1- How do solar systems work?
Solar systems work by capturing the energy from the sun in the form of light and heat, and converting it into electricity that can be used to power homes, businesses, and other buildings. This is typically achieved through the use of photovoltaic panels, which contain semiconducting materials that absorb photons from sunlight and release electrons, producing a flow of electricity. The electricity is then stored in batteries or fed directly into the building’s electrical grid.
Solar systems can also include inverters, which convert the direct current (DC) electricity generated by the panels into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used by most appliances and devices.
2- How long does a solar array last?
The lifespan of a solar array, or a group of photovoltaic panels, can vary depending on several factors such as the quality of the components, the operating environment, and maintenance practices. However, most solar panels are designed to last for 25-30 years.
During this time, the panels may experience a gradual decline in efficiency, typically losing about 0.5% to 1% of their capacity per year. But even after that, they can still generate a significant amount of electricity, making them a long-lasting source of clean energy. Regular cleaning and maintenance can also help extend the lifespan of a solar array.
3- How do I decide how big my system should be?
To decide how big your solar system should be, you need to consider several factors, including:
- Energy usage: The first step is to determine your average daily energy usage, which can be obtained from your electricity bills.
- Available space: The amount of space you have available for solar panels will affect the size of the system you can install.
- Budget: Your budget for the system will also play a role in determining its size.
- State incentives: Different states offer different incentives for solar installations, and these can impact the cost-effectiveness of different system sizes.
- Future energy needs: Consider any future plans for increased energy usage, such as adding an electric car or expanding your home.
Based on these factors, you can determine the size of the system that best fits your needs and budget before reaching out for a quote.
4- How do I get credit for my solar electricity production?
Depending on where you live and your specific situation, in California there is net metering. This is a system that allows you to receive credits on your utility bill for the excess solar electricity you produce and feed back into the grid. When your panels produce more electricity than you are using, the excess is sent to the grid, and the utility records it as a credit on your account.
However, less and less utilities allow this to happen as your system can’t be sized more than you produce. And your utility companies check this information and compare what size is being submitted. Check with your local utility for more information.
5- On what roof materials can solar be installed?
Solar panels can be installed on a variety of roof materials, including:
- Asphalt shingles: This is the most common type of roofing material in the U.S., and it is a suitable surface for solar panel installation.
- Metal roofs: Metal roofs provide a strong and durable surface for solar panel installation, and they are ideal for use in areas with high wind or snow loads.
- Tile roofs: Tile roofs are commonly used in warmer climates and can be suitable for solar panel installation, although additional supports may be required due to the weight of the panels.
- Flat roofs: Flat roofs are often used for commercial and industrial buildings and can also be used for solar panel installation.
- Slate roofs: Slate roofs are a more expensive roofing material, but they can provide a suitable surface for solar panel installation with additional support.
It’s important to note that the suitability of a roof for solar panel installation also depends onother factors, such as the orientation and pitch of the roof, shading, and the structural capacity of the roof. It’s best to consult with a professional solar installer to assess the suitability of your roof for solar panel installation.
6- What happens when the power goes out?
When the power goes out, most solar systems will automatically shut down to ensure the safety of utility workers who may be working on the grid. This is because the electrical energy generated by your solar panels would still be flowing into the grid, which could pose a hazard to the workers. Meaning you too will lose power in the home until it is restored.
However, if you have a battery system installed in your solar system, you may still have access to electricity during a power outage. In this case, the stored energy in the battery can be used to power your essential appliances and lights. The amount of time that the battery system can provide electricity during an outage will depend on the size of the battery and the amount of energy stored in it.
7- Will solar work on my roof?
The suitability of your roof for solar panel installation will depend on several factors, including:
- Roof orientation: Solar panels work best when they are facing south, and they need to have an unobstructed view of the sky.
- Roof pitch: The pitch of your roof, or the angle at which it slopes, can impact the efficiency of your solar panels. A roof that is too flat or too steep may not be suitable for solar panel installation.
- Roof shading: Shading from trees, buildings, or other obstructions can significantly impact the performance of your solar panels.
- Roof condition: Your roof should be in good condition and strong enough to support the weight of the solar panels.
- Local zoning regulations: There may be local zoning regulations that affect the installation of solar panels on your roof, such as height restrictions, setback requirements, and fire codes.
The site assessment is to determine the orientation, pitch, shading, and structural capacity of your roof, and to determine the best type and size of solar system for your needs.
8- What should I look for in an installer?
It’s important to look for a company that has experience and expertise in solar panel installations. Consider the solar panel installers experience and reputation, credentials to check if they are certified by relevant industry organizations, such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)
It’s recommended to consult with several companies and to ask for references from previous customers to get a sense of their quality of work and level of customer service. By doing your research and choosing a reputable and experienced solar panel installer, you can ensure that you receive a high-quality solar installation that meets your needs and provides you with long-term benefits.
9- Do systems come with warranties?
Yes, most solar systems come with warranties that provide protection for the equipment and components of the system. The length and terms of these warranties will vary depending on the manufacturer and the type of equipment.
Typically, solar panels will come with a warranty of 25 to 30 years, which covers the output of the panels and ensures that they produce a minimum amount of energy over their lifetime. Inverters, which are the components that convert the solar panels’ DC power into usable AC power for your home, will typically have a warranty of 5 to 12 years. Solar installers will also give a warranty for at least 10 years on their workmanship.
Battery systems also come with warranties, which typically cover the capacity of the battery and the performance of the system. You should also keep all warranty documentation in a safe place and be aware of the procedures for filing a claim if necessary.
10- What if my system has problems?
If your solar system is experiencing problems, you should contact your solar panel installer or the manufacturer of the equipment for assistance. Most solar systems come with warranties that provide protection for the equipment and components of the system, and many companies offer ongoing service and maintenance for their systems. Note that solar installers might charge you to service equipment, however if the malfunction is the fault of the installer’s workmanship, they should not charge you for servicing the problem.
11- How do batteries work with solar?
Batteries can be used in conjunction with solar panels to store excess energy generated by the panels. This stored energy can then be used when the panels are not generating enough electricity, such as during nighttime or on cloudy days.
The basic principle behind this is that when the solar panels generate more electricity than is being used, the excess is sent to the battery, which stores it for later use. When the panels are not generating enough electricity, the stored energy in the battery is then used to meet the demand.
There are several types of batteries that can be used for this purpose, including lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries, and flow batteries. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice of battery will depend on several factors, including the size of the solar system, the energy demand, and the local regulations.
It’s important to note that battery systems are complex and require careful design and maintenance to ensure that they work efficiently and safely. It’s recommended to consult with a professional solar installer to assess your specific needs and determine the best battery system for your solar installation.
12- How long does it take to install a system?
The length of time it takes to install a solar system can vary depending on several factors, including the size and complexity of the system, the type of roof, and the availability of the necessary equipment and personnel. However, in general, most residential solar installations can be completed within a few days to a few weeks.
The installation process typically involves several stages, including:
- Site assessment– The installer will visit your property to assess the site, take measurements and evaluate any potential challenges or obstacles.
- Design and engineering– The installer will use the information gathered during the site assessment to design a customized solar system for your home, including the number and placement of panels, wiring, and other components.
- Permitting and inspections– The installer will obtain any necessary permits and schedule inspections with local authorities to ensure that the system meets all safety and building codes.
- Installation– The installer will begin installing the solar panels, mounting hardware, and electrical components, and connect the system to your home’s electrical system.
- Testing and commissioning– Once the installation is complete, the installer will conduct a series of tests and inspections to ensure that the system is operating properly and efficiently.
The length of time each of these stages takes will depend on the specific circumstances of your installation. However, a reputable solar installer will work with you to create a customized installation plan and timeline that meets your needs and ensures a smooth and efficient installation process.