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Solar Energy

Frequently Asked Questions

Is my roof right for solar panels?

Solar panels function best on roofs that are:

  • flat or south facing
  • free from obstruction (vents, HVAC, etc)
  • minimally shaded and/or clear of adjacent buildings or tall trees
  • structurally sound and with a remaining life expectancy of 20 years

While the above criteria make for an ideal situation, they do not necessarily rule out other rooftop situations.

Will my system work in the winter or at night?

Your system will produce electricity during daylight hours. On particularly cloudy days or at night your solar energy system will not generate electricity and your power will be provided by the electric grid. Solar panels work best in cool, sunny weather.

Will my system require maintenance?

Once your installation is complete, there is no specific maintenance that needs to be performed by a technician or contractor. However, washing your solar panels a few times a year helps to optimize your system.

How do I wash my solar panels? Do I need special tools?

You do not need any special tools. Your solar panels can be washed with a standard garden hose. It is best to wash the panels in the morning before they are exposed to the sun, because cold water applied to hot panels has the potential to cause damage.

How long will my system last?

Generally, as a solar or photo voltaic (PV) system ages, its output decreases by about one percent each year. The majority of new solar-energy systems include a 20-year warranty for problems not related to aging.

How much electricity will my PV system generate?

A certified installer can help you configure a solar-energy system that will meet your needs. Installers will generally try and build a system to offset your annual electricity (kilowatt-hour) usage. The actual amount of electricity generated by the system at any given time depends on both the availability and intensity of the sunlight. The New York State solar map can give you an estimate of how much electricity can be generated by a solar system on your building.

What if my system produces more than I need?

Should you produce an excess of power, it will be exported back to the grid and credited to your account by Con Edison (see: Net Metering).

What is the difference between PV and solar thermal?

PV systems capture the sun's energy and create electricity. Solar thermal systems harness the sun's energy and use it as a heat source. Moreover, solar thermal is more often used in tandem with another power source or as a supplement to your heat or hot water system; typically to pre-heat water, thereby reducing the amount of fuel needed to run your boiler.

Do I need any special permits?

You will require structural and electrical permits from your local building department. You may also need approval from the local fire department.

Will my system provide emergency power?

Typical installations are unable to supply power during an outage. Learn more about solar and emergency power in NYC at Sustainable CUNY.

Where can I learn more about solar energy?

For more information on solar energy and/or a deeper analysis of whether or not residential solar is the right choice for you, check out this guidebook by the Edison Electric Institute and Louisiana State University.

For other project specific questions or concerns please contact Alison Kling at or 212-460-1297.

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