Solar Power Frequently Asked Questions
What is Solar Power?
Solar Power is way of collecting, monetizing, and using the Energy from the sun.
How do solar panels work?
Thin wafers of semi-conductor material, usually silicon, are laid out in a grid that are then sandwiched inside the protective glass and frame of each Photovoltaic aka Solar Panel. When the sun’s rays hit the silicon, electrons are excited and freed. Every PV panels has a grid of positive and negative metal wiring to collect the electrons as they are released from the silicon. As the electrons are collected the move down the positive and negative wiring in a current. Viola! A current of electrons is Electricity.
The suns electron are in what is called Direct Current, while a home or business runs on Alternating Current. The Inverter is the piece of equipment that changes the DC current from the sun to AC current.
How much does a solar electric power system cost?
Without appearing cheeky, the price of a solar system will vary on how much energy you need to produce. Some homes have systems that have 16 solar panels, while others have over 100 panels.
What we do at Hot Purple Energy is size the system based on energy needs, aesthetics, solar exposure, budget, and the desired rate of return.
We like to design systems that have a 6-8 year conservative payback.
As an example, a home that consumes 20,000 annual kilowatt hours has a annual Southern California Bill of
A system with a 6 year payback would produce X killawat hours per year and cost XXx before govt rebates and tax credit. XX after.
What Government Incentives are there?
California Solar Initiative
This program was put into effect by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2007 to incentivize rooftop solar in California by issuing a per watt rebate from the state for purchasing rooftop solar. By its design, the per watt rebate amount reduces as the funds are used. The concept is that as more homes and business buy solar, the cost for the equipment comes come down, thus a lowering rebate amount keeps the net price to the same for early or later consumers.
For the most part this has been a successful program as the price for solar equipment has dropped since 2007 and has been on par with the lowering rebate amount.
As of the second quarter of 2013, the rebate amount in Southern California Edison $.20 per watt, while for Imperial Irrigation District Costumers, where solar has been less absorbed, it is $1.95 per watt.
Federal Tax Credit
The Federal Tax Credit for residential roof top solar allows you to deduct 30% of the Solar System’s Cost from your personal Federal Tax Liability. If the tax credit exceeds your liability in the year of the systems purchase, the tax credit can be used in subsequent years out the credits expiration on December 31, 2016. Please refer to IRS Form 5695 for details on this credit and review your personal relevance with a tax professional. We have 100’s of clients who have benefitted from this credit and consider this a very worthwhile incentive.
How much will I really save on my utility bills from a home electric solar power system?
The amount of savings is based on a few factors: available roof space, budget, and your electric use. We have designed systems that produce 100% of a client’s power, as well as 50%.
For Southern California Edison customers, the tiered billing allows smaller systems to have a big impact on electric bills, as they move you from higher tiers to lower tiers offering the greatest return on investment.
We will review all of the parameters that effect what you can produce and what you want to produce.
What’s the difference between solar photovoltaic and solar hot water systems?
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) produces electricity – Solar Hot Water system run either water or glycol to the roof for heating water. While HPE does have some hot water options, we are strong advocates for Solar Electric. We are happy to discuss the options for both.
How much maintenance do solar energy panels require?
A great thing about solar is that has no moving parts and requires very little maintenance. Cleaning the panels is the primary care item. While some areas of the CV have more dust than others, the cost for cleaning is minimal compared to the savings.
We offer 2 free cleanings in year one, which allows us to determine how often the panels need to be cleaned. Rain does a good job, when we have it, but having them professionally cleaned helps tremendously with keeping the production up.
Can I finance my system? While most of clients pay cash, there are many ways to get into a solar system. The finance options are evolving as lenders are becoming increasingly aware of the validity of solar systems and their savings.
In essence there is room to add interest to the cost of the system and still achieve savings on your power bill. We will review the finance options and how they affect your individual savings.
What is a Solar Lease?
A very popular vehicle for getting into solar these days is the solar lease. It’s a zero down option that allows a client to run their home on solar power while saving on their electric bill.
Leases are for 20 years. You pay a monthly fee for your lease. This can be fixed or have a percentage increase over time. Ideally, the cost of your new solar reduced electric bill + your solar lease payment are less than your current grid electric bill. Thus, savings from day one. At the end of 20 years you can: buy the system at the then market value, release, or have the leasing company remove it at their cost.
The plus is that there is no to little money down, the negative is that you save significantly less than you do with a purchase, and you have a 20 year obligation that needs to be addressed if and when you go to sell the house.
It should be noted that not all leases are the same. We sadly see many leases in the marketplace that claim to offer production guarantees while using very cheap solar panels and shoddy installation techniques and equipment. We fear these 20 year leases will fall well short of their promises and solar itself will be blamed.
Hot Purple Energy has a lease product that utilizes best in class Sunpower panels and our same quality installations and customer service.
Do I need special insurance requirements?
Will I need a building permit to install a solar energy system in my home?
Yes. Hot Purple Energy handles the entire permitting process as well as HOA approvals if required.
What should I ask a solar professional installer?
One important thing to consider is who is doing the work on your house. Many companies focus on the solar savings, and avoid the reality that “solar” involves roof penetrations, electrical wiring, conduit runs to your electric meter to name a few. HPE is a full GC and other than bringing in local professional roofers to handle the roofing work, we perform all the work ourselves.
We guarantee our workmanship for 20 years and you will have met our construction manager, our super intendant and most likely the owner of the company in the process or at one of our events. In other words, we guarantee your piece of mind as well as your solar production.
As a fully licensed, bonded, and insured General and Solar Contractor as well as a proud member of the Desert Contractors Association we would be remiss if we didn’t also recommend researching your installer via the available resources:
California Sate License Board. Check any contractors license is in good standing and who its registered too. www.cslb.ca.gov,
Local References and Referrals and Affiliations.
Why is it important to get multiple bids?
There is a lot to consider when making a decision to get solar power. While we are confident in our value and workmanship, it helps to hear what’s available in the marketplace from numerous sources. Hot Purple Energy is a boutique company. We are not trying to be the biggest solar company, just the best.
Other bids will add to your knowledge and with knowledge your decision to go with HPE will feel even better.
How long will it take to install a solar power system in my home?
Depending on how complicated the roof and system is the actual installation can range from 4 to 10 working days. Permitting can take a week or two.
The Interconnection process with SCE takes about six weeks, so we plan our installation accordingly.
Your account representative will review the details of our crew’s availability and will work to match your schedule at that time.
What components do I need to install a grid-tiered solar electric system?
- The Photovoltaic Panels to collect the suns energy.
- The Stands and Rails to attach them to your roof.
- The Wiring and Conduit to run the DC power from your Panels to your Inverter.
- The Inverter, to convert the DC power from the Sun to the AC power for your house.
- The Conduit and wiring to the electric meter.
- The monitoring so you and HPE can see your production in real time.
All of this is permitted and processed by the utility company as well.
What is net metering?
Net metering is the adjusted billing arrangement that you will be under once producing your own grid tied power. As your solar system can and will generate excess power during a day or even within a month, the power company credits you for this over production.
Net metering is just that, the net of your annual production vs your annual consumption. You will still be given a monthly tally of your “bill” but as it may be a negative number one month and a positive the next they roll the credits until the end of the year.
Your account representative will walk you through this as billing can be a complicated subject to track.
Do I need battery backup for my solar panels?
Because your meter goes backwards during the day, you are storing your excess energy in the form of credit on your meter, so in a way the grid is acting as a battery back up. But if you would like to have emergency power for your home in the event the grid goes down, or run off grid at night, batteries would be required.
Having a full array of mobile “solar regenerators” we offer off grid as well as grid tied backup.
How much space do I need for a solar photovoltaic system?
The space required really depends on how much energy you use. We also will consider aesthetics, and shading issues. A few hundred square feet is average but this is really a case by case number.
How many solar panels do I need for an electric solar power system?
Solar panels have various wattages and efficiencies. We remain an open platform company but in retrofit solar usually use the most efficient Sunpower brand panels, meaning the smallest SF used on the roof to produce the most power. Your specific number of panels will be a result of your electric consumption, available area, and budget.
How much shading is too much for solar photovoltaic panels?
Don’t cut your trees without replacing them! This can add heat load to your house to where you will require more solar. This is where a good green architect can help with modern electronics and good installation techniques. Some shading can be mitigated.
How do I know if solar panels will work on my home?
If you have energy efficient home and still have over $150 in electric costs per month, solar is a viable financial option.
South, East, and West exposure works for solar with some shading being ok.