Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What’s the difference between the cost of solar power and the cost of electricity from the utility company?

A: The utility company is constantly working to maintain everything necessary to get coal power to your home. We don’t want to map out that extensive process or explain the transportation element. But let’s just say it’s extensive and ongoing. For example, all the equipment that gets ruined, often causing power outages during storms, needs someone to pay to fix it. Everyone down the line pays. With solar, you have the equipment collecting power from the sun and either being used or stored on site. No power lines are needed to carry it down the road. You have lines from the panels to your breaker box. It’s simple, clean, reliable, and doesn’t require you to pay for anything you don’t own. Without batteries to store excess, a grid-tie system will turn your meter backwards. Yes, you get credit for excess because your neighbors will use your solar power down the line.

Q: What are typical annual increases with utility companies?

A: Some electric companies publish that information on their websites. You may need to call for the information. If you have a few years’ worth of bills stashed in a file cabinet, pull them out and look them over. Solar offers you a lot of avoided costs when you consider taxes and other fees your current utility company charges.

Q: Is there enough sunshine to benefit from solar?

A: There is plenty of sun exposure for anyone to let the sun power them 100%. If you’re skeptical, schedule a free quote to look at real numbers for your location. Our programs analyze a spectrum of variables, such as latitude and longitude, historical weather patterns, and roof angle. You’ll be looking at a scientific prediction, not a lofty guess.

Q: Can everyone go off-grid?

A: Not everyone wants to pay for that degree of battery backup. Battery banks are sized according to usage, and scaled to cover however many days the customer wants “covered” should the sun be shaded by thick clouds for consecutive days. Amperage and voltage are also a big factor in sizing off-grid systems. That makes not only your consumption habits affect the success of off-grid, but also hard start up consumers (such as air conditioning and power tools).

Grid-tie is easier because you know what you will make in solar power, and you know (from history) what you have been using from the grid. It’s pretty basic math. When the sun is shining, you’re collecting power. The meter will run backwards when you produce more than you use. Staying tied to the grid gives you a place to put extra power from the solar you don’t use right away (like battery storage, you will essentially trade/sell the excess to them because your neighbors buy that power from the utility company down the line).

If you want to go off-grid, we’ll be honest as to whether that’s going to work out the way you need it to. Off-grid always requires a certain level of awareness to power consumption, and reevaluated should you wish to add more to your load (new equipment, remodeling, etc).

Q: What advice do you have for someone who is building a new structure and wants solar on it?

A: First and foremost, call us. This is not an exhaustive list. It’s more of an eye-opener to those who think they can just call us when they’re done building. There are many things you can do to maximize your production when you’re not just installing on a pre-built structure…

When designing the roof: add 5 pounds per square foot above what is required by building code.

A 6/12 roof angle is ideal (that’s close to a 30 degree angle).

South is an ideal direction to face the array for anyone in the northern hemisphere. This increases the production by 15% over east and west facing options.

Roofing material: If you use a metal roof with a standing seam we can do a non-penetration style roof mounting system.

Q: Is it worth it to clear the snow off the panels?

A: Because the panels are warm during daylight/production hours, a light snow isn’t likely to stick unless it happened overnight. But yes, clearing snow off can be the difference between them producing nothing (when they’re buried deep and it’s overcast) to running all your house’s lights for free (which can happen in spite of some ice stuck to the panels and clouds blocking the sun).

Q: How does the tax credit work?

A: The tax credit was recently reduced. We recommend you take advantage of it while it’s here. Unless you’re tax exempt for the rest of your life, then you will get a tax credit based on the total bill.

Need a tree trimmed or removed to get proper sun exposure to the panels? Need a new roof before you install the panels? If it’s done at the time of the solar installation and is on our bill with the solar, the tax credit will apply to those expenses too.

You will need to first turn in your “paid in full” receipt from us to your accountant. Talk with your accountant, they will know how many years you can go back (we have had customers report getting a check in the mail for taxes paid from a few years prior to the solar install).

Your solar tax credit will roll over until you can use it. That means you use what you can each year, and the remainder rolls over indefinitely until you’re able to use it. The roll over element isn’t going away. The tax credit itself is going away.

Q: What about non-profits:

A: Non-profits don’t pay taxes, so the tax credit does not apply to them. But there are PPA options for them. A PPA buys and owns the system and gains the tax credit. They then sell the system back to you after several years – because they’re not interested in owning the system, just the tax credit. This is a great way for a non-profit to have an additional discount to their system price. We warn you to look into the PPA you plan to work with and make sure that it will be in your best interest. Some are ripping off the non-profits, rather than benefitting from the dynamics of the tax credit. We suggest you compare multiple and do your research before using this method.

Q: What is the benefit from buying now (with a loan) over a year from now when you have saved more money to put down on the loan?

A: The sooner you make your own energy, the sooner you stop paying someone else to own the power plant. Ask yourself “how much will I pay the utility company in electricity this next year?” That’s the number of dollars going down the toilet if you wait. A lot of people are financing their system and then pay the loan off at the same rate they are saving in avoided utility bills. These smart spenders don’t have to come up with extra money each month because their loan payment is covered by their savings on their electrical bill. They will eventually pay off the equipment and no longer have that bill.

Another reason is to have the best chance at incentive options to help you pay for that system. Once state quotas are met, incentives will go away. Waiting is risky when you understand why incentives are there in the first place.

The real question is: Why would you wait?

Q: What do I need to have power during utility power outages if I purchase a grid-tie solar system?

A: You’ll need a grid-tie solar system fitted with a battery or generator for backup. Without a place to store the power or a generator to replace it, your lights will go out with the rest of the neighborhood. But with the right equipment, your lights can certainly stay on. We are a Generac Generator distributor. We can set up anyone – with or without solar – to keep their lights on with a generator for backup. The amount of power you want available during a power outage and your budget will be key in making the right purchase for your home or business.

Q: What’s a Reap Grant?

A: The Reap Grant is funding available to farmers and small business owners. It gives you up to 25% of the cost after the tax credit. You can only apply once, and it’s not an easy grant to write. You’re welcome to hire anyone you’d like to do that for you. We can also recommend a company that our past customers have had great success working with if you need suggestions.

Q: What advice do you have for someone financing solar?

A: Let our team know what you’re looking for in a loan. While everyone likes the entire list, you’ll need to prioritize the following: Zero $ down, deferred initial payment, low interest rate, and lowest possible monthly payment. Lenders will then run your quote and financial data to see what you qualify for. The loan will be directly between you and the lender. We are just there to help connect you and help you keep them moving forward with whatever they need to process your loan.

Q:What does it cost to install solar on a 2,000 square foot home?

A: There is no way to accurately answer this question. Too many variables come into play.

Every variable that affects your current energy bill will change that price for you. Rather than going by square footage, age of the home, insulation type and thickness, type of windows, your habits of turning off lights when not needed, whether or not your exterior doors have adequate weather stripping… It’s best take the facts you can count on.

When Athena Solar gets your past 12 months of energy use in kW hours, they know exactly how to scale your system to meet your needs. It requires your use in all 4 seasons of the year. Any other way is just a guessing game.

That said, it’s very important that you let Athena Solar know if you plan to do any remodeling (in the next few months) that will affect energy consumption before they make up your bid. Installing new windows, energy efficient appliances, and switching to LED lighting can affect your bid considerably. Athena Solar can adjust your bid based on what you have now, and what you’re switching to (easy label comparison with some basic math).

Two identical homes may require completely different systems. Without the facts of your energy use, don’t bother with a guess. It won’t be anything you can base a decision on.

Q: What is required to install solar on my home?

A: Sufficient, suitable roof area or property is required to install the solar panels.

A small space inside/outside the house is needed to mount the inverter and various switches.

The inverter converts the DC electricity produced by the solar panels to the AC electricity used in the home.

Ventilation needs will be determined at the time of your physical site inspection prior to the design of your system.

Installation for a residential system requires a day or two.

Q: Why are some panels more expensive than other panels that are rated to produce the same amount of power?

A: Like anything you buy, sometimes spending a little more money will get you a higher quality product. Cost & efficiency on solar equipment can be tricky. You can get some really cheap panels that are built with low quality material and poorly assembled. Those cheap panels may offer a 25 year warranty, but their efficiency rating may only be ½ the efficiency of panels we’d recommend. We have done all that research (and already had those experiences), so what we recommend will never be those cheap and inefficient products. We sell quality and affordable options, so you don’t have the stress of cheaply made equipment.