What you need to know before installing solar panels on your roof

There is a growing interest in residential solar panels among homeowners across the country and in Pierce County. Installing solar panels on your roof generates electricity that can be used to power your home, but there are several factors to consider before making an investment.  

Are rooftop solar panels a cost-effective choice? 

Cost effective means different things to different people, but most hope that their rooftop solar panels will pay for themselves over time. We offer a solar investment application on our website called The Wattplan Solar Estimator through an independent third party to help you make informed decisions about investing in roof top  solar panels. Read more about getting started here. 

What should I consider before investing in rooftop solar panels? 

Seek advice to help you make an educated choice before installing rooftop solar panels. As with any home improvement project, your ultimate success depends on the installer you choose. We recommend that you work with a reputable solar installer who is licensed, bonded, and insured, and that you seek more than one bid. It is a good idea to request references, and check online reviews and comments. Make sure you have the correct permits for your area. In Tacoma, a building permit is required from Planning and Development Services. Learn more here.

Other items to consider: 

  • The condition of your home and roof. When was the last time your roof was replaced or repaired? The method of mounting solar roof panels can also impact roof warranties and home insurance policies. 
  • Maintenance. Rooftop solar panels require ongoing maintenance. Ask your solar installer about the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and take those costs into consideration when selecting your system. 
  • Panel location. It’s important that your rooftop solar panels receive the greatest amount of sunlight. Consider factors that will impact the sun’s ability to shine on the panels, including shade from obstructions such as trees, the angle of the panels, and the direction of the panels (western and southern exposures work best). 
  • Homeowner’s Association (HOA) rules. Your HOA rules may affect the rooftop solar panels you can select, buy, and install. Review your plans with your HOA before choosing, buying, and installing your rooftop solar panels.  

How many rooftop solar panels should I install? 

Three factors affect the size of your rooftop solar panels – your electricity use, space availability (1 kW of solar panels requires about 80 square feet of space), and your budget. At the end of the year, Tacoma Power credits  you for any excess power produced. The typical electrically home in Tacoma Power’s service area uses about 12,000+ kWh each year. Ultimately, the contractor you select should help you size your array of rooftop solar panels. Read more about installation and operation here. 

How do I connect my solar power system to the Tacoma Power grid? 

Before installing your rooftop solar panels, ensure your contractor submits a Tacoma Power Solar Application and Interconnection Agreement online, and all the supporting documentation. You will also need to apply for an electrical permit from Tacoma Power before installing your roof top solar panels. Check with your city or jurisdiction to determine whether you need a building permit. Call 253-502-8363 or email BizRebates@CityofTacoma.org for more information. You can read more about connecting to our grid here. 

Will I still get an electricity bill from Tacoma Public Utilities after my rooftop solar panels are installed and operating? 

Yes, you will get an electricity bill from Tacoma Public Utilities as long as your home remains connected to the Tacoma Power grid. You will also be responsible for paying a service charge (like all customers) that covers the costs for your electric meter, the electricity supplied by Tacoma Power, billing, and distribution facilities. 

How much will Tacoma Power pay or credit my utility bill for excess solar power? 

For a set of roof top solar panels less than 100 kW, Tacoma Power will credit your TPU account at our retail power rate, which is set by the Tacoma Municipal Code TMB 12.06.215. 

Contact our solar experts by emailing BizRebates@cityoftacoma.org or calling 253-502-8363. Learn more about Tacoma Power’s solar and net metering program and explore additional frequently asked questions at MyTPU.org/Solar 

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