You have questions about solar, we have the answers. See below for FAQs or click here to view our Solar Glossary.
A properly designed solar energy system from Byers can save you hundreds of dollars off of your monthly electricity bill and protect you against rising electricity rates in the future. The amount of savings available to you depends on many factors including your own electricity use in the home and your home’s solar exposure. In most cases, solar financing is less costly than utility payments and creates immediate positive cash flow as soon as you make the switch to solar.
The long-term benefits are also attractive with systems typically yielding investment returns of around 10 – 15% and lifetime savings in the hundreds of thousands. Real-world studies have demonstrated that installing solar on your home can add value to your property and help your home sell faster too. Currently, the federal government offers a 26% tax credit off of the amount you spend on your solar purchase. All of these benefits add up to make solar an excellent, “no brainer,” financial choice.
Absolutely! Using clean solar energy to power your home and charge your vehicle will significantly reduce emissions of harmful compounds that contribute to climate change, as well as reduce air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, which can cause serious health problems, especially in our youth. Buildings are responsible for 38 percent of all carbon emissions in the U.S. A typical residential solar system can eliminate three to four tons of carbon emissions each year — the equivalent of planting over 100 trees annually.
The easiest way to find out how much you pay for electricity and how much electricity you use per month is to take a look at your utility company electricity bill. If you are a PG&E customer, PG&E provides online tools to help you track and analyze your energy costs. Energy providers also use an online service for energy data sharing that lets a solar contractor provide you with exact information on your savings and needs, with your authorization. Register online with your utility company for these free services.
Net metering is the accounting system that tracks and credits solar energy production. Once you install solar you will automatically be enrolled in a net metering program and you only pay for the electricity that you use beyond what your solar panels can generate. Net metering rules and rates are changing and depending on who your utility company is, favorable net metering may be at risk. This is why it important to have Byers Solar at your side. Through our membership with CalSEIA, we meet face-to-face with California State legislators and lobby on your behalf, for fair and equitable net metering and other clean energy laws.
Studies indicate that homes with solar energy systems sell for more than homes without them. Property value only increases if you own, rather than lease, a solar panel system. Going solar can increase a home’s value more than a kitchen renovation.
After perusing our FAQ page, the next step is to give Byers Solar a call at 800-977-5323. Our client relations professionals can help answer some questions and direct you to our sales estimators who are well versed in all aspects from financing to design. Our production staff is also available to you and can help answer even your toughest technical questions. It is also a good idea to study your utility bill and allow this information to be shared with a Byers Solar professional so that they can help design a system that fits your power needs and your budget.
Make sure that a solar contractor is properly licensed, bonded, and insured. A California State License C-46 or C-10 is required to contract on solar jobs, unless the job includes two other trades such as roofing and gutters. You may request to see a copy of the contractor’s license and then verify the number on the Contractor’s State License Board license lookup tool. The license should be active and in good standing, with all the appropriate insurance and bonds attached. It is also recommended to research peer reviews of the company. Guild Quality is a web-based, consumer protection and customer satisfaction surveyor similar to Yelp but more professional. Organizations like the Better Business Bureau and CalSEIA can give consumers confidence when choosing a solar professional.
Your solar contractor should, at a minimum, hold a valid contractor license in either the C46 or C10 category. Ideally, your solar contractor is also part of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). This certification is the highest standard in solar certification and is designed to give consumers peace of mind by ensuring that the NABCEP contractor will adhere to industry best practices and all of the correct codes and standards. If you have chosen Sunpower as your preferred solar module, then you will want to know that your solar professional has earned the highest level of professionalism and certification, Elite status, through Sunpower’s own training and certification courses. Finally, CalSEIA members are vetted through an application process and must adhere to industry best practices and a strict code of ethics.
If you have multiple quotes from different solar installers, they may not be “apples to apples,” making comparison difficult. Start by identifying the power output of the system in kilo-Watt-hours (kWh), and note the associated savings and payback (in years and ROI), both long-term and short-term. Not all solar panels (modules) are made the same. Look closely at the quantity and type of panels; your investment will be more secure if your bid includes a quality product. Check the warranties on system performance, product manufacturing, and labor. Check consumer reports on both the product manufacturer and contractor. Verify the type and size of inverters used (string inverter versus micro-inverter versus power optimizer). Note whether or not the solar system includes a monitoring system. Note: Byers installs SunPower panels – the most powerful, highest-efficiency panels available today. SunPower systems come with a 25 year performance and manufacturing warranty.
Photovoltaic modules, a.k.a. “solar panels,” absorb and convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity via a naturally-occurring phenomenon called the photovoltaic effect. The photons in sunlight strike the surface of the solar cell composed of semiconductor material, typically silicon, that is coated with a reactive element such as boron or indium known as a doping agent. The photon provides enough energy to dislodge valence electrons in the solar cell. Once freed from their bond, the electrons are attracted toward a pathway created by embedding metallic wires into the solar cell.
The movement of electrons through the metallic wires in the cell creates electrical current. Multiple cells positioned and wired together makes up one solar module, commonly referred to as a “solar panel.” When multiple cells are configured in series “strings” (positive to negative, like batteries in a flashlight), the voltage of the circuit increases. When those strings of cells are then connected in parallel (positive to positive), the amperage or current of the module is increased. One solar module is typically made up of several parallel-connected strings of cells connected in series. Solar modules are then connected together, typically in series but sometimes in parallel, to produce usable voltage and current for the consumer. Since most homes and businesses run on alternating current (AC) electricity, the DC electricity is then passed through an inverter to convert it to usable AC electricity. At that point, you either use the electricity in your house or send it back to the electric grid.
The amount of power your solar energy system can generate is dependent on sunlight. As a result, your solar panels will produce slightly less energy in inclement weather, and no energy at night. SunPower has developed products specifically to address shaded and partial sun locations.
Yes. However, in most cases, property owners will still be connected to the grid once their solar system is installed. This allows energy to be drawn from the grid at night or when your system is not producing all of the power that you need. A grid-connected arrangement also allows you to send power back to the grid when you produce more than you use, which results in a greater return on your solar investment. Going off-grid requires the added component of battery storage and typically requires significantly more upfront investment.
Most solar systems are connected to the grid. Grid-connected solar systems are required by the National Electric Code to shut down automatically in the event of a utility grid failure, for any reason, in order to ensure the safety of utility line workers and emergency responders. Solar systems that have been designed and installed with battery storage provide back up power when the grid is not available. These systems include an automatic transfer switch that allows the solar system to continue to function without placing line workers or emergency personnel at risk. Ask us about these options, especially if your property is prone to power outages.
Solar panel systems are made of durable tempered glass and require little or no maintenance for the 25 to 35 years that they generate power. It may not even be necessary to clean the solar panel glass. Check your warranty information with your installer. This is your protection in the rare event of a malfunction or performance irregularity.
Off-grid solar systems are not connected to the utility grid. The home uses a bank of batteries to supply power to the house loads via the off-grid inverter and the solar is the primary source of charging power for the battery bank. A generator is often incorporated for battery charging when sunlight is not available.
The third type of solar electric system is called Battery-based. This is a hybrid between off-grid and on-grid systems. The solar is electrically connected to the utility grid but also has the ability to provide power to the home in the event of grid failure by incorporating a bank of batteries and a special, battery-based grid inverter.
The cost difference between on-grid and off-grid solar is typically in the tens of thousands of dollars. On-grid, battery-based systems being the most costly. For example, if a standard on-grid system costs $20,000. That same system with an off-grid inverter and a bank of batteries might cost closer to $30,000, while the on-grid, battery-based system would be closer to $35,000. However, as with all solar pricing, each system is custom and cost varies considerably depending on many factors such as geographical region, utility provider, household loads, solar system performance estimate, sun exposure, and solar panel mounting location.
The benefits to an On-grid system are primarily cost savings. The other systems not only cost more, but the on-grid system costs are hedged against money that would have been spent in the purchase of utility power in an unpredictable and inflating market.
Off-grid systems allow remote locations to bring power in for the individual site, where bringing full utility service would be cost-prohibitive.
The main benefit to Battery-based systems is that you have power available 24/7, regardless of utility power outages. In this scenario, time-of-use charges can be offset with stored power, radically cutting operating costs.
There are two main components required for a battery back-up, grid-tied system: 1. The batteries or battery pack, and; 2. The battery-based inverter, which is not the same as a micro-inverter or a grid-tied string inverter.
There are several benefits to a battery storage solution: 1. The solar system can continue to produce usable power when the utility grid is down; 2. If you have enough battery storage capacity, you can operate your home or facility “off-the-grid,” and; 3. Time-of-use load-shifting. Load-shifting occurs when the power from your solar array goes into a battery bank during peak sunlight hours and then is discharged from the batteries onto the utility grid at peak billing hours in order to take full advantage of high time-of-use rates from your utility thereby leveraging a buy low/sell high scenario.
The main drawback from incorporating a battery storage solution is cost. We can evaluate this investment for you to find out whether the benefits of load-shifting, for example, outweigh the cost to purchase, install, and maintain the battery inverter and battery pack. The second drawback is that with added components comes added complexity and that begets added maintenance. There are new products on the market that attempt to minimize user interface and maintenance, such as the Tesla Powerwall, the SolarEdge StorEdge, and the Enphase battery. All of these products are good options, if the return on investment makes sense.
However, perhaps your concern goes beyond money. Perhaps you are motivated to get away from the grid, be more independent, or be more green. If that is the case and you are willing to spend the extra dollars to achieve that goal, we can help design an energy storage system that is right for you.
The final drawback to consider is that the load-shifting benefit is only viable for utilities that offer higher time-of-use pricing. Once the time-of-use tariff is no longer used, load-shifting is no longer needed.
Have more questions? Give Byers Solar a call at 800-977-5323.
Other than the physical mounting location, the differences are cost and performance. Typically a ground-mount system can produce about 10% – 15% more power than a roof-mounted system due to the ground system operating at lower temperatures as a result of increased airflow. However, the cost of a ground-mount system can easily exceed 15% beyond the cost of a roof-mounted system.
Absolutely. Solar installers are required to obtain a permit from the city/county and the State of CA in order to install on a modular home.
The solar panels are designed with wonderful curb appeal in mind as we understand that home value is a primary concern for most homeowners. Sunpower solar cells have all of the unsightly metal, electrical leads installed on the back of the cell in order to make the cell and the array look monolithic and much more sleek on the roof.
Yes. The SunPower solar panels that Byers uses are tested under very low and very high temperatures. They are also designed for very heavy snow loads, well beyond what we experience in California.
All solar panels respond differently to being exposed to the elements. The better-built panels last longer than, the cheaper models. SunPower is the top manufacturer of solar panels in the industry with the lowest degradation rate and the lowest failure rate, and therefore the longest lifespan. In the event of a SunPower solar panel failure under warranty, the panel is replaced at no cost to the homeowner.
Yes, most solar issues will be covered by the SunPower warranty at no cost to the homeowner.
SunPower offers a comprehensive, 25 year warranty on manufacturing that includes no cost to remove, replace, test, or ship any defective equipment. Sunpower also includes a 25 year performance guarantee on power output. Read the SunPower 25 Year Combined Warranty.pdf
Yes, Byers offers a multi-product discount. Talk to your estimator for details.
In most cases, yes, we can take an on-grid system and convert it to off-grid or add battery-backup, with added costs to be determined by a technical site assessment.
That depends on the purchasing agreement. If the system was purchased with cash or a personal loan, the homeowner owns the system. If they want to get rid of the system, they can attempt to sell the used equipment. Byers does not offer buyback or refund options. If the homeowner leased the system, they can work with Byers and SunPower to cancel the lease and have the equipment returned. Think of purchasing a solar system as you would a car or major household appliance.
Byers Solar needs 12 months of your utility billing history and your utility rate schedule to get you an accurate quote for your power needs. One way to get that is by logging in to your online account with your utility and downloading your usage and billing history. If you do not have an online account with your utility provider, you may call them to request this billing information. If you receive and keep your paper statements (bills), you can scan and email those to us, copy and fax them to us, or bring them into our Design Center in person. Or you may simply read us the pertinent info over the phone or type the pertinent information into an email and send that to us. However, if any of this is problematic, you may provide us with your utility online account information and we can take care of all of this for you.