Frequently Asked Questions

So let’s start with the technical details

1What are the components of a typical solar power system?
A typical residential photovoltaic solar system (PV) has the array of solar modules, the racking system attached to the roof, which holds the modules, the electrical wires that connect the modules, and the conduit for the wires to run through down to the inverter (typically near the home's service panel). There’s also an AC disconnect, which is required by your utility company.
2What do solar energy systems look like?
Solar energy systems have a sleek, discrete appearance. As you might imagine, they’ve come a long way from the days when panels were awkwardly raised off the roof and angled to capture the most sunlight. Great leaps in efficiency and price facilitate design flexibility. We always install panels flush against the roof, unless otherwise specified.
3How do photovoltaic solar panels work?
When sunlight hits silicon (aka “solar”) panels, it jostles electrons, creating a negative charge. And voila! Electricity! Panels produce direct current (DC) electricity, with is similar to what’s used in your car. That electricity then runs through an inverter, which converts it to alternating current (AC). That’s the type of power that’s useable in your house or business. To see how a photovoltaic (PV) system works, you can check out this diagram.
4What's the different between a grid-tied and off-grid Photovoltaic (PV) system?

To say a system is “off-grid” means that it’s fully disconnected from the broader electrical grid. That’s often due to the fact that the system is positioned in a remote locations. When off-grid systems produce power during the day, they store excess power in batteries for use during the night and on cloudy days.

Then there are grid-tied systems. These types of system typically have no battery back-up. Instead, when they generate more energy than they use, they feed it back into the grid where it powers your neighbors’ home or business. This excess energy provides you with a "credit" with your utility company. During the night and on cloudy days, this credit pays for the cost of energy you do pull from the grid to power your house or business. So all the power your system generates gets used. Talk about efficiency!

Due to their excellent cost-per-kilowatt-hour performance, we generally recommend grid-tied systems. While off-grid systems may be appropriate for certain locations that lack access to power lines, the cost of the batteries generally doubles the overall cost of the system.

5How does a solar thermal system work?
A solar thermal system pumps cold water through thermal collectors, which absorb the sun’s heat. These collectors then heat the water up to between 140 and 180 degrees. When that’s done, the water is stored in tanks until you need to use it. Thermal systems are typically used for large scale businesses that consume a lot of hot water – hotels, apartment complexes, etc. Large commercial installations of solar thermal collectors is all we do at this time.

Understanding solar power cost and reliability

1Will the installation of panels damage my roof?
No.The portion of your roof that’s shaded by the array of solar panels will actually increase in lifespan. Panels protect the roof from the sun's rays and the damaging effects of wind, hail, and other debris. We ensure every roof penetration is watertight and with our 10 year warranty on labor. With over 5 years of solar panel installations, we've never had a roof leak.
2How does solar measure up to electric and gas?
Over the lifetime of a system, solar energy is now cheaper than traditional sources of electricity. Need proof? See success stories here.
3How does solar compare to other forms of alternative energy?
Solar energy systems are easily the cheapest and most convenient option for homeowners and small to medium-sized companies when you look at the lifetime cost of energy. In general, solar is much less expensive than other sustainable power sources like geothermal and biofuel. Its scale is also better suited to most consumers than alternatives like wind power, which are only right for a very particular kind of location. (I doubt you want a windmill standing in your front yard.) In our opinion, solar is the best choice for consumers who are trying to live sustainably. But we’re flexible...and happy to integrate our systems with other alternative and traditional power sources.
4Does having solar panels mean I’ll never lose power?
SMA, our inverter manufacturer and world leader in the inverter market, has developed a new inverter that that will allow you to have a secure power source directly from the sun while your power is out. This allows you to use solar power when the grid is down and the sun is shining. You can do this without batteries, and there are no extra installation costs.
5If I go solar, do I need to change my appliances?
No. Solar integrates seamlessly with existing electrical services. So you can keep your refrigerator and stove, and you don’t have to worry about blowing fuses with a teenager’s hairdryer.
6Can I afford solar for my house?
Yes! Solar energy is already less expensive over the lifetime of the system than traditional utility payments. When you add on the 30 percent federal solar Investment and the increase to your home's resale value, you'll find that solar is a great investment, whether you plan to stay or sell. You can read more about the Dollars and Sense of going solar here, including information on how we can help match you with financing that reduces the upfront cost of solar energy.

Making the most of tax credits and grants

1REAP Grant
Small businesses and agricultural producers in Virginia may qualify for the REAP Grant which could offset the cost of the array by 25%. Learn more here.
2Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit
The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is currently a 30% federal tax credit claimed against the tax liability of residential and commercial and utility investors in solar energy property. The residential ITC allows the homeowner to apply the credit to his/her personal income taxes. This credit is used when homeowners purchase solar systems outright and have them installed on their homes. In the case of the commercial credit, the business that installs, develops and/or finances the project claims the credit.
3City of Charlottesville Solar Tax Credit
The City of Charlottesville offers a tax credit for certified solar energy equipment, facilities or devices that are attached to real estate within the City of Charlottesville. The tax credit applies a portion of the total cost of the solar equipment, facilities, or devices as a credit on the real estate tax bill for 5 years. A successful application must be made to receive this tax credit.

The amount credited will be calculated by applying the current tax rate to the amount of the purchase and installation costs of the certified solar energy equipment, facilities or devices. The credit applies for five (5) years and becomes effective beginning the first day of the tax year next succeeding the certification by the division of building and life safety and will remain in effect for that tax year and the following four (4) tax years.

Example: A property is assessed at $300,000. A solar system is then installed with $10,000 of labor and purchased certified solar equipment, facilities or devices. The property’s assessed value remains $300,000.

The property owner submits the solar tax credit application and is approved. The credit amount would be equal to ($10,000 x Tax Rate) and will be applied every year for five (5) years. With a tax rate of 0.95%, the solar tax credit for this property would be: $10,000 x 0.95% = $95.00 annually ($475 in total over 5 years).

About Sigora Solar

1What kind of training do your project managers and installers have?

Sigora Solar is one of the most highly certified and experienced solar installation companies in the Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. area. We have fifteen North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioner Certifications (NABCEP), and our team takes pride in keeping all design and installation work in-house. NABCEP's certification programs are administered to the highest standards for testing and certification, and it’s the most respected, well-established, and widely recognized certification organization for North American solar professionals. The NABCEP PV Installation Professional and Solar Heating Installer Certifications have been accredited to the ISO/IEC 17024 standard by ANSI.

So how do you benefit from all this training and experience? By receiving the best PV system money can buy!

And then there's the weather

1How does cloudy weather affect the efficiency of solar panels?
Solar energy systems work reliably in any kind of weather, the sunnier the better. They don't produce well in shady conditions (hence, the name “solar.”) We can assess the sun access on your property and design systems that maximize available solar energy.
2What about durability? Can the weather damage solar panels?
Our solar panels are durable. They’re made to be completely waterproof for a minimum of forty years. As for enduring extreme weather, think about this. They’re built to withstand a Florida hurricane and a snowstorm in Buffalo. They can bear up to 30 pounds of snow per square foot and our panel manufacturers also test their durability against hail storms. They do this by firing golf ball-sized rocks of ice into their product at terminal velocity. They don't leave a scratch. Watch our own really cool test firing ice balls directly at our modules at over 300mph - video test with ice gun.