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Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Systems

Basic Solar Questions

Q: How can we get electricity from the sun?

A: Absorption, collection and conversion

Sunlight is made up of photons, or particles of solar energy. When photons strike a photovoltaic (PV) cell, they may be reflected or absorbed, or they may pass right through. Only the absorbed photons generate electricity. When this happens, the energy of the photon is transferred to an electron in an atom of the PV cell (which is actually a semiconductor).

When certain semiconducting materials, such as certain kinds of silicon, are exposed to sunlight, they release electrons, a process known as the photoelectric effect. These electrons are then collected by the contacts on the PV cell, creating an electrical current. This is the basic physical process in which a PV cell converts sunlight to electricity.

Q: What are the parts of a solar system?

A: There are three main parts to a solar system:
1. The solar panels, which are made up of individual PV cells;
2. The inverter which changes the electricity created by the PV panels from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC); and
3. The utility meter, which shows/monitors how much energy is being used and how much is being sent back to the utility company.

Q: Why is solar panel quality important?

A: If the solar panel is low in quality, they will lose power faster and cause your electric bill to rise over time. A high quality panel will produce more power over time and save you more money in the long run.

Q: Are all solar panels alike?

A: No. There are numerous makes, models and sources, with hundreds of manufacturers in the US, China and other overseas markets. As a SunPower Premier Dealer we can offer you the best in solar panel available today anywhere. SunPower solar panels produce 44% more power per panel than conventional solar panels. Click here to learn more.

Q: Why is efficiency important?

A: The more efficient the cells and panels are, the more energy can be created from less space and less sunlight. Solar cell efficiency is the amount of light that the individual solar cell converts to electricity. Solar panel efficiency is the amount of light that the entire module converts to electricity. We are a SunPower dealer, and SunPower has the highest-efficiency solar panels available! This means that you get “the highest quality, best-looking solar panels” which “produce the most energy for years to come”.

Q: How long do solar systems last?

A: Generally, solar panels are designed to 30 years or more. But, their level of efficiency and power generation will decrease over time. We prefer to install SunPower solar panels, which are the most efficient solar panels available. This means SunPower solar panels generate more energy over the lifetime of your system than other panels, which equates to more electricity generated over the lifetime of your system, equating to saving more money on your electric bills. Click here to learn more.

Q: Why should I purchase a solar energy system?

A: Because it will save you money on your electric bill, and will make you feel good about saving the environment! You’re paying for electricity no matter what, why not reduce or eliminate that expense? Plus, you can get started without any down payment. Also, a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that residences with solar systems sold for more money than residences that did not have solar systems installed. Also, it reduces dependency on fossil fuels, like oil and coal, and is a clean, renewable energy, reducing the carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

You’re ready to go Solar! Here are some things you should know.

Q: How big a solar system do I need?

A: This depends on your average electrical usage, as well as the angle of your roof, the amount of space on your roof, and your climate. The solar panels we install will take less space on your roof and generate more electricity.

Q: How is a solar system designed and installed?

A: Our Certified Solar Technicians inspect your roof, and observe the direction of and pitch of your roof and the amount of sunlight and possible shade issues. He will look at your electric usage over the last 12 months, preferably. Once this is done, the Technician can calculate how many panels you might require for your electric needs, and work that into the best orientation on your roof.

The installation involves attaching railing to the roof and brackets that hold the panels securely. The wires are strung from each panel through the attic and into the inverter. Then, it is wired from the inverter to your electrical panel and then tied to the utility grid.

Q: How much will I save on my electricity bills?

A: This will vary, of course, depending on your current usage, the number of solar panels on your roof, etc. Call us for a free estimate and we can let you know how much you might be able to save.

Q: What is Net Metering? Is Net Metering available where I live and/or work?

A: Net Metering is when the extra electricity/power your solar system generates is sent back through the power lines to the electric company, and stored as a credit on your account for use in winter months when your system produces less power due to less sunlight. You will receive a monthly statement showing your usage. If at the end of the year your system produces more electricity than you used you have the option of a refund by the electric company or roll your account credits into the next year. This year-end statement is called true up.

Q: How long does a solar panel installation take?

A: It depends! The short answer is anywhere from 3 to 6 months.

Once we get all the necessary signatures, we can order the panels. It takes time to get the panels to be shipped – about three weeks. Meanwhile, we begin the permitting process with the City or County. This permitting process can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks. Once the solar panels have been received, the actual installation of the solar panels on your roof can take 4 to 7 days. There will be a final inspection, and an application to the utility company for the Permission to Operate (PTO). That PTO approval can take anywhere from two to six weeks. Once it’s received, you can “flip the switch”!

Q: Do the panels need to be cleaned?

A: The panels are very low-maintenance and can be cleaned. Basically, if you notice a layer of dust on the panels, you can spray them with water from your hose. NEVER spray them during the middle of the day! The best time to clean them off is early morning or late evening, when the sun is low. Cold water on hot panels could crack the panels!

Financial Questions

Q: How much does a solar energy system cost?

A: Again, this varies, depending on the type of solar panel you choose, the necessary installation procedures to secure the panels to your roof, as well as if you choose to purchase or lease the solar system. One thing to look at when investing in solar is the return on your investment, and whether the 30% Federal Tax Credit available until 2016 will benefit you. Tax deductible interest loans can also be a factor on the cost of the system.

Q: What are the finance options?

A: There are loans available from local credit unions, major banks, as well as dealer incentives and loan packages. Leases are also available. Most finance options are available with no money down on approved credit. Some loans may have tax deductible interest.

Q: Are incentives and rebates still available?

A: Yes, but not for long! Rebates have helped offset some of the costs, however, government rebates are coming to an end soon. Currently California Rebates are gone. Time will tell if more funding for rebates will become available. The 30% Federal Tax Credit is available until 2016 with a non-lease purchased or loan financed system. We can let you know what options are available to you.

Q: What are the warranties for a solar system?

A: They can vary depending on the manufacturer, but the industry average is 25 years on the solar panels and 10 years on the inverters. We prefer to install SunPower solar panel systems over other brands because they exceed industry standards in the design and testing of their panels coupled with a production guarantee. Extended warranties are available for some manufactures for inverters.

With a 20 year lease everything is warranted for 20 years with no added cost.

For more information, contact us today