How does a solar PV system work?
The modules we use are a monocrystalline silicate that, when exposed to the suns’ light energy produce electricity in the form of Direst Current (DC) power. DC power is what powers your cars electronics or many other small electronic devices like cell phones and MP3 players. Your home consumes Alternating Current (AC) power, so the power generated by the solar modules has to first run through an Inverter, converting the DC power to AC. The electricity is then connected to your home through a circuit breaker in your existing electrical panel.
Am I still connected to the utility company power grid?
Yes, you will continue to be connected to the power grid by your current electrical provider. You will remain an “electric customer” however the power your solar electric system produces will reduce or eliminate your bill. At night or on a very dark or rainy day, your solar electric system may produce very little power, so your utility company will continue to sell you power as they do currently. However on a bright sunny day you will probably produce more than you consume. In this case the utility company will act as your battery system, storing your surplus power when you don’t need it and keeping it for you until you do. They will buyback your surplus energy at the same rate that it is sold to you in the form of a credit. You will continue to buy and sell credits freely until the end of the month when you settle up your bill. If you are a DWP customer you will continue to receive your water and waste bills.
Where are solar electric power systems typically installed?
At Solar Unlimited, we typically install solar electric modules on the south-facing roof of your home because the panels will be exposed to the most hours of direct sunlight per day. East and West facing roofs are also usable but slightly less efficient. In most cases north-facing roof are not used for solar electric. It is important to note that solar electric systems should not be installed in areas where they might be significantly shaded during the day.
What rebates and tax credits are currently available?
There is currently a 30% Federal Tax Credit that is applied to your Federal Income Tax bill. This tax credit covers 30% of your total out of pocket cost. This is a tax credit, not a deduction, you simply subtract the tax credit from the tax you owe or add it to your tax refund. While most people (about 99%) qualify for the full 30%, we recommend that you talk to your CPA or a qualified and licensed tax consultant before going forward with a solar purchase. Solar Unlimited clients do pay this portion of their solar cost at the time of installation, and the tax credit is applied to your Federal Income Tax bill. The California/CSI solar rebate program has ended for Edison customers however there are still some rebates available to DWP and some municipality customers. (check with your utility provider for details).
Will a photovoltaic (PV) solar electric system save me money?
Yes! The installation of solar PV system will reduce your monthly electric bill by 50 – 100% depending on the size of the system. A solar electric system also adds value to your home. A recent study of over 72,000 home sales concluded that the “average premium” for existing homes with PV is about 90 % to 110% of todays average PV installation cost. Your solar energy system will hedge against rising energy costs for as long as you own your solar powered home. Your roof will become a mini power plant, producing energy for a fraction of the cost of your current utilities.
How much will my system cost?
Installed system pricing is highly site specific. Some of the factors that determine price include:
- Size of electric bill (and the amount you want to offset)
- Location of your home
- Shape, height and slope (pitch) of your roof
- Roof accessibility
- Existing electrical service, sub-panel and electrical equipment
- State and local incentives that may apply, in addition to the 30% federal investment tax credit
As an example, a typical 2,500 square foot home with moderate electricity usage (an electric bill of about $175 per month) would require a 4kW system. The cost of installation would be about $18,000 to $22,000 before state and federal rebates and approximately $12,000 to $16,000 after rebates.
How do I maintain my solar system?
The maintenance required to keep your solar electric power system in working order is very minimal. With very few moving parts and with solid-state electronics, your photovoltaic system is designed to work for well beyond the warranty period. Washing the modules if/when they get dirty, and cleaning out any debris that may collect underneath them are the only maintenance tasks the homeowner has to worry about. Simply spray them off occasionally with a garden hose or sign up for an inexpensive maintenance program and they will continue to produce power for decades to come.