Shine Solar | Solar FAQ's to Help You in Your Path to Go Solar

FAQ

 

Frequently Asked Questions

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Can I get started with a few panels for a smaller system and then add more later? Yes, you totally can! Sometimes it’s viable to have some solar rather than no solar at all, because solar always ends up being cheaper than the utility company. What we do is install a bigger inverter that will be able to handle a larger amount of wattage when you do decide to have more panels in the future. That way, you already have your inverter that you need when you add more panels, and it’s an easy process for you to install.

Do I need a battery backup for my solar system? We can absolutely set you up with a battery backup, but we do not recommend it. The reason for this is twofold. Number one, with net metering, the utility company is a natural battery backup, as your extra power is sent back to them. In some states, according to the law, they have to pay you for that extra power you send back to them. They don’t write you a check for it, but they do pay you in the form of bill credits. It’s sending the extra power back to them that causes your meter to spin backward. So, not only is it free to stay with the power company as your battery backup, they also pay you in the form of bill credits to do it. The second reason we don’t recommend it is because battery technology is still very new, and because of that the cost is just super high. For a five-kilowatt battery, you’re running anywhere between $5,500 and $7,000, and with the average system size being higher than that, it’s going to totally wipe out your savings. It’s just not cost effective right now. The good news is that net metering is a natural battery for you, and then on top of that, when batteries do get cheaper in the future, you already made the first step. You already got a solar system, now you can purchase a battery at a respectable price, at a reasonable price, and add it right to your solar system and you’re good to go.

Do I need a permit to install a solar system on my house? An electrical permit? Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no. It all depends on where you live. If you’re inside city limits, more than likely yes. If you’re outside of city limits, sometimes you might need a county permit, but the bottom line is you will never have to do any of this yourself. We take care of all of it for you. Our master electrician goes and pulls the permit. We do it all on the inside, you guys don’t have to pay for it or worry about it at all. It’s a super easy process here that we take care of.

The roof is definitely the most common place that we see solar panels mounted. The biggest reason for that is the space constraint. Most people aren’t equipped with huge amounts of land and the actual space that it would take to put a full solar array on. The other advantage is that, it’s on the roof. It’s untouched, it’s un-bothered and it does its job. Although most of them are on the roof, they don’t have to be. There are ground mounts, there are pole mounts, there are several other options. In most of these cases, there’s additional costs for ground mounts or pole mounts, as there’s way more labor involved. You’ve got concrete involved, you have way more racking involved. So there’s several pieces there that change the financial economics of the deal a little bit. The most common route is the roof, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It can be a ground mount or a pole mount, depending on the space that you have available. We recommend the roof just because it’s the cheapest, so it makes the most financial sense. It gives you the fastest return on your investment, and most of the time, it goes untouched and un-bothered from anything that can have access to the ground.

How long does the installation take? Our average install takes about a day. A bigger system is going to take a day and a half to two days, but the average is about a day. That includes the installers installing the racking, the panels, the inverter, the disconnect, the electricians doing the wiring, and us getting everything ready for the utility to come out and swap out your meter with a net meter, so you can send your extra power back to them and they can pay you for it. About a day. It’s really easy.

The industry standard for solar panel manufacturers is a 25-year linear production warranty. All of the panels and equipment that we use have that same standard warranty. A linear production warranty is literally guaranteeing the production of the panels over the course of 25 years. There’s a degradation schedule assigned, that the panels will obviously lose some efficiency over time, but with that we outline exactly how much your system will produce on a monthly basis over the next 25 years. The 25-year linear production warranty is literally something that is tied to the panels, not the homeowner. So if you move down the road, or there’s a new homeowner, or whatever the case is, you don’t have to worry about anything. It’s literally with the panels, and we monitor the system for the life of the panels. So literally if a panel ever stops producing the amount of energy that it’s supposed to based on that linear production warranty at the time you purchased the system, then we will come and swap out the panels, no questions asked. We handle all the warranty claims if there are any, and we will literally come swap out the panel, put the new panel on, and handle everything with the manufacturer. There’s literally zero maintenance or upkeep expected from the consumer for solar panels.

This is one of the things that’s unique about solar. There’s not a standard system size or system layout or system design for every single home. The way that your system size is determined has 100% to do with how much power you consume, and how much roof space you have. What doesn’t matter is the square footage of your home or how many people live in your home, or any of those factors. It really just comes down to how much power you use. You can have two homes that are the exact same size, and one might have a family of six, whereas the other has a family of two or three, and each of those homes are going to consume a different amount of power. What we do, with every single one of our customers, the first step is, we look at the last twelve months of how much power you’ve used. We get copies of your electric bills, or have you give us the kilowatt hour amounts, or whatever it is, so that we can determine exactly how much power your home consumes. Once we know that, we can determine exactly how many solar panels you need, and then, based on how much roof space you have, the shading around your roof, if it’s East-facing or West-facing or South-facing, and exactly how much sun those solar panels are going to receive, we can determine exactly how many panels you’re going to need, what the system size is, and ultimately what the cost of the project is and the savings that you’re going to see right out of the gate, month one. Then over the next five years, ten years, twenty-five years.

Will I have to buy new appliances when I get my solar system installed? Or, how is the power going to be different from regular power that I get from the grid? The answer is simply: AC power, alternating current power, is AC power, right? The solar panels are turning a direct current that they produce into an AC current that your home uses for power. It’s the same AC electrical current that you’re pulling from the grid. Solar power doesn’t look any different from grid power, and so, no, everything stays the same. All your power looks the same.

Net metering is a term used in the solar industry primarily by the utility companies. What’s happening is once you have solar panels on your roof, you’re going to have a different meter on your home than the one you currently use. The meter you currently use just turns one direction and that’s forward. That’s power that you’re buying from the utility that they’re then billing you on later. With a net meter literally what’s happening is sometimes you’re going to be buying power from the utility if your solar is not producing enough for your home’s needs at that time, and there’ll be other times when your home is producing more power than what you need and that excess power is literally turning the meter backwards, feeding the power back into the grid. Net metering is the way that the utility is going to bill you. You’re going to have the total amount of power you used, minus how much you produced, and you’re going to get billed on that difference. That’s the net meter. So literally what’s happening is we’re tracking how much power comes into the home, we’re tracking how much power leaves the home back into the grid, and that’s how the utility company knows how to bill you going forward. It’s a great concept, because it’s able to give you full credit for any power that you generate yourself. There are going to be times at night, on cloudy days, rainy days, whatever it is, when your solar panels are not going to be producing sufficient power. There’s going to be other times when you’re overproducing and you have an excess amount of power. Rather than have that power go to waste, net metering is the concept and the way that the utility has structured, so that you actually get credit for the power that you’ve generated, it goes back into the grid, you get a credit and then later as you pull power from the grid, you’ve already offset that on your bill because you generated it previously.

Will the solar panels affect the structural and integrity of my roof? The answer is no. It actually makes it stronger. I’ll explain why in a couple different ways. Number one underneath the panels on top of the roof we install a racking system, and the racking system lays horizontally, and underneath your roof are the rafters, and those run vertically. You’re actually distributing the weight of the panels over a lot bigger of a range with the horizontal and vertical going together and working together. The panels themselves are about 40 pounds each but laying on top of that racking system and being attached to it that weight is being distributed over a wide range at about 4 pounds per square foot so 4 pounds plus or minus a tiny bit. So, the answer is no 4 pounds per square foot is not going to do anything and the racking combined with the rafters underneath it, it actually makes it a little bit stronger.

What happens if it hails? I get this question all the time. You have to keep in mind that these solar panels are engineered and built to go on top of roofs, and to go on fields and solar farms for literally decades, right? It’d be pretty silly if the engineers didn’t have that in mind. They’re going to get pounded with the elements over the next 25 to 40 years while you have your solar system. They’re engineered to handle all the regular stuff. The rain, hail, wind, sleet, snow, whatever it might be, right? They are hail tested with two inch wide hail balls being shot at them at 75 miles an hour. It’s actually pretty neat how they’re tested. I’m standing next to a solar panel right here. It’s got a tempered glass coating over it, and you can kind of compare it to a car windshield, right? If it starts hailing and you’re driving down the road, it’s totally fine. It’s going to handle it. Now, if something happens that’s crazy, right? Maybe baseball size hail, rarely happens right? But, that might do some damage to your solar panels, or what if a tornado rips off your roof, your panels go with it? What if a lightning bolt hits your solar panels, and fries the whole system? That’s all covered by your homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance will cover any acts of God, any extreme acts of God. They do it for anywhere between nothing, and about 60 bucks a year. A super minimal expense. I’ve had some customers, they haven’t increased it at all. I’ve had some customers that increased by three bucks a month. The ones that don’t increase it at all, we asked them why. Really you can kind of compare it to doing an upgrade to your kitchen, like a $20,000 makeover to your kitchen. Your homeowners insurance isn’t going to go up, right? It’s only if you do square footage additions to the home. If you have a rooftop solar system that’s going on top of the home and it’s not a ground mount in the backyard, very minimal expense between nothing and 60 bucks a year. That covers any crazy acts of God, but anything else you guys, on the regular stuff, these things are strong.

This is one of the most popular questions we get and frankly one of the biggest reasons why people are going solar. There’s a 30% federal tax credit available for anyone that puts solar panels on their roof. This is a tax credit not a tax rebate, so it literally directly offsets any tax liability that you owe to the IRS. The way it’s calculated is it’s simply 30% of the total cost of the solar system. When you go to file your taxes next year, whatever your tax liability is that number will come right off the top. It simply money that you were already going to pay to the IRS, that now you can use towards your own home, towards your solar system, which is going to provide you power long term and it actually appreciate the value of your home. This is one of the biggest reasons why people are going solar right now is because 30% of it is paid for by the government. In the past it hasn’t always made a ton of sense to go solar because it’s been an expensive project with as much as a solar panel costs have come down and the tax credit that’s in place it’s made it so that it makes more financial sense and it’s creating a lot of urgency so that more people are doing it. Ultimately when a tax credit runs out it’s over solar will still make sense but obviously when somebody can pay 30% of it for you it makes a lot more sense. That’s the situation were in right now.

If the grid goes down and I have a solar system, am I still going to have power? The answer’s no. Your solar system’s going to go down, too. The reason why is because of safety concerns. The utility company actually requires your solar system to be shut off when their grid goes down. If they have guys working on the utility lines while your solar system is producing a live feed, they could get shocked and electrocuted. It’s a safety concern. If you’re thinking what if the power goes out for multiple days at a time? We recommend simply a generator for those situations just because it’s a lot more cost effective than getting a battery backup. Battery is going to wipe out all of your savings associated with going solar. We’re looking to save you money the 99.9% of the time that you do have power, and the best way to do that is by staying grid tied. When the power goes down, you will too. Just know that. If more information on battery backups, look at our other video that explains battery backup systems and why we don’t recommend them at this time. It explains it a lot more in detail.