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FAQ

Find answers to many of our Frequently Asked Questions about solar energy.

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 Department of Environmental Engineering Solar energy technologies, 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 improvement of the 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 and renewable resources are ways as individuals that 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. More than likely you will not be totally autonomous from the electricity grid when you install solar power, and there is nothing wrong with that. Having an electric company to back you up like PG&E can give peace of mind, even though you may use little to no power from them. You can even capitalize on this, because the electric company will buy back the excess energy you do not utilize, this is called Net Energy Metering or NEM. Solar energy can actually bring down the price of energy for everyone paying the price 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 can provide decreases.

Another step towards energy independence is being able to keep the lights on in the event of a Public Safety Power Shut off. 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 when everything else goes dark. 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. A simple math problem is how you calculate what your payback period will be. You calculate this by taking the cost of your installation, minus any tax credits/incentives/rebates/etc., and subtracting the monthly energy bill savings until your total solar panel installation cost is covered.
What is the Solar Tax Credit?
One of the biggest attractions to going solar, outside of the adoption of clean energy, is the savings. Currently, a way you accrue some of this savings is through the ITC or 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 so much over the past decade. Boosting the economy, creating jobs, and creating a better tomorrow. Essentially it is the way that (some) of 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 is set at 26% until the end of 2020, will decline to 22% in 2021, and will unfortunately continue to decrease over the next few years.
Does going Solar Increase my property value?
A study done by the Department of Energy showed that solar panels are viewed by prospective home buyers as upgrades, just like a renovated kitchen or a finished basement! Especially 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 will likely increase the value of your home.
How much does a solar system cost?
A number of factors will affect the cost of your install. These factors include; energy consumption, the type of installation you want/need, the difficulty of your roof, and the permits needed per your home’s location. You want to ensure that you size your solar system to fit the needs of your household, the larger the solar system, the higher the cost, but ultimately the larger the return when you take into account future savings. The right solar company near you will ensure that you are getting 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 that big beautiful sun than you need. The electric companies need this extra energy, so they will actually purchase it back from you. The buyback of your solar systems extra energy can offset your total electric bill. 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. All promising to provide you with the best service possible. When you are comparing solar energy bids, the prices you receive from companies working to earn your business should be based off of a turnkey system installed on your roof. This means no hidden costs. When you sign your paperwork from the beginning of your solar system process, you want to know the whole cost.

What is included in your bid should be the cost of any hardware needed, panels, labor, permitting, paperwork and installers business expenses. Some items will vary depending on if you are installing a solar battery system and/or need work done to your roof.

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.

Is going Solar in California a good financial option?
Why YES! Going Solar in California is a great option. We have year-round sunshine! While we’re busy California Dreaming, our electric companies are making sure that our electricity prices remain relatively high, so when you install solar panels you can stay in that dream state and know that you are saving money with your renewable energy option. 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.

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 shows up and checks in with you. Your solar consultant/confidant/best friend 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 comes up on Day 2 it is time for the team to to finish up any work that needs to be done including the DC conduit connection to the roof inverters… or in regular terms, all electrical connections will be checked to ensure when it’s time to flip the switch to ON that is also time to celebrate a fully functioning solar panel system!

How to prepare for a Solar Energy Consultation?
Simply Solar will provide you with a full solar consultation to answer a lot of your questions, and don’t worry, we can do this virtually during the days of covid-19. What we will do is walk through things to consider like;

  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.

There is a lot of info out there about Solar Power in the Bay Area. We are here to remove the intimidation, help you simplify, and make the best renewable energy choice for you.

 

What solar permits do I need, and 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 for 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 that you are ready to start saving on your electricity bill, we will do what we can to make sure this happens in the timeliest 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/county does their final inspection of your panels connected to the grid. Pretty much what happens is you’re connected to the grid, and then a meter has to come on line to track how much energy you are producing. Unfortunately, we have little control over how long this process can take. We know you’re excited to brag to all of your friends about how awesome your solar system is and how much money it is saving you. This part of the project can sometimes last up to a month, so this is where we’ll have to channel that extra patience we all have stored. What’s that quote? Nothing worth having ever comes easy. Well we will do everything we can to make going Simply Solar easy for you, and when that anticipation comes up from the waiting game, just 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 and why do I need it?
Popularity of solar batteries has been on the rise over the last few years. We know you have heard of them LG Chem, Blue Planet, Tesla Powerwall… even their names are cool. So 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 do you want to store the energy instead of selling it back? Well 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? No thanks, not for you! Your home or business will keep the lights on while everyone else’s power goes out. Now keep in mind that the battery has limits, so I wouldn’t plug in and be playing your electric guitar when the power goes out, but charging your phone and letting Hendrix play guitar for you is totally fine. Your solar consultant will give you the full lowdown 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 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 different. Speaking to a trusted Solar Installation team in your area will provide you with honest feedback about how much power you need in your home.
Can I add a solar battery if I already have a pre-existing solar system?
Batteries are becoming a viable option for more and more people as prices have been declining, and our world transitions to more renewable options. Someone will first need to assess your current solar system to help you decide what kind of battery install you will need. Whether you decide Powerwall or LG Chem there may need to be some changes made to your solar system to maximize your energy storage option. The not so short answer is YES you can install a battery to an existing system, how you do so might just require a little extra finesse.
What’s the difference between AC and DC Battery?
AC stands for alternating current, this means that the electricity first moves in one direction and then it turns around and flows the opposite way. Alternating Current is what we use to power most all of our devices and what is used on the grid.

DC or direct current flows in one DIRECTion. Direct current energy is what your solar panels collect. The way that this direct current energy is used for your home is 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, meaning your system loses less energy during the conversion process. Losing less power translates to more energy for your home, and more money in your pocket.

Living With Solar Power

Will my solar still work if it is not sunny out?
Yes, photovoltaic panels will work with direct or indirect sunlight. Even in small doses, your panels collect the sun’s rays when it is cloudy, rainy, and even when the sky is filled with ash during an apocalyptic 2020 September day. The Department of Energy, and every other solar expert out there says that during the night the sunlight reflected by the moon will even give small amounts of energy for your panels to collect… uh, cool!

This is also where NEM (net energy metering) comes to the rescue. Excess solar energy generated by your panels during max sunlight times will offset energy the cost of energy that you pull from the grid when you pull from it at night or other times when your system isn’t operating at full capacity. A bonus to staying connected to the grid.

How do I best protect my solar system from a disaster? (earthquakes, rain, 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. The racking systems that hold the panels to the roof, when installed properly, 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 some disasters that cause us to lose power, is a sense of security, because 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, and how do I avoid these increases?
So you installed a solar system, and everything is going great, and then WHAM you’re smacked with a higher than expected electric bill, lame right? 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 energy usage, and also ask questions about what you think your future usage will be, so you are sized with a system that meets your needs.

More people vs less people living in your home/on property after original system sizing will dramatically impact your energy usage. If you plan on having your mother/grandfather/best friend move in in the near future, it is important to let your solar consultant know this. Typical kWH usage per person in a home is 250kW-300kW hours per month, i.e. 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 affect your usage. Some high impact devices include AC Units, Hot Tubs, and those tiny Space Heaters that we have all used at one time or another.

Your solar panel provider can use an amp meter to provide an energy audit to assess where the additional kW usage is coming from.

At the end of the day, don’t let your PG&E bill shock you. A few ways to be vigilant and energy efficient are, using energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, turning off the lights, turning off and unplugging appliances, being cognizant of what electricity you are using daily, monthly, etc.

How Solar Works
How do Solar Cells work in a solar panel?
Ready to put on your science class hat? Here you go. 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. Essentially, photons hit the panel, and they are then absorbed by the panel’s semiconducting material. When the light hits the panel, it energizes the solar cells, shaking electrons free. The electrons start doing a little dance and this movement is what generates Direct Current (DC) electricity.

The DC electricity then flows to the frequently referenced solar system inverter, where it’s converted to the type of electricity that is needed to power your home, alternating current (AC) electricity.

How long does a solar panel last?
The life expectancy most panel manufacturers provide is 25-30 years and most panel manufacturers like Silfab and Solaria provide warranties on all of their products for this time frame.

Now just because 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 produce decreases.

Proper care and cleaning to keep them in tip-top shape guarantees you will receive the most significant solar savings possible during the next 25 to 30 years.

Our top three tips to making your panels last longer: A great solar provider that has your back, keeping them cleaned and maintained, and saying kind things to them daily to make them happy. Okay, that last one might have been a joke.

Where do you place your solar panels?
When a solar system is placed on the roof, the south facing portion of the roof is the best place to place your solar panels. The reason the best place to put your solar panels is on the South facing portion of your roof is because this is the spot that collects the most sunlight.

Different roof types will require different solar mounting systems. I.E. how you mount on a flat roof vs a pitched roof. Panels are placed in groups together or arrays, which is an ordered series. The perfect roof pitch for solar panels is equal to the latitude and the location of the installation. Don’t worry you don’t need to stare at a map and figure out the distance that you are from the equator, your Bay Area solar specialist will do that for you.

Alas, at the end of the day if 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 then your roof type and direction of your home 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