Solar Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

solar faq smart solar shopper

Solar FAQs: Top Benefits, Solar Panels Costs, Outages

Can You Save with Solar Panels?

Yes. You are essentially trading your electricity bill for a smaller bill. Your savings amount may be impacted by the price of electricity and active solar incentive programs. For most homeowners in California, the cost of electricity has doubled in the last ten years.

What are the top benefits of installing a solar energy system?

1. Cost-Effective: Reduced electricity cost and makes a predictable electric bill.

2. Tax Savings: Financial incentives for installation which may include Federal and State tax credits.

3. Home Value: Can increase the property value when it’s a solar panel system purchase. Wouldn't you be willing to pay more for a home that had a lower cost to maintain? Imagine if your home's value increased by 3.74% if you added solar to your home.

4. Sustainability: By reducing our dependence on fossil fuel-based energy from the utility company, we can prevent the release of air pollutants that are harmful to both the environment and public health.

5. Provides Protection: Solar panels can provide protection for your roof, and from the sun. Solar carports, for example, can provide shade and a covered parking lot for cars.

6. Power Grid Demand: By going solar, you can reduce your energy demand on your power grid during peak demand times.

7. Low Maintenance: Solar systems typically require very little maintenance; they are incredibly durable and easily accessible for service and repair.

Disadvantages of installing a solar energy system?

Costs: There is an initial investment, but property owners can reduce the cost with solar incentives, a lower electric bill, and numerous financing solutions.

How it Looks: Some individuals don't like the aesthetics that come with solar panels. However, there are newer panels that are available, which may even accentuate the look of your home.

Impacts to Efficiencies: Some residential and commercial properties have aspects about them that hinder the performance of their solar energy systems. For example:

- Poor roof design - with too many vents or corners that makes it difficult to maximize space to fit solar panels.
- Poor positioning - South-facing roofs typically are best since they maximize the exposure to the sun.
- Weather - Solar panels work efficiently in most weather conditions unless it is extraordinarily cloudy or an area without a lot of sunlight.

Will a solar energy system protect me from grid blackouts and outages?

Even though you have a solar energy system, your power will also be interrupted for the safety of the repair crews who may be working on the power outage. Homeowners, looking to protect themselves against outages and blackouts should consider a battery backup system to gain independence from the grid.

Why Don’t More People Use Battery packs?

Cost and availability. Solar PV systems that include battery storage are still quite expensive, and there are waiting lists for specific brands. If you'd like the comfort of knowing that you'll have power and independence when the grid goes down, a solar PV system that includes solar battery backup to protect against outages may make sense.

Will I ever need to replace my solar panel?

Not likely, but it does happen. Solar panels have been designed to prepare for exposure to harsh outdoor elements. There are first-generation solar panels still in service after 40 years that still produce 75% of their original output. Plus, they are relatively simple, with no moving parts and so it is rare for issues to arise.  If cracks or breaks do emerge, it is typically best to get a maintenance service to come and assess them. 

Most solar panel companies offer 20, and 25-year equipment warranties as a standard to their solar panels. While warranties are excellent because it helps provide peace-of-mind and brings protection to your solar investment, but it is essential to know what your warranty covers.

If there are issues with regards to the performance of the solar panel output and are under-producing, the manufacturer will replace those panels for free.

There is a difference between a performance and a production warranty. Don't be fooled and make sure that your solar panel installation comes with workmanship warranties addition to the solar equipment performance guarantees.

Will installing solar panels damage my roof?

It shouldn't. The technology has gotten much better where the chance of this happening is much less than before. If there is an issue, it is typically during the installation and workmanship warranties are offered by the company who sold you the solar PV system. Workmanship warranties will cover any labor-related defects, such as damage to your roof or other parts of your home or property as a result of a solar system installation.

Besides, as long as you own your solar panels and they are roof-mounted, the system will be included under your homeowner's policy and covered in standard plans without raising your premium.

How long do solar panels take to install?

The installation itself should take less than 6 hours.

The entire process of going solar, however, may take a bit more time. For most the experience process spans from finding the right solar installer, getting a quote, evaluating financing, to having a site assessment all before the installation itself takes place.

Always search for an approved contractor to install your solar panels. We recommend that you do consult with at least three different contractors for advice and pricing of solar systems. Whoever you choose, should do a detailed analysis of your property, and advise accordingly. They will be able to guide you through the process from start to finish. Because it can be such a process, working with a broker like Forme Solar will help simplify the process while finding you the best rate possible.

How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels are built and installed to endure harsh and unpredictable weather conditions, even in situations with lots of snow, rain, and wind. Only in the most extreme cases like places with lots of hurricanes, solar panels may not hold up very well. But that could also be said for the condition of the home as a whole.

For most places with strong winds or harsh weather conditions, counties and cities will require a specific way to design and install the solar panels to accommodate for different wind uplift speeds. These speeds can range anywhere from 3-5 seconds at 130 MPH in areas like Upload, California and Rancho Cucamonga, California. CAD designers and Engineers will make be sure to take these factors into account as they do the load calculations for your home.

Solar panels are typically guaranteed to last for 25 years but can last for more than 40 years. Even after 25 years, your solar panels would still produce 75-80% of its original performance. Not only will your solar panels last for decades, but it will also continue to perform highly.

How Do I Best Maintain My Solar energy System?

A solar PV system typically requires very little maintenance and are incredibly durable. If possible, we do recommend getting your panels cleaned once or twice a year.  Using your garden hose should be enough to rinse your panels. If you’d like to do a deeper clean, we recommend using a 1-part vinegar, 2-parts water solution every six months to reduce mineral deposits and keep your panels operating at maximum efficiency. 

We recommend that any rinsing be done in the early morning while the panels are still cool.

Will going solar increase my Homeowner's Insurance?

Every homeowner's insurance company handles their insurance policies different. We typically find that installing a solar PV system on your home does not increase your homeowner's insurance. But we recommend checking with your insurance agent to ensure that your system is properly covered or if there are any additional costs to your insurance policy.

Will going solar increase my property taxes?

Section 73 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code allows a property tax exclusion for Solar PV energy systems installed between January 1, 1999 and December 31, 2019. However, we recommend that you consult with your independent tax advisor since our intention is not to provide legal or tax advice.

How Does Net Energy Metering (NEM) Billing Work?

Utility customers who produce their energy are eligible for a unique billing option called Net Energy Metering (NEM). So when you go solar, you will be switched to NEM and will receive a Settlement Bill every 12 months. You are billed annually for your energy charges because energy credits can offset your charges for the surplus electricity you supply to the grid over your 12 month billing period.

If your commercial or residential solar energy system is designed and sized correctly, this credit should offset all or part of the costs associated with the energy you consume. Under this billing option, customers are charged once a year for the “net” energy consumed over the previous 12 months, if any. Your utility provider will read your meter once a month, record the “net” amount of electricity either consumed or generated over the entire month but will receive an annual bill. Customers are also billed monthly for nominal costs associated with account administrative fees.

You will receive a bill at the end of your 12-month billing period as a customer-generator under your utility company's' Net Energy Metering (NEM) Program OR your electricity bill has been settled due to changes in your account. This statement includes the year-to-date energy charges for your completed 12-month billing period. If the year-to-date energy charges are positive, you have been a net consumer of energy and are being billed for your net energy consumed over your 12-month billing period. This annual billing period is called your “relevant period” and is a vital time frame to remember. During your relevant period, your net energy usage charges or credits are tracked monthly.

If your year-to-date energy charges show a credit balance, you have a net generator over your 12-month billing period and do not owe any energy charges. If your year-to-date kilowatt-hours (kWh) are negative, you may receive net surplus compensation based upon the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved value per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

We highly encourage our customers to pay the net charges monthly.

What if my roof is in poor condition?

Your solar energy system will last for more than 25 years. The panels have been found to last for decades, so it is recommended that if your roof is in need of repair or doesn't have a lot of years left it makes sense to replace the roof and install solar at the same time. Some solar installers like Forme Solar, offer a service to do solar panel removal on a roof that already has solar. This process involves removing the solar energy system, roof repair, and reinstalling your solar energy system on top of the new roof.

What are the best roof conditions for solar?

The best setup to install solar on a household roof would be if your home has a large, south-facing or southwest-facing roof that does not have any obstructions that cause shade, with a 30-degree pitch. It would be ideal if the roof was also in new or good condition as well.

Why are some of my solar panels not generating as much?

The biggest reason why certain solar panels may not be produced to the same degree is the orientation of the panels on your roof. In the United States, North-facing or North-east facing roofs get less sunlight over the course of the entire year than South-facing rooftops. Obstructions that on your solar panels that create shade like trees, lamp posts, chimneys, or other buildings can also make a big impact on how much sunlight your system is exposed to, leading to lower power output.

TLDR: Your South Facing Roof > West Facing Roof. Avoid North and North-east facing roofs

What if I'm a renter or live in an apartment?

In order to go solar, you need to be on the title of the property. Therefore, most solar energy solutions are geared toward homeowners or commercial property owners. There are ways though for people who rent an apartment or a home to benefit from solar. Some utility companies offer solar programs for renters that allow people to buy solar power from remote solar installations.

Can I oversize my system?

Definitely, but there will be limits. Every utility company has different rules on this question, and some utility companies have a limit to your solar energy system's size to a proportion of your previous 12 month's electricity consumption. We typically recommend that you oversize your system to at least 120% to factor in the increase in usage after going solar, and the loss of efficiency that your system will experience in the first 3 years.
If you're planning to purchase a system that may consume a lot of power such as an electric vehicle, cryptocurrency mining rigs, or add a pool in the future, you should factor in that increase in usage as well. It is much more expensive to add additional panels in the future vs. properly factoring in for that solar energy system kWh size increase.

Risks of going solar?

When your solar energy system is properly installed and maintained, solar panels and how they generate electricity should not pose any danger to your home. Issues that do arise, are relatively uncommon but are typically related to the installation and operation of a solar energy system. Some issues and risks that have come up historically around a solar PV system include roof leaks, hot spots, and on extremely rare cases, catching fire.

Will my solar panels produce on rainy days?

Solar energy systems will capture and convert sunlight even on rainy days. The amount of electricity that they produce will be much less efficient than sunny days. But if your solar energy system is designed properly, it will take under consideration these rainy days since you should be on an annual billing plan called, Net Energy Metering (NEM).

Solar Battery FAQs

What is the difference between an AC-coupled battery and a DC-coupled battery configuration?

It all depends on whether you are installing solar for the first time on your home or adding solar in the future.

For New Systems - A DC Coupled System is needed

For an Existing Solar Panel System - AC Coupled System is needed.

How does my solar battery need to be stored?

Your solar battery, at it's very basic level is still a battery. That is why regardless of the brand and type of battery, your solar battery should be stored within a temperature range of 34-120 *F, and free from condensation, icing, and direct sunlight. Avoid storing your solar battery in a place with excessive dust or oily mist.

Is there such a thing as a government funded "Free Solar" program?

"Free Solar" was typically used to describe the PACE funding program. An initiative that required $0 upfront costs. Because the PACE financing program helps home and business owners avoid upfront costs, it enables property owners to begin saving on energy costs while they pay for their solar panels through their property taxes. This typically means that property owners see net gains even with the higher property taxes.

Are solar batteries capable of powering an entire house?

Yes, but check the wattage! The average residential home with need a ~20kWh battery to power an entire home, depending on the total load size, and appliance types. 

What are the tax incentives and rebates that currently exist for solar batteries?

There is a Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) in California, as well the Federal ITC when a battery storage solution is installed with a qualifying solar energy system (please check with your tax professional first).

Do batteries come with monitoring?

Yes, most batteries like the LG Chem, Q.HOME and Tesla Powerwall include monitoring via a web portal and/or a mobile application. The reason why you want to pick a reputable company for you solar battery isn't because of the battery itself but for the monitoring system. By going with a reputable solar company, you know that the software for monitoring will be updated and maintained properly.

What do solar battery warranties look like?

Typically most major solar batteries come with a 10 year equipment warranty for the full system. But be sure to ask how long your solar battery warranty is for and what it covers! For example, some battery warranties will include the inverter and others may not.

Will getting a solar battery be enough for me to gain independence from the grid?

Most batteries will power both the main panel and the backup circuit when the grid is on. When the grid goes down, only the backup panel is powered; the main panel is cut off by the automatic transfer switch in the inverter. Will my solar panels continue to charge my battery during an outage?

Will my solar panels continue to charge my home battery during an outage?

This is one of the most common misconceptions about getting a battery. When the system is off, most batteries from the LG Chem to Tesla Powerwall will not be able to charge the battery during the event of the blackout. For homeowners in California who need to have protection against an outage that may last for multiple days should consider a battery backup system that has an “islanding” capability. Battery backup solutions like a microgrid can provide such capabilities for homeowners looking for long term outage independence from the grid.

Solar FAQs Help You Become a Smart Solar Shopper

At Forme Solar we are committed to being here for all of your solar energy-related needs and help you become a smart solar shopper. From being a guide for your Solar Panel Installation, solar on your home or repairing your solar energy system, you should go solar with confidence. Call Forme Solar at 714) 694-2262 or click here to receive a no-hassle solar energy system quote.