Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a solar power system cost?

This 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 up to 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 thermal right for my site?

No, it is not cost-effective to install solar thermal. Instead with recent advancements in Solar PV efficiency and reduction in cost, it is now a better finacial decision install an electric water heater and increase the size of your Solar PV system. The experts at Full Spectrum Solar can help create a system that 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 2018. 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 photovoltaic panels absorb the sun’s heat causing the snow to melt and slide off. Several factors dictate the time required for the collectors to clear, including the angle of the collectors, depth of snow and intensity of sunlight. We do not recommend clearing the snow for your own personal safety and to avoid damaging the panels. We also include a loss factor due to snow covering while designing your solar system. This means that the quoted production accounts for an average year of snow melting of its own accord on your array.

Do you offer domestic water heating?

No, we no longer offer a completely solar water heating solution.

Solar water heating systems can provide domestic hot water and contribute to space heating. However, at this time, solar water heaters are not nearly as cost effective as photovoltaic systems. The majority of homes and commercial buildings in the Madison area use natural gas or LP for heating the hot water.

The relative low cost of these fuels and the cost of installing hot water systems has pushed the return on investment out to well over 20 years. In contrast, many residential photovoltaic systems have a return on investment in the 10 year range and commercial systems in the 7 year range.

Our Solution for Domestic Water Heating

Heat pump water heaters have significantly improved in the past five years. These units draw heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to your domestic hot water. The Energy Star website has an overview of this water heating technology.

Although these do use electricity, they use a lot less than an electric resistance water heater. Adding 1.5-2 kW of capacity to your photovoltaic system will offset the electricity used by the heat pump water heater in a typical home.

For example, we had a customer that needed a new water heater. The family wanted a 2 kW photovoltaic system to offset 100% of their electrical load. We installed a heat pump water heater and an additional 2 kW of photovoltaic system (for a total of 4 kw), for less than half the cost of installing a solar domestic hot water system and backup natural gas water heater.

Still have questions?

Please contact us to discuss your solar plans and we’ll be happy to provide you with more information. Call 608-284-9495 or email info@fullspectrumsolar.com

We look forward to hearing from you. Until then, here are some basic resources to get you started.