Frequently Asked Questions | Going Solar | Simply Solar

FAQ

Whether you have questions about the basics of switching to solar power or why Simply Solar stands above other solar installation companies, we have answers! Find the explanation to many of your queries about solar energy and Simply Solar in our FAQ. If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, please contact us—we’re happy to talk with you!

Going Solar- The Basics

Is going solar environmentally friendly?

When you decide to install solar power, there is a positive indirect effect on the environment. Solar energy is a renewable resource that replaces or reduces the use of other energy sources.

According to a case study done by the Centre of Renewable Energy Sources and the Technical University of Crete’s Department of Environmental Engineering, solar energy technologies provide obvious environmental advantages in comparison to other conventional energy sources. Some of these advantages include the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the prevention of toxic gas emissions, the ability to reclaim degraded and unused land, a reduction of required transmission lines of the electricity grids, and the improved quality of water resources.

While sometimes it may be difficult to see the direct environmental impacts of going solar, if you step back and look at the big picture, solar energy is a powerful way we can support our planet. Our current energy resources are finite. Making the switch to solar energy means you can collect and utilize a natural resource with unlimited potential without doing extra damage to the planet.

What does it mean to be “energy independent?”

When a business owner or homeowner decides to make the switch to solar power, they take energy generation into their own hands. Most likely, you will not be wholly autonomous from the electricity grid when you install solar power, and there is nothing wrong with that. Having an electric company like PG&E as a backup can provide you with peace of mind, even if you use little to no power from them. 

However, if you’re set on using solar to divest from the power grid entirely, we have a blog post that offers tips on how to do so and explains what to take into account. 

Electric companies will buy back the excess energy you do not utilize, which is called Net Energy Metering or NEM. In this way, solar energy can actually bring down the price of energy for everyone across the grid. When there is an increase in the amount of solar power being produced, the cost of energy during peak usage periods decreases. This is because the demand of energy the grid provides decreases.

Another step towards energy independence is being able to keep the lights on in the event of an official Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). A solar system alone won’t keep your power on, but if you have solar panels partnered with battery storage (like an LG Chem system), you can stay up and running during rolling brownouts. Being energy independent can be your families and businesses’ solution to combating PSPS.

The Cost Of Going Solar

How does your solar system pay for itself over time?
When you make the switch to solar, there is a “solar panel payback period.” This period is the amount of time it’ll take you to completely pay off your solar power system through what you save on your electricity bill. You can determine this by calculating the cost of your installation, minus any tax credits, incentives, or rebates. Then subtract your monthly energy bill savings until your total solar panel installation cost is covered.
What is the “Solar Investment Tax Credit?”

Aside from the adoption of clean energy, one of the biggest benefits to going solar is the savings. Currently, one way you accrue some of these savings is through the ITC, or the Solar Investment Tax Credit. This credit is a federal tax credit that allows you to deduct a percentage of the total cost of installing solar energy from your federal taxes. 

The solar industry has grown substantially over the past decade and continues to boost the economy, generate new jobs, and create a better tomorrow. Essentially, the ITC is how our government says thank you for the growth of solar energy in our country. Currently, both residential and commercial solar customers can take advantage of the credit, but they have to act fast. The tax credit, which was set at 26% in 2020, will decrease annually over the next few years.

Does going Solar Increase my property value?

Good news! The Department of Energy reports that solar panels are viewed by prospective home buyers as upgrades, just like a renovated kitchen or a finished basement. In the great state of California, where more and more homes are running on the sun, a home with a solar system is an incentive for buyers to pay a premium. So yes, installing a solar energy system is proven to likely increase the value of your home.

How much does a solar system cost?
A number of factors will affect the cost of your installation. These factors include energy consumption, the type of installation you desire, the intricacies of your roof, and the permits needed from your locality. You’ll want to ensure that your solar system is sized to fit the needs of your household—the larger the solar system, the higher the cost. However, larger systems ultimately yield higher savings in the long run. Simply Solar will ensure you get a system that suits your needs at the best price possible.
Can I sell back my Excess energy to the grid?

California’s Net Energy Metering is a practice where you get credited for the excess energy generated by your system. There are times when you will collect more energy from a sunny day than you’ll need. The electric companies need this extra energy, so they’ll purchase it back from you. The buyback of your solar system’s extra energy can offset your total electric bill, which means more money in your pocket at the end of the day!

How do I compare Solar Energy Bids?

There are a lot of solar companies out there, and they’re all promising to provide you with the best service possible. When comparing solar energy bids, the quotes you receive should be based off of a turnkey system installed on your roof. This means there should be no hidden costs. When you sign your paperwork at the beginning of the installation process, you should know the cumulative cost of your switch to solar. 

Included in your bid should be the cost of any hardware needed, panels, labor, permitting, paperwork, and your installer’s business expenses. Some items will vary depending if you are installing a solar battery system or if you need work done to your roof. Your installer should explain the expenses of their installation process to you step-by-step

Some additional items to compare are price per watt, warranties offered, the quality of the solar equipment you will be installing, and the financing options for your solar system.

Additionally, find out if the companies who are bidding do the installation themselves or if they hand the work off to contractors. At Simply Solar, we do all our own work with licensed technicians. This distinction will pay off in the long-term reliability of your system.

Is going solar in California a smart financial decision?

Yes! Going solar in California is a phenomenal decision. After all, we have year-round sunshine, and yet electric companies ensure our electricity prices remain high. When you install solar panels, you can enjoy basking in the sun with the knowledge that you’re also saving money thanks to this renewable energy source! 

California also offers the Net Energy Metering program, so you can sell your unused electricity right on back to the electric company, making your relationship with the grid that much more appealing. Read our blog post for more information about why solar panels are worth it.

Installing Solar Power

What can I expect during a Simply Solar Installation?
A typical solar installation with the Simply Solar team is a two day process. On day 1, your crew arrives and checks in with you. Your solar consultant will do a walkthrough with you and go through each step of the installation process. This gives you time to ask any questions and gives you a clear picture of what will be going on in your space during the next few days. When you give the green light, it is time for the equipment to be offloaded and the team to get to work! While the panel installation is happening on your roof, the electrical work is being done concurrently on the ground.

When the sun rises on day 2, it is time for the team to finish up any work that needs to be done, including the DC conduit connection to the roof inverter. In layman’s terms, all electrical connections will be checked to ensure that when it’s time to flip the switch to “on,” you’ll be able to celebrate a fully functioning solar panel system. It’s a quick, simple process when handled by the experts at Simply Solar!

How do I prepare for my solar energy consultation?

Simply Solar will provide you with a full solar consultation—currently conducted virtually due to COVID-19—to answer all of your questions. We walk you through considerations such as these:

  1. Is your roof in the right shape or are there some repairs that need to be done? You don’t want a shiny new solar system on a less than optimal roof!
  2. Is your home in the right location to collect solar energy? We assess the shading, any other obstructions, and the direction your home faces. There are some alternatives to roof installation, like a ground mount solar panel system.
  3. We will look over your existing bills and how long you have owned your home to assess what the costs will look like and how to maximize your return on investment.
  4. We will look through energy storage options, and see if that makes sense for your installation and the usage you want to get out of your system.
  5. Is your roof in the right shape? Are there some repairs that need to be done? You don’t want a shiny new solar system on a less-than-optimal roof.
  6. Is your home in the right location to collect solar energy? We assess the shading, possible obstructions, and the direction your home faces. There are some alternatives to roof installation, like a ground mount solar panel system.
  7. We will look over your existing bills and how long you have owned your home to assess your costs and how to maximize your return on investment.
  8. We will look through energy storage options and determine the best one for your installation and the usage you want to get out of your system.

There is a lot of info out there about solar power in California. We are here to remove the intimidation, help you simplify, and empower you to make the best renewable energy choice for your unique situation. Read our blog post here for more information about questions to ask your solar installer. 

What solar permits do I need? How long do they take to clear?

It depends on where you are located and the company you are working with. Typically, the process can take anywhere from 3-13 weeks depending on your location. Simply Solar will take care of all of your solar permits and documentation.

We let you know the timing up front and always take into consideration the solar permit timeframe when going through site assessment and system design. We know you’re ready to start saving on your electricity bill, and we will do what we can to make sure this happens in a timely fashion!

What could cause delays when installing my solar system?
The most common delays come during the permitting process and the utility connection. The utility connection happens after the city or county does their final inspection of your panels connected to the grid. Unfortunately, we have little control over how long this process can take. This part of the project can sometimes last up to a month.

In the meantime, we will do everything we can to make going solar an easy experience for you. If the delays seem to extend longer than you anticipated, don’t worry. Give us a call, and we will reassure you that everything is going according to plan!

Solar Battery Storage

What does a solar battery do? Why do I need it?
Popularity of solar batteries has been on the rise over the last few years. It’s likely you have heard of some of them in the news, such as LG Chem, Blue Planet, and Tesla Powerwall. What do they actually do? To put it simply, a solar battery stores excess energy. This means you store the power you collect instead of selling it back to the grid.

Why would you want to store the energy instead of selling it back? For one, it’s a step of being closer to energy independence, since some utilities charge “time of use” rates. These rates fluctuate, so when electricity demand is higher, you end up paying more for certain utilities. A battery can help you avoid this spike in price.

The most appealing impact of a solar battery is they can ensure you have backup power when the power goes down. PSPS shutoff? County-wide black out? Not for you! Your home or business will keep the lights on while everyone else’s power goes out.

Keep in mind that solar batteries still have limits. Your solar consultant will give you the full explanation of how much battery backup you will need.

How much solar battery storage do I need?

Similar to a solar panel system, deciding how many batteries you need will depend on what type of power you wish to achieve. With a couple lights on and basic household appliances running, your battery can last up to 12 hours. If you start to crank the air conditioning or run the washing machine, the battery will drain much faster.

Every home is different, and everyone’s energy usage is unique. Speaking to a Simply Solar advisor will provide you with honest feedback about how much power you need for your home.

Can I add a solar battery if I already have a pre-existing solar system?

Yes, you can absolutely install a battery to an existing system, but doing so may require a little extra finesse.

A consultant will first assess your current solar system to help you decide what kind of battery installation you will need. Whether you decide on a Powerwall or an LG Chem, there may need to be some changes made to your solar system to maximize your energy storage options. It’s best to use an experienced team like Simply Solar for these types of intricate projects.

What’s the difference between AC and DC Battery?
AC stands for alternating current. This means that the electricity first moves in one direction before turning around and flowing in the opposite way. Alternating currents are what we use to power most all of our devices and what are used on the grid.

DC, or direct current, flows in one direction. Direct current energy is what your solar panels collect. Direct current energy is used by your home through the inverter that is required to run any solar system.

So what’s the difference between an AC battery like a Tesla Powerwall and a DC battery like an LG Chem Resu? When you collect DC energy from your panels, it has to convert to AC energy to power the home. If you have an AC battery, it has to convert from DC to AC a second time to power the panels to then power your home. During this process, you actually lose some of the energy you could have stored or sold back to the grid. When you utilize a DC battery system, the energy only has to go through the inverter to AC power once. This saved energy means your system as a whole loses less energy during the conversion process, so you save more money.

Living With Solar Power

Will my solar still work if it is not sunny out?

Yes, photovoltaic panels will work with either direct or indirect sunlight. Even in small doses, your panels collect the sun’s rays when it is foggy, cloudy, and even when the sky is full of ash during wildfires. 

This is also where NEM (Net Energy Metering) comes to the rescue. Excess solar energy generated by your panels during max sunlight hours will offset the cost of energy you pull from the grid when you need it at night or other times when your system isn’t operating at full capacity. It’s just another bonus to staying connected to the grid.

How do I best protect my solar system from disasters such as earthquakes, thunderstorms, and fires?
Solar systems are able to be set up on your homeowners insurance policy. Since your homeowners insurance is based on the value of your property, and solar panels are a part of your property, they will be covered. You may need to talk to your insurance provider to ensure you have enough coverage, but in most cases you will.

A trusted solar installer will ensure that building and fire codes are always taken into account when installing your solar panels. When installed properly, the racking systems that hold the panels to the roof can withstand very high winds and even minor earthquakes.

The impacts of most disasters are out of our control. One thing that a solar system can provide during certain disasters is a sense of security. If the power goes out and your system is set up with battery storage, you can keep the lights on.

What are some reasons my energy usage increases? How do I avoid these increases?

Unfortunately, just because you install solar panels does not mean you are free to plug in every appliance in your home because you’re collecting “free” energy from the sun. When a trusted solar installer assesses your needs and sizes your solar system, they take into account your current and what your future energy use will be, so you are sized with a system that meets your needs.

Any change in your home’s residents (i.e., more people living in your home) will dramatically impact your energy usage. If you plan on having someone move into your home in the near future, it is important to let your solar consultant know. Typical kWH usage per person in a home is 250kW-300kW hours per month. The more people living in your home, the more solar panels you will need.

If you add new or large electrical devices to your solar system, this will also affect your usage. Some high impact devices include AC units, hot tubs, and small space heaters used to heat single rooms. 

To help monitor your usage, Simply Solar can provide an energy audit by using an amp meter to assess where the additional kW usage is coming from. We also have helpful tips for reducing your energy usage before and after solar installation. 

Continue to be vigilant and energy savvy. Be sure you understand your solar output, use energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances, turn off the lights, unplug unused appliances, and be cognizant of your energy usage on a daily basis. 

How Solar Works
How do Solar Cells work in a solar panel?

Solar panels use the photons produced by sunlight to generate direct current (DC) electricity. Most panels are created with a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, and a glass casing. Photons hit the panel and are absorbed by the panel’s semiconducting material. When the light hits the panel, it energizes the solar cells, shaking electrons free. The electrons start to move, and this movement is what generates DC electricity.

The DC electricity flows to the solar system inverter, where it’s converted to the type of electricity that is needed to power your home: alternating current (AC) electricity. And if you don’t want to sacrifice the appearance of your roof with solar panels, the same conversion happens in sleek solar tiles/solar shingles

For a more detailed explanation of how solar panels work, accompanied by handy visuals, head over to our blog post on the topic. 

How long does a solar panel last?

The life expectancy of solar panels differs, but most panel manufacturers provide an estimate of 25-30 years, as well as provide warranties on all of their products for this time frame.

When your panel’s lifetime reaches 25-30 years, this doesn’t mean your solar system just stops working and you lose your solar power. It just means the amount of electricity they are able to produce decreases.

Proper care and cleaning guarantees you will receive the most significant solar savings possible during the next 25 to 30 years.

Where do you place your solar panels?
When a solar system is placed on the roof, the southern-facing portion of the roof is the best place to install your solar panels because it is the spot that collects the most sunlight.

Different roof types will require different solar mounting systems. Panels are placed in groups called arrays. The perfect roof pitch for solar panels is equal to the latitude and the location of the installation. Your Simply Solar specialist will explain this measurement in more detail during your installation.

In the event you do not have a great place on the roof for your solar panels, you can always ground mount your system. Ground mount solar panels can be a great option for home and business owners alike because your roof type and the direction do not matter.

Still need help? Send us a note!

For any other questions, please write us at

info@simplysolarst.wpengine.com

or call us at +1 (707) 285-7037