Residential and Commercial Solar FAQ—What You Should Know
Solar energy is important to us. It’s good for the customers because it saves them money on utility bills, but it’s also a renewable energy source that is good for the environment. We are a solar company that wants to make sure you are 100% informed before committing to a solar energy system.
Explore our FAQ page for all of the most frequently asked questions about solar!
According to 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 1970s still produce 80% of their power after 40 years. On average, solar panels lose about half a percent a year in efficiency.
Manufacturers will typically offer a 20- to 25-year warranty for solar modules, but they can last up to 30+ years. Inverters have an average life span of 10 to 12 years. The company that installs your system should also have a warranty for their work and the life span of the system (typically 2 to 10 years). This also ensures that there are no holes, leaks, etc. in your roof that are preventing your system from operating at peak efficiency. Solar Gain provides a 10 year workmanship warranty for the life of your system. All of our systems come with hassle-free internet monitoring that is checked regularly by one of our certified technicians.
(Note that a warranty does not cover theft, fire, or other damages/natural disasters. It is recommended that you add your system to your homeowner insurance policy.)
By examining your last 12 months of utility bills, we can calculate the perfect size system for your home. Taking into account 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 your roof and that your electrical service can sustain the load. Solar modules and inverters come in different sizes that also allow for a customized solar PV system.
Depending on your area, there are different tiers of usage. Each tier has a different formula to calculate the cost. Higher energy usage tiers have higher rates, which means that the greater your energy demands, the more you have to pay. Therefore the more you spend on electricity currently—or the more energy generated in your home or facility—the higher your return on investment (ROI) with a solar energy system.
Currently many states offer net metering. When solar homes produce more electricity than they consume, the homeowner would receive a credit toward their next billing cycle for their excess energy produced. Depending on your utility and rate structure, this might be a straight one-to-one exchange, or you might have a specific solar export rate.
Any reputable solar installer should be certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. The NABCEP PV Installation Professional certification demonstrates that the installers and company are following a set of national standards that ensure they have the skills and experience that are necessary to handle the job.
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 any way when it’s 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 provide shade to that portion of the building, thus lowering cooling costs.
Always make sure that your installer explains how they plan to 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 or more with no roof leaks as long as this is done correctly.
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 to 6 weeks. Once the installation company has an approved permit and materials are delivered, things move much faster.
The type of roof will impact the time spent on the installation. Spanish tile roofs are much more fragile and require 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 more quickly without worrying about breaking tiles.
On average a solar installation should take 3 to 5 days. More time may be needed if your system requires trenching to the service area, service panel upgrades or if any other unforeseen issues arise. Ground mounts and solar canopies are much more involved and can take 1 to 2 weeks to complete.
These timelines do not include the system getting serviced by the power company and the meter being stabbed, which can take longer depending on availability and whether it passes inspection. This can take 1 to 2 weeks. There are several factors that will determine the time frame before the system is active.
Ideally, solar systems should be installed on the south-facing side of your roof (if located north of the equator). If this is not possible, you can still get plenty of solar production facing east and west, just as long as the panels are not facing north. Your Solar Gain sales team will explain the differences in energy production and ROI from the different facing roof surfaces.
Currently there are two tax incentives being offered to residential customers in Arizona:
California currently offers the following tax incentive to residential customers:
Please ask us about additional incentives being offered for commercial applications.
Studies show that on average, solar panels return 2 to 4 times their cost in saved electricity bills and typically pay for themselves completely within 7 to 12 years. That is as much as 10% to 14% ROI. If you live in a state with good incentives, the payback period can be as short as 2 to 4 years.
The cost of your solar power system will depend entirely on the amount of electricity you currently use and how much solar electricity your new system will need to generate. The size of your facility or home plays into this. If you’d like to learn more about what your average cost may be, contact us for a free evaluation.
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 rewards and tax incentives that are offered rather than just the system’s environmental benefits. This also increases the market value of your home. Ask about our $0 down solar financing options!
Leasing is typically best suited for retired individuals and/or for those who do not have sufficient tax liability. When you lease a system, the leasing company owns it, takes advantage of the incentives and tax credits and passes some of the savings on to you. You have the peace of mind that they will maintain the system for its life span.
A leased solar system may not increase the value of your home, and in some cases, it can actually make selling your home more difficult. The new buyer will 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 the system from the leasing company for much more than you would have paid if you’d bought it in the first place.
Most residential systems are 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 that 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 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.
Do you still have questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out! Solar Gain would be happy to answer all of your questions or perform a free evaluation of your home or facility.