA is levying penalties to utility companies that use coal. These penalties will be passed along to you. Michigan uses 15% more coal to generate our electricity than the national average, so our rates will increase by 15% more than the national average. The higher the annual rate increase, the shorter the payback period.
Can I move the system if I decide to sell my house?
While this is possible, it usually does not make financial sense. With the increased monies you receive from selling your home with solar on it you can install a new system on your new home.
How long are the warranties and what do they entail?
The company that makes our panels, SolarWorld, has been making panels since 1975. They have thirty-five-year-old panels that are still producing within factory specs.
Our solar panels have a 25-year power production guarantee, with a life expectancy of 40+ years, it should be the only system you ever buy. If your panel does not produce what it should during the 25 years, then it qualifies for a full replacement (not prorated). The panels are the item that is least likely to fail. They also have a 5-year labor warranty.
The inverter has a 12-year parts and labor warranty. If it fails, we will come out and replace it for free!
The optimizers have a 25-year parts and labor warranty. If one fails, we will come out and replace it for free!
Does the system affect the warranty on the roof?
No. For shingled roofs, we used a triple secure method to ensure there are no leaks. Our system exceeds industry standards. In the ten years, we have installed solar arrays on roofs, we have never had a roof leak. For metal roofs, we do not penetrate the roof, so the warranty is not impacted.
How do solar panels interact with homeowners insurance?
Homeowners are encouraged to notify their insurance company that they added the panels. Often insurances companies will ask how much it costs to replace a panel. Their concern is hail (see the question regarding hail above) or a neighbor kid with a rock/ball. We will replace a broken panel for one of our customers for $450 (295w) or $525 (365w).
Does the roof need replacement or any additional reinforcements added to compensate for the weight of the panels?
If a composite shingle roof is over 10 years old, we recommend it be inspected first. If it is more than 12 years old, we recommend customers replace the roof plane that will have panels on it. The whole roof does not need to be replaced. The roof planes that are in the best sun will age quicker than the sections that are not.
A home rarely needs its roof reinforced. Out of about 300 home installations done by Michigan Solar Solutions, only one needed reinforcing. A house built in the last 50 years, using trusses, will not need additional reinforcement. However, each home is unique, and each local building inspector can set their own criteria. Most solar arrays weigh less than 3 lbs. per square foot. Snow loads and wind loads need to be taken into consideration and change depending on the geographic location of the project. Examples include severe wind loads in hurricane-prone areas and extreme snow loads in the Rocky Mountains. In situations where the local building inspector is concerned about reinforcing roof structures, Michigan Solar Solutions works with a structural engineer to ensure all specifications are detailed and met.
Are there incentives for renewable energy?
There is a 30% federal tax credit (not a deduction!). The USDA Rural Development Division has 25% grants and federally backed loan guarantees. Michigan has a true Net Metering Law (check out the FAQ “Net Metering: Can I sell my extra power to the utility company?”)
What is the difference between a Tax Credit, a Refundable Tax Credit and a Tax Deduction?
A tax credit is a credit that can be applied to taxes that are owed. When the tax year is done you prepare your taxes; where it states taxes due (this is before where it asks how much you have prepaid through payroll deduction). Your tax credit will be applied to this figure. If you have prepaid your taxes through payroll deduction, then you will receive back whatever portion your credit allows.
A refundable tax credit is one that you will receive back regardless of whether you owe taxes or not. This is like the Earned Income Tax Credit – The solar credit is NOT a refundable credit. You must have a tax obligation to receive a credit against it.
A tax deduction is used to decrease your income. Once all deductions are taken, you now have your adjusted gross income.
Can I generate all my own power?
It depends on how much electricity you use and if you have enough space for the required solar panels. Given enough space, the average home can create all of their power.
Is there a way for me to monitor the production of the system?
Michigan Solar Solutions uses Solar Edge inverters on grid-tied solar arrays or Outback inverters on our off-grid arrays. Both have a web portal that enables the customer and us to monitor their array. These applications are free to our customers. Click Here to view the SolarEdge Homeowners Brochure.
What is the guarantee that I will produce solar power at the percentage you are telling me?
We have considered, and in some exceptional circumstances given, a power production guarantee. To offer this warranty, it needs to be an exception and not used as a regular selling tool. There are many concerns with this guarantee; first lenders like Mosaic will not allow us to have a guarantee on any job they fund. It causes too many issues. This is because panels can produce dramatically different amounts of power from year to year. One year we may be down 10% in production and be up 10% the next – we present the averages. With net metering, the overproduction years will bank the credits for the underperforming years.
Our guarantee (which needs to be approved by a member of management to be given) is;
Your system is guaranteed to produce 92% of our estimated figure over the first five years. If your system does not provide 92% of what we estimated, we will refund the value of the electricity it didn't produce. The average kWh cost used in refunding will be the amount we used when estimating the cost/return of your system.
When is the best time of year to have a solar array installed?
There are benefits to installing panels in early spring or at the end of the year, depending on which of the following is more relevant to you. The quickest return on investment are systems commissioned in early spring. The result is that you will see an immediate drop in your electric bill. End of the year installations allows you to take the 30% Federal Tax Credit quicker. However, there will be a partial electric bill until spring, when the system starts generating at peak capacity.
How long does the process take?
Once a person decides to “Go Solar” customers should expect a 4-6 week period for full installation and utility company connection. The majority of the wait time is due to local electrical and building permits to be issued and the utility company approvals. The actual installation will take just a few days.
How do I find out if solar is right for me . . . what is my next step?
Contact Michigan Solar Solutions and send a copy of your electric bill. For DTE and Consumers Energy, including the entire first page, showing the graph that summarizes the past 13 months. For other energy providers, we need to know the EXACT average of the past 12 months of electrical usage, in kilowatt-hours (kWh.)
Is there any maintenance on the panels or system?
Solar panels require zero maintenance. You can wash them or remove the snow if you want, but this cannot be considered maintenance since if you do not do it, your panels will be just fine.
If I want to wash my panels or remove the snow, how do I do it?
The solar panels should not be washed in the middle of hot days. The thermal shock could put micro-cracks in the crystalline wafers. These cracks will go unnoticed for years but will substantially reduce the production over time. It is best to use water without any solvents. We also suggest buying a patio broom, or a squeegee, that is solely used for this function. Wet the panels, brush lightly with the broom and respray the panels – repeat as necessary.
To remove snow, people will typically brush the snow off with the same patio broom they used to wash them. You do not have to get all the snow off. Getting the snow off that is in front of the panel and most of the snow off the panels work fine. When the sun hits the panels, and they warm up they will shed the rest of the snow – so removing it from the roof or ground in front of the panels allows the snow a place to shed.
Do you have a question that wasn't answered here? You can call and speak with us at (248) 923-3456, or fill out the form on this page and a member of our team will rah out to you soon.