Frequently asked questions

How do solar panels actually work?


Solar panels are made of highly excitable, conductive materials. When the sun’s rays hit the solar panels, the reaction creates direct current (DC) electricity. Since most homes and businesses use alternating current (AC) electricity, your solar-generated DC energy will pass through an inverter to become AC electricity. Then it flows through your property’s wiring and behaves just like the power you’ve been using your whole life.




Solar power vs. other energy sources


There's enough solar energy hitting the Earth every hour to meet all of humanity's power needs for an entire year. Every ounce of oil, every lump of coal, and every cubic foot of natural gas could be left in the ground if only we could capture one hour's worth of solar energy each year. That's the scale of the opportunity. To put the it into a different perspective, if we covered the Mojave Desert with solar arrays, it would generate more than twice as much electricity as the U.S. uses annually.




Is Solar energy less expensive than other energy sources?


YES! According to Lazard's Levelized Cost Of Energy Analysis--Version 11.0, solar energy costs as little as 4.3 cents per kWh on an unsubsidized basis, cheaper than nearly every option for new fossil-fuel power plants. The cheapest fossil fuel option is natural gas, which costs between 4.2 and 7.8 cents per kWh.




Will my solar panels generate electricity during cloudy, rainy, or snowy days? What about at night?


Your solar panels don’t need sunshine, per se, to generate electricity as much as they need direct, unobstructed access to the sun’s UV rays. Similar to how your skin still tans when it’s overcast outside, your solar panels will still generate electricity during cloudy, rainy, or snowy days — they just won’t produce as much energy as they do during clear days. Solar panels do not generate electricity at night since the sun’s not out. This is when staying connected to the power grid comes in handy as you’ll still have electricity to Netflix and chill.




How do solar photovoltaic cells work?


The solar cells we use are made with silicon, which comes from sand. It is a semiconductor like a microchip in your computer. Phosphorous and boron are added to the silicon which encourages electrons to move when the silicon is struck by rays of UV light. Positive and negative electrons move across the cell to electrical circuits that eventually lead to positive and negative cables coming out of the back of the panel.




What is the difference between solar panels versus building integrated photovoltaic products?


Solar panels are flat panels of glass and silicon with a metal frame that are mounted on a roof or a pole. Building integrated photovoltaic materials into the building material itself, primarily windows, roof tiles, or walls. Solar panels are generally 1/3 to half the cost of building integrated materials.




How much will I really save on my utility bills from a home electric solar power system?


This is a relative question. It depends, in part, on how much electricity you use and how efficient the appliances are that you operate. However, most systems excess electricity in the summer (when days are long) which can potentially offset the energy you use from the grid in the winter.




What's the difference between solar photovoltaic and solar hot water systems


While both types of solar systems capture energy from the sun, solar photovoltaic systems use photovoltaic panels to produce electricity. Solar hot water, or thermal, systems capture sunlight to heat water for domestic use, to heat a swimming pool, or for a radiant heating system.




How much maintenance do solar energy panels require?


Solar electric panels require little maintenance – no need to wash or dust. It is, however, important to place panels where they will remain clear of shade and debris. Thus you will have to wipe them off if too much snow or leaves fall on them.




Can I use a financing system?


Yes, we have many financing options. Please contact us HERE to see if you qualify




Do I need special insurance requirements?


Standard homeowner's insurance policies usually suffice to meet electric utility requirements. Electric utilities usually require that homeowners who take advantage of net metering sign an interconnection agreement.




Will I need a building permit to install a solar energy system in my home?


Yes. You'll need to obtain building permits to install a solar electric system. Similarly, building, electrical also apply. That said, residential solar power systems do not use "radical" building techniques and most jurisdictions have building codes that fully embrace solar energy technology. We include the price for permits into our cost estimate.




How can I calculate the cost and payback time from a solar power installation?


We can help you figure all of that out before you decide to proceed. Our Energy Experts can calculate that exact number once they access your home or business.




How long will it take to install a solar power system in my home?


Planning, configuring, and doing any custom ordering for your solar energy system can take up to a few weeks. However, the installation process itself can typically be completed in only a few days time, in many cases even less.




What components do I need to install a grid-tied solar electric system?


You will need a photovoltaic array to capture the sun's energy, an inverter to convert the direct current (DC) produced from the photovoltaic cells into alternating current (AC) used by your home, and a house utility meter – called a net meter – that can record both the electricity produced from your home's power system as well as any power you may use off the grid. These three system components are then connected through a series of wiring. The photovoltaic panels are secured to your roof with panel mounts or are installed on poles that can be adjusted for sun angle.




What is a net meter?


Net meters look very much like other outdoor meters with one notable exception – they spin both forwards and backwards recording both the power produced and power used.




Do I need battery backup for my solar panels?


Probably not – a backup battery bank can add as much as 25% in cost to a residential solar PV system. It's not necessarily more efficient either – a same sized solar array will yield about 7–10% less energy if it's battery-tied than its grid-tied counterpart.
Though you will remain tethered to your local utilities' grid, you will not have to worry about not generating enough power. You also gain the advantage of offsetting rising utility costs. Most solar photovoltaic experts do not recommend adding a backup battery system unless there is concern about a long utility outage or the residence is in a remote location.




How much space do I need for a solar photovoltaic system?


Our systems use 18 square feet per panel. So a 10 panel, 2,300 watt system uses 180 sqft.




How many solar panels do I need for an electric solar power system?


This is determined by three factors; your budget, your available roof space, and your electrical useage. An average residential system is 20 panels, or 4,600 watts.




How much shading is too much for solar photovoltaic panels?


Shading can be calculated and accounted for in small amounts. Our system uses a special inverter that means if one panel is shaded, all the other panels are not affected. While shading is best to be avoided, it can be accounted for, and included in your electrical production and investment analysis.




How do I know if solar panels will work on my home?


Take a look at the position of your home on its lot – and particularly your roof. Ask the following questions:
Is there good southern exposure? Orienting solar panels to the south maximizes the effectiveness of energy collection.
Is the exposure free of trees or buildings that could shade the panels or drop debris on them? Shading photovoltaic panels dramatically reduces their effectiveness. What is the pitch of your roof? Most roofs, from flat to 60-degrees can accommodate photovoltaic panels.




Do I need to have south facing exposure to have a solar energy system?


Although southern exposure increases the effectiveness of a residential solar power system, your home may still work for solar power without having south facing exposure.




What other factors are important to consider when installing a home solar energy system?


The location of your home and the local climate will play into where you place and how you install your solar electric or solar hot water system. Wind speeds, heavy snow loads, and salt water can all affect a solar array. Understanding how those inputs effect performance will determine the types of mounts or how the arrays are angled. A solar pro in your area is likely quite knowledgeable about your local conditions and can help you design that works well for you.





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