Now is an excellent time to install a home solar power system. Although many homeowners in Oregon and Washington want to harness solar energy to power their homes, not all properties are ideal for solar panels. Even though installing a rooftop solar system can eliminate power bills for most homes, some just aren’t well suited for on-site clean energy production.
When we evaluate the solar energy potential of a home or business, there are certain things that we look for. Let’s explore this topic so you know if your home or business is suitable for generating solar power.
Considerations Before Installing Solar Panels in OR & WA
There are several critical considerations before installing a home solar power system. These are the factors we commonly evaluate when determining the solar energy potential of a home.
Condition of the Roof
We consider the condition of your home’s roof to determine if it is structurally sound and suitable for solar energy panels. If your roof is in fair or poor condition, we recommend making needed repairs or re-roofing your home first.
Metal roofs and solar PV panels are an excellent combination because the design life of a metal roof is 40 to 70 years. The solar energy systems we install can easily last 25 to 30 or more years, so the lifespan of a metal roof is ideal.
The Smart Solar Energy team assesses the orientation of your roof. Although south-facing roofs are ideal for generating solar power in the Pacific Northwest, east and west-facing roofs are adequate. Whereas an east-facing roof will produce more solar electricity in the morning, a west-facing roof will have more afternoon solar energy generation.
If buildings or trees shade your home’s roof, it might not be a good candidate for a solar energy system. A little early morning or late afternoon shade won’t significantly impact your solar power production, but significant midday shading will.
The sun’s path varies seasonally, so the impacts of shading can also vary. For example, the sun is higher in the sky during the summer than during the winter months. So, a tree may shade your roof in the winter, but not in the summer.
During our proprietary on-site solar audit, a Smart Solar Energy engineer can determine if your roof is heavily shaded. In some cases, trimming a tree or two can significantly increase the output of your PV panels. We also recommend being mindful of where you plant trees near your home after installing solar. Although trees on the north side of your home won’t impact solar electricity production in the Northwest, trees on the east, south, and west sides may.
Home Solar System Financing
A solar loan may be a good solution if you don’t have the funds available to purchase a solar energy system. You can pay the solar payments with utility bill savings and enjoy many years of free solar energy production after paying off the solar loan.
Smart Solar Energy partners with various credit unions in Oregon and Washington to offer affordable solar financing options to our customers. Speak to a member of our team to learn more.
Solar Power Incentives
A 30% federal solar tax credit is available for residential and commercial solar energy systems. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar credit toward federal income taxes, and we recommend speaking with a tax expert to ensure you can use the solar tax credit. Keep in mind that you must purchase your solar system and not enter a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) to qualify.
Also, Oregon residents may qualify for up to $5,000 in solar rebates for a home solar power system through the Oregon Department of Energy. If you install a solar system with batteries, Oregon households can qualify for up to $7,500 in solar energy rebates. Speak with a member of the Smart Solar Energy team to determine how much you can get in solar rebates from the State of Oregon.
Solar Panel System Sizing
Ideally, your rooftop solar energy panels can produce all the electricity your house consumes, making your home net zero. That said, you might be limited by your available roof space for your solar project. If your house has a lot of skylights, dormers, or other obstructions, it will limit where you can mount your solar panels.
Home Electricity Use
We start by analyzing your historical electricity use to size your solar energy system. We typically look at a year or more of power bills to determine how much electricity you need. If there are easy ways to decrease your home electricity consumption, now is a good time to get started. For example, many older refrigerators can hog energy.
Oregon and Washington have excellent net metering billing programs, allowing you to get solar credits on your power bills for surplus solar energy you send back to the electric grid. Numerous investor-owned utility companies and electrical cooperatives offer net metering throughout Oregon and Washington. This includes Pacific Power, Puget Sound Energy, Avista, and Seattle City Light in Washington and Pacific Power, Portland Gas & Electric, and Clark PUD.
Local Regulations & Solar Permits
Solar installers must pull a permit and adhere to local regulations, including building and electrical codes. If your solar panel system isn’t properly permitted, you could get fined or required to remove it.
Smart Solar Energy takes care of the solar permitting process on our customer’s behalf. We want to make it easy for our customers to go solar and save on utility bills. We have extensive experience working with local authorities having jurisdiction (AJHs).
Maintenance & Solar System Monitoring
The Smart Solar Energy team provides a home solar energy monitoring system with every project. It provides historical and real-time solar electricity generation data, so you know exactly how much electricity your solar panels produce.
If there is an issue with your solar energy system, your monitoring system is helpful in troubleshooting. Also, Smart Solar Energy provides an industry-leading 25-year warranty on our solar installations to protect your investment.
Home Electrical Panel
If you live in a home with an old service panel or have a newer home with an undersized panel, you may need to upgrade it before going solar. A big advantage of doing it with your solar installation is that it can qualify for the 30% solar tax credit, which can significantly reduce the cost of your solar project.
Signs that you need to replace your electrical service panel are:
- Frequently tripped breakers (could also indicate that the breaker needs to be replaced and not the whole service panel)
- Flickering lights when other appliances are in use
- A burning smell or discolored outlets is a sign your service panel is getting too hot, so have an electrician assess the situation right away
Local Climate & Sunlight
Most homes in Oregon and Washington are good candidates for solar panels. Although many Oregon and Washington properties experience cloudy weather, we also have a lot of long, sunny days that are excellent for solar energy production.
We provide solar system production estimate information in our solar proposals at Smart Solar Energy. For example, if you live in Tacoma, Washington, or Portland, Oregon, we use 20 years of historical weather data when estimating your solar electricity savings.
How much solar power can I generate from my roof?
Many homeowners can generate all or most of their own home energy by going solar. The amount of solar electricity you can produce from your solar panels depends on several factors, such as the amount of available roof space, roof shading, the local climate, and the orientation of your roof.
In addition, using more efficient solar panels will increase the amount of solar power you can generate in a given area. At Smart Solar Energy, we use high-efficiency solar panels with long product warranties. Our modules produce a lot of solar electricity for decades.
Should I replace my roof before going solar?
If your roof is in good or excellent condition, re-roofing your home is probably unnecessary. However, if your roof is in fair condition, we recommend performing roof work before mounting a rooftop solar system. Your solar panel system will make it more difficult to perform roof repairs, so it’s best to handle them before going solar.
Will my homeowner’s association (HOA) allow me to install solar?
According to the Oregon Department of Energy, most HOAs support neighborhood solar projects. Also, both Oregon and Washington have solar access laws limiting an HOA’s ability to stop you from installing solar panels if it meets “applicable health and safety standards and requirements imposed by state and local permitting authorities.”
This means your solar energy installation must follow regulations under the National Electrical Code, which is already a requirement for obtaining solar permits. At Smart Solar Energy, we take great care to follow all building and electric code requirements to ensure safety and best practices. Our solar installation crews include certified electricians with extensive solar energy experience.
Are solar panels worth it in Oregon?
The State of Oregon has ambitious renewable energy goals and attractive solar rebates to encourage homeowners to install solar panels. The Oregon solar rebates can reduce the cost of installing solar panels by up to $5,000 or up to $7,500 if you install a solar battery. Also, federal solar tax credits can reduce the total solar system cost by 30%, significantly reducing the net solar system cost.
Also, Oregon has excellent net metering programs, so you can get solar credits for surplus energy you supply back to the power grid. At Smart Solar Energy, we submit all the required interconnection paperwork on behalf of our customers to simplify the process.
However, some properties do not have a good solar resource due to excessive shading or lack of available roof space. Also, we don’t usually advise renters to install a solar panel system on their homes. In such cases, joining a community solar farm might be a good option.
Are solar panels worth it in Washington state?
Many Washington homes have excellent solar energy potential. Despite the Northwest’s reputation for a cloudy climate, rooftop solar energy systems can generate 100% of a home’s electricity. Washington also has a solar sales tax exemption, saving homeowners around $2,000 when installing solar panels.
But, not all homes are well suited for solar panels. If you have excessive shade, especially in the middle of the day, going solar might not be worthwhile. A Smart Solar Energy team member can evaluate your property’s solar energy potential to determine if you have excessive shading.
Is it worth getting solar panels if I might sell my home soon?
Homes with lower energy bills are more attractive to homebuyers, so installing solar panels can significantly increase your home’s resale value. In fact, a Zillow study showed that homes with solar power systems sell for 4.1% more on average. This is an increase of over $16,000 on a home worth $400,000. Also, you can still take advantage of the solar tax credit and other incentives, even if you plan to sell.
However, leasing your solar panels instead of owning your solar system can complicate the sale. Therefore, buying your solar panels is advisable instead of leasing them or entering a PPA.
Contact Smart Solar Energy for a Free Solar Audit
The best way to learn about your property’s solar potential is to have a member of the Smart Solar Energy team conduct a solar audit. We can perform a shading analysis and determine how many solar panels you need by reviewing your historical electricity use. We have an extensive service area across Oregon and Washington, including Tigard, Salem, and Portland, Oregon and Tacoma, Battleground, and Vancouver, Washington.