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Solar Power

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There are basically two types of solar for residential use: Solar Electric and Solar Hot Water.

Solar Electric

Solar Electric Solar Electric, which relies on a photovoltaic technology (PV), uses a relatively large array of solar panels, either mounted on your roof or in your yard, to create electricity from the light of the sun. Integrating solar power offsets your home’s reliance on electricity produced by coal-burning or gas-fired power plants as well as reducing your exposure to escalating electricity rates.  All of the electricity you produce is used – it is either consumed by the home or it is sent back out to the grid, spinning the meter backwards.  You receive full retail credit for all the electricity that you produce (as long as the total electricity that you consume for the year exceeds the electricity you produce, which would ordinarily be the case).

Solar Hot Water

Solar Hot Water, also known as solar thermal, employs a much smaller array of collectors that use the heat from the sun to heat the water in your home. This hot water can be used for bathing, laundry, dishwashing, and other basic household uses. Solar thermal can be utilized in the summer to help heat a pool or spa. In a home with radiator heat, baseboard hot water heat, or radiant heat, a larger solar thermal system can be used in the winter to help heat your home and reduce your gas bills.

A disadvantage in our area is the combination of large trees and the low angle of the sun in the fall and winter months. With PV technology, even the slightest shadow across the panel can decrease the output at that moment. This effect can be greatly reduced by the use of micro inverters that let each panel act as a standalone system – converting the electricity from DC to AC right at the panel. Solar thermal technology can still function well with the occasional tree shadow, but does need at least 500-1000 square feet of south facing roof area with at least 5-7 hours of sun daily.

In addition to the reduced electrical, gas or oil costs to the homeowner and the increase in property value, there are many state and federal rebates and incentives that can help you offset the cost of "going solar". Below is a list of incentives and rebates available.

The economics of solar electric and solar hot water are very different. PV arrays take up more roof space and require more up-front capital outlay; out-of-pocket costs after rebates can range from $18,000 (5,000 watts) to $36,000 (10,000 watts) for a home in our area. The advantage of PV is that with the cash flows created from the combination of production based incentives (SREC’s) and cost savings, the out-of- pocked cost of a PV system can be completely paid back in 3 to 4 years. Solar Thermal systems have a much more modest price tag of between $3,500-$7,500 after rebates. The number of years to payback varies greatly depending on how many people live in the home, what type of hot water system you are replacing and what the hot water is used for, but typically ranges from 4 to 8 years.

More information and a list of qualified solar installation contractors can be found at or by calling 866-NJSMART.



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