Solar Central

For many Medford households and businesses, solar energy is an effective, efficient, and green way to power homes and buildings. Click on the questions below for more information and learn if solar could be right for you. 

If you are wondering about affording solar, be sure to read our Solar Incentives & Financing page. If you would like to know about the past Solarize Medford program, check out What was Solarize Medford? If you’re interested in the City’s solar arrays, learn more on our Municipal Solar Systems page.

If your question isn’t answered here, feel free to email us at enviro@medford.org. Whether you decide to choose solar or not, we also recommend that you check out Easy & Quick Energy Saving Tricks for more help ‘greening’ your home and saving money on your electricity bill.

Medford also has a solar ordinance, which you can learn more about here. To view the full ordinance click here.

General FAQ

There are a number of private companies in the area that will do solar surveys and/or installations. The City cannot recommend individual companies, but we strongly recommend that you get multiple quotes (at least three) for solar before installing. Putting solar on your home is a major investment and a good company will give you time to think about the proposal and will be able to supply you with local Massachusetts references

The size of your system ultimately depends on how much electricity you use, and on your roof. The company will do an assessment and look at different aspects of your site, including roof orientation, strength and shading. The size of the proposed system will depend on these factors, as well as finances.

Depending on the size and complexity of your system, a typical solar panel installation can take anywhere from 1-3 days.

Roof FAQ

Yes. Many installers are experienced with these obstacles and may be able to work around them. A professional will be able to tell you if it is possible.

If this is the case, you can still achieve significant energy savings by checking out our Go Green Residential page and Easy & Quick Energy Saving Tricks post and making the improvements recommended. Energy efficiency improvements often have a higher rate of return than the stock market!

There are many factors that contribute to a roof being qualified for solar. The ideal roof slopes towards the south, because a southern exposure will maximize the efficiency of your panels. However, if your roof is more east or west-facing, you can still get strong results. If you have a flat roof, they can also arrange your panels to maximize efficiency. Minimal shading is also a good qualifier for a solar array but some system designs can use micro-inverters to work around the shade. Finally, roof age and quality are important factors when considering a long-term solar installation. With all of these variables, the best way to know for sure if your roof is suitable for solar is to go to the professionals and sign up for a site evaluation with a local company.

Panel FAQ

In Massachusetts, basically, no maintenance is required—you can let Mother Nature and rainwater do the work. Panels are not harmed by snow, ice, or pollen, and the only place where panels need to be cleaned regularly is in California due to smog. Most companies recommend that customers do not try to clean their solar panels as it is not necessary and tampering could damage the panels.

Solar panels will not produce electricity when covered in snow. However, they have a tempered glass surface and dark color, so snow is quick to melt off them once the sun returns. This means that over the course of a year snow cover has an extremely small effect on overall production. Companies generally recommend letting snow and ice melt and fall off on its own as attempting to clear the panels could cause damage.

No. Solar electric systems are extremely rugged. They have no moving parts to wear out over time. Many solar installations have been producing energy for over thirty years, and today almost all solar panels come with a 25-year warranty. Today’s panels are designed to withstand lightning strikes, hail storms, and 100+ mile-an-hour wind.

Yes, solar panels are composed primarily of glass and aluminum. Learn more about solar panel recycling here.

Energy and Cost FAQ

On average, yes. But the great part is that while offsetting a large majority of their electricity bill, people tend to become far more aware of their energy usage, typically resulting in a lower total energy footprint.

When solar is installed in your home, the utility will also install an electric meter. During the day, when your solar electric system generates more power than you use, you send electricity back to the utility, spinning your meter backwards. At night, when you use more electricity than you produce, your meter spins forward again. At the end of the month, your electric bill becomes the net difference between your production and your consumption. It’s a clever way to “bank” electricity without needing bulky, expensive, and environmentally unfriendly battery arrays.

Aside from purchasing, leasing a system is always an option. With leasing, a third-party financing company owns your system and you pay them back on a schedule. The typical solar lease agreement lasts about 20 years. For more information on financing and incentives offered, check out our Solar Incentives & Financing page.

For a full explanation of the financing options, see our Solar Incentives & Financing page. Purchasing a system requires a decent upfront payment, however you will recoup almost half of it through tax credits and rebates. Then, through Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) and your reduced electricity bill, we estimate the return on your investment will be about 5-7 years. On the other hand, with a lease, there is no up-front cost and you will start saving money immediately. The amount that you save is dependent on the size of your system and the amount of electricity that you are using. In the purchasing model, you own the system and receive all of the incentives discussed before (SRECs, tax credits, rebates, etc.). Through a leasing model, the financing company enjoys a majority of the incentives. Because of this, we feel that, if it is a feasible option, purchasing a system is a better investment.

You have three options. First, you can renew the lease, usually in 5-year increments. Second, the leasing company will come and take the system off the roof at no charge. Third, the leasing company will sell you the system at fair market value. Realistically, that value will be low, not because the system is of low value in 20 years, but because it is more cost-effective for the leasing company to sell the system to the customer at a dramatically discounted rate than it is for them to come to remove it from the roof.

Unfortunately, no. The home must be your main or primary residence to receive the federal tax credit. However, the rebate and SREC incentives do apply, making solar on your second home an attractive option.

A study published by the Appraisal Institute shows that for every utility bill dollar saved due to an energy improvement, you gain $20 in property value. This basically says that if you were to install a solar system that saves $1,000 per year in utility costs, you can increase the value of your home by $20,000. Additionally, the US Department of Energy found that even in soft housing markets, a home with solar will sell in about half the time as one without.

If the grid goes down, then your solar system will shut off as well. This is mandated for the safety of electrical workers. Systems can be wired with a backup generator in mind so that it can co-exist with solar. Recent years have also seen improvements in battery technology and many electric batteries can be charged by your solar system to ensure that your home is powered in the case of blackouts. When power is restored, your inverter will automatically reconnect and synchronize to the grid and your PV system will come back on.