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solar energy - frequently asked questions

How can I tell if my roof is right for solar panels?
Determine if your roof is appropriate for solar panels by considering these recommended guidelines:

  • The roof is flat or south facing
  • There are minimal roof obstructions from vent fans, HVAC, etc.
  • There is minimal or no shading from adjacent buildings or tall trees
  • The roof is structurally sound and has an expected remaining life of  20 years

If your roof fits these criteria it will be ideal for solar panels. These guidelines do not necessarily rule out other roofs.

Will my system work in the winter or at night?
If there is no available sunlight your solar-energy system will stop working – it simply becomes inactive and the power you use will be provided by the electric grid. This will happen at night as well as during particularly cloudy or stormy days. If there is sun in the winter your system will still produce electricity.

Will my system require maintenance?
Once your solar-energy system is installed there is not any specific, regular maintenance that needs to be performed. It is helpful to wash the panels a few times a year to optimize your system. The panels can be washed with a standard garden hose, but it is important to note that cold water applied to hot panels could cause damage. It is best to wash the panels in the morning before they are exposed to the sun.

How long will my system last?
As your solar PV system ages you can generally expect that the system’s output will decrease by about one percent each year. The majority of new solar-energy systems include a 20-year warranty for problems not related to aging.

Does Con Edison recommend particular vendors or equipment?
In order to obtain all of the available rebates and incentives it is necessary that you work with a NYSERDA certified installer and use specific type-tested equipment. Con Edison recommends that you choose from these lists as both the contractors and the equipment specified have been certified for our electric-service territory.

How much electricity will my PV system generate?
With the help of a certified installer you can configure a solar-energy system that – when it can operate to capacity – is rated to meet your expected needs. The actual amount of electricity the system will be able to generate at any give time is dependant primarily on the availability and intensity of sunlight – without sunlight your system is going to become inactive and will not produce any electricity; on a clear, cool sunny day your system is going to produce at its maximum.

Simply, your system should be designed to coincide with your annual usage, and, given adequate sunlight and roof size, could generate approximately the amount of electricity you require. Any excess produced will be exported back to the grid and purchased by Con Edison (see: Net Metering).

What is the difference between PV and solar thermal?
The primary difference between these technologies is the type of energy produced. Solar PV technology captures the sun’s energy and creates electricity, which can be used to power your home. Solar thermal technology does not produce electricity; it harnesses the sun’s energy as a heat source. A common application of solar thermal technology is to supplement a hot-water heater. 

What permits do I need? 
There are two permits that you will need to obtain in order to put your solar-energy system into operation. Both of them are required by the Department of Buildings. There is an electrical permit that is obtained through the Bureau of Electrical Control and a building permit that is obtained through a third-party structural engineer.

Will my system provide emergency power?
Typical installations are unable to supply power during an outage. To explore options for achieving this, read the Solar and Emergency Power FAQ.

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

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