Solar Panel Installation – Common Questions

Solar Panel Installation is a hot topic in 2021. The solar investment tax credit has been extended. Prices have come down. But, shopping for solar isn’t always easy. We know you want products that make sense: economic sense, practical sense, aesthetic sense. You want to do your part but have concerns about payback and warranties. The last thing you want is a solar system that doesn’t do what you’re told it would. You want reliable products that last a lifetime, products with long warranties, and a solar installer that you can trust.

Signing up for a solar evaluation can feel like a big step. To take some of the pressure off, we’ve compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions of 2020. Hopefully, some of the questions you have will be answered. And maybe having those answers will help you determine your next step in the solar journey.

What are the current incentives for solar?

In 2021 solar buyers will receive 26% back from their system’s full turnkey cost. Solar projects constructed in 2020, 2021, or 2022 are now eligible for the full 26% ITC.

Solar projects constructed in 2023 will be eligible for a 22% tax credit. After 2023, there will be no tax credit for residential solar panel installation. Commercial-scale solar projects will be eligible for a 10% tax credit from 2024 onwards.

In 2021 Third Sun continues to offer homeowners the option of going solar for $0 down at install. In addition to that, we are excited to offer our customers the option of going 12 months with no solar payment.

Solar stimulus? Additional incentives? Special solar incentives in Ohio? Special solar incentives in my community? Unfortunately, no. You’ve likely seen Facebook advertisements that make these claims. We aren’t fans of ads like those. We believe in relationships and want to earn your trust. Our work style is collaborative and our goal is to please you. We’ll start on the right foot by explaining all of the available solar incentives in Ohio clearly and transparently.

How Does My System Interact With the Grid?

When a solar-powered home is connected to the grid, you will store the excess power you create in the utility grid. The grid is like a big battery, which you charge when you have excess power and take energy from when you need more. In most cases, the utility company credits you for the extra power you produce (net-metering) and allows you to pull from the grid when you need it.

If I get a solar panel installation, will I sever ties with my utility?

Cutting ties with the utility company sounds so satisfying. A lot of folks come to us eager to sever their ties with the utility entirely. We get it. We really do.

The truth is that most of us are already tied in, and the efficiencies and economic benefits you get through net-metering outweigh the benefits of severing the tie completely. So, our recommendation is: always stay connected to the grid if you’re tied in now.

How am I credited for the excess power I produce?

Net-metering allows you to store the energy you produce in the electric grid in the form of credits. When you produce more energy than you need, excess electricity travels back into the power grid. Energy sent back into the grid goes to power your neighbors’ homes. The State of Ohio requires that the utility company credit you for the energy you produced and send along. These credits appear on your monthly electric bill to help you keep track.

When your solar system is producing more than the energy you are using during sunny summer months, you bank up credits. During the winter months, your home uses more energy than your solar system produces, and you use up the credits you’ve earned.

You will be charged for the energy you use from the traditional electric grid (when your solar panels aren’t producing). You can pay for that extra energy using the credits you accrue during times your solar system produces more energy than you are using.

Read more about net metering here.

What happens during a power outage?

During a blackout, the utility sends out repair crews to find and fix failure points. Linemen and women will be jeopardized if a local power generator (like a solar array) leaks power onto the grid lines. Therefore, utility rules mandate that solar arrays must automatically shut down in the event of a power outage. Solar panel installations have detectors that automatically shut down when they sense an outage to protect utility workers.

Grid-tied solar systems with battery backup are ideal for anyone with unreliable power or anyone with appliances that wish to operate when the grid is down or anyone. This type of system ensures you have reliable access to electricity. And if the grid is down for a long time, a battery tied to a solar energy system will recharge using the energy you generate on-site. Additionally, this type of system allows you to use more of the solar energy you produce, minimizing your reliance on your utility, making your home truly self-reliant.

Panel Placement

When is a roof-mount the best option?

We’ve found over the years that roof-mounted solar systems are best for most homes. Most homes have the available roof space for the solar system. The roof provides an optimal location, tilt, and surface for a solar panel installation.

When should I consider a ground-mount?

There are some excellent reasons that a homeowner may choose a ground-mounted array over a roof-mounted array. Here are a few different reasons:

  • Shade prevents the panels from receiving adequate sun exposure on the roof
  • There are too many obstructions (dormers, windows, chimneys) on the roof
  • Only the north side of the roof is unobstructed (we do not recommend installing solar on northern facing roofs!)
  • The roof is too small to accommodate a system large enough to meet the homeowner’s energy goals

Learn more about grid-mounted solar in this presentation by Solar Consultant Jamey Jones.

Planning for Solar

Do I need to get a new roof before I go solar?

The time right after a re-roofing is a supreme time to go solar.

Are you anticipating the need for a re-roof soon? We recommend you re-roof before installing your solar energy system. The recommendation we make to our customers – make sure there are at least 15 years or more of life left in your system. The cost of a de- and re-installation of your solar energy system will cut into your return on investment and lessen the payback you see on the system.

When should I reach out if I’m building a home?

If you’re building a home, check out this blog about designing a home for solar. Information from this article will help you and your builder build a house with solar in mind. It also lists other considerations to keep in mind when designing an energy-efficient home.

What happens to my solar panel installation if I move?

If you want to go solar but may move within the next 10-20 years – don’t worry! A solar panel system, on average, adds 4.1% to the average resale value. And as solar becomes increasingly popular, imagine what a differentiator providing your buyers with free electricity will be.


Can I get a check from the electric company?

Short answer – no. Any excess energy you produce will be given back to you in the form of credits on your utility bill. As of January 2021, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s rules requires utilities to provide you with energy credits for the energy you send back to the grid for you to use on future consumption of grid electricity. Not in the form of a check.

Can I build a solar farm and make money?

Ah, we hate to say “no,” but this one is a no, too. As the rules are written now, individuals cannot produce more than 120% of what they consume in a year. If you live on a big plot of land and want a really big solar panel installation, and want to sell what you don’t use to your utility for cash — It’s just not possible to do this in the state of Ohio. Maybe someday!

Choosing A Solar Installer

Third Sun Solar’s Energy Production Guarantee

Third Sun Solar offers new customers a 5-year cash back energy production guarantee with 24/7 monitoring and 100% covered maintenance.

Key benefits:

  • Our 24/7 remote monitoring systems are responsible for protecting hundreds of thousands of customers. We will know if your system is underperforming, often before you do.
  • 100% covered system maintenance for all system parts and components- including wiring and inverters.
  • Every year – if your system generates less than 95% of forecasted energy, we pay you for annual energy loss even if you experienced a bout of harsh weather!

Ohio’s Leading Solar Installer

It takes a lot to succeed in the Solar Industry for 20 years.

We are proud of the reputation we have built. We are a certified benefit corporation, Ohio’s longest-standing solar installation company, and women-owned and operated.

When you’re ready to go solar, remember to choose a quality installer that you can trust for many years to come. If you’re ready to reach us now, give us a call at 877-OWN-SOLAR or fill out the form below to start the process.

Calculating Your Return On Investment

There are a lot of variables you’ll want to consider here – your available space for solar, your annual energy use, the rate you pay for electricity, the energy output of the solar panels you choose, local weather data. Our solar experts enjoy what they do. And they enjoy helping you understand these variables and program them in a way that you understand your payback. They aren’t looking to trick you or play games. Everyone’s variables are different, which is why we offer free solar evaluations to help you understand what you’re working with. We also offer an energy production guarantee to help you feel safe about the investment you’re making.

We’ve got folks at the office dedicated to taking your call. You can talk directly to us. Go ahead – give it a try!

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Miller Prosthetics & Orthotics

Project Overview

Nancy Miller is the CEO and co-owner of Miller Prosthetics & Orthotics in Belpre, Ohio. Her business provides prosthetic and orthotic services in the Mid-Ohio Valley. They strive to return patients back to the activity level they desire from walking and moving to running, fishing, and hunting. Third Sun Solar has been proud to work with a mission-driven business, working as a force for good in the world.

The Solar Journey

As a member of the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce, Nancy first became interested in solar after hearing a presentation made by Luke Sulfridge with the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council. His presentation explained the free solar assessment process.

Nancy says “Our business, Miller Prosthetics & Orthotics, is eager to stay on the leading edge of technology. We were the first in our area to request the free solar assessment which also included a quote on the service. After the assessment, I inquired about the REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) grant process with Randel Monehemius. Mr. Monehemius is the Business Program Specialist for the Ohio State office, Rural Development of the United States Department of Agriculture. He provided a list of solar companies, and I chose Third Sun Solar for a second quote.

What was the businesses motivation for going solar?  

Nancy says: We are interested in being good stewards of our environment. Clean energy is very important, and we are always exploring new technology and looking for efficient business solutions in all areas.

The solar journey for the business was straightforward. They learned that, with the REAP grant and the Federal Tax Credit for solar, the investment in solar panels would be possible. Through the quoting process, they also learned that their location provided ample sun exposure.

An obstacle they faced when going solar? Nancy says: There were several companies out there. Each quote takes time. After researching online, I selected a few companies that were close to our location and had solid experience.

When searching for a local solar installer, Nancy paid close attention to these key elements:
  • Location of the solar company
  • Strong references
  • Experience of the contractor
  • Price of the panels and installation

These are great points for homeowners and businesses alike to keep in mind when choosing a solar installer. The physical structure of our businesses and our homes are often our most valuable assets. Choosing a solar installer to modify and upgrade these valuable assets is an important task. That is why we always encourage solar shoppers we work with to ask for references, look at experience, and make sure their solar partner will be there for them throughout the length of this long-term investment.

What has the business liked most about the solar energy system – so far?

Nancy says: “We had a very good experience from getting the information needed to apply for the REAP grant to design. Jarrod Starr was very knowledgeable about the process and materials. We also found confidence after our site visit by Adam Brown. He explained the cost and benefits about locating the panels on the roof vs our initial thought of locating on the hillside behind the building. He also helped guide us in picking out panels that would look good with our building.

We were lucky with great weather for the week of installation. Jake and his crew did a nice job and were able to install without any disruption to our day to day business.

The power company, AEP, installed the bi-directional meter within a few days of the permit and we were able to turn on the panels the next day – which we were pleased to have 100% sunshine.

With the investment in Solar, Miller Prosthetics & Orthotics is acting on their intention to be environmentally sustainable.

While offsetting 100% of their energy with renewable power, this energy is enough to annually offset:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions from 3 passenger vehicles driven for 1 year
  • CO2 Emissions from charging 1,839,656 smartphones
Talk about big energy savings!

Since our installation, we have had several comments from our patients, employees and community members on how they like our new solar panels. The Solar Edge app is a great way to get immediate feedback on how much power the panels are producing. – Nancy Miller, CEO, and co-owner of Miller Prosthetics & Orthotics.

If you are interested in learning more about solar, the REAP Grant, solar incentives, and more – reach out for a free, no-obligation solar assessment.

Halpin Plumbling

Project Overview

When Cincinnati Based Halpin Plumbing began looking for a contractor to install their first solar project, they sought an established solar installer. As a small business and contractor, they knew how important is would be to choose a contractor with expertise, many positive referrals, a longstanding legacy and who will be around for the long haul. That’s why they chose Third Sun Solar.

Baltimore ACE Hardware

Project Overview

The Baltimore ACE Hardware project in Baltimore, Ohio consists of (161) 330-watt Hanwha modules mounted on the roof of the building. This creates a total array size of 53,130 watts (53.13 kW). It’s estimated that the solar array will offset 70-80% of the electricity used annually by the facility. The system is grid-tied, making net metering possible with the local utility. Because these solar panels produce DC electric, the current passes through 4 SolarEdge inverters and is converted to AC current that is synchronized with the local utility grid.

The solar project includes a SolarEdge web-based monitoring system. This tool allows the facility to view the system performance online at any time via the web portal

Federal Hocking

Project Overview
When Federal Hocking local schools sought to make their 20-year dream of solar a reality, they first called locally owned and operated Third Sun Solar for consultation. Third Sun Solar worked with the school district for years and assisted in project development and finding a financing partner. Federal Hocking selected Third Sun Solar for our expertise in both solar project development and construction. The 700 kW solar array will offset 70% of the school’s annual energy use with renewable power.
“The message here is if we can do it, anybody can do it. This should be done everywhere. We are a small, rural district. We’re not a giant district, we don’t have a ton of money, but we can make this happen and other people can make it happen to.” – George Wood, former Federal-Hocking Local Schools Superintendent
While the financial benefits to the school are very attractive, the benefits to the local economy, like the growing number of solar jobs, are also very important. Several employees who worked on the project were students at Federal-Hocking High School and Joint Vocational School.
Project Financing:
The project is a result of an innovative approach to financing renewable energy projects offered by New Resource Solutions (NRS). NRS plays “matchmaker” to entities that want to add renewable energy as a power source with investors who see the value in smaller-scale, community-centered projects. NRS then works with both parties to see the project through development to installation.
Legal and tax structure:
The array was built and installed by a partnership consisting of the installer, Third Sun Solar, New Resource Solutions, who structured the financing and Foundation Renewable Energy Company, the system owner and operator.

Cleveland/ Cuyahoga County – Cuyahoga Animal Shelter, Medical Examiner & Harvard Garage

Project Overview

Two-hundred and twenty-two solar panels have been installed at the Animal Shelter

The Medical Examiner’s Office is currently having 488 solar panels installed. Roof repairs on the Harvard Road Garage are currently being conducted, then 1,948 panels will be installed.

All installations should be completed by Spring 2020. The solar panels are expected to yield a total of 1,147,000 kwh of energy. The panels would account for 13 percent of the total load for the Animal Shelter, three percent for the Medical Examiner’s Office and 25-30 percent for the Harvard Road Garage.

Muskingum County Library

Project Overview

Muskingum County Library went solar as part of a large-scale grant through the library system.

The Muskingum Library solar array is a 66.2 kilowatt system comprised of 192 solar panels. The Muskingum Library solar system will offset an annual equivalent of 57 Metric Tons of CO2.

Federal Solar Tax Credit: Does Re-Roofing Count?

Many homeowners consider reroofing prior to making the decision to go solar. Solar panels last for many years. They are warrantied at 25 years and often last 40+ years. Solar is often still functioning at 80% for the years following the warrantied life. Having a good roof to support the panels for their long life is vital.

The investment tax credit, otherwise known as the solar tax credit will allow you to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar system from your federal taxes.

This credit often raises a question: Can a taxpayer include the entire cost of a new roof in conjunction with the solar panels?

Upfront Tax Disclaimer

We are not tax professionals & this post does not constitute professional tax advice or guidance. We have been in the solar market for 20 years, so we are sharing our expertise. But ultimately the decision to take the cost of your re-roof on the Investment Tax Credit form is a choice between you, your family and your tax professional.

Back to the question:

Can a taxpayer include the entire cost of a new roof in conjunction with the solar panels?

The answer: No

Don’t listen to any contractor or solar installer who tells you differently. We don’t want your family to be audited by the IRS. And we especially don’t want you or your family to have to repay the ineligible tax credit, plus interest, especially when you aren’t expecting it.

Tax regulations can be tricky to understand for those of us who haven’t studied the IRS code. That’s why we’ve taken the bits only relevant to roofing and re-roofing. We take a deep dive here.

The section pertaining to eligible expenses (Sec. 25D) explicitly states:

“Qualified solar electric property costs.

Qualified solar electric property costs are costs for property that uses solar energy to generate electricity for use in your home located in the United States. No costs relating to a solar panel or other property installed as a roof (or portion thereof) will fail to qualify solely because the property constitutes a structural component of the structure on which it is installed. Some solar roofing tiles and solar roofing shingles serve the function of both traditional roofing and solar electric collectors, and thus serve functions of both solar electric generation and structural support. These solar roofing tiles and solar roofing shingles can qualify for the credit. This is in contrast to structural components such as a roof’s decking or rafters that serve only a roofing or structural function and thus do not qualify for the credit. The home doesn’t have to be your main home.”

When you go online, you’ll find different opinions interpreting the question posed. Below we’ve done some research to debunk some of the biggest arguments for including the re-roof cost when you take the solar investment tax credit.

Problem 1: The current iteration of the IRS code is not vague, but past iterations have been.

The eligible expenses section reads:

“Some solar roofing tiles and solar roofing shingles serve the function of both traditional roofing and solar electric collectors, and thus serve functions of both solar electric generation and structural support. These solar roofing tiles and solar roofing shingles can qualify for the credit. This is in contrast to structural components such as a roof’s decking or rafters that serve only a roofing or structural function and thus do not qualify for the credit.”

These sentences were not included in past versions of the code from prior years. However, they are now. The last sentence clearly states that structural components of a roof do not qualify for the solar investment tax credit.

Problem 2: Just because someone successfully claimed the tax credit for a wrong amount and didn’t get audited, doesn’t mean they were correct in doing so.

The IRS form requires no proof of purchase, receipts, contracts or invoices to prove how much you spent or what expenses were for. The form itself makes it easy to get away with anything. So, many people do. We don’t advise doing this!

Problem 3: Using the logic that “the roof supports the panels, therefore they must qualify,” doesn’t work…. your entire house could qualify then, too, right?

You can’t have a roof without a house. So could you build a house, put solar on it, and claim it all as the solar tax credit?

In Conclusion

Is the person telling you to use the solar tax credit for your roof a salesperson wanting your sale? If it’s someone who just wants a sale, this exhibits low integrity. It’s a selfish approach, and it is not based on facts. While it would be nice to be able to take the tax credit against both costs, they aren’t eligible legally. Kokosing Solar can point you to the appropriate form, but how you fill it out is between you and your tax professional. In short, we are not tax professionals and do not offer tax advice. We encourage you to speak with yours to understand how you plan to use the solar investment tax credit.

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