Solar Frequently Asked Questions
There are two kinds of solar energy systems you can add to your home or business: solar electric and solar water heating.
A solar electric (photovoltaic) system makes electricity, which can be used by any electrical device in your house.
A solar water heating system preheats the water that goes into your existing water heater.
Does solar work in Oregon?
Yes. Northwest Oregon receives more sun than Germany, which is leading the world in its use of solar. View the 1.1 kW solar electric system at St. Helens High School.
How much does solar cost?
Solar Electric: Residential solar electric systems installed in our service area in 2015 ranged in price from $2,500 to $7,310 per kilowatt (kW) of installed capacity. Incentives and tax credits typically cover half the cost.
Solar Water Heating: A typical solar water heating system costs $6,500 to $10,000. Tax credits typically cover half the cost.
Visit Solar Estimate to calculate solar system costs and payback times. Note: The PUD’s residential electric rate is 7.19¢/kWh, so be sure to use that figure instead of the default rate in the form.
What size system do I need for my house?
Solar Electric: It depends on how much electricity you use, and how much of that use you hope to generate yourself. Our residential customers use an average of 1,100 kWh per month or 13,000 kWh per year. Your home size, heating system type, personal habits and water heating type will affect your family’s use. A typical residential system of 3 kW, with panels optimally oriented and minimum shade will produce approximately 3,000 kWh per year in our area or about 23% of the average customers use.
Solar Water Heating: Hot water is one of the largest uses of energy in your home. Residential solar water heating systems can save 2,000 to 2,800 kWh (100 to 140 therms of gas) per year. That’s 60% of the energy used to heat water in the average Oregon home. In the summer your system may provide 100% of your hot water needs. During the winter months solar will still heat your water, but not all the way to 120 degrees.
Is my location good for solar?
Solar works best on south facing roofs, though east or west oriented low-slope roofs may be suitable as well. There should be little or no shading from trees, buildings, chimneys or roof gables. Remember, locations with no shading in winter may be shaded by spring and summer foliage, and little trees will grow!
What is added to my house or building if I install solar?
Both solar water heating and solar electric systems utilize large panels that will most likely be mounted on your roof.
Photovoltaic systems require 100 square feet of space for each kW installed. Photovoltaic systems have wall-mounted inverters and two smaller disconnect switches. These can be located indoors near the breaker panel, or outdoors in a shaded location. A meter that measures the electricity generated by the system will also be installed near the inverter.
Solar water heating panels, called collectors, are 4′ x 10′. A typical system will have one or two panels. An additional 80-gallon storage tank is installed near the existing water heater. Solar water heating systems can also be used in conjunction with tankless water heaters, also called on-demand water heaters.
Can I install the system myself?
The PUD does not provide incentives for self-installed systems. You must use an eligible contractor.
What’s the payback for a solar system?
Your solar investment should add value to your home, which you may recover when you sell your home. The Appraisal Journal has estimated this added value to be 20 times the annual energy cost savings. With that assumption, a solar water heater typically adds more value to your home than your final out-of-pocket costs!
What are the benefits of investing in solar energy?
Producing your own electricity protects you from future increases in fuel and electricity prices. Solar equipment is exempt from property taxation, so installing solar increases the value of your home without increasing your property taxes.
In addition, there are many non-economic reason for making the installation of a solar system a priority. The environmental benefits of renewable energy are immediate and long-term. A solar energy system contributes to sustainable use of our natural resource for future generations.
Websites for more information: