FAQ: Getting started with Solar Power
FAQ: After having your solar system launched
FAQ: Questions about using our site and the resources provided:Ebooks, calculators, videos
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A:The more sun your location gets in daytime, the more electricity your solar system produces and the more money you make. The area where solar panels are installed should:
- Face South (or North – if you live in the Southern Hemisphere – eg. Australia, New Zealand or South Africa). A deviation from South (North) of up to 30 degrees is also acceptable.
- Lack of any shading obstacles
- Have access to the sun between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
By using our Solar Silver or Gold solar package you can estimate:
- How much solar energy is available at your location
- How much electrical energy you can get from the sun
- How much a solar power system will cost
- How much you are going to save on utility bills
- What type of solar system suits best your needs
All information and data necessary to do these estimations is provided in these packages in an easy-to-read, concise manner comprehensible even by a 7th grade student. No technical background is required to read the ebooks or operate the calculators in the Solar Silver and Solar Gold packages.
Furthermore you can size, evaluate and estimate the cost of your solar system by our Silver Package calculators tailored to evaluation of grid-tied without backup, grid-tied with backup and off-grid solar electric system.
By our Gold Package calculators and complementary Gold Package ebook ‘Save Money On Electricity: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide To Solar Panels And Solar Power Systems’ you get all the info included in the Silver Package plus an opportunity for a techno-economic forecast of the financial profitability of your solar system and grid electricity cost savings. Gold solar package also helps you get prepared for solar vendor selection, solar installer’s site survey and be warned for some common tricks of solar vendors/installers, thus avoiding any unpleasant surprises as well.
Q: How much is the lifespan of a solar power system?
A:Most home/small office solar power systems have a lifespan of between 25 and 30 years. Usually solar manufacturers guarantee that after 25 years of operation solar panels installed will generate about 80 % of the electricity they generated after system launch.
Q: A photovoltaic system of what size do I need?
A: The size of a solar system depends on how much electricity you need daily. Furthermore the size is restricted by your roof area and available budget. To determine solar system of what size you need, and also to find a balance between these three issues – daily energy needs, available budget and roof area – we recommend you our Silver Package calculators. The Gold Package calculator not only determines the size of the solar system you need, but also helps you find out whether it is worth or not investing in photovoltaics.
Q:How much does a solar energy system cost, and how much will I save on utility bills?
A: There is not a simple answer to this question. A solar system cost depends on a variety of factors, such as:
- Whether the system is connected to the grid or is a stand-alone one;
- Whether it is battery based or not
- Whether solar panels are installed on the roof or integrated therein
- The system size (depending on your electricity consumption)
- Solar system rebate and other incentives reducing the price
- The particular components used
- The particular solar vendor/installer.
Your savings from a solar electric system would come from:
- System’s initial cost
- Solar system rebate(s) available
- System’s annual maintenance cost
- Costs for getting connected to local utility grid (if you are not connected to it)
- Feed-it tariffs
- Grid electricity price
- Grid electricity price annual increase rate
You can use our solar packages to estimate how much a solar energy system will cost and how much you will save on utility bills.
By our Silver Package calculators you can size, evaluate and estimate the cost of your solar system. Those calculators evaluate the three main types of solar systems: grid-tied without backup, grid-tied with backup and off-grid one.
By using our Gold Package calculators you can also make a techno-economic forecast about the financial profitability of your solar system and all the possible savings related to it. Furthermore the Solar Gold Package helps you get prepared for solar vendor selection, solar installer’s visit to your home, and also be warned against some common tricks of solar vendors/installers, thus saving you any unpleasant surprises.
Q: Can I afford photovoltaics for my home or office?
A: Well, it depends. As a rule nowadays the cost of solar produced electricity is still higher than the cost of electricity supplied by local utility grid. However, you must take into account constantly rising prices of electric energy 4-5% on average per year in the USA and higher rates in other parts of the world, which in turn may reverse this situation very soon. Moreover due to fast economic growth of Asian economy (China, India, etc.), the prices of energy are expected to be higher than forecasted.
Buying a solar system however in a remote area where utility grid is lacking may be the more cost-effective option than paying a fortune on getting connected to the utility grid. Furthermore it should be noted that if a purely photovoltaic system is not the cost-effective solution in a given case, a hybrid system comprising also an alternative power generator (wind or fuel one, in addition to the solar array) might be the beneficial option.
Although prices of photovoltaics are steadily going down and electricity prices rise gradually in the USA with 5% per year on average (in other countries the rate is even higher), the cost effectiveness of solar systems installation depends not only on solar panels prices but also on current electricity price at your location and cost of hardware installation. The cost of a PV system can be further reduced by solar rebates and other financial incentives. It should be also noted that the number of increasing solar installation is one of the factors that drives solar system prices down.
Therefore each case is different and needs careful evaluation. Replacing even partially your utility grid with a solar system however can be beneficial for you.
You can use our Solar Silver Package to make a basic evaluation of a solar system, including its initial and maintenance costs. Our Solar Gold Package provides an additional option to evaluate the financial profitability of investing in a solar system by eventually calculating grid electricity price savings and system payback period.
Q: Can local Homeowners Association (HOA) stop me from installing a solar power system on my building?
A: This is unlikely to happen. Your HOA may try, but in many states this is not allowed – like, for example, in California. You should mind however that your HOA may ask you to modify the system design and/or placement for aesthetic reasons. In a case like that such changes are not supposed to significantly impact solar electricity production (a decrease greater than 10%) or cost more than $2,000.
Q: How much roof space do I need for installing solar panels?
A: First of all the required roof space depends on your daily electricity needs.
Obviously the more energy to be generated, the larger roof area needed. What also matters is the number of bright sunny days in your area. Furthermore the area needed depends on solar panels of which type will be installed – thin-film (amorphous) solar panels require about twice as much roof space to install compared to their mono- and polycrystalline counterparts.
Our Solar Silver and Gold Package calculators estimate (both in square meters and square feet) the roof space you need for installing solar panel array generating your daily energy needs for the three main types of solar systems – grid-tied without backup, grid-tied with backup and off-grid.
Q:What roof type is best suited for a solar system?
A: The roofs suitable for installing solar panels should:
- Be unshaded, at least between 9 a.m. and 3 a.m. every day
- Face South (or North – if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, e.g. Australia, New Zealand or South Africa), within maximum ±30 degrees of deviation
- Have easy access to and be not too steep
- Have enough free space for panel installation
- Be made of composite
Q: Do I need to have my roof replaced?
A: Most roofs are expected to have a lifespan of about 40 years. This means that to avoid replacing your roof with a new one during solar system’s period of operation (which is typically 25 to 30 years), you roof should be less than 15 years old at the moment of system installation.
Q: How will the solar panels be mounted?
A: Roof is not the only possible place to mount solar panels. There are four types of mounting used in solar systems:
- Sloped roof mounting
- Flat roof mounting
- Roof-integrated mounting
- Ground mounting
- Fa?ade mounting
Each one of these mounting types has its benefits and drawbacks. It should be noted that not every mounting construction is suitable for every panel type. Furthermore certain types of solar panels are designed for a specific mounting type only.
Our Solar Silver Package ebook ‘Save Money On Electricity: Solar Panels And Solar Power Systems Basics Exposed’ presents you in details all the above methods for solar panel mounting.
Q: Do solar panels need to be tilted at an angle?
A: Ideally yes. To achieve maximum performance of your solar system, solar panels need to be tilted at a certain angle. Moreover different tilts are recommended to optimize solar system performance in summer, in winter and all the year round. It should be noted however that for system performance tilt angle is less critical than orientation.
In our Solar Silver Package ebook ‘Save Money On Electricity: Solar Panels And Solar Power Systems Basics Exposed’ you can find all the details you need about tilt angles of a solar panel array.
Q: How many solar panels do I need?
A: As mentioned above, the area needed to install solar panels depends on:
- Your energy needs, i.e your daily energy target
- Available solar energy at your location
- Type of solar panels used (that is, solar panels efficiency)
The number of solar panels depends on the needed area and on panel size. You can easily get the number of panels required by dividing the area by the typical panel size which is 16 square feet (or 1.5 square meters).
Our Silver and Gold Package calculators estimate the area (both in square meters and square feet) you need for installing solar panel array generating your daily energy needs for the three main types of solar systems – grid-tied without backup, grid-tied with backup and off-grid.
In summary by the Solar Gold Package you can estimate:
- How much solar energy is available at your location
- How much electric energy you can get
- How much a solar energy system will cost
- How much you will save on utility bills
- What type of solar system best suits your needs
- How many solar panels do you need
Q: Is solar electricity produced in bright sunny days only?
A: No. The best weather for producing solar power is surely the sunny day. This does not mean that solar electricity can be generated during sunny days only. Solar electricity is produced even in fog or rainy day although in such days energy yield is just 25-30 % of the one at best weather.
Q: What happens when it snows?
A: Immediately after solar panels get covered with thick snow they do not produce electricity. However since snow easily slides off panel surface after getting melted and your panels will be again exposed to sunlight relatively soon. Furthermore power production might even boost due to the sunlight reflection in the white snow around.
Q: What happens to solar panels in hail?
A: Typically solar panels are stated by their manufacturers to withstand 3/4 inch hail balls at 120 miles per hour.
Q: What if a solar panel gets struck by a lightning?
A: If you buy a solar system from a certified vendor/installer, you can be sure that it is designed to withstand lightning. In case of a solar panel hit by a lightning, your solar vendor is fully responsible for all the subsequent repair works.
Q: Can I sell extra solar electricity produced by my home solar system to my utility company?
A: Yes, but not in most states. 44 states in the USA have adopted certain net metering policies according to which you can get a “roll over credit” if your system makes more energy than you use that you can then use back if you need more electricity than you are producing.
Q: How can I start my own photovoltaic business?
A: We cannot provide you with any publications dealing with this topic. A smart idea however is to get in touch with the marketing department of manufacturers of solar components and systems.
We recommend you our highly informational Solar Gold Package to get the essential technical info and knowledge necessary for your solar business, with details revealed in an easy-to-read manner. No technical background is required. What is more the information, problems, possible questions and solutions are presented from a customer’s point of view. Knowing the customer’s point of view, his/her internal objections, hesitations and doubts towards solar energy and the way to address them, would give you a huge advantage over your competition.
For more information about any tax credits, grants and other incentives available in your area, check the national Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE). DSIRE is a searchable online renewable energy database that includes state financial incentives, programs and regulatory policies, utility programs and incentives, local government and community incentives, programs and policies that support renewable energy production.
A: Yes, but that might be complicated because your system needs to be resized. This means that you will probably have to replace some (or all) of the main components – inverter, charge controller and battery bank. A smart idea would be to oversize your system a bit in the process of initial evaluation – that is, set your daily electricity target somewhat (you choose how much exactly) higher that your real consumption by considering your increasing needs for electricity in the next few years. Mind however that there’s not such a thing as ‘free lunch’ – for oversizing you have to pay extra money which obviously will not match your energy needs at the moment of system start.
Our Silver Package calculator helps you try various system configurations by setting different values for daily energy target. By repeatedly playing each one of those scenarios, you eventually obtain the results matching best your available budget.
By the Gold Package calculator you get even more – how your savings and system payback period will be affected if you choose to oversize your solar system with a daily energy target a bit higher than needed.
Q:Will my solar system keep on generating electricity if the utility power goes out?
A: No. If you have a solar system connected to the grid, in case of a power blackout your system will shut down immediately until the utility supply is restored. This feature is provided for safety reasons and is a must for every grid-tied system.
Should such a grid power outage be unacceptable for your home or office, you could consider buying and installing a grid-tied system with power backup.
It is described both in our Solar Silver and Gold Package and can be evaluated by using the therein included calculators.
Q:What maintenance will my solar system need?
A:As a rule solar electric system need little maintenance since they do not have any moving parts. During solar system lifespan (which is expected to last between 25 and 30 years) the following components have to be replaced:
- Inverter and/or charge controller (if any) – every 10-15 years of operation
- Batteries – every 5 years of operation.
Our Silver and Gold Package calculators estimate annual maintenance cost of the three main types of solar systems: grid-tied without backup, grid-tied with backup and off-grid.
The Gold Package calculator of grid-tied systems without backup offers you profits and loss estimated both with and without maintenance costs included. Thus you can easily check whether a solar installer has accidentally ‘forgotten’ to include system maintenance costs in an offer to make it more attractive.
A: As a rule you don’t need to regularly clean your solar panels because it’s not necessary. Yes, solar panels do get soiled by dust, bird droppings, etc. but wind and rainfall act as natural cleaners, so that generated electricity remains near its optimum. You have to clean your panels upon a heavier drop in electricity production (10-15%) occurring in very special situations, such as a forest fire in your area.
Questions about using our site and the resources provided:Ebooks, calculators, videos
A: Our calculators are web-based ones. Therefore they support all operating systems, namely:
- All Windows OSs
- All MAC OSs
- Linux (64 bit)
- Linux (32 bit)
To use our calculators you must install or have installed Adobe Flash Player on your computer. You can download it for FREE from: http://www.adobe.com.
A:Our ebooks and help files use the Adobe pdf-format.
To open ebook(s) or help file(s) you must install or have installed the latest version of Adobe Reader. You can download it for FREE from: http://www.adobe.com.
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