Solar Help 101 and FAQ
Solar panel systems can be complicated, but going solar doesn’t have to be difficult. Learn all about solar panel technology, maintenance, and installation in Solar 101 and our handy Frequently Asked Questions section.
How do solar panels generate electricity for your home?
In 1954, scientists at Bell Telephone discovered that silicon, an element found in sand, created an electric charge when it was exposed to sunlight. This discovery led to the development of solar cells that captured the sun’s energy and turned it into electricity. Since then, the technology has evolved, and solar power systems now provide incredibly attractive financial benefits for homeowners, businesses and non-profits across the United States.
Thanks to solar panels, we have access to an inexhaustible source of power – the sun. Throughout the day, the cells on your solar panels absorb the energy from sunlight. Circuits within the cells collect that energy and turn it into direct current (DC) electricity. The DC electricity is passed through a device called an inverter to convert it to the alternating current (AC) electricity used by most homes and businesses. You can use that electricity in your home, store it with a solar battery, or send it back to the grid.
10 things to know about photovoltaic solar panels
Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems – also known as solar panel systems, solar energy systems, or solar power systems – convert sunlight into electricity. You can use the electricity generated by your solar PV system to power your home, your business or even your car.
- Solar panel systems are a great way for you to save money, no matter what your budget is.
If you can afford to pay your electricity bill every month, you can afford to install a solar panel system. With a $0-down solar loan, solar lease, or PPA, you can finance your system and see immediate savings.
- Installing a solar panel system is a great investment.
Investing in a solar panel system can deliver better returns than stocks and bonds – and now is the right time to make that investment. While solar photovoltaic technology is improving incrementally each year, financial incentives and rebates will decrease as solar becomes more popular.
- Solar photovoltaic systems have been around for a long time.
Solar photovoltaic systems are a well-proven technology first invented in 1954 by scientists at Bell Labs. Today, solar panels are installed on over one million homes in the U.S.
- Solar panel systems are highly durable.
Solar photovoltaic panels are made of tempered glass and can withstand hail, snow, rain, and high winds. They can even extend the life of your roof by protecting it from daily wear and tear.
- Solar power systems can produce electricity for 25 or more years.
Most solar panel manufacturers offer a 25-year power production warranty guaranteeing that their solar panels will continue to generate electricity at a certain capacity for the warranty’s duration.
- Solar power systems are practically maintenance-free.
Solar panel systems are incredibly durable. Except in extreme circumstances, they don’t need to be washed or cleaned.
- Solar panels can be installed almost anywhere in the United States.
Most locations in the United States get enough sunlight to produce sufficient electricity from solar panels. The most important factors to consider when you evaluate your solar panel options are the rates you pay for electricity and the rebates and incentives available to you.
- Solar energy systems are tied to the electric grid and do not require batteries to store power.
When you install a solar energy system on your property, you remain connected to the electricity grid. At times when your system produces more electricity than you use, you receive credit for the electricity you send to the grid; if you need more electricity than your solar energy system is producing, you can draw it from the grid.
- Solar power systems can eliminate most of your electricity bill.
With the right planning, your solar panels can generate enough electricity to meet your needs over a 12-month period. As long as you have enough roof space to install the right size solar panel system, the power that your panels will produce will effectively eliminate most of your electricity bill.
- Solar photovoltaic panels can be installed on the roof of your home or commercial property, on the ground or on a solar canopy.
Solar panels can be installed practically anywhere that receives direct sunshine for most of the day and is not shaded by trees or buildings. Panels that face south will produce the most electricity, but your panels can also face east or west.
Solar Power Continues To Increase In Popularity
Last year, more than 195,000 home solar power systems were installed in the United States, with a new solar project installed every 2.5 minutes. In the next two years, the country’s solar capacity is expected to double as more homes make the decision to save money by going solar. If you’re thinking about going solar, it can be hard to know where to start, so we put together this guide with important things to know about home solar power.
Types of Solar Companies
There are many different types of solar companies, and understanding the difference between them can help you understand who you will be working with for the planning and installation of your solar power system, where your solar panels will come from, and who you will stay in contact with for any maintenance or service needs.
- Vertically Integrated – Vertically integrated solar companies manage everything in-house, from manufacturing the solar panels and solar cells to financing, installation, and maintenance. Because these companies manage the entire process, they serve as a single point of contact throughout the entire process.
- Full Service – Full service solar companies manage everything you need to get solar on your home, from finance to installation and maintenance. The only thing they don’t do is the actual manufacturing of the solar panels, as they buy them directly from solar panel manufacturers. This allows them to pick the best technology, but sometimes that comes at a higher cost.
- Manufacturers – Manufacturers are focused on making solar panels, and selling them to other companies who manage the installation and maintenance process. Sometimes you can buy panels from manufacturers directly and install them yourself, but this is a difficult process for someone without a strong background in both roofing and electrical, so few homeowners go this route.
- Installers – Installers buy solar panels from manufacturers, and manage the installation process for you. They will often purchase the solar panels for you, since they can get bulk discounts, and then they include the cost of the panels in the total installation price. This allows them to pick and choose the best solar technologies, but it does require you to find your own financing options.
Important Things To Consider
There are many things to consider when going solar. To help you understand financing options, solar equipment differences, the total system cost, additional services many companies offer, and how to get the best customer service in the industry, we have identified the most important information you need to know.
As with any big purchase, you have options for how to pay for your home solar power system. For example, you can sign a Power Purchasing Agreement, buy it upfront with cash, finance the cost of the system over time, lease to own, or you may choose to lease the system indefinitely and save on the power it generates. To help understand what options are right for you, contact us for a free home solar power quote today.
- Solar Lease & PPA – Solar Leases and Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) are programs where the solar company owns, operates, and maintains the solar power system, and you simply agree to purchase the electric power the system generates at a pre-determined rate. In exchange for providing your roof for the solar panels to be installed on, the company is responsible for the installation, maintenance, and repairs of your panels, and will guarantee against any problems. In addition, most agreements include a pre-determined amount of power that the system will generate, and the company will reimburse you if the solar power system doesn’t provide the agreed upon amount.
- Lease to Own – If you decide to lease your system, or enter into a PPA, some solar companies will allow you to buy the system at market value once the lease period ends.
- Loan – Many solar companies offer loan programs where you own the solar power system, and pay off the loan over time. This gives you the benefits of owning the solar power system but spreads the cost out over time. Because the cost of the loan is often lower than the amount the solar power system saves you each month, it can result in zero out-of-pocket expenses to own the system.
- Upfront Purchase – If you have the money available, some solar companies will sell you the entire solar power system upfront, giving you the benefits of owning your own system, and not paying additional finance charges over time. While this does require a much higher upfront payment, the savings from a solar power system can often generate a positive return on investment in as little as 5 years.
- Moving – If you lease the system, you have the option of either transferring that lease to the new owner, or buying the system from your solar company first, and then rolling in the cost of that system into the price of your home. If you have already purchased your solar power system outright, you can simply roll the cost of the system into the price of your home when you decide to sell.
Most modern solar panel technologies offer similar levels of performance at a similar cost per panel, and working with the companies that we recommend guarantees that you’ll get the best technologies at the best prices. If you’re comparing the solar power equipment that’s currently on the market, it’s important to consider price vs efficiency, and the warranty & reliability of those panels.
- Price vs Efficiency – While some solar panel technologies are slightly more efficient than others, that additional efficiency often comes at an additional cost that offsets the difference. Unless you have a very limited amount of space on your roof, most current solar technologies should be more than enough to meet your power needs.
- Warranty & Reliability – Solar power systems will generate electricity for 30 years or longer, so you want to make sure your system, and the company that you purchase your system through, is going to be around for a long time to service and maintain that system. You also want to be sure your panels are covered by a warranty that lasts for the amount of time you expect to be using the system, so you don’t have any unexpected costs down the road.
Total System Cost
The total amount that you pay for your system, and the energy that it generates, depends on a number of factors beyond just the cost of the panels. The easiest way to calculate the cost of going solar is to contact us for a free home solar power quote. Some of the things we help take into account are your electricity costs, available incentives, the solar potential of your location, and the financing options that are available to you.
- Electricity Costs – Your electricity costs depend on where you live, and what other electricity-saving measures you have already made to your home. Other factors like what time of day you typically use the most energy can also have an effect on how much you can save with solar power.
- Incentives – Federal, state, and local incentives are designed to help people go solar, and can provide you with big savings if you qualify. Your solar company will typically know the incentives that are available in your area and can help you calculate those savings into the overall cost of the system.
- Solar Potential – The amount of solar power that your roof can generate will depend on what direction your roof faces, the size of your roof, and other factors like shade and regional weather.
- Financing – Financing costs need to be factored into the overall cost of your solar power system. The type of financing you qualify for, the length of your financing, and other factors will determine any additional financing costs to factor into your overall system cost.
When you work with a solar company, they do more than just put solar panels on your roof. The company that you work with will often be the one managing the maintenance and service of your panels, the warranty on your panels and installation, your financing options, and helping identify and apply for incentives that can help you save even more. To compare the services offered by the top solar companies in the industry, contact us for a free home solar power quote today.
- Maintenance – Make sure you know who is responsible for the maintenance of your solar power system. Generally, solar power systems are low-maintenance and don’t require frequent work, but you want to know who is responsible for any costs if your system does require service.
- Warranty – Many solar companies will provide a warranty for the installation of the solar panels, and the panels themselves, often for the entire expected life of the system. It’s important to understand the length of your warranty, and what it covers, to prevent any unexpected costs down the road.
- Financing – Solar companies can often help with financing your solar power system, whether that’s through financing options that they provide, or by helping you secure your own financing through a lease or loan.
- Incentives – There are many federal, state, and local incentives that help homeowners go solar. Many solar companies can help you identify the incentives that you qualify for, and can also help you apply for those incentives to take advantage of the savings.
- Manufacturing – Many solar installers also manufacture the solar panels and solar cells that they use, and this can help them keep costs down and pass along the savings to you.
Your solar power system will be saving you money for 30 years or longer, so you want to make sure the people you work with throughout the life of your system are going to provide the best customer service they possibly can. Every company that we recommend is highly rated by existing customers, and offers benefits like a dedicated salesperson, an in-house team of employees, and low or even zero service fees to maintain your system. To find out what company is right for your home solar needs, contact us for a free home solar power quote.
- Dedicated Salesperson – Some solar companies will provide you with a single dedicated salesperson that will help you through every step of the process, matching you with someone who knows your specific needs, and giving you a single number to call if you have any questions.
- In-House Team – Some companies use only their own employees, from sales and support through installation, while other companies use certified contractors who specialize in your local area.
- Service Fees – Solar companies offer additional and premium services, but these added services can come at an added cost. Make sure you understand any additional services that are available and consider those costs in the overall cost of your solar power system.