Things to Know Before Going Solar

What is the life span for Solar Panels?

According to the Pacific Gas and Electric, one of California's largest utilities, the optimal life span for solar panels is 25 years. Even some of the very first solar panels made back in the 70’s still produces 80% of their power after 40 years. Solar panels lose about half a percent a year in efficiency.

What type of warranty will my equipment have?

Manufactures will typically warranty solar modules 20-25 years but can last up to 30+ years.  Inverters have an average lifespan of 10-12 years. The company that installs your system should also warranty their work (2-10 years) for the life span of the system and ensure that there are no holes, leaks, etc. These are factors that could compromise the integrity of your roof.   All our systems come with hassle free internet monitoring that is checked weekly by one of our certified technicians.

**Note that warranty does not cover theft, fire or other damages/natural disasters. It is recommended to add your system to your homeowner policy

How do I correctly size my PV system?

By providing your last 12 months of utility bills we can calculate the perfect size system for your home.  According to the utility company’s rates on a monthly and yearly basis, we will consider factors such as changes to the number of occupants, future expansion, and new HVAC equipment to calculate planned usage.

A Solar Gain team member can then analyze the available roof size and electrical panel to make sure the solar you need fits on the roof and that your electrical service can maintain the load. Solar modules and inverters come in different sizes which also allow for a customized Solar PV system.

What are my Power Company's Rates?

Depending on your area there are different “tiers” of usage.  Each “tier” has a different formula to calculate cost. Higher energy usage tiers have higher rates, as a result the more your energy demands increase the more you have to pay. Therefore, the more you spend on electricity results in a higher ROI (Return On Investment) which you will benefit from on your installed system.

Currently many states offer “Net metering”.  This is when solar customers produce more electricity than they consume. The customer would then receive a credit for their excess energy produced toward their next billing cycle.

What certifications should my Solar installer have?

Any reputable solar installer should be NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certified.  The NABCEP PV Installation Professional certification ensures that the installers and company are following a set of national standards which provide skills and experience that can distinguish that company from their competition.  

Do I need a new roof or can it support the weight and how do I prevent leaks?

A typical roof can handle the weight of the solar modules if they are installed properly on the structural members of the roof.  Adding solar will not harm your roof in anyway when properly installed.  You will actually benefit in extended roof life due to the fact that your roof will be covered from direct exposure to the elements.  The solar panels  absorb the sun's energy and as a result will provide shade to that portion of the house lowering cooling costs.   

Always make sure that your installer explains how they plan to properly seal the penetrations they make in your roof, and what type of roof attachment methods they are using to accomplish this.  A properly installed and maintained system can last for 20+ years with no roof leaks as long as this is done correctly.

How long will the install take?

Signing the contract is the first step.  Once signed the majority of the time spent on your installation is on the preparation of utility applications and approval, engineering and permitting.  This stage of the process usually takes 4-6 weeks.  Once the installation company has an approved permit and materials are delivered things move much faster.  Depending on the type of roof will greatly determine the time spent on the installation. Spanish tile roofs are much more fragile and require more time to ensure proper installation and integrity of the roof and tiles. Asphalt shingle or white coat roofs are much less fragile and can be installed much quicker without worrying about breaking shingles or tiles.

On average an installation should take 3-5 days without complications such as trenching to the service area or service panel upgrades or any other unforeseen problems that may occur.  Ground mounts and solar canopies are much more involved and can take 1-2 weeks to complete.

That does not include the system getting serviced by the power company and the meter being stabbed which can take longer depending on their availability and whether or not it passed inspection.  This can take 1-2 weeks. There are several factors that will determine the time frame before the system is active.  

Does my roof have to face south?

Ideally  solar systems should be installed on the south facing side of your roof (if located north of the equator).  If south is not available you can still get plenty of solar production facing east and west, just as long is they are not facing north.  Your Solar Gain sales team will explain the differences in energy production and ROI from the different facing roof surfaces.

Are there any local State or Federal Tax incentives?

Currently there are two tax incentives being offered to residential customers in Arizona:

  • 30% Federal Tax Credit
  • 25% State Tax Credit capped at $1000.00

California currently offers the following tax incentive to residential customers:

  • 30% Federal Tax Credit, which can be used to directly offset your tax liability dollar for dollar

**Ask about additional incentives being offered for commercial applications.

How long does a system take to pay for itself?

Studies show that on average, solar panels return two to four times their cost in saved electricity bills and typically pay for themselves completely within 7 to 12 years.  That is as much as 10-14% Return on Investment.  If you live in a state with good incentives, the payback period can be as short as 2 to 4 years.

Should I Buy or Lease my system?

The main differences between buying and leasing a solar PV system is in who holds ownership.  When purchasing or financing a system you own it outright.  This allows you to maximize the financial profits  and tax incentives that are offered, rather than just the systems environmental benefits. This also increases the market value of your home.   Ask about our awesome $0 down solar financing options!   

Leasing is typically best suited for retired individuals, for those that do not have sufficient income, or have a tax liability.  When you lease a system it does not belong to you, it belongs to the leasing company.  You have the peace of mind that they will maintain the system for its lifespan.  The downside is you do not get to take tax credits and a leased solar system does not increase the value of your home.  A leased system can actually make selling your home more difficult.  The new buyer will either have to assume the lease and its terms and qualify for the credit requirements.  If the buyer does not want to lease you will have to buy it back from the leasing company for much more than you would have paid if you bought it in the first place!

If I go Solar is it my only source of energy?

Most residential system are on what we call  “grid-tied”. This means that when the panels are not producing energy you are still able to use the grid to power your home.  The nice part is the grid allows you to bank overproduced credits on your account.  You can then use the saved credits in a process called Net Metering. This also means that if the power from the grid goes down the inverter has an emergency shutdown switch to turn it off to protect the utility workers from live systems during power outages.  There are options available through the use of battery banks that can allow you to still be connected to the grid and use power in the instance of a blackout.  Feel free to ask your Technician for details.