For Families & Individuals

Solarize FAQ

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​Below are answers to common questions about home solar installation.


What if my roof is older?

Most installers recommend having at least 5-7 years left on the life of your shingles for solar installation.  If the roof will need to be replaced sooner than that, it is best to do it all at the same time.  In 2020 and 2021, the federal tax credit for solar can be applied to the portion of the roof replacement that supports the solar as well!  When a roof that has solar does need to be replaced, you will need to pay for the labor costs of removing and replacing the system.  

Will solar panel installation damage my roof?

​Solar panels installed properly will not damage your roof.  They will add weight to the roof, which could be a factor if you have multiple layers of shingles.  A roofer can evaluate your situation if this is the case.  One nice benefit of solar is that, as sun exposure degrades shingles over time, the panels can actually protect the shingles that they cover from degradation, extending the life of your roof.

Can I put solar panels on my garage?

Yes!  Panels that power your house can be placed on an adjacent structure such as a detached garage if this is the most suitable roof.  Another option is solar panels on a garage to power an electric vehicle or studio work space. 

What about my flat/metal/slate roof?

Flat roofs are not a problem, nor are metal roofs, usually.  Slate roofs can be more difficult.  It's best to meet with a solar installer and get recommendations based on your specific situation.  

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Are there restrictions in Historic Districts?

There are often restrictions, and this varies by municipality. Frequently, an additional permit must be submitted for projects in a Historic District to gain approval. In Ann Arbor, there are requirements such as having all-black panels and hardware.  Design guidelines can be found on the city's website, and most installers are well-versed in how to install in historic districts. 

Can solar be ground-mounted?

Yes!  Your installer can help determine the best set-up for you.  In Ann Arbor, ground mounts cannot be in the front yard, but can be in back and side yards. 

What is the average installation size?

The average residential solar array size in Michigan is approximately 5 kW.  The average array in Ann Arbor is 7.7 kW.

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Is East/West-facing solar OK?

Yes.  There is generally a reduction in panel efficiency for E/W facing panels of approximately 15%, depending on the pitch of the roof.  In the majority of cases, the financial impact to return on investment is fairly modest.  Your solar installer will help you maximize the solar potential of your installation to ensure you get the best return on investment possible.

What is the average return on investment time for solar?

The average ROI in the DTE area, given DTE's changes in rate reimbursement (inflow-outflow) as well as considering the current federal tax credits, is around 13 years.   This can vary by several years, depending on the sun exposure and facing of your roof. 


What is the average cost of putting up a solar array?

Cost depends on many factors, including how much energy you use, how much sun your roof gets, how complicated the roof is, the efficiency of the panels chosen, the type of inverter chosen, and more.  An average 7 kW system might cost around $21,000 before federal tax credits, and solarize discounts.  This could be reduced to around $14 - 15,000 with the federal tax incentive and the discounts offered through the Solarize Ann Arbor program.

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Can I get multiple quotes as part of Solarize?​

You can certainly choose to get additional bids outside the group! The group-buy you are attending is offered by the installer that was chosen by the host that formed the group, based on competitive bids.  That installer is the one offering the group-buy discount, which is possible because they are passing on the savings they will realize from volume on to the customers.  

Do all installers offer around the same price?

There is some variability in pricing, based on things such as the type of panels and inverters used by the installer, the complexity of the project (eg: trenching, multiple roof areas, EV chargers, etc), product and service warrantees offered, the size and scope of the company, and whether the installer uses temporary crews or pays full time employees with benefits and living wages.  The size of the system is also a factor, with smaller sized systems usually having higher cost per watt.  If interested, talk to you contractor to find out more about what’s included in their pricing models.  The average “price per watt” is around $3.00 in the southeast Michigan region, but the range can be anywhere from $2.70/watt to $3.80/watt for most roof-mounted systems, depending on those factors detailed above.​​​​​​

How are the Solarize installers chosen?

The City of Ann Arbor has offered participation in the program to all area solar installers who participate with Michigan S​aves​.  Michigan Saves provides vetting of contractors, including making sure licenses, registrations and insurance are up to date.  The contractors participating have all agreed to the pre-negotiated tiered discounts, and have signed on as Solarize contractors.  Then, the host of a Solarize Group obtains competitive bids from multiple participating installers, and chooses one to work with based on any number of factors, just as you would choose any contractor for your home.

Is financing available for solar?

Yes!  All Solarize installers participate with Michigan Saves, a green bank that offers low-interest financing for energy efficiency upgrades and solar.  In addition, some homeowners are taking advantage of the very low interest home equity loans currently available. 

How much can I save?

The Solarize discount can be as much as 15%, depending on the number of households moving forward and the installer chosen, and that is in addition to the federal tax credits for solar panels (26% for 2021 and 2022​).  As of December 2020, Solarize had saved Ann Arbor homeowners more than $380,000 on the upfront cost of solar.
 

What about community solar?  Is this something I can participate in?

Unfortunately, the laws in Michigan do not permit direct “community solar" where power generated in a communal area crosses property lines to power an adjacent home.  The City is exploring options to bring community solar to the DTE service territory. 

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What about Green Energy programs provided by utilities?  Are these as good as distributed solar?

Utilities are required to produce a certain amount of their energy via renewable sources, based on agreements with the MPSC.  Renewable sources of energy are now cheaper to produce than fossil fuel-based sources.  Green energy programs with utilities charge a premium for those cheaper energy sources, and they are required to use them regardless of your personal investment.  Your additional monetary contribution may, if enough others participate, build new green energy that is not already built.  Installing it on your own roof guarantees new renewable energy gets built, but if that isn't possible, participation in those programs can offer an alternative.  ​
 

What about batteries?  Do I need one?

Batteries are optional.  Your solar array is “grid-tied" most of the time, which means it feeds excess power you generate into the grid, and then you receive energy back from the grid when you are not generating (eg: nighttime).  A battery enables you to store your excess energy on site and use it later in the evening, instead of purchasing it back from the utility at a higher rate than what you sell it to them for.  In addition, a battery can act as a back-up generator, helping to power your home when the power goes out. (Your grid-tied system is automatically shut down in a power outage due to safety concerns for line workers.  If you have a battery back-up, the system switches to this in a power outage).  Finally, a battery can enable you to install a somewhat smaller solar system, as it helps you utilize more of the solar you produce, when you need it.  A battery will increase your up-front cost. 
 

Can I add to my solar system over time?

Yes.  If you anticipate adding to your system in the future (eg: to accommodate an electric vehicle purchase), make sure you discuss this with your installer so that the system can be designed to allow growth over time.


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Updated: 12/21/20​