Solar Power – Frequently Asked Questions
1. How much does it cost?
Ah, the #1 question. It could cost you nothing. We have a Skelly Residential Solar Lease package that allows you to install solar, with no money down and with payments that are less than your existing electric bill. If you’re interested in purchasing a system outright, it can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $150,000+ depending how much electricity you consume and how easy an installation it is. For commercial customers, prices range even more wildly depending on your profession and what your building is being used for.
2. Why should I choose you rather than some other contractor?
That is a good question. We have been an electrical contractor in North County San Diego for over 40 years. Our employees live and spend locally (as possible) helping the local communities. Our goal is to build a relationship that you can rely on. We sometimes can catch things other companies don’t that end up costing more money once you’ve signed a contract with them. We’re up front about the costs associated with your project. Unfortunately some contractors aren’t, or they just don’t know what they don’t know. We’re even servicing warranties from other solar contractors that are out of business.
We also specialize in EV charging stations and general electrical work, ensuring that we’ll continue to be around to serve your warranties. We have extensive experience, the knowledge to pick the right high quality components, and the longevity to be there when you need us the most. We believe it says something that 95% of our work comes from both referrals and repeat customers. References are available upon request.
3. What do you need from me to determine if solar makes sense?
All we need is a way to contact you, your home address, mailing zip code, and a copy of your electric bill. From there we can give you an idea if solar will work for you. If everything looks good, we will set up a time to visit your install site and guide you through the rest of process.
4. Will you please send a high pressure sales person to my house?
Absolutely not! 🙂 We take a consultative approach to promoting solar. We want you to be happy with your decision and to send your friends and family our way. We work on trust and building long-lasting relationships. 95% of our business is from referrals and repeat customers.
5. Are there still incentives to install solar?
Yes! While the residential and commercial rebates will most likely be gone by the end of this year (2011), there will still be a solar tax credit of 30% until 2015, for both residential and commercial. Additionally commercial customers are able to take advantage of MACRS (basically accellerated depreciation). More information can be provided if interested.
6. Who processes the paperwork, permit, rebate application etc.?
We will process all paperwork associted with the solar permit, rebate application, and interconnection agreement with the utility. You will need to speak with your accountant or financial advisor regarding filing the appropriate paperwork for the 30% federal tax credit. Your accountant/advisor will need to refer to IRS Form 5695 & Instructions: Residential Energy Credits.
7. In the event of a power outage, will I be able to use my solar?
Most likely not. 95%+ of solar power systems are considered ‘grid-tied,’ which does not have a storage capability. Shutting down grid-tied systems is a safety precaution to prevent energy production feeding into the grid during an outage. This allows electricians to address issues without the threat of electrocution. Grid-tied systems are the most cost effective way of offsetting your current energy consumption.
The most cost effective way to prepare for a power outage is with a backup/standby generator and a transfer switch. We can help you with that too, if interested.
8. What happens to my grid-tied solar system when there is a power outage or brown-out?
If the grid goes down, your grid-tied PV system will turn off. It is designed not to ‘backfeed’ if in the event there is work being done to repair the power lines. When the power comes back on, the inverters will sense grid-voltage and, with a minor delay, start up again assuming there is sunlight to generate power.
9. What is involved with a system that enables me to use solar if the grid goes down?
Generally it will add about $1-3 per watt to have power when the grid goes down. There are other variables and factors that can affect this number including how your house is wired, what you want to run, and how much power you consume. Generally, it is more cost effective to use a backup generator if you’re in an area where power outages are rare. It is also a more involved process to determine the right system for your needs.
10. I really want to be able to run my house on solar if the grid goes down. Is it possible?
es, it is absolutely possible and done by people who live in remote locations. A system with this capability requires more equipment (transfer switch, charge controllers, batteries, etc.). You will need a location to store the equipment and well ventilated area that can be enclosed for batteries. See examples below. These are not “cookie-cutter” systems and you will need to be prepared to list quantities, equipment (tv, stereo, lights) and hours you will want to use electricity in the event of a blackout.
11. Can I use my existing generator to backup my house?
Yes and no. In some cases a generator you have may work or it may be too small, not the right voltage, or not the right power type. If you decide to go solar, we can help you in determining if your existing generator will be compatible for use as a backup generator.
12. If I install a solar system and I overproduce, I get a check from the utility. True?
Currently no. Net energy metering, or “NEM”, is a special billing arrangement that provides credit to customers with solar PV systems for the full retail value of the electricity their system generates. Under NEM, the customer’s electric meter keeps track of how much electricity is consumed by the customer, and how much excess electricity is generated by the system and sent back into the electric utility grid. Over a 12-month period, the customer has to pay only for the net amount of electricity used from the utility over-and-above the amount of electricity generated by their solar system (in addition to monthly customer transmission, distribution, and meter service charges they incur). Because of this system, we recommend sizing your solar system to offset 90% of your current consumption.
13. What about AB 920 - doesn't that say the utility will pay for electricity?
NEM customers are now eligible for “Net Surplus Compensation” or NSC for all public utilities in California, under Assembly Bill (AB) 920 (Huffman, 2009). This now applies to customers for solar not larger than 1MW, and applies to any solar customer under a Net Metering agreement. Consumers will receive wholesale rates between 3.5-4 cents per kilowatt hour, which is a fraction of what you’re paying for electricty now. Bottom line? It still doesn’t pay to install a larger PV system unless you know your consumption will increase in the future (for example, if you plan on purchasing an electric vehicle).
For more information on Net Surplus Compensation in SDG&E Territory, visit SDG&E’s Net Surplus Customer Information Page
14. Do you monitor my system during the warranty period?
In general, yes. For Enphase microinverter customers, monitoring is included free. We review every system on a regular basis during the warranty period, to ensure they are working properly and there are no issues. If an issue occurs we are notified via email and/or text message and work to resolve the issue within 24 hours.
15. What are benefits of micro inverters versus the traditional 'string' inverters?
Good question, you probably have done some homework! Traditional string inverters can be a good choice in certain situations. Generally we recommend using microinverters (and have over 1,500 in the field working) for a variety of reasons:
- Micro inverters tend to outperform string inverters, anywhere from 3-20%. In instances with shading, microinverters are always the best choice. We have customers with systems that are overproducing estimates, done with industry standard calculations, by 23%.
- Enphase microinverters come with free monitoring for the life of the system. Just plug in the Envoy (think of it like a solar ‘router’) into the wall, hook it into your home interenet connection, and you’re off. No additional cables or wires needed – the solar modules communicate with the Envoy via your regular power lines. There’s also an iPhone/iPad application.
- Enphase microinverters protect you from large scale system shutdowns. If a traditional string inverter fails, your entire system stops working. If an Enphase microinverter fails, you only lose that one inverter.
- Enphase will reimburse you for any power lost due to manufacturing defects.
- Microinverters are safer in general because you do not have to run high-voltage through your house to get to an inverter mounted on your wall. If the grid goes down, every inverter turns off at the module level – instead of having high voltage at ground-level.
- Enphase microinverters come with an unprescendeted 25 year warranty.
16. How long do you expect the system to last?
Generally string inverters last and are warranted for about 10-15 years. Microinverters are warranted and expected to last 25 years. Solar modules are warranted for 25-30 years. There are modules over 40 years old still operating and producing power.
17. Is any maintenance required?
It depends on where you live, but generally not much. If you live in a dusty area, wash your panels once or twice a year. If you live near an airport or freeway/highway, you might need to wash your modules 2-4 times per year. Washing can be done with a regular garden hose. If you live near the ocean or in an area that receives rain, you most likely will not have any maintenance.
18. Who are you, and how do you know so much about solar?
We are one of San Diego’s most experienced design-build electric, solar, and EV charging station contractors. We have more than 30 cumulative years in the solar business. We employ a staff that has experience with off-grid, on-grid, commercial, residential and large scale solar projects. See our About Us page on our website for more information.
19. Will you match or beat someone elses price?
Generally it is difficult to compare apples to apples when comparing quotes from two different companies. Some will deliberately leave out critical components needed to install your system. Sometimes contractors don’t realize it, but other times it is intentional so they will always have the lowest price. There are a lot of ‘new’ companies that promise lower prices with better products. We are serving warranties for companies that had the same mantra 5 years ago. Are we price competitive? Absolutely. Will we match pricing? Sometimes. Will we beat pricing? Maybe. See question 2.