Residential FAQs

Our Most Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to solar power we get a lot of questions. Here are answers to the most frequently asked and frankly the most important questions that you should know before making the switch to solar!

Important questions to ask a contractor

LightWave Solar is 100% focused on turn-key solar and battery storage system installation with over 50 full‐time employees. LightWave holds an electrical contractors license in the states of TN, MS, AR and AL.

LightWave Solar provides turn-key design and installation. This includes:

  • Site Evaluation to verify system design requirements
  • Electrical Drawings and site plans by in-house engineers
  • Utility Interconnection Application and Permitting
  • Equipment Procurement
  • Installation and Inspections
  • Grid-interconnection/Commissioning with local utility
  • Five-year Workmanship Warranty

LightWave Solar provides an accurate, fixed contract amount that is based on years of experience and site-specific information. You will not be surprised with added costs.

LightWave Solar has been installing solar PV full-time since July 2006. We helped pioneer the region’s solar industry.

LightWave Solar has designed and installed over 1,200 solar PV systems across the MidSouth and Midwest. Our projects include large commercial systems (500kW-5MW), mid-size systems (50-500kW), and over 600 residential systems ranging from 2kW to 50kW across the Tennessee Valley. LightWave Solar is responsible for the design and installation of the first solar interconnections with over 45 local power companies in the TVA region. Our longevity and local experience sets us apart from other solar contractors.

LightWave Solar has hundreds of happy solar customers and many repeat customers. Please ask us for references and contact them for their feedback. You can read our online reviews at these links:

Read our reviews on Google.

Read our reviews on SolarReviews.

LightWave Solar outlines the payment schedule before we ask you to sign a contract. Typically, we require a 25% down payment upon contract signing. Shortly thereafter, we require a 50% payment to order materials. Once the system has been installed and commissioned by the local utility, we invoice for the remaining 25%.

LightWave Solar understands that solar customers are buying production, not system size. Thus, we recommend high-performing solar panels and accurately estimate kilowatt-hour production over time. We use several production estimators including PV Watts, PV Syst, and PV Sol. Our production estimates account for shading if applicable (using Scanifly drone app), orientation, and pitch. Our estimates can be verified on-line at the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) site.

LightWave Solar has 6 NABCEP-certified Solar PV Professionals on staff, more than any other company in the region. NABCEP stands for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, and it is the gold standard for solar PV certification. NABCEP certification is earned after passing a rigorous exam covering design, installation and codes, as well as meeting experience and training requirements. Employing NABCEP-certified staff shows a deep commitment to higher standards in solar.

LightWave Solar is a Charter member of the Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association (TenneSEIA), and LightWave Solar’s President and CEO, Chris Koczaja, serves as President of TenneSEIA. TenneSEIA represents and advocates for the solar industry in Tennessee, and membership shows a commitment to the industry.

The questions we get asked the most about solar:

It’s fairly simple. Sunlight excites electrons in solar panels, and the electricity flows to an inverter where it is converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), the type of electricity our homes and businesses use. There is no net metering in the Tennessee Valley, so instead of selling your excess solar to the grid, you can store your extra solar in batteries to use at nighttime and for backup power during grid outages.

Solar and battery system size is usually determined by your home’s existing electric service, your electricity use, your available space and your budget. We will customize your system to help you reduce your consumption of grid electricity and have reliable backup power.

The cost of solar depends on many variables, but a typical residential solar + battery system cost range is $50,000-$80,000 before the 30% federal tax credit. Our turnkey price includes everything required to provide a fully installed system. Additional costs would be required for a ground-mount system, long distance ground work, concrete work, or extended travel.

Our recommended lender for residential solar projects is Clean Energy Credit Union, a not-for-profit financial services cooperative that’s focused solely on clean energy lending, including residential solar loans. Learn more about Clean Energy Credit Union here. Another good option is a home equity loan through your mortgage lender.

  • Homeowners, businesses and tax-exempt entities can claim a 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar and battery storage systems. Tax-exempt entities like nonprofits and municipalities are eligible to receive a reimbursement via direct pay for 30% of total system cost.
  • For businesses: Accelerated Depreciation, known as Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS), is a method of depreciation in which a business’s investments in solar property can be recovered through tax deductions. MACRS benefits can be taken all in the 1st year and equal about 20% of solar project costs. Taken together, tax benefits for commercial solar projects reduce costs by about 50%.
  • For eligible rural businesses: USDA offers a grant for solar systems up to 50% of project costs. LightWave Solar has grant writers on staff, and our grant approval track record is 95%. Next USDA REAP grant application deadline is October 31, 2022.

You want your roof to be in the best condition possible because the average working life span of a solar system is around 30 to 40 years. Thus, we don’t recommend installation on composition shingle roofs over 10 years old. If you are building a new house, here is guidance on building a solar-ready home.

Yes! A solar system reduces electric costs and adds security and independence which can make it a valuable asset to any homeowner. According to a 2015 Berkeley Lab report, solar (without storage) adds at least $15,000 to the value of a home. The report shows an average selling price increase of $3.75/watt ($18,750 for 4kW system). Click here to view the report summary.

Some homeowners associations have rules regarding the installation of anything on your roof or grounds. If you belong to a homeowners association, contact them and ask about neighborhood guidelines. In our experience, most homeowners associations decide in favor of solar system installations. If necessary, we can help educate your HOA on the benefits of a solar system.

It depends on your home’s existing electric service, as well as how much solar and storage you add. Generally, if your home has only one electric service panel, solar and batteries can backup your whole home. If you have more than one service panel, solar and batteries can back up part of your home. If you have two or more service panels, LightWave can move your most important circuits onto the same panel so your desired loads are backed up.

Depending on sunlight, battery charge level, and your consumption, your home will have backup power for as long as you need it. With a mobile app, you will be able to keep an eye on these variables to ensure your system meets your needs. If you happen to deplete your batteries overnight, you will have more power as soon as your solar panels receive sunlight the next morning.

Yes! But it will be less productive. Production is proportionate to the thickness of cloud cover.

Our systems include online production monitoring so you can see your system’s performance on any computer or smartphone. You can compare your solar production to our estimates to ensure your system is on track.

For a typical residential system, it takes about three days to install the PV panels and equipment. Then, the system must pass a final State electrical inspection which normally occurs within 10 days of completed installation. Then, we coordinate system activation with your local power company.

The solar panels we install have a product warranty for 25 years and a power performance warranty for 25 years. The power performance warranty means that by the end of year 25, the panels’ actual power output will be no less than 80% of the labeled power output. Most of the inverters we install are warrantied for 10 or 12 years, and many brands offer an extended warranty. Tesla Powerwall batteries have 10 year warranties.

The panels are supported by high quality stainless steel and aluminum racking systems designed and mounted based on American Society of Civil Engineer (ASCE) wind load provisions. All solar panels are tested to UL-1703 standards and are capable of withstanding one inch (2.5cm) hailstones at 50MPH. They are covered with tempered glass, akin to a car windshield. Additionally, we recommend adding your panels to your homeowners insurance. In our experience, hail often causes damage to asphalt shingles around solar panels, but does not damage the panels.

We mount solar panels on your roof or on a ground-mount structure and run wires through conduit to an inverter. Wires from the inverter’s output go through conduit to an exterior-mounted solar disconnect. From there, we run wires through conduit to your breaker panel, which allows your home to use the electricity flowing from your solar panels. Whenever possible, we mount all gear close to your utility meter, and it occupies a space about 3′ tall x 4′ wide. To store solar power for consumption at night or during a grid outage, we incorporate batteries into your system. Each battery is about 45” tall x 30” wide x 6” deep, and we recommend installing batteries indoors, such as in a garage or utility room.