Solar Battery Storage – Why Your Battery Matters
As home solar technology has rapidly evolved, so has the variety of solar offerings. While different solar panels or solar storage batteries may look the same, the inner-workings of the technology may be very different.
When it comes to home solar storage batteries, the most often considered choices are lead-acid or lithium-ion. You may have seen lead-acid batteries as part of a solar emergency kit. Right now, Sunnova offers lithium-ion batteries through reputable manufacturers like LG and Tesla.
If you’re considering a solar storage battery, we’ve outlined some specifics to help you weigh the pros and cons of each type of battery.
Lithium-Ion vs. Lead-Acid – An Intro
Dating back to the 1850s, lead-acid batteries are commonly found in golf carts and wheelchairs. Lead-acid batteries are cost effective for short bursts of backup power and infrequent use.
Lithium-Ion batteries are generally considered to be the most efficient option for home solar storage. Lithium-ion batteries can be used every day with very little maintenance.
Which Battery is Best for Your Home Solar Backup?
A few factors to consider:
- Cycle life - how often a battery is charged and depleted.
- Capacity – how much energy can be stored and discharged by the battery.
- Depth of discharge - the percentage of a battery that can be safely depleted without damaging the battery.
- Cost – total cost of the battery.
- Warranty – is your battery covered by a warranty?
The more you cycle a battery, the less effective the battery becomes. All batteries are made to handle a set number of cycles.
Lithium-ion batteries typically last for several times the number of cycles as lead-acid batteries. Specifically, for everyday use with home solar, lead-acid batteries often last under two years, while lithium-ion batteries can last 10 years, depending on usage and other factors.
While energy storage capacity will vary by individual battery, lithium-ion batteries are proven to have significantly higher energy density than lead-acid. This means that lithium-ion batteries can store more energy in the same physical space than lead-acid batteries.
For emergency solar backup power, it will take several heavy lead-acid batteries to match the capacity of one large lithium-ion battery.
If you’re using a solar storage battery, the battery will never deplete 100%. If you deplete a battery more than the recommended depth of discharge, you may risk damaging the battery.
Lithium-ion batteries can be depleted to around 80% capacity or more, while lead-acid batteries can usually be depleted to 50% capacity. Basically, lithium-ion batteries have more usable battery capacity.
While lead-acid batteries may be cheaper at initial purchase, their shorter cycle life means that you will likely have to purchase batteries more often.
When purchasing a battery, it’s important to check the warranty coverage offered. If you add a lithium-ion battery from Sunnova to your existing solar system, the battery comes with a 10-year limited manufacturer warranty.1For parts covered under this warranty, Sunnova will coordinate all maintenance and repairs to ensure your experience is hassle-free.
Did you know? The International Space Station is making the switch to lithium-ion batteries! Since 2017, NASA has replaced nickel-hydrogen batteries with lithium-ion batteries to store excess solar produced by the ISS’ solar array. Learn more.
Add Battery Storage
At Sunnova, we are focused on delivering affordable, renewable, and resilient energy solutions for our customers. Through the use of solar + battery storage, we offer energy backup to ensure that, our customers can live life uninterrupted.2
If you're new to solar, learn more about our Sunnova SunSafe™ home solar + battery storage combination. If you already have solar, we can add a solar storage battery to your existing home solar system.
Questions about battery storage? Get in touch with one of our solar experts!
2: The amount of power available during a power outage is limited, depending on the loads connected and the customer usage during a power outage. Some solar systems and/or its components (including batteries) could require repairs to be completed after certain events. Please refer to your agreement for conditions and limitations.
Three Ways To Reduce Your Energy Costs on Time of Use Rates
Home solar offers many benefits to everyone – especially residents of areas that are known for higher-than-average electricity prices. Nowhere does that statement ring truer than in California, where residents have increasingly turned to rooftop solar systems as a way to save money on their overall energy costs.
In 2016, California implemented Net Metering (NEM) 2.0. The biggest NEM 2.0 changes: all residential solar customers must transition to time-of-use (TOU) rate plans. All residential solar customers also have to pay certain “non-bypassable charges” to their utility.
We’ve pulled together some information to help you understand the regulations governing NEM 2.0 and how you can make the changes work for you.
What is NEM 2.0, Exactly?
NEM stands for net energy metering (or as we say, net-metering). The 2.0 refers to the fact that the previous policy that applied to net metering in California has been modified. NEM allows customers who generate their own energy to not only power their homes (or businesses) directly, but also to receive credit for any surplus energy generated and sent to the electricity grid.
With the help of net-metering, solar customers have historically been able to maximize their solar savings. With NEM 2.0, the California Public Utilities Commission has directed Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to transition solar customers to time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates, beginning in 2019.*
In addition, customers also have to pay certain “non-bypassable charges” that weren’t required under the original net-metering program. This has many California home solar customers understandably concerned about the impact NEM 2.0 could have on their long-term solar savings.
Understanding TOU Rates
Time-of-use rates aren’t new in the utility game – they’ve been around for a while in many markets. What is new, however, is for public utilities to actually require solar customers to use them. Simply put, TOU rates mean that the price you pay for electricity varies based on the time of day you use it – hence, the “time-of-use” modifier. In some cases, pricing may also vary from season to season.
Basically, customers pay less for electricity at times of the day when there is less demand on the electric grid, and they pay more for electricity during times of day when there is more demand. These are often referred to as off-peak and on-peak periods.
For example, SDG&E defines on-peak hours as 4-9 p.m. Off-peak hours would be any other time of the day outside that time frame. Some SDG&E plans also include a “super off-peak” period that further segments off-peak hours into specific times of even less demand.
So, why are TOU rates such a big deal for California solar customers in particular?
Because the highest rates apply in the early evening, when usage tends to be higher (on-peak) as people are usually returning home from work, school, etc. That’s also when solar production is lower, as sunlight begins to fade for the day. When your solar system isn’t producing enough energy to power your home, you’re faced with having to pull expensive grid energy instead. In fact, you might pay as much as 67 cents per kWh for on-peak electricity usage during summer months.
But, don’t panic – you won’t have to do your laundry at 1 a.m. to dodge high energy costs. There’s actually a much more convenient solution for home solar customers.
The Game Changer for TOU Markets – Battery Storage
What concerns most California solar customers is the fact that solar energy production is lower during evening, or on-peak, hours (when the sun is setting). But that’s not such a big deal if you’re able to store and use later the excess energy your solar system produces throughout the day. Energy storage technology has evolved to help make that a reality. Innovative products such as the Sunnova solar + battery storage package, allow you to get the maximum benefit from your solar panels. And that means peace of mind during peak TOU hours.
How Solar + Storage Can Reduce Your Energy Expenses
Reducing energy costs is probably the biggest solar incentive of all for homeowners. Solar customers with battery storage capabilities have a unique opportunity to make TOU pricing work for them and continue reaping the benefits of home solar. Here’s how you can use your Sunnova solar + battery storage plan to help you make the most of your solar system and TOU rates: Charge the battery during off-peak hours
1) Charge your home battery during off-peak hours.
If there’s sufficient sunlight, your solar panels should be able to charge it before on-peak rates begin in the evening. It generally takes between five and eight hours to fully charge, depending on the size of the battery. Or, if needed, you can also charge your battery late at night when electricity rates are cheapest.
2) Drain your during on-peak hours.
Since you’ll use off-peak times to charge your home battery, you won’t have to pull expensive energy from the grid to power your home during on-peak hours. Instead, you’ll pull from your battery’s stored energy. That means you’ll be draining your battery during peak pricing times, allowing you to earn net-metering credits at the higher peak rates. This strategy of using grid power when it’s priced lower and sending it back to the grid when it’s priced higher is known as grid arbitrage. And it’s a smart way for homeowners with solar + battery storage to ensure they pay less for electricity even when utilities are charging more.
However, it’s important to note that your battery will retain some of its stored capacity in case of emergency. That way, if there’s a grid outage, your battery will operate in backup mode, providing your home with the power it needs.
3) Automate the shift between energy sources.
Since timing is everything with TOU rates, it’s a good idea to program your battery based on the time-of-use window for your utility. The good news for Sunnova customers is that we take care of that for you. Our batteries are equipped with energy management software that prompts the battery to discharge during peak periods. Your energy usage will seamlessly shift between your solar panels, battery and grid electricity to make the most of your TOU plan.
The result: You could earn the maximum return on your net-metering without ever having to think about it.
True Energy Independence
True energy independence means having control over your energy. Solar + battery storage can give you that level of control. And when you have control, TOU plans could work for you, rather than against you. For California homeowners, our Sunnova SunSafe™solar + battery storage offering can help you achieve true energy independence and maximum cost savings. At Sunnova, we make going solar and managing TOU rates incredibly easy.
Learn more and find out how we can start you on your path to true energy independence.
*Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) recently proposed to delay the rollout of NEM 2.0 for their customers until 2020 and 2021, respectively.
How Do I Maintain My Home Solar Panels? 4 Easy Tips.
You’ve made the smart choice to buy solar panels and produce energy from the sun. Now, it’s important you understand how to maximize your solar system by keeping it operating at its peak performance.
Protecting and caring for your investment is an important part of owning any item. Thankfully, solar panels are extremely durable. But like any technology, solar panels can break either on their own or through exposure to weather. Regular checkups can save you from having to deal with costly repairs down the road.
Follow these easy, preventative maintenance tips for decades of clean, solar power and savings on your electricity bill.
4 Ways to Care for Your Solar Panels
- Keep an Eye Out
- Easy Cleaning
- Take a Look at the Trees
- Preparing for Snowy Situations
The easiest way that you can work to maintain your solar panels is by doing regular visual assessments. Because you see your home and your solar panels every single day, you’re the most equipped person to notice if something is out of the ordinary.
Every few months, take a few minutes to walk around your home and glance at your panels. If you notice anything that looks like it shouldn’t be there - like large debris, insect nests, or weeds, contact your solar panel installer for guidance.
If your area has been particularly dusty, or if you’ve had any other seasonal weather events that have left debris on your solar panels, you can clean them yourself.
From the ground, spray your panels with a garden hose to help clear away the dust, pollen, or small debris. Cleaning only needs to be done a few times a year, and it’s usually best to take care of it as the seasons change.
If you can’t reach your solar panels with your garden hose, but would like to clean them, you can also contact a professional solar panel cleaning company.
Solar panel maintenance also includes ensuring that your solar panels are receiving optimal sunlight. It’s a good idea to check that foliage and tree branches haven’t overgrown shading your solar panels from the light. If you notice that a tree branch or other foliage is casting shade, trim it back or have an arborist take a look.
If you live in an area that receives heavy snow, you should not be concerned about the weight of snow that accumulates on your solar panels - solar panels are built to withstand the weight from snow buildup.
If your solar panels are covered with snow, we recommend you simply let the snow melt off the panels. Scraping the snow off may hurt you and your panels.
You may also want to clear the area below and around your solar panels for falling snow. Because solar panels are covered in glass and near-frictionless, snow may fall off the panels in large sheets.
Solar Panel Maintenance and Monitoring Go Together
For a more in-depth look at your solar system health, we recommend you actively monitor your solar system’s production. You can see dips in energy production, which might alert you to a minor issue that you can check out on your own.
For example, if you see a small change in production, but the weather has been sunny, it might mean that your solar panels are being shaded by foliage or tree branches and you need to do some trimming.
Own Your Solar Panels? Let Us Take Care of the Maintenance.
If you own your solar panels, you can protect your system with a Sunnova Protect™ Service Plan.
With a Sunnova Protect™ Service Plan, you’ll gain peace of mind knowing the leading residential solar service company is proactively monitoring your solar system 24/7 and alerting you to any issues. Additionally, our plans offer a best-in-class, unmatched warranty, helping to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for maintenance and equipment repairs and replacements during the contract term that you choose.
Whether you need a professional to take care of cleaning your system when you can’t get to it yourself or handle repairs that need to be made, we can take care of the details. You won’t have to worry about negotiating or shopping around – we have you covered!
Your solar panels are built to last, and with a Sunnova Protect™ Service Plan, we will take care of your solar panels for years to come. Get a free, no-obligation quote to safeguard your solar investment today!
3 Reasons Why Solar Owners without Service Coverage Need Sunnova Protect™
This month, we launched Sunnova Protect™, the nation’s first-ever, service-only offerings from a national solar company. Our unique solar service offering provides residential solar owners the opportunity to purchase multi-decade coverage plans, all of which include monitoring, maintenance and repair services so they can enjoy the energy independence and financial savings they expect from their systems.
Deciding to go solar is a big decision and yet we see solar customers buying and financing systems without a service warranty, which means no one will be there to ensure the system is actually working and generating the energy it’s supposed to over the decades-long life of the system. We’re proud to offer Sunnova Protect™ to ensure solar owners are covered so they can enjoy the energy independence and financial savings they expect from their systems.
Our nearly 60,000 customers already enjoy peace of mind with our best-in-class service warranty, and now, with the launch of Sunnova Protect™ service plans, that service protection is available to any homeowner who owns their solar system. Below are three ways solar owners who do not currently have service coverage would benefit from Sunnova Protect™:
1. Enjoy peace of mind knowing that your solar system is working: Maximize your solar savings by ensuring your system is working at its most optimal level. We’ll monitor your system’s performance remotely and alert you to any issues.
2. Let us take the hassle out of repairs and maintenance: With the Sunnova Protect™ Service Premium and Platinum Plans, you will eliminate multiple phone calls to different manufacturers or installers to fix your system. Our best-in-class warranty helps to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for repairs and replacements.
3. Rest assured knowing your system will produce the energy you were promised: With the Sunnova Protect™ Service Platinum Plan, we’ll guarantee that your solar system will produce within 95% of the energy promised in your Service Plan agreement, or we'll credit you the difference.
The Sunnova Protect™servicing plans offer three different coverage options (Basic, Premium and Platinum) with multiple term lengths (5-, 10- and 20-year). These plans provide solar owners with the freedom to choose the service solution that best fits their needs.
How Do I Monitor My Solar System Production?
One of the top reasons homeowners love solar energy is the ease of solar panel maintenance. Thanks to innovative design and technology advancements, your solar panels can withstand rain, wind, and even hail. Solar panels are quiet, self-sufficient workhorses that keep your home powered by harnessing the sun’s rays.
When considering investing in solar panels, many homeowners wonder how they’ll know whether or not their solar panels are actually working - solar energy generation is seamless, and you won’t interact with your solar panels as often as you interact with your home appliances (like a dishwasher or washer/dryer). You may sometimes forget that you have solar panels!
However, similar to home appliances, solar panels may need occasional maintenance. The best way to know that your solar panels are working to their full potential is to monitor your solar system performance regularly.
How Do I Monitor My Solar System?
When you purchased your solar panels, your solar installer may have set up a solar system monitoring software. This software operates through your inverter and shows your production data.
If you own your solar panels and you don’t have system monitoring, you may not know that there’s a problem until you receive an abnormally high utility bill in the mail.
If you suspect that there’s a problem with your solar panel production, there are a few steps you can take to zero in on the problem.
If you’re a Sunnova customer, you can see your solar production and other system information through MySunnova. We also monitor your solar production for you so that we will alert you to any issues.
Four Steps to Check Your Solar System
If you notice a decline in your solar energy production, there are a few steps you can take to get to the root cause:
- Check Your Inverter
One of the top reasons you may see a decrease in energy production from your solar panels is inverter issues. Your inverter is what takes the solar energy collected by your solar panels and turns it into energy that can be used by your home or fed back into the grid. A breakdown in this piece of technology can mean that your home solar system isn’t producing the maximum amount of energy it has the potential to produce. In turn, you may not be making the most of the net metering regulations in your state.
Most home solar systems utilize either a string inverter or micro-inverters. Checking for issues with your inverter should be the first step you take if you suspect there might be an issue with energy production from your solar panels.
- String inverters connect all of your panels in a sequence, or string, and converts their combined energy. It’s a large square or rectangle of equipment that is on the side of your house or in the garage. In the case of string inverters, you should normally see a green light. If the light is yellow or red, it’s likely that there’s an issue, and you should call your solar installers.
- Micro-inverters are small, individual inverters that are integrated into each individual panel. If you believe that there is an issue with your micro-inverters, you’ll need to call a professional to take a look. You should never climb onto your roof to check your solar system.
If you’re not sure whether you have micro-inverters or a string inverter, the quickest way to find out is to check your installation agreement.
- Check for Shade and Dust
Your solar panels function best when they can soak up all of the sun’s rays. If they’re obstructed in any way – either from shade or dust – they won’t perform as well. When your solar system was installed, the engineers likely placed your panels in the best possible light. However, after a few years, there may be new tree growth that is shading either a small or significant portion of your solar panels.
If you notice new growth, call your arborist and have the branches removed. Track your solar production for about a week afterward to see if it increases, or if there may be another culprit behind the decline in energy production.
If your panels are in the perfect position to soak up sunlight, it’s possible that dirt, dust, or debris are affecting their energy production. Cleaning your solar panels is easy, and only needs to be done a few times a year. It’s as simple as using your garden hose to rinse off each panel.
If a hose does not reach your panels, we recommend you contact a professional solar cleaning company - you should never climb on your roof to clean your panels.
- Watch Your Meter
On bright, sunny days, your meter should be running backward. This is because your solar panels should be producing enough energy to power your home, plus some additional energy. If you live in a net metering state, you’ll receive credits on your utility bill for the energy you export back to the grid.
If your inverter is working properly, and your solar panels are getting full sun, but your meter isn’t running backward, it’s time to call a technician.
- Check the Weather
If you see a slightly higher percentage of grid usage in your home, but your solar panels seem to be functioning properly on all other fronts, it could be the weather. If your area has had an upswing in particularly cloudy or rainy days compared to its usual bright and sunny weather, you may experience a small decrease in solar energy production. When the weather evens out, so will your energy production.
If you’re a Sunnova customer, you’re covered by our 25-year Sunnova Protect™ warranty*. If you have any questions about your solar system, call us anytime. We are here to help.
Solar Panel Troubleshooting Made Simple
Keeping a watchful eye on your solar panel production can help you to identify any potential issues early and keep your solar system healthy. Finding the issues that may impact your production is easy if you know what you're looking for.
If You Own Your Solar Panels, We Can Monitor Your Solar System for You
Since 2012, nearly 60,000 Sunnova solar customers have enjoyed peace-of-mind with our Sunnova Protect™ warranty – our customers know that we are monitoring their solar production 24/7 and alerting them to any issues.
For homeowners who own their solar systems, but don’t have the reassurance of a protection plan, our industry-leading Sunnova Protect™ Service Plans warranty are now available to protect your home’s solar system and ensure it's producing to its full potential!
With service plan options that fit your needs to choose from, we help maximize your solar savings by monitoring your solar production and ensuring your home’s solar system is always working at its most optimal level.
Learn more about the different coverage options offered by our Sunnova Protect™ Service Plans. Safeguard your solar investment today.
*Limitations and conditions apply. Please refer to your Sunnova solar agreement for details.
4 Most Common Solar Panel Maintenance Issues
Switching to solar is a great way to gain energy independence. Thanks to rapidly advancing technology, solar panels are more durable than ever - they’re designed to withstand nearly anything. However, solar panels spend 25+ years living on your roof, and they may need the occasional maintenance or repairs.
If you lease your solar panels, you may be covered under a warranty plan. Sunnova customers have peace of mind because they are covered by our industry-leading, 25-year Sunnova Protect™ warranty.
However, if you purchased your panels with cash or a bank loan, you’re likely responsible for any repairs your solar panels may need. While solar panels are built to last, some repairs can be costly.
In general, solar panel maintenance is low-impact and straightforward. Knowing when it’s time to call in a professional, and how much repairs are likely to cost will ward off stress when the unexpected hits.
Our Top 4 Solar Panel Repairs
1. Inverter Issues
The two most common types of inverters installed in home solar panels are string inverters and micro-inverters. String inverters connect a group of panels, called a string, to one inverter. This means that you may have a set of panels all feeding into the same large inverter.
By contrast, micro-inverters are an integrated part of each individual panel (on the back of each solar panel), eliminating the need for a larger single inverter.
In both cases, you may first notice an issue with your inverter due to a loss of solar energy production. If you’re a Sunnova customer, we monitor your solar energy production 24/7, and we’ll alert you to any issues*. You can also view your solar energy production in MySunnova. Otherwise, you can check your utility meters or your utility bill to see if you are using more electricity from the grid.
If you have a string inverter setup, you may also notice an error message on your inverter. However, if you have micro-inverters, we do not recommend you get on your roof to check your micro-inverters.
2. Wiring Damage
Most panels are wired either using a series wiring system or parallel wiring system. Series wiring connects a group of panels using one wire so that their total voltage is tied together in a string. Parallel wiring connects panels to a central wire using individual wires for each panel.
The main difference in series wiring and parallel wiring is the number of wires involved. Series wiring only requires one line from the string of panels to the roof, while parallel wiring requires multiple wires connected to the roof.
Wiring may become loose over time due to heavy winds or other weather events. While loose wiring is rare, it can cause a drop in solar production. In order to check for loose wiring issues, you’ll need to have your solar installer take a look – we never recommend you get on your roof to check your solar panels.
Alternately, water damage may occur if water is able to enter wiring conduits. Conduits are a covering that protects wires from the elements, and when improperly installed, can sometimes have gaps that allow rain or the water used during solar panel cleaning to damage the wiring housed inside. In the case of wiring issues caused by water damage, you’ll not only need a trained solar repair expert but also an electrician to check out the area before any work can be done.
1. Circuit Breaker Trips
If your solar system is causing your circuit breaker to trip, you could be facing a few different issues: your breaker panel may be affected by external elements like the heat or rain, the connection between your system and your breaker is unreliable, or your breaker panel may be faulty.
Frequent circuit breaker trips can also be indicative of solar panel conductor issues. Solar panel conductors are installed using clips that secure them to the solar system frames. If conductors are damaged, improperly installed, or not up to code, they can cause your circuit breaker to trip.
2. Solar Panel Replacements
In very rare cases an entire panel may need to be replaced. This could be due to extreme blunt force, such as large debris being slammed into the panel during a tornado or hurricane. Damage requiring replacement can also be caused by falling trees or tree limbs.
Solar panels may also need to be replaced due to internal deficiencies. In this case, you’ll need to be able to show proper maintenance and voltage readings to prove that you’re experiencing an internal problem that requires panel replacement.
Are My Solar Panel Repairs Covered?
If you own your solar panels, it’s important to note that most solar panel warranty plans only cover materials and workmanship for 10 years, but your panels are designed to last for 20+ years.
It’s important to understand the three main warranties that are offered with most solar panel installations.
- Workmanship Warranties
Workmanship warranties are straight-forward - they cover damages or faults that occur during installation or due to improper installation.
- Equipment Warranties
Equipment warranties cover all of the main pieces of your solar system, including your solar panels. Your equipment warranty should cover defects in your equipment including manufacturing issues or components that fail prematurely.
- Performance Warranties
Performance warranties guarantee the rate at which your panels will produce energy. Usually, these warranties guarantee a certain percentage based on the age of the system, and if your production falls below the warrantied percentage, you’re covered.
If you purchase your panels through Sunnova Easy Own, our Sunnova Protect™ warranty covers all three types of warranties
If You Own Your Solar Panels - When Adding Solar Service Plan Makes Sense
If you own your solar panels, it’s important to protect your investment from repairs that are not covered by your manufacturer’s warranty.
Sunnova now offers our industry-leading Sunnova ProtectTM Service Plans to anyone with solar.
If your system needs repairs, you may be stuck negotiating with the manufacture for repairs and replacement parts. With a Sunnova Protect™ Service Plan, we can take on the hassle of negotiating with the manufacturer and coordinating any services to your solar system.
Gain comfort and security knowing that the nation’s leading residential solar + battery storage company is monitoring and caring for your home’s solar system. Learn more about our Sunnova ProtectTM Service Plans.
An Introduction to Solar Battery Storage
Throughout the day, your solar system is constantly converting the sun’s rays into energy to power your home. What happens when your solar system produces more energy than your home needs?
Traditionally, that extra energy is transported back into the grid through net metering, which offsets your energy consumption costs. However, with rapidly changing policy challenging the continuity of net metering and the rising costs of grid electricity, more homeowners are adding a solar storage battery to their solar panels.
A solar storage battery does exactly what its name suggests – it captures excess energy from your solar panels for later use. You’ll be able to draw energy from your solar storage battery at night, on cloudy low-production days, and during grid outages. The technology producing solar storage batteries is rapidly evolving. Below is a quick overview of some of the advantages:
How Long Will a Typical Solar Storage Battery Keep Your Home Running?During a grid outage, if you have a fully-charged solar storage battery, you can1:
- Refrigerate food for 116 hours.
- Burn a 60W light bulb for 155 hours.
- Run your window AC unit for 5 hours.
- Run a pedestal fan for 310 hours.
- Keep your basement dry with a Sump Pump for 8 hours.
- Charge your phone for 40,734 hours.
- Operate your WIFI router and computer for 93 hours.
- Watch TV for 78 hours.
Two Main Types of Solar Batteries:
- Lead Acid Dating back to the 1850’s, lead acid is type of battery you’ll find in your car, golf carts, wheelchairs, and more. Lead acid batteries are cost-effective and dependable. However, lead acid batteries are slow to recharge, and each discharge/charge cycle causes the battery to permanently lose a small amount of capacity.
- Lithium-Ion Lithium-Ion batteries are generally considered to be the most efficient option on the market with very low maintenance. These batteries have an impressive lifespan and tend to be lighter and smaller than lead acid options. Sunnova provides batteries through lithium-ion battery manufacturers like LG and Tesla.
Which Battery is Best for You?When choosing a solar storage battery, If you want to add a storage battery to your solar system, then it’s key to find out your battery’s capacity to power key appliances until the sun comes out and your solar system produces more energy, or grid power returns. Based on your energy needs, your solar system installer can provide guidance on how your battery will work best for you. For most homeowners, cost is the top driving force behind their decision in solar storage installation. However, when choosing adding a solar battery for your home and your family’s needs, you’ll want to consider the warranty, number of cycles, brand, total capacity and power rating. Let’s dive deeper into these important factors:
- Warranty. Solar storage battery manufacturers guarantee their batteries over the course of their warranty, usually 10 years or longer. If you’re a Sunnova customer, your battery is also covered by our Sunnova Protect warranty.
- Cycle Life. All batteries degrade over time. Think about your cell phone battery – the lithium-ion battery in your phone loses charge capacity (the amount of charge a battery can hold) with every charge and drain cycle. A solar storage battery is no different.
- Cycle life is part of the manufacturer’s warranty - it describes the number of times a solar storage battery can be fully charged and discharged before the charge capacity is greatly diminished.
- Brand: Different solar storage batteries will have different pros and cons. While it may be tempting to pick a solar storage battery because of its brand name, it’s important find a battery (and a warranty) that matches your energy needs.
- Depth of Discharge, sometimes shown as DoD, refers to the amount of charge that can be used of a battery’s total capacity before needing to be recharged. If you were to use all 100 percent of your battery’s charge, it would require more maintenance and would cause a higher rate of deterioration, requiring earlier replacement. That’s why most batteries will specify a DoD, which will tell you how much of the battery’s charge can be safely used before needing to switch to grid power and allow the battery to recharge.
- Power ratings. Take DoD, capacity, and roundtrip efficiency into account, among other factors, and are used to tell you how much electricity the battery can deliver all at once. In simple terms, it’s the difference between powering a few appliances at once versus your entire home at full power. The higher the power rating, the more energy the battery can deliver, however if it’s got a relatively low capacity, it might only provide energy for a short amount of time before your home needs to switch over to grid power.
You Can Bank on Sunnova SunSafe™ - Solar + Battery StorageWith Sunnova SunSafe™, as opposed to solar-only systems, solar + storage technology will produce and store energy—even when the grid is down—allowing you to keep your lights on day and night. In addition, Sunnova SunSafe™ offers:
- Rely on Your Rate - With Sunnova SunSafe™, homeowners are guaranteed 25 years of rate protection.
- Top Technology - You also enjoy intelligent control technology that will automatically detect when to switch from solar energy to stored energy.
- Stay Protected - Homeowners who choose Sunnova SunSafe™ are always protected with Sunnova’s top-rated 25-year warranty. Your solar system is monitored day and night to ensure peak performance – if your solar system needs maintenance or repairs, you’re covered. Plus, Sunnova guarantees the battery performance of our SunSafe™ systems for 25 years, the longest warranty in the industry.
Smart Energy for Your Whole Home
Whether you’re looking into installing solar for the first time or have been searching for a way to increase your solar system’s return on investment, solar + storage may be the solution for you. You don’t need to be a scientist to understand the battery option on the market - a basic understanding will help you to feel more confident about the decision you make for your home and your family.
Solar storage batteries are becoming an increasingly popular way for homeowners to decrease their reliance on the grid, increase energy efficiency and save more money. No matter which type of battery you’re considering, taking time to dig a little deeper into the details is the best place to start.
What is a Home Solar Production Guarantee?
When you make the switch to solar, you’re investing in a long-term energy solution. You count on your solar system to produce a certain amount of energy to power your home, reduce your dependence on traditional grid energy, and, in many cases, even lower your utility bills each month.
One of the ways that you can feel more secure in your solar investment is with a solar production guarantee.
When your solar system is installed, your solar provider may offer a production guarantee, which means that your solar system is guaranteed to produce a certain amount of energy during a specific timeframe. The production guarantee is typically for a set amount of years - the solar provider may reimburse you for the underperformance, or repair your system under its warranty to meet the production rate that has been guaranteed.
We’re breaking down how production guarantees work to protect your solar investment.
How Does a Production Guarantee Work?
A solar production guarantee gives you the confidence that your system will perform as expected. Typically, solar engineers predict the amount of energy your solar system should be producing each year based on your geographical location, weather trends, the type of solar system you have installed, the size of your home, and other factors.
That prediction is then guaranteed, which means that if your solar system doesn’t meet its annual production goal, you’ll be reimbursed the difference between the actual production and the production guarantee.
While solar production guarantees may be offered for cash purchases, Sunnova customers are able to benefit from a solar production guarantee with most of our products. Under Sunnova’s production guarantee, if available in your state and with your product, your solar system is guaranteed to produce a set amount of energy each year for the lifetime of your agreement. And if your system fails to meet the mark, you’ll be credited the difference on a yearly basis.1
Own Your Solar Panels? Want a Production Guarantee?
If you own your solar panels but do not have a production guarantee, you can take advantage of an extended production guarantee with the Sunnova Protect™ Services Platinum Plan. Regardless of who installed your solar panels, or whether or not your manufacturer warranty is expired, you get all of the benefits of our industry-leading production guarantee.
When you sign up for the Sunnova Protect™Platinum Plan, our engineers will assess and diagnose your solar system and give you an estimated energy production report that shows you how much energy your system should be producing for years to come. If your system isn’t producing the amount of energy we guarantee, we’ll credit you the difference. It’s that simple, hassle-free, and secure.
With any Sunnova Protect™ Service Plan, you will get our 24/7 system monitoring for the entirety of your agreement – we will alert you to any issues with your solar energy production.
When you’ve made the decision to switch to solar, you want to do all that you can to make sure that the benefits of your system are as high as possible. A production guarantee is a great way to keep your home running smoothly with less worry.
Interested in guaranteeing your home solar system’s production? Learn more and get a free, no-obligation quote today!
1: Solar system’s cumulative production is evaluated each year, beginning on the third anniversary of the service agreement, to validate the annual production guarantee. If the system produces more than the guaranteed product, the excess in production will be rolled over and counted towards the following year’s production guarantee. A production guarantee may not be available with all Sunnova products or in all states or territories.
What Components Make Up a Home Solar System?
Have you ever wondered about the different parts that make up a home solar system, and how they work together to make it all possible? If so, you’re not alone.
A home solar system is much more than the solar panels on a roof – there are many parts of a home solar system that must all work together to produce solar energy.
If you’re considering joining the hundreds of thousands of other homeowners who have already gone solar, an important first step is understanding all the different components that will make up your home solar system.
The good news is, you’ve come to the right place. Below, you’ll learn about the different home solar components and the role each one plays in helping you harness the power of the sun.
We’ll start with the most obvious piece of the puzzle: the solar panels. Also known as photovoltaic (PV) panels, this is where the solar process begins the conversion of light into electricity.
Solar panels are made of silicon cells covered in glass. There are two main types, and the difference between them comes down to how the silicon is applied to form the cells within each panel.
- With monocrystalline panels, solar cells are made using silicon that is formed into bars and then cut into wafers. The name “monocrystalline” comes from the fact that single-crystal silicon is used in this type of panel construction.
- With polycrystalline panels, rather than use a single crystal of silicon, multiple fragments of silicon are melted together to form the wafers of the panel. Hence, the prefix “poly” – although polycrystalline panels are also sometimes referred to as “multicrystalline.”
Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels both serve the same purpose: converting the sun’s power into energy. However, since the cells in monocrystalline panels are composed of only a single silicon crystal, the electrons that generate the electricity have more room to flow. As a result, they tend to be more efficient than polycrystalline panels.
The higher efficiency of monocrystalline panels usually makes them the more expensive choice for solar panels, but both options have an expected lifespan of 25 years or more. Your installer can help you determine which type of solar panel is right for your home.
A solar array is the name for multiple solar panels arranged together. So, all the solar panels on your roof make up a solar array.
The size of a solar array will depend on many factors, such as geographical location, roof pitch and your energy needs.
Solar Panel Mounting System
Although the solar panels are arguably the MVP (most valuable part) of any home solar energy system, the mounting system is what attaches your panels to your roof. There are primarily two configurations, and the one your installer uses will depend on the type of roof you have.
Roof-penetrating solar racking has been used since the inception of solar. This type of mounting requires installers to drill holes in your roof to secure the racking system in place.
- Roof-penetrating solar racking is better suited to traditional or composite asphalt rooftops.
- Reputable installers will take great care in sealing the area around your racking equipment to prevent leaks; they should also provide you with a warranty that covers leakage.
- Some installers may offer mounting options that attach directly to your roof, which are usually faster to install and more aesthetic.
Specialized solar mounting systems provide an alternative to roof-penetrating racking.
- This is ideal if your home’s roof is made of a more unique, less traditional material that could be compromised if holes were drilled into it.
- Spanish or clay tiles and metal are among the roof types that are better suited to a specialized mounting solution.
- Clamps and metal mounts are strategically fitted to certain sections of the roof where they blend in with the roof material so that the solar system can be installed while preserving the beauty of the roof.
The inverter converts the direct current (DC) electricity from your panels into alternating current (AC) electricity that your home’s appliances can use. There are three main types of inverters available, and the best one for your home depends on how your solar array is configured:
- String inverters have been around the longest and are usually the most inexpensive option. This type of inverter is installed at ground level and may be a good choice if your solar panels aren’t subject to shading or don’t face in multiple directions.
- Microinverters offer the latest technology and are ideal for complex solar installations, such as those with solar panels that experience some degree of shading or face in different directions. Unlike string inverters and power optimizers (below), microinverters are installed behind each solar panel or as part of the panel site.
- Power optimizers are also better suited to more complicated solar projects; however, they are more cost-effective than microinverters. Often considered a “happy medium” between string inverters and microinverters, power optimizers are installed at ground level.
Your installer will help you choose the right type of inverter and install it properly according to local building and electrical codes. And sometimes, a combination of inverters may be recommended for your solar system.
For even greater energy control and the added security of a backup power source during grid outages, you should consider adding a battery to your home solar system. The way your battery is linked, or “coupled,” to your solar system will largely be determined by the age of the system.
- DC coupling: Newer solar systems typically come with a battery-ready inverter, also known as a hybrid inverter. What makes it a hybrid is that it’s shared by both your solar panels and your battery. Since both components operate in DC power (your panels produce it and your battery stores it as such), your solar array can be directly connected to a DC-to-DC converter, eliminating the need for a second inverter specifically for the battery.
- AC coupling: Older solar systems generally require an additional inverter to connect to the battery since the original inverter installed with the system likely won’t have hybrid functionality. This simply means your solar panels and your battery are both connected to AC-to-DC converters, which feed into the two inverters to produce usable AC power.
So, regardless of when your system was installed, you can make the most of the energy it produces by adding the storage capabilities of a battery.
Utility and Solar Meters
You’re probably familiar with a traditional electricity meter, which is what your utility company uses to measure your energy usage each month. But when you go solar, you will either need to replace your traditional meter or add a second one to measure how much solar energy you produce and send to the grid.
There are three main types of solar meters:
- Net meters display your home’s net energy consumption but won’t show you how much energy you send back to the grid. This type meter will replace your traditional meter and is an option in utility markets that allow for net metering.
- Bi-directional meters feature three different display screens. The first one is a test screen; the second one shows the amount of power you’re receiving from the grid; and the third screen tells you how much power you’re sending to the grid from your solar system. Similar to net meters, bi-directional meters also replace the traditional utility meter and are used in net-metering utility markets.
- Dual meters are what they sound like: two separate meters that don’t communicate with each other. This means you keep your traditional meter, but a second “production meter” is added to measure the amount of solar energy you send to the grid.
For safety reasons, your solar system should include a disconnect switch that allows it to be turned off for repairs or maintenance, or during other rare occasions that would warrant an absence of power.
Some grid-tied solar systems have two disconnect switches: one that disconnects the DC current that flows between the panels and the inverter, and another one that disconnects the inverter from the grid.
Putting It All Together
Six years and nearly 60,000 customers later, we have making the switch to solar down to a science. With Sunnova, we make going solar easy with a variety of products and financing options to fit your needs. Our teams of local installation partners and service experts will have a strong understanding of your local solar needs.
It’s Time to Go Solar – The Top 5 Benefits of Home Solar
Solar energy has quickly become one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. In the first quarter of 2018, the U.S. solar market added 2.3 gigawatts of solar, showcasing an annual growth of 13 percent. The continued explosion of home solar begs the question: what’s so special about solar energy?
The answer is simple: the value of solar is too hard for homeowners to ignore. Solar offers homeowner’s energy independence, lower utility bills, potential increase in property value1 – the list goes on.
Home solar technology has come a long way since it was first introduced to the consumer market - solar panels have become more compact, cost-effective, and incredibly durable. Plus, with the addition of solar battery storage, homeowners can enjoy an even greater level of energy independence.
With all of the great benefits that come along with home solar, there’s a solar solution to fit every family’s unique needs. We’re breaking down the top five ways you can benefit from going solar.
1. Gain Energy Independence
We live in a world of virtually unlimited choice, you can even purchase groceries online and have them delivered just in time for dinner. Why, then, should you be locked into one single option for powering your home? Solar energy offers you the ability to gain energy independence and take control of your energy choices.
Solar panels utilize the power of the sun to convert UV rays into energy that keeps your home running throughout the day. With solar panels, you’ll reduce your dependence on the grid - you’ll pull electricity from the grid at night, on cloudy days, and times of high energy use.
You can increase the utilization of your solar production with the addition of solar battery storage. Adding a solar battery to store the excess power that your solar system produces on the sunniest days means you’re using the grid even less and gaining even more energy independence.
2. Reap the Rewards of Tax Incentives2
When you purchase your home solar system with a cash payment or a loan, you can gain access to federal, and in some cases, state tax incentives.
On the federal level, most homeowners who purchase a solar system are eligible for the Investment Tax Credit, sometimes referred to as the ITC. The ITC is a tax credit that can be claimed on federal income taxes for up to 30% of the cost of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system.
A recent ruling by the IRS now allows projects that begin construction in 2019 to claim the full 30 percent ITC tax credit as long as the system is operational before 2024. Previously, in order to claim the credit, a system must have been operational within the same year that construction began.
State tax incentives vary from location to location, but in general, in states that offer tax incentives, homeowners can enjoy Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) payments, income tax credits, or property tax exclusions.
A few of the most lucrative state incentives can be found in Hawaii, Illinois, and California.
In Hawaii, owners can claim up to 35 percent on their income tax returns, In Honolulu, solar can be automatically exempted from property tax. In other counties in Hawaii, homeowners may apply for an exemption.
Illinois residents can take advantage SREC payments that, in exchange for the state being able to “purchase” your excess solar energy, will offer homeowners cash up front for their projected solar production.
In California, home solar owners see a 100 percent property tax exclusion for the value for systems installed through 2024. Stipulations apply.
3. Save Money on High Utility Rates3
The most common reason that homeowners switch to solar is to help alleviate high utility bills. Using less energy from the grid is great for everyone, and in states with particularly high energy rates like Hawaii, California, and Massachusetts, solar can make a dramatic difference in your monthly expenditures.
On average, U.S. homes consume about 900 kWh of electricity each month. Depending on the state that you live in, your monthly energy bill could be over $200/month, not accounting for the times and days when you use more energy than usual. With the addition of solar, your grid usage can dramatically drop, and your monthly bills go down. It’s that simple.
4. Increase Your Home’s Value1
Installing solar in your home isn’t just great for your wallet in the short-term, it’s also a fantastic way to increase your home’s resale value. Research has shown that every dollar in energy savings gained from your solar system purchase adds $20 to your home’s bottom line. Plus, homes with installed solar systems can sell about 20 percent faster than those without solar panels.
The combination of tax incentives, savings on grid energy, and the added value that solar brings to your home can mean a huge return on your investment throughout the lifetime of your solar system.
5. Worry Less About Maintenance
One of the best perks of being a home solar owner is how easy solar panels are to maintain. Not only are solar panels built to withstand weather of all sorts - from wind, to rain, to hail – you can clean and inspect them yourself. Most solar panels are cleaned by the rain and only need a quick visual inspection a few times a year.
With Sunnova Protect4 , homeowners are covered under any circumstance with an industry-leading 25-year warranty. That means no out-of-pocket expenses for maintenance, repairs, or replacements, 24/7 system monitoring, and in many cases, an energy production guarantee5.
The Sunny Side of Switching to Solar
Bringing solar home is easier and more beneficial for homeowners than it’s ever been before. With advanced technology and continued market growth, installation is quick and affordable, and the long-term benefits that solar offers are enough to entice anyone to make the switch.
If you’re ready to take the first step, learning more about the financial impact that solar will have on your household in your area is the perfect place to start.
Sunnova offers options for every homeowner to help you gain energy independence and slash your annual utility costs. Whether you prefer to lease or buy, Sunnova customers in most states enjoy guaranteed energy production, system monitoring, and a best-in-class 25-year warranty that makes solar simple6.
1 Only applicable to purchased systems in certain markets.
2 You may be eligible for a federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) with the purchase of a solar system. To receive the full federal tax credit, you must have federal income tax liability at least equal to the value of the tax credit. Additional tax credits may also be available for homeowners in certain states. Sunnova makes no guarantees regarding customer eligibility for tax benefits or SRECs. Sunnova does not provide tax advice. Contact your personal tax advisor for eligibility.
3Actual savings will vary based on your electricity usage and utility rates. Savings estimates are based on solar energy production, your solar kWh rate, your current utility kWh rate and projected increases in the utility rate (based on historical data and a national average). Estimates do not take into consideration other changes in utility rates. Such changes could affect your overall estimated savings.
4 Refer to the Limited Warranty in your agreement for complete warranty terms and limitations. Your solar system production will vary based on weather and other factors. Solar system’s cumulative production will be evaluated to validate annual production guarantee. Refer to your agreement for details. Restrictions and limitations apply. The service agreement can be transferred to the new homeowner. Sunnova’s approval required. Some restrictions apply. Sunnova does not offer production guarantee for energy service plans in Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. In the state of Florida, Sunnova does not offer 24/7 system monitoring. Restrictions apply. Refer to your service agreement for complete terms and limitations.
5 Refer to the limited warranty in your service agreement for complete warranty terms and limitations.
6 Production guarantee and monitoring is not available in Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Thinking about Solar Panels for your Home? Now is the Time to Buy.
Solar energy is one of the most popular energy choices available, and solar as a whole has become one of the fastest-growing industries in the country. In 2016, the residential solar industry flipped: more homeowners (53 percent) chose to purchase their solar system instead of leasing. This was a huge shift from 26 percent solar system ownership in 2014.
Cash and loan sales have become increasingly popular thanks to the benefits of owning your solar system. Not only has solar become more efficient as the technology has improved over the years, but it has also become more affordable, making purchasing a solar system easier and more advantageous than ever. Tax incentives for homeowners that purchase solar panels mean a greater ROI, and competitive loan terms give homeowners the luxury of choice in their journey to energy independence.
Purchasing a solar system is an investment in your home and your future, and you want to be able to feel confident in your decision. We’ll break down the lease vs loan decision and answer all of your questions to help you make the choice that’s right for you.
Time to Buy: When Purchasing Solar Panels Makes Sense for You
There are a few factors to consider when making the decision to purchase a solar system rather than leasing. Cost, maintenance, and ROI are all pieces of the puzzle.
Typically, purchasing a solar system will cost a homeowner somewhere between $15,000 and $30,000, depending on the size of your home and your energy needs, among other factors. When it’s time to pay for a purchased system, homeowners can choose between an upfront cash payment for their solar system or going with a solar loan.
Solar loans are a great option for homeowners who are interested in utilizing renewable energy to power their home, but for whom an outright cash purchase doesn’t make sense. Generally, APRs are low and range between 4 percent and 8 percent for a term of 10 to 25 years. Solar loans may require down payments, and APRs vary from lender to lender.
With a cash or loan purchase, homeowners get to take advantage of federal tax incentives that allow them to deduct up to 30 percent of the system’s cost from their federal taxes. In the same wave of changes that increased the deduction to 30 percent in 2015, provisions were passed allowing homeowners to be eligible for federal deductions as soon as their solar panels are installed, compared to previous regulations requiring that a solar system had to be operational in order to be eligible for federal tax incentives1.
When purchasing a solar system through loans or with cash, maintenance also comes into play. Usually, you’ll be responsible for servicing your solar system throughout the lifetime of your system and monitoring your solar system’s efficiency yourself.
With Sunnova’s Easy Own loan energy service plan, homeowners can enjoy our best-in-class 25-year warranty and other benefits2:
- Monitoring based on the amount of sunshine your home is getting and recent weather conditions.
- Your solar system is covered under our industry-leading warranty for a full 25 years.
- Eliminates out-of-pocket expenses for maintenance or equipment repairs and replacements for the term of your service agreement.
- Guaranteed production for 25 years or a credit for the difference in most markets.
- A transferable agreement allowing you to pass the benefits to the next homeowner if you sell your home.
If Buying Isn’t Right for You: When to Lease Solar Panels
If you’re more interested in leasing a solar system, with Sunnova, you can still benefit from low up-front costs, production guarantees, system monitoring, and affordable energy rates for the lifetime of your lease.
Leasing a solar system is similar to leasing a car. With Sunnova, we own the equipment, and you’ll pay a fixed amount every month, unless you choose a yearly percentage increase, referred to as an escalator. The purpose of the escalator is to provide more significant savings in the early years of your agreement. You’ll pay a lower initial rate per kWh in return for a slight increase in your rate each year.
We offer zero down leases – a down payment is optional. This means generally that you can start saving money on the energy you need to power your home right away.
Another factor to consider is that with a lease, as opposed to purchasing a solar system, you’re not eligible for federal tax incentives because you do not own the solar system.
Purchasing a Solar System is the New Trend in Energy Independence
The cost of a solar system is lower than ever, and thanks to comprehensive purchasing options, buying a solar system is on the upswing throughout the country. Advantageous loan terms allow homeowners to benefit from tax incentives, energy independence, and, in most markets, substantial savings1 over traditional utility costs. If you’ve been contemplating switching to solar, there is no better time than the present.
Sunnova brings homeowners an easy path to solar ownership with the Easy Own loan and offers the Easy Save lease for those who would rather lease than own. By choosing Sunnova, you’ll work with a company that has earned a reputation for our customer service, industry-leading warranty, and trusted network of partners. We’ll make the process of purchasing a solar system go smoothly from start to finish.
1: You may be eligible for a federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) with the purchase of a solar system. To receive the full federal tax credit, you must have federal income tax liability at least equal to the value of the tax credit. Additional tax credits may also be available for homeowners in certain states. Sunnova makes no guarantees regarding customer eligibility for tax benefits or SRECs. Sunnova does not provide tax advice. Contact your personal tax advisor for eligibility.
2: Refer to the warranty in your service agreement for complete warranty terms and limitations. Your solar system production will vary based on weather and other factors. Restrictions and limitations apply. The service agreement can be transferred to the new homeowner. Sunnova’s approval required. Some restrictions apply. Solar system’s cumulative production will be evaluated to validate annual production guarantee. Refer to your agreement for details. Sunnova does not offer production guarantee for energy service plans in Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. In the state of Florida, Sunnova does not offer 24/7 system monitoring. Restrictions apply. Refer to your service agreement for complete terms and limitations.
How to Maintain Your Solar Panels in the Summer
Thanks to the sun’s higher position in the sky throughout the summer months, your solar system receives more direct sunlight in June, July, and August than it does at any other time of the year.
From the panels to the converter, each component of your solar system is working in overdrive. Protecting your entire system and preparing for higher rates of conversion can mean the difference between optimum output and lost energy.
A single solar panel is comprised of many cells that work together to process particles of light that can generate energy. As the cells in the panel work in unison to convert sunlight into directed energy, the solar inverter converts the energy collected into a usable current that can be used to power your home. During long summer days the cells absorb more energy, and the solar inverter converts that energy at a higher level.
It’s important to keep your solar system operating at its peak to ensure that you’re receiving the highest return on investment possible.
Proper summer maintenance will not only protect your solar system all season long, it can also identify and prevent any issues from impacting your system as the seasons change.
Luckily, there are a few simple steps that you can take to safeguard your system during the brightest days of the year.
Simple Solution 1 – Monitor Your Solar Energy Production
Throughout the year your system has endured rain, wind, unpredictable cold snaps, snow, sleet, and more. Your solar system is built to withstand mother nature but keeping an eye on your system is key to extending its lifespan.
In your MySunnova account, you can track your solar system production by day, month, or year. From “Production” in the top navigation, you can compare your solar system production year-over-year, or you can download your entire production history. Please note that your MySunnova account has a 24-hour delay in reporting.
With Sunnova Protect, you have 24/7 system monitoring.* We track your solar system’s energy generation throughout the year and determine whether or not it is performing optimally. If your solar system isn’t producing the guaranteed amount of energy, you’re covered.*
Simple Solution 2 – Monitoring Fresh Growth
Winter freezes paired with heavy springtime rain can create new foliage growth in areas that were once shade-free, so it’s important to always check for new growth as the summer approaches. You want to check for any new shade that is cast on any part of your system throughout the day to determine what type of trimming or pruning needs to be done.
In addition to reducing shade, monitoring for fresh growth can cut down on the amount of potentially damaging debris that is dropped onto panels via wind, weather, and animals. Solar panels function as a cell, so any disruption to energy absorption in a single panel can affect your entire solar system.
When you decide to trim tree limbs that overhang solar panels, it is important to inform your arborist of the location of each panel. An experienced arborist will be able to trim limbs away from your system to reduce the risk of potential scratching or other damage to panels.
Hassle-Free Solar Optimization – Summer Maintenance Makes a Difference
Preparing your solar system for the summer is an easy and important process that will protect its longevity and functionality for years to come. Getting the most return on your investment, gaining energy independence, and benefitting from a renewable energy source are just a few of the benefits that come along with choosing solar energy. The savings that you enjoy all year long are maximized during the summer months as you see your air conditioning bill shrink.
Enjoy all that the summer sun has to offer – from a solar system designed to bring your home optimal renewable energy, to time spent outdoors with your family – thanks to a few quick and hassle-free steps that will keep your Sunnova solar system running smoothly all season long.
* In the state of Florida, Sunnova does not offer production guarantee or 24/7 system monitoring. Restrictions apply. Refer to your service agreement for complete terms and limitation. Your solar system production will vary based on weather and other factors. Solar system’s cumulative production will be evaluated to validate annual production guarantee. Refer to your agreement for details.
What is the History of Solar Energy?
Today, the solar energy industry has become a leading source of renewable power generation in the United States, which not only helps support the environment but assists with local job markets, communities and the overall reduction of electricity costs. Over time scientists have found ways to use solar power for homes, swimming pools, transportation, outdoor lighting and portable devices.
Discovered in 1839, solar energy has evolved into one of the hottest energy resources on the planet. In fact, renewable energy has been growing steadily in most parts of the world due to communities transitioning to a variety of power sources that support the environment. We can expect solar energy growth to continue to evolve.
Solar Energy Dates Back to the 1800s
Did you know that Albert Einstein, was known as the Father of Solar Cells? He believed in the science of solar energy before it was invented and predicted that energy from the sun could be harnessed for power. Einstein wrote a paper about the power of solar and eventually received the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work.
In 1839, a French scientist Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect at the young age of 19. Edmond was intrigued with the emission of light without heat, especially when displayed with sulfides and compounds of uranium. During Becquerel’s research study of photochemical reactions, he began to comprehend the absorption of light energy and uncovered the value of the photovoltaic effect. He realized when electrons were in an excited state in a conduction band, they could move freely through a material, thus creating a current.
Willoughby Smith, began the development of photoconductivity in 1873 when he began testing underwater cables. He was able to test circuitry with a semi-conducting material called selenium, which ultimately led to the invention of photoelectric cells. Smith realized through experimentation that the conductivity of the selenium rods increased significantly when exposed to sunlight.
The first solar panel was invented by Charles Fritts in 1883. Fritts calculated that by placing a thin, wide layer of selenium onto a metal plate, and covering it with a semitransparent gold-leaf, he could produce a current with a “continuous, constant, and of considerable force,” thus, launching a movement for producing solar energy.
1950s - The Solar Cell Era Begins
When the solar era began in the 1950s, Bell Laboratory scientists focused on photovoltaic (PV) developments and began utilizing silicon to produce solar cells. This breakthrough gave solar energy technology the needed funds for more research. Tests began on how the weather affected solar cells and how to increase the amount of electricity the solar cells were able to produce.
To prove the concept, Bell produced a solar panel with cells that relied exclusively on light power, to run a 21-inch Ferris wheel on solar energy.
During this era, the United States Navy enlisted scientist, Dr. Hans Ziegler, to see if solar cells could be used in lieu of chemical batteries. Through testing, Dr. Ziegler was able to replace the batteries with silicon solar cells because they performed stronger and continued working longer in comparison.
In the 1960s and 1970s, solar panel production proved to be too expensive for mainstream consumers, but scientists continued to develop solar energy technology in order to reduce the cost.
Solar Energy – The Right Price for the Future
Today, solar energy costs continue to fall rapidly. Over the last decade, solar panel prices have decreased 80 percent and across the USA, the cost of solar energy has dropped a whopping 73 percent since 2008. It is estimated that by 2020, with continued tech improvements, mainstream solar energy generation will offer a low-end electricity cost for homeowners.
With the advancements of light, ultra-thin solar panels and improved solar cells (or photovoltaic PV cells), solar panels continue to become lighter and more aesthetically pleasing on homes and businesses. Continued research and technological advancements in PV technology and concentrated solar power (CSP), have allowed engineers to produce more efficient solar-engineered hybrid, which helps drop the cost for consumers. Concentrated solar power uses mirrors to concentrate solar energy from the sun to traditional steam turbines or engines that produce electricity. Combined with photovoltaics, PV technology harnesses sunlight for power generation and then CSP uses the sun’s heat to create thermal energy. Using PV and CSP hybridized solar energy technology, enables high energy conversion efficiency and affordable storage.
Where is Solar Energy Today?
Scientists continue to look for ways to improve the effectiveness and affordability of solar cells. Recently, scientists at the University of Toronto launched light-sensitive nanoparticles named “colloidal quantum dots”, that will help reduce the cost of material for solar cell technology. The new “dots” use both n-type and p-type semiconductors that can function outdoors in any weather condition. Because the colloidal quantum dots don't bind to air, they can sustain stability outdoors. This innovation helps increase radiant light absorption and is found to be up to eight percent more effective at converting sunlight for solar energy. Since this is a new technology for solar energy, the scientists are continuing to hone the power conversion efficiency.
As renewable energy gains in popularity, the battery storage market is also taking off. With a battery, solar energy can be stored for use at night or when the grid is down.
Shifting to solar energy for a primary source of power makes smart economic sense. Solar cell innovations that unlock efficiencies in manufacturing panels, reducing installation costs, and improving performance of power-generation equipment paves the way for a stronger renewable generation market.Sunnova’s global vision is to continue turning homes into energy-saving powerhouses by staying on top of cutting-edge technology to provide extensive knowledge and responsive service.
How do Solar Panels Work in the Winter?
During the summer, solar panel production can produce significant energy thanks to the long sunny days. But during the winter months, daylight hours are shorter, and it can be considerably cloudy and cold in many states across the U.S.A.
If you’re considering solar panels, you may wonder if you can produce enough energy during winter months. Understanding the technology behind a rooftop solar system helps demonstrate how solar panels perform well even in winter.
Solar Panels – Heat vs. Daylight
Solar energy works by harnessing the sun’s energy and turning it into electricity. Solar cells (or photovoltaic PV cells), convert the sunlight directly into electricity, creating direct current (DC) electricity, which then travels to an inverter and converts this energy into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is used in your home.
In general, your solar system production will be lower in winter months than in summer months. However, the difference in production may not be as extreme as you think!
Solar panels do not rely on heat from a sunny day to produce electricity. In actuality, colder temperatures can help improve the performance of solar cells production (PV Performance). Solar panels only need daylight to produce electricity, therefore, unless your solar system is blocked by shade from trees or snow, it will continue to absorb energy during the day – even in the winter.
Cold Weather is Good for Solar Panels!
The reflection from snow on the ground coupled with a good, gusty wind can actually help improve solar system performance. When the sunlight bounces from the snow below to the top of your solar panels, the traveling light helps improve solar system performance.
In addition, the angle of your solar system production is important to ensure proper surrounding air and ventilation conditions. For example, a free-standing solar panel offers prime ventilation compared to a rooftop panel, that’s why it is important to speak to the installer about how your home solar system will be mounted and angled for the best performance.
Winter is a great time to shop for solar panels. Learn more about Sunnova’s products and plans here. We offer four types of solar service agreements to meet your needs.
How Does Snow Affect Solar Panels?
A quality solar system is built to last over 25 years. When choosing a rooftop solar system, remember that premium-grade panels are fully tested to operate year-round, and withstand extreme weather conditions. For instance, snowfall should not damage solar panels because they are tested to endure freezing temperatures and bear the weight of heavy amounts of snow or debris.
If mounted correctly and installed by certified technicians, solar panels are designed to handle snow, rain, and hail. Your solar panels should resist corrosion, impact, and extreme shifts in the weather. Considering that people drive on solar panels, the weight of the snow will not be an issue!
While most solar panels are installed at an angle, it will take time for snow to slide off. When solar panels gather snow, it’s best to let the snow melt or slide off the panels naturally. We recommend you move cars, patio furniture, and other items that may get damaged away from your roof. The snow may slide off in large sheets, and it’s important to be very careful.
Sunnova’s Production Monitoring and 25-Year Warranty
When investing in a solar system, it’s important for homeowners to understand their home solar warranty and maintenance agreement terms. Sunnova offers a best-in-class, comprehensive protection plan that covers repairs, maintenance and a production guarantee* for your solar system. Homeowners benefit from a production guarantee because it ensures that your panels will produce the promised amount of energy outlined in the 25-year service agreement, or Sunnova will credit you the difference.
If you live in a part of the country like New York or New Jersey that contends with snow storms and/or extreme weather conditions during winter months, having a full-service warranty comes in handy. Having the peace of mind that your solar system performance is being monitored 24/7 to detect insufficient solar generation, helps makes sure that your solar panels will perform, rain or shine.
*In the state of Florida, Sunnova does not offer production guarantee or 24/7 system monitoring. Restrictions apply. Refer to your service agreement for complete terms and limitations.
Why a Home Solar Warranty is Important
If you're one of those people who shop for top-notch deals, research highly-rated products and pursue the best warranty protection, we encourage you to keep reading. It pays to perform due diligence and gain the best return on any investment, especially when it comes to protecting your home.
According to the Texas Tribune, Texas homeowners are getting added energy efficiency and sustainable benefits of comfort, convenience, and affordability with home solar. And since solar energy is the most abundant energy source on earth, let’s take a deeper dive and learn why a home solar warranty is important.
Research your solar provider
Whether you choose to buy or lease your solar system, a great warranty is important for ensuring you get the energy expected over the life of the system. It is critical that you understand which home solar warranties are optimal to protect your investment. A quality solar system will help control your home’s energy costs for multiple decades, so it’s important to know what your warranty covers and what it doesn’t.
Find out if the solar provider has a good reputation, offers quality solar panels, and has reputable, experienced technicians available for installation and service. Before you sign on the dotted line, ask for testimonies from other customers and determine if the solar installation company will be around during the next 25 years to help service your system. If you have any doubts about their longevity, keep shopping.
Home solar warranty comparison
Installation warranty - If the solar provider you have chosen only offers an installation warranty, you should reconsider your solar provider. An installation warranty is important, but your home solar warranty should cover installation, parts, and equipment. The installer should also be responsible for fixing any damage they cause to your home or property during the installation process. If your home solar warranty doesn’t cover parts and equipment, you may be liable for any damages or defects down the road.
Product warranty - a product warranty covers the structural integrity of the solar equipment including the solar panel modules and inverter, but many times a solar provider will only offer coverage for ten years, which sounds like a decent time period, but not when compared to other providers who offer 25-year product warranties. Whether you decide to choose a product warranty for a decade or more is a personal decision, but since quality solar panels are built to last more than a decade, you may want to opt for longer home solar warranty coverage. Check that your product warranty covers fair wear and tear, damage due to improper installation and incorrect solar panel configuration.
Manufacturer warranty – With a manufacturer’s warranty, you still need to pay someone to service the home solar system to take advantage of the warranty. If that’s not quite what you want, choose a solar provider that will handle everything for you – from servicing the equipment to working directly with the manufacturer to replace any parts and perform repairs.
Power output warranty - A guarantee for energy production or sometimes called, a power output warranty, guarantees that the system will produce the energy based on the terms of the agreement. Some solar providers will even credit you the difference if your output doesn’t measure up.
Extra benefits for a home solar warranty
In addition to a strong home solar warranty, look for added benefits to help improve your purchase power. Inquire about 24/7 system monitoring to track your solar production and help gauge your system’s output when weather conditions change. Round the clock monitoring can help detect if your solar system isn’t producing the amount of energy expected. Find out if your service provider will monitor your system for you and proactively send service technicians to help identify and resolve any issues over the life of your system. If your home solar system isn’t performing the way it should, make sure your provider guarantees the repairs. In addition to a solid home solar warranty, other perks can include zero-down financing and solar leasing versus buying options.
Which home solar warranty is right for you?
Read the entire purchase agreement to fully understand the type of home solar warranty offered with your purchase. The best choice for a home solar warranty is a comprehensive warranty, that covers the major components of the solar system for 20-plus years, and protects all of the parts and equipment. An all-inclusive home solar warranty should offer full repair or replacement coverage for panels, inverter, all wiring, and connections. Read the fine print and ask questions when you don’t understand something. A qualified solar provider specialist should be able to walk you through a home solar warranty and explain it in detail.
Consider Sunnova Protect1, a 25-year, best-in-class, comprehensive solar system warranty that assures your home solar equipment, installation and production are protected. With nearly a decade of solar installation experience, Sunnova services solar systems across the United States, Caribbean, and Pacific Islands. As a leading residential solar provider, Sunnova is transforming the energy industry by offering affordable, reliable solar power one homeowner at a time.
1 Refer to the Limited Warranty in your agreement for complete warranty terms and limitations. Your solar system production will vary based on weather and other factors. Solar system’s cumulative production will be evaluated to validate annual production guarantee. Refer to your agreement for details. Insurance coverage may vary. Restrictions and limitations apply. Service agreement can be transferred to the new homeowner. Sunnova’s approval required. Some restrictions apply.
6 Fast Facts About the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
There are many scientists who say a total solar eclipse is among the most spectacular sights you can see in the sky. On Monday, August 21, a solar eclipse will cut across the entire United States. And wherever you are, you will be able to see it. Even though the totality – the area where the sun is completely blocked out by the moon – is only 70 miles while, the whole country (even Alaska and Hawaii) will experience a partial eclipse.
Here at Sunnova, we’ve already started the countdown to this rare celestial event. It is a great excuse to step outside in the summer and see a glimpse of the stars in the middle of the day. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind to get yourself prepared for this spectacular event.
What is a total solar eclipse?
A total solar eclipse is when the moon moves between the sun and Earth and lasting for up to three hours from the beginning to end. The lunar shadow darkens the sky, temperatures drop and stars will appear during a time that’s normally broad daylight. During the August eclipse, the longest period when the moon obscures the sun's entire surface from any given location along its path will last about two minutes and 40 seconds.
What's the big deal about a solar eclipse?
We all know, at least in the back of our minds, that we're living on a giant ball that revolves around a hot ball of gas, and we're somehow floating in space. But when you see a total solar eclipse, where everything lines up, and suddenly there's instant nighttime. Planets pop up, and sometimes you can see Mercury and Venus, maybe even Mars and Jupiter. It’s like the pictures from your middle school textbooks. So, it moves the concept from just an idea in your head to a total experience, and you may just have a better appreciation of where you are in the solar system.
What makes it so special?
The August eclipse is especially extraordinary because it's the first time the path of totality exclusively crosses the continental United States from coast to coast since June 8, 1918. That’s nearly 100 years!
Who can see it?
NASA estimates more than 300 million people in the United States could potentially directly view the total solar eclipse. The relatively thin path of totality will sweep across portions of 14 U.S. states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. However, the August solar eclipse will be visible to the entire North American continent. Keep in mind that weather may impact visibility in some locations.
How can you view it?
You never want to look directly at the sun with your naked eyes except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse when the moon entirely covers the sun's beaming face. But there are plenty of ways to safely view an eclipse of the sun, including special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers.
Ordinary sunglasses—even very dark ones—should not be used as a replacement for eclipse viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers. Be careful!
How will the solar eclipse impact my solar system?
According to grid experts you shouldn’t expect this event to create reliability issues despite the considerable amount of solar activity near the path of the solar eclipse. You can plan for the solar eclipse in the same way you’d plan for an extremely overcast day. Additionally, the amount of time of the eclipse will be small, so Sunnova does not expect any issues with the solar system.
Data released by U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that while there may be an impact on generation, the expectation is that the eclipse will not affect reliability of the electric systems.
States like California have spent months steadily ramping up resources to make up for the fall in solar output and subsequent return once the eclipse passes. Also, the North American Reliability Council has publicly stated that it does not expect significant issues in the bulk power system overall nationwide. stated that it does not expect significant issues in the bulk power system nationwide.
For more information about the solar eclipse, visit nasa.gov/eclipse.
What is Net Metering?
Net-metering (also referred to as “Net Energy Metering” or “NEM”) is a system of accounting and billing for solar energy usage and generation at a home. Utility companies are often required by the state in which they operate to implement NEM to credit a homeowner for excess solar generation not used onsite and sent, or “exported,” to the electrical grid from a home. This process allows residential solar power systems to feed unused electricity onto the grid and receive a credit for the supply of the energy.
The credits for that exported solar energy accrue over the course of a utility customer’s billing cycle. Credit for that accrual is established based on a predetermined value and usually applies to a future billing cycle. Without assigning a fair value for the exported energy from a home, excess solar energy would be delivered to the electrical grid at no cost to the utility which would effectively mean that they were getting something (energy) for nothing which would hurt homeowners. It would also diminish the expected energy savings associated with the installation of a solar system because the excess energy produced in a home would have no value.
Net-metering regulation occurs at the state level either through legislation or through the Public Utilities Commission, if the utility is an investor owned utility. Policies and implementation vary widely across the country. Ultimately, the point of net metering is to provide a standard accounting method for exported energy that reflects the value and service of the energy delivered to the utility grid. This value should account for the reduced need of traditional electricity generation as well as gains in system efficiency across the greater electricity grid infrastructure.
How Does Net-Metering Work?
Solar energy generation feeds directly into a home and powers household electrical loads like lights, power outlets and appliances. However, throughout the day, the energy needs of a home do not always align perfectly with a solar system’s output. At any given moment, a home’s energy needs can be below or above the energy output of the solar system. This means that energy going to and from a home is in a constant ebb and flow.
- When a solar system’s generation exceeds the power needs of a home, solar energy flows TO the grid.
- When a home’s electricity needs are higher than its solar generation, energy flows FROM the grid.
An electrical meter at the home records all of the delivered and exported energy flow; measured in kilowatt-hours. The utility charges a homeowner for the energy that is sent to a home at the retail electricity rate per kilowatt-hour. Conversely, a utility gives credits for the energy exported from the home at the NEM rate per kilowatt-hour. These two rates, retail and NEM, may or may not be the same depending on local rules and guidelines.
At the end of a billing cycle, the TO and FROM values are calculated at the predetermined kilowatt-hour rates and the difference between the values is reflected in the bill to the homeowner. Hence the term “net” metering - the value for the difference between the delivered and received energy at a home. For some utilities, this cycle occurs monthly. For other utilities, net energy is accounted for on an annual basis with a single true up at the end of the billing year.
The Top 5 Reasons Your Electricity Usage Might Increase
Solar power, unlike coal or oil, is a renewable resource. Every day, the sun rises and keeps the Earth a livable temperature and nourishes plants and animals. To make electricity, some homes have a solar power system that converts sunlight into electricity to power modern life. It’s pretty magical.
Because it seems magical, it’s easy to forget that renewable doesn’t mean unlimited. But the fact is that no matter the number of panels a particular solar system has, there is a limit to how much power it can produce.
Depending on the amount of annual sunshine, the location and number of panels, every solar system is designed to produce a certain amount of power to meet your electricity needs. To really see savings with solar, it’s important not to increase your electricity use dramatically.
Increasing electricity use after going solar will make it seem like you aren’t saving money. But really, your solar system, no matter the size, will provide power and reduce the amount of electricity you consume from the grid.
The most popular reasons electricity use increases
There are a number of reasons why electricity usage spikes. The top reasons we see at Sunnova are:
- Hot Weather: You may be really good at keeping tabs on your thermostat, but a long run of really hot days will make your air conditioner work harder and more often.
- Visiting Family: Adding more people to your home increases the use of every resource in your home, from hot water to food, and even electricity.
- An Electric Vehicle: A lot of solar customers want to reduce their carbon footprint everywhere they can, so they buy an electric car. It’s a great idea, but recognize that you may be outstripping the production of your solar system.
- The Holidays: Between Christmas lights and family get-togethers, your electricity use is far from your normal amount during the other 11 months of the year.
- A Failing Appliance: When an air conditioner or refrigerator are on their last days, they become horribly inefficient. With fridges especially, it’s common to keep your old one after you buy a newer, more efficient model — adding to the amount of electricity you use.
How to keep your usage in check
The first step to making sure you see savings from solar is simply to track your usage. After you understand your home’s electricity use, you’ll want to find ways to shift use to the day time. Solar systems produce electricity during the day and whatever power you don’t use gets sent to the grid. Running your dishwasher or doing laundry during the day instead of at night, when you use power from the grid, will help reduce your utility bill.
You can also make your home more energy efficient. Switching to LED lights, buying energy efficient appliances and insulating your home will help reduce your overall energy consumption and help you save money.
If you haven’t gone solar yet, schedule an appointment with a Sunnova partner to find out how much solar can save you.
Understanding Your Household Energy Consumption
Whether you're preparing your home for a residential solar power system, or you simply want to learn more about how much electricity you use, the first step involves understanding your household energy consumption. Only by understanding your consumption can you ultimately cut down on your energy costs.
Amps, watts, volts, lumens - there's a lot of different terminology used to describe and measure electricity. Due to the large number of terms employed, understanding your home's energy consumption begins with knowing what these words mean and how they're impacted by your electricity usage.
For instance, the typical U.S. household consumed an average of 901 kilowatt-hours a month in 2015, or about 10,812 kWh for the year, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. However, the amount varies greatly from one state to the next. Louisiana topped the list of most electricity used with 1,291 kWh per month, while residents of Hawaii only needed 506 kWh a month.
But unless you know what a kilowatt-hour is, these numbers won't make much sense, and it'll be tougher to cut your energy usage accordingly.
As its name states, a kilowatt-hour is the measure of the amount of kilowatts used during one hour of time. A kilowatt is a unit of power used to determine the rate at which energy is generated or used.
Think about a single 100-watt lightbulb in a lamp. If you leave this lightbulb switched on for 10 hours, it will consume 1,000 watt-hours, or 1 kWh. Similarly, 10 100-watt bulbs burning for only 1 hour will use the same amount of electricity. However, from a demand perspective, the utility will need to provide 10 times the amount of electricity to supply energy for the second scenario compared to the first one.
Armed with this knowledge, you'll have a much better sense of how much energy your home consumes, as well as how much it costs to run the appliances and devices that use this electricity.
How much energy do typical appliances require?
Not all appliances and devices use the same amount of electricity to operate.
There is no single overarching formula to determine how to calculate the total energy of every individual appliance. This means you'll have to figure out how much each appliance is using.
Many items will have the wattage used stamped on the bottom or the back. However, it should be noted that there are some appliances and electronics that will continue draining energy even when they're not turned on or are in standby mode. These are sometimes referred to as “energy vampires”.
Certain items, though, will stand out as being the most energy hungry. Heating and cooling your home, for instance, typically account for nearly half of all residential energy costs, with heating consuming roughly 30 percent and cooling about 20 percent, noted Mass Save, an energy efficiency company. Regular maintenance and annual checkups for your heating, vacuum and air conditioning system can help keep your HVAC system working at its most efficient.
A water heater is another big energy consumer since you use this to run a dishwasher, shower or bathe, and clean clothing. This can eat up as much as 15 percent of your home's energy, with the washer and dryer consuming another 13 percent on average, the source noted.
With a greater understanding of your electricity usage, you can better control your overall consumption. A more energy-efficient home coupled with a rooftop solar PV system can drastically reduce your utility bills.
Click here for more information on how a residential solar installation can save you even more on your monthly electric bill.
To Enjoy Solar Savings, Keep an Eye on Energy Consumption
If you're a homeowner preparing to purchase rooftop solar PV systems, or if you've just initiated this process, it's important that you have a solid sense of your energy usage. Without understanding your household energy consumption and taking steps to improve its efficiency, there's no metric for knowing how much you're ultimately saving. Worse, not paying attention to your household energy consumption can potentially lead to higher bills than you're expecting.
With electricity prices in a constant state of fluctuation, many homeowners are looking for more cost-effective solutions to rising energy prices. One such solution is a rooftop solar PV system.
There are several advantages to installing residential solar panels. First, it immediately offers you significant savings on your utility bill. Second, unlike electricity from the grid that's subject to price spikes, the cost of solar energy remains the same. Third, this power source relies on clean, renewable energy.
However, when you set off to take advantage of the benefits of solar power, you should set realistic expectations for your solar system to ensure it's delivering the anticipated savings based on your energy usage levels.
Rising energy consumption
Despite more individuals being conscious of the need to reduce energy consumption, several factors have actually pushed electricity usage higher in some areas.
As noted by Scientific American, rising incomes, coupled with increased home sizes and relocations to warmer climates have all led to a rise in energy consumption. The first of these trends has led to more indifference from homeowners about their utility bills. The second element has created the need for higher energy demand, and people living in hotter environments has boosted air conditioning usage and swimming pool-related energy use. Combined, these three conditions have all contributed to less energy efficiency.
Lowering energy consumption is simply smart
A common misconception among some homeowners is that installing a rooftop solar PV system means they have access to an unlimited source of energy. While solar power is renewable, each system is designed to produce a certain amount of energy in a single day. Due to this misunderstanding, some users increase their energy consumption to such a degree that they don't enjoy the savings they expected.
This means it's more important than ever to keep an eye on your energy consumption before, during and after the installers set up your solar panels. By tracking how much electricity you're using, you can more easily pinpoint problem areas and implement an improvement plan.
Remaining conscious of your consumption
Thankfully, there are several simple and effective ways to track your energy consumption and easily reduce the amount of electricity used in your household. Consider these tips for improving the energy efficiency of your home:
Fight energy vampires
No, it's not the plot of the latest blockbuster film. Energy vampires are appliances and other electronic devices, like TVs and computers, that continue to suck energy even when they're turned off and not in use. It might not seem like a lot, but unplugging these machines after you turn them off can go a long way to reducing your energy consumption and lowering your electric bill.
Use the IoT and smart devices
The internet has revolutionized nearly every aspect of society, and household energy consumption is no exception. The Internet of Things and the related smart devices have given homeowners the ability to accurately track their electricity usage. A study conducted by Parks Associates, a market research and consulting company, revealed that 70 percent of U.S. households indicated they were able to reduce their energy consumption and save money by using smart energy devices.
Devices like CURB, a home energy monitoring system, deliver granular data on your energy usage straight to your mobile device or personal computer.
With this information in hand, you can make smarter decisions on your home energy consumption, identify irregularities and inconsistent patterns in electricity usage, allowing you to uncover inefficient appliances or potential problems. It also provides you with the ability to better estimate your utility bill.
In addition to using the IoT and smart devices, eco-friendly products can also help make your home more energy efficient. For example, switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs such as light-emitting diodes, commonly referred to as LEDs, can save your household on electricity costs. Replacing an old 60-watt incandescent bulb with an LED reduces energy consumption to only 10 watts needed to produce the same amount of light, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council.
Further, windows, doors and major appliances all have energy-efficient versions of their normal counterparts. Although the energy-efficient versions can be a bit pricier than their typical counterparts, they can all contribute to reducing your energy consumption and utility bills.
With a little extra attention and a few proactive decisions, you can improve your home's energy efficiency and get even more savings after you install a rooftop solar PV system.
5 Mind-Blowing Facts About Solar Energy
With the growing popularity of solar power, you might scratch your head and wonder what's going on with solar energy.
While you may be familiar with the the many benefits of solar power - reduced electricity bills, lack of pollution, ease of installation and low maintenance requirements - you may not know the details that make these benefits possible.
Consider these five mind-blowing facts about solar power
1. The Earth receives enough sunlight in one hour to power the world for one year
The upper atmosphere receives 174 petawatts of incoming solar radiation, Conserve Energy Future reported. Of this, 70 percent gets absorbed by clouds, oceans, and land masses, with the remaining 30 percent reflected into outer space.
This means that on any given day, the world receives enough sunlight in one hour to provide enough energy to fully power the entire world for an entire year. For now, we don't yet have the capabilities to fully harness this much insolation, but the potential for capturing more sunlight and converting it into clean, renewable energy is massive.
2. Rooftop solar can potentially save you $20,000 - or more!
Since every household has varying energy demands, it's tough to pinpoint an average amount of savings from solar. Federal and state tax credits and other local rebates, such as net metering, will impact the final price tag for a solar system. In addition, the amount of sunlight your region receives creates a wide spectrum of cost savings between different states.
However, according to Understand Solar, the average savings after 20 years comes in at around $20,000. The low-end of savings rests at $8,500 in states with few incentives and low insolation, like Kansas and North Dakota. The high end can reach into the $30,000 range in states like California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Florida, where sunlight is bountiful. One outlier exists in Hawaii, where the high insolation and increasing energy costs put the savings at $64,769 over the course of two decades.
Since most solar panels are guaranteed with 25- to 30-year lifetime warranties, there's a chance for even more savings in the long run. Further, your ultimate savings comes down to your home's energy efficiency and demands. The more energy efficient your home and the lower your energy demands, then the faster you'll obtain ROI on the system and begin generating free electricity.
3. A residential PV system can cut 100 tons of CO2
A residential PV system is a durable investment with benefits that increase over time. This applies to both the cost savings and the reduction in harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Over the projected 28-year lifetime of the average rooftop solar system that generates half of a household's electricity demand, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that it would offset the production of:
- One-third ton of nitrogen oxides.
- Half a ton of sulfur dioxide.
- 100 tons of carbon dioxide.
Keep in mind, these are the numbers for a single household with a 2-year energy payback, or the length of time it takes for a PV system to recoup the energy and associated emissions generated during the manufacturing of the panels and balance of system.
4. The weight of solar panels is minuscule
While solar panels do add a few extra pounds to your roof, the system is designed to be lightweight and durable. All of the equipment, including the PV modules, mounting rack and additional balance of system, only weigh between two and four pound per square foot, Sunmetric reported. This typically falls into most roofs' acceptable stress limits. In fact, a solar system can actually protect your roof from weathering and aging, since it adds another layer to block the shingles from the elements.
However, you might want to check with your roofing company to see how a solar panel may affect the roof's warranty.
5. Solar panels can boost home values
A rooftop PV system can actually boost your home's value. A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that when looking at the repeat sales data for homes in San Diego and Sacramento County, solar panels provided an average $20,194 premium to the final price. Unlike a kitchen remodeling or adding a spare room to your home, solar panels reduce your energy bills and continue generating value. Forbes found that, on average, homeowners who installed rooftop solar systems recovered approximately 97 percent of the initial investment before the savings from lowered electricity costs or net metering energy buybacks are factored in. In comparison, remodeling a luxury kitchen only nets about 60 percent of its investment costs.
Click here to learn more facts about how solar power can save you money and contribute to a cleaner environment.
Why Service Matters: The Importance of Your Solar Service Provider
Installing solar panels on your home can be a long process that requires a fair amount of research and a thorough understanding of all the issues surrounding this clean, renewable energy source. Thankfully, solar providers can streamline the entire process while ensuring you receive the best solar service possible. Here are just a few of the biggest reasons why service matters when you go solar:
Making solar panel installations easier
The first steps in the solar panel installation process are all about research. Installing solar panels requires more than simply tossing a few modules on your rooftop and calling it a day. You need to figure out which module type works best for your particular situation, both financially and technically. You should ask yourself:
- How can I most effectively align the panels for maximum insolation capture?
- How do I operate and maintain the balance of a system that includes the wiring, switches, mounting gear, etc.?
- How much should I be spending on solar panel installation?
These are just a few of the factors to consider before, during and after installing the solar system. As you can see, there's a lot to learn.
Here's the good news: Solar services providers can answer a lot of these questions for you, right up front. As noted by SolarNation, full-service solar providers handle the project management of the entire installation with their own highly trained and experienced team of certified installers. This reduces, and sometimes even eliminates, the bulk of the issues facing homeowners who want to install solar panels. Instead of having to go through the time-consuming process of learning the ins and outs of the solar power conversion process, a solar service provider does the work for you and makes solar panel installations easy.
Reducing solar panel costs
Saving money on your electricity bill is no doubt one of, if not THE, main reason for installing solar panels. So reducing the costs associated with a solar panel installation goes hand in hand with this goal. Fortunately, there are numerous federal, state and local-level incentives available for homeowners looking to install solar panels.
However, navigating through the forms and information related to all of these deals and tax exemptions can be exhausting and overwhelming for homeowners. Once again, this is where solar service providers step in. These companies deftly maneuver this bureaucratic labyrinth, ensuring you obtain the best deals possible to reduce the cost of your solar panel installation.
Long-term benefits of solar service providers
A solar service provider offers many benefits that do not come with traditional solar system ownership. Although solar companies manufacture panels to be highly durable and reliable to withstand exposure to the elements for several decades, this equipment will occasionally need repairs and/or maintenance. Outright solar panel ownership requires consumers to handle any repairs and maintenance, which comes right out of their own pocket.
Solar service providers, on the other hand, will usually pay for any repairs and maintenance or send out their own technicians to handle these issues. According to Solar Industry Magazine, the service providers have the health of the PV industry in their best interest as they also want to ensure your panels are optimizing their solar energy generation.
Click here to learn more about how solar service providers can help make your PV installment easier and more cost-effective.
Comparing Solar Energy Advantages and Disadvantages
You've probably seen solar panels installed on houses and businesses in your neighborhood, and you've no doubt come across a neighbor or friend extolling the virtues of a rooftop solar power system. And along with every piece of positive news, someone might have mentioned a bit of negative feedback on solar power. While there are both pros and cons to solar power, the advantages far outweigh the negatives.
Consider these solar energy advantages and disadvantages when weighing the benefits of what this renewable power source has to offer:
Advantages of solar power
Cost savings from solar
So what's great about solar? The biggest advantage of using solar energy is the potential savings you’ll receive. A rooftop solar system soaks up the sun's rays and converts this energy into usable electric power. This supplements energy pulled from the grid, thereby lowering your utility bill. When the energy the system produces exceeds your consumption demands, you can also feed this extra power back into the grid for additional credit toward your utility bills. This process, known as net metering, not only saves you more money in the long run, but studies have shown that these programs are positive for all ratepayers.
An unlimited source of renewable power
Another major advantage of solar energy is that it's ultimately a free power source once the system has been paid off. Better yet, not only is solar power free, it's an indefinitely renewable resource that doesn't require any drilling, mining or other dangerous extraction methods that can cause production problems and lead to energy cost fluctuations.
Compared to the volatility of natural gas prices, solar power provides a more stable and consistent source of energy for homeowners. Even utility-scale providers are jumping on the solar-energy bandwagon because of more enticing cost considerations. By 2021, power delivered from utility-scale solar plants will be less expensive than electricity produced by natural gas, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Boost property value
Not only do solar panels lower your utility bills, but they can also potentially increase your property value. A recent study by a member of the Appraisal Institute and released by the LBNL compared the sale of 43 houses across six different states and found that homes with solar systems sold at a higher premium than those without solar systems.
Out of sight, out of mind
Another solid advantage of solar power is that once you install the system on your roof, you can sit back and watch the savings roll in with very little maintenance. Solar panels are designed to be durable enough to withstand long-term exposure to the elements and continue generating energy for decades.
Further, there's a direct relationship between the size of your home, the amount of electricity you use and the number of solar panels that can fit on your roof. Smaller houses have lower energy needs so they don't need a big solar system. While larger homes, on the other hand, consume more energy, but they can also hold more panels on their roofs to generate more power.
Disadvantages of solar panels
The only real disadvantage of a rooftop solar system is that when diminished sunlight reaches your panels, such as at night or during significant cloud cover, you'll generate less energy. Additionally, snowfall, dust and other types of shading can potentially reduce the amount of sunlight hitting your modules, which can limit the amount of energy the system produces.
Thankfully, most people are typically sleeping when the sun is down, which reduces their energy needs. And most of the debris that may block the solar panel is relatively tiny and easy to clear off, making the overall impact minuscule.
Avoiding a common misconception
While the negatives of solar power might be few, there are a few common misconceptions that some end users might mistake as a disadvantage. For instance, there's an assumption that once a residential solar system is installed on a house, homeowners are free to use as much electricity as they want. However, this can actually lead to a higher utility bill!
It's important to maintain and even boost your home's energy efficiency to make sure you're maximizing the energy output from your rooftop solar system. This can include adding additional insulation, installing a smart home energy monitoring system or replacing old windows with energy-efficient ones.
Click here to learn about the advantages of solar energy.
Top 5 Facts About Solar Energy for Homeowners
Curious homeowners seeking ways to reduce their energy bills should spend time educating themselves on the exciting and cost-effective ways solar power can help. Although solar power might seem a bit confusing at first, the fact is that it's relatively simple to enjoy the benefits of this clean, renewable energy source. Just consider these five facts about solar energy:
1. The price of solar continues to drop
You might be under the impression that installing photovoltaic (PV) panels or using solar power is expensive. However, taking advantage of solar power has never been more affordable. In 1975, when solar power first started to become more mainstream, the price of solar was roughly 227 times more expensive than what it is today, Clean Technica reported. In fact, the price of a solar panel has dropped about 70% and is roughly 30% of what it was in 2010. And, because of the many solar plan options now available, you have the option to forego a hefty initial down payment making solar more affordable than ever before.
2. It saves big on a utility bill
While the cost of traditional sources of electricity continue to fluctuate, solar power allows you to cut your utility bill, and the sooner you start the installation process, the quicker you start saving money. While the amount of actual savings depends on a number of factors, from how much sunlight your home receives per year to the available rebates and incentives available in your state, in general over the course of a usual 25-year warranty period, you could potentially save between $10,000 and $70,000, according to UnderstandSolar.
3. You don't need the most efficient panels
A common refrain from homeowners that are reluctant to use solar power is that they're waiting on better efficiency levels before making the purchase. However, residential solar cells - the thin slivers of silicone used to convert sunlight into energy - are about as efficient as they're going to get for the foreseeable future. As noted by SRoeCo, an independent solar information website, the most efficient panels aren't necessary for homeowners to realize savings and don’t really need to worry about this.
4. It's immensely popular
While solar power is contagious, it's not just a trendy fad destined to go the way of MySpace or flip phones. Solar power is going to be around for a while because it just makes sense to cut utility bills and help you conserve your overall energy usage. In fact, according to a 2015 national survey conducted by Gallup, 79% of respondents wanted the country to put even more of an emphasis on solar power as an energy source, beating out other energy sources such as wind, natural gas and oil. With so many Americans backing solar power, it will only continue to grow in popularity more people realize its benefits.
5. It helps to conserve energy
One of the main facts about solar power is that people are using this energy source to save money. However, simply installing a PV module is only one step in the process. Along with the solar panel installation, it's important to go through and make sure you're trimming energy usage and managing electricity consumption throughout your entire residence, even after your solar panels are working to ensure even greater savings.
Want to learn more about how solar energy can help you? Just click here to get started.
Put it Where the Sun Shines: What You Need to Know about HOA Rules
When the White House went solar, did President Barack Obama have to argue with a homeowner’s association or maneuver through restricted covenants? Probably not, but plenty of homeowners do.
Here’s what you need to know about residential solar system restrictions.
Solar access rights
Despite several attempts to pass a bill through the House of Representatives and the Senate, a federal solar access law does not yet exist. However, some 25 states have enacted legislation to protect the rights of residents wanting to operate a solar energy system on their property. While these laws supersede denial of solar installation at the local level, HOAs can still place restrictions. And there are additional considerations – in Texas, for example, solar systems can be denied in an area where a housing development is currently under construction.
What restrictive covenants can and can’t do
HOAs cannot delay or deny installation of solar panels, but they can dictate the where and how.
- Location: Angle and position are among the most important factors in maximizing solar power production, yet HOAs can deny arrays on which the top line of the panels extends beyond the roofline – or in the case of ground-mounted systems, the surrounding fence line.
- Aesthetics: Some neighbors just don’t want to see your solar panels from the street. Obviously this may be a problem for homeowners, as panels are installed for maximum solar power production, not looks. On the other hand, nobody wants a neighbor with a solar system that looks like the International Space Station’s (more than an acre of solar arrays!) Solar panels are typically black or blue, because these colors optimize the capturing of solar energy. However, some manufacturers are experimenting with tinted photovoltaics in various colors.
Sell your HOA on solar
HOAs exist to preserve property values, which is why there are rules about the color of your front door and the types of trees you have in your front yard. Discreet or not, solar arrays just may not fit with the look of your hood. What to do? Initiate an educated conversation with your HOA. Remind them:
- Solar panels are environmentally friendly
- Solar power may increase home value
- Solar savings can be passed on to future homeowners
Bonus tip: Rally the neighbors. If 75% of property owners in your community agree with your position, you may have the power to modify HOA bylaws.
Sun Fun: 10 Fast Facts by the Numbers
It’s feisty, fiery, mysterious, misunderstood, worshipped and feared. It’s the stuff of legend, folklore, gods and goddesses.
Mythology and deities aside, there’s a lot of science behind the sun. NASA has been studying the sun in some shape, form or fashion for decades and there’s still a lot to learn. Here’s what we know for sure about Earth’s hottest commodity:
8 minutes – Time it takes for light from the sun to reach Earth
60 minutes – Time it takes for enough solar energy to strike Earth and fulfill energy needs for one year
50 percent – Energy from the sun that reaches Earth’s surface
9,941 degrees – Sun’s surface temperature in degrees Fahrenheit (5,500 Celsius)
1 million – Number of Earths that could fit inside the sun
27 million – Sun’s core temperature in degrees Fahrenheit (15 million Celsius)
93 million – Miles between Earth and the sun
4.6 billion – Years ago the sun was ‘born’
5 billion – Estimated years left for the sun to maintain its current nuclear fuel properties
100 billion – Dynamite in tons that would need to explode every second to match the energy produced by the sun
Out of the Shadows: 5 Top Solar Myths Revealed
You already know solar power is good for the environment and your pocketbook. So what’s holding you back? Perhaps it’s a matter of the rumor mill. Below, we shine some light on the most common myths.
Solar doesn’t work unless you live in the sunny south or along the coast
We’re told to slather on sunscreen even when it’s shady because UV rays blast through cloud cover.
The same concept applies to solar energy.
Solar panels absorb all available solar radiation including UV rays. That means the same UV rays that penetrate our skin on cloudy days also penetrate solar panels on cloudy days. Case in point: Germany, generally recognized as a rather rainy region, is a top leader in residential solar.
While a south-facing roof is optimal, it’s not necessary. Today’s photovoltaic solar panels can be positioned to capture solar energy from other directions. Even landlocked states benefit from solar power -- Sunnova has customers in Colorado, Missouri and Indiana.
I can go off-grid if I go solar
This is still a work in progress, although the idea is definitely picking up steam as several companies are on a quest to develop the perfect off-grid solar storage system. The Department of Energy recently announced $18 million in funding for six new projects across the United States to help develop cost-effective solar technologies that utilize energy storage. Solar batteries are on the forefront as net-metering policies across the country are being re-evaluated. In fact, Sunnova is currently piloting battery storage in Saipan. Although most of you will still be connected to the grid for now, battery storage independent of the grid is just around the corner.
The panels will damage my roof. And they’re ugly
A racking system mounts solar panels to the roof, and any gaps resulting from installation will be sealed. Coverings (such as flashing) may be required. If so, you’ll instantly have additional barriers to protect your roof from the elements. Total bonus! Read more about residential solar systems here.
As for solar panels being an eyesore, discreet options are now available. This is an aesthetically-pleasing win-win-win for you, your neighbors and your HOA.
Solar panels vs. Mother Nature
Mother Nature herself gives us the source to go solar, but she tends to have a wrathful side in the form of hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards. Don’t worry. Today’s solar panels are designed to withstand hurricane-force winds, high-speed hail and heavy-duty snow.
I can’t afford it
In the old days, folks had to pony up thousands of dollars in advance to install solar systems. Not anymore. All you need to do is sign a Sunnova solar service agreement and you should begin saving money today, as well as throughout the lifetime of your agreement.
Turned On by the Sun: 5 Steps to Solar Service
The sun rises, the sun sets. What more do you need?
When it comes to harnessing solar power, a little bit more. But you don’t have to go it alone. These 5 factors should be second nature to your solar provider.
Step 1: Comprehensive calculations
There are three elements to consider before choosing solar power.
Tilt is the angle of your roof. While it’s important to understand how the tilt of your roof impacts solar production, keep in mind solar panels accommodate a wide range of tilt.
Azimuth is a fancy word that basically means the direction your roof is facing. For the scientifically curious, Merriam-Webster defines azimuth as “an arc of the horizon measured between a fixed point (as true north) and the vertical circle passing through the center of an object, usually - in astronomy and navigation - clockwise from the north point through 360 degrees.”
Suffice it to say azimuth pinpoints the necessary degree for optimal solar production.
Shading determines how various objects may affect solar production. Some you can control by relocating trees or trimming shrubs. Some you can’t control, such as telephone poles and mountain ranges.
Step 2: Theory to reality
Now it’s time to customize your solar system. This includes the number of panels and where the array will be positioned. Engineers review and approve the design, while electrical and building permits are obtained and the interconnection application is filed with your local utility.
Step 3: On the roof
There will be drilling. There will be bolts. There will be racking, sealants and coverings. Solar modules are not very heavy. The integrity of your roof will be as preserved against the elements as it was before installation -- and in some cases, even better.
Step 4: On the ground
Rooftop solar systems require ground work too.
Because of AC/DC, you need an inverter. This is a Thomas Edison thing, not a rock band thing.
Photovoltaic panels produce direct current but your home runs on alternating current. An inverter converts all of that awesome sunshine into what you need to watch your big-screen TV.
A utility net meter keeps track of how much power your solar system is generating as well as how much electricity you’re consuming from the grid. The difference is your net energy. This handy little device can be loads of fun. If you look on sunny days, you just might see it spinning backward.
Step 5: Turning you on
Final inspections are on the radar. This is when everything is verified as up to code and your utility company has approved Permission to Operate (PTO). It’s time to flip the switch and begin saving money. Congratulations! You have been turned on by solar.
Alphabet Soup: Top Solar Terms and Acronyms
Welcome to the world of solar power, a place that can sometimes be foreign to newcomers. There’s new lingo to learn, but we’ve got you covered with the basics.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “array” as an impressive display or range of a particular type of thing.
This couldn’t be more true when it comes to solar panels – an impressive sight if ever there was one. A photovoltaic array is a system of interconnected modules assembled as a discrete structure that has a single function – to produce solar power. The size of an array varies, from just one module or panel to dozens.
A grid is a network of lines that crisscross or run parallel. In the solar world, grid refers to the “electric” or “utility” grid – a system of power providers and consumers interconnected by transmission and distribution lines. Then there’s “grid tied” which means your photovoltaic system produces energy for home consumption and feeds excess energy to the electric grid.
The connection of a solar system to the electric grid that enables bidirectional transmission of power.
Solar panels produce Direct Current (DC) but most homes run on Alternating Current (AC) thus the need for an inverter, which is a piece of equipment that converts DC to AC.
Photo means light. Voltaic means electricity produced by a chemical action. Put it all together, and you get photovoltaic, which means converting light into electricity.
A photovoltaic array is an interconnected system of modules that gets the job of converting solar power to electricity done. A photovoltaic system is the array plus all of the nuts and bolts necessary to install a system on your roof.
We live in a world of TLA. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Three Letter Acronyms are sometimes four, five or more. ROFL, anyone? Acronyms apply to the solar world too. Try this on for size: “My PV system converts DC to AC, and thanks to my SSA, my PPA explains what to expect in kWh. I can’t wait for PTO!”
Let’s break it down.
Alternating Current (AC) and DC Direct Current (DC)
An electric current that reverses direction within the circuit 60 times per second and is easier to transfer over long distances. AC is the primary current used in residences and offices across North America.
A watt measures a unit of power; a kilowatt (kW) is a thousand watts. A kilowatt hour (kWh) is a thousand watt hours. Most electricity bills are measured in kWh.
Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)
An agreement between two parties, one that generates electricity and one that purchases electricity. Payment specifics and the amount of electricity that will be provided to the purchaser are often included in the PPA, but ultimately the needs of both parties and the structure of the local market will dictate the terms of the PPA.
Permission to Operate (PTO)
A letter or other official document issued by utility companies granting authority for a solar system to operate and generate power.
Solar Service Agreement (SSA)
The agreement between a homeowner and solar service provider that defines the terms and conditions for solar service.
Inside Your Solar System: Top 3 Components
The solar system consists of all the planets that orbit the sun, not to mention moons, asteroids, comets, dust, etc. etc. etc. It’s quite complex, which is why you studied it for hours back in elementary school science class and why NASA still studies it today.
Good news -- residential solar systems are simpler! Three main components are required to turn your home into a solar powerhouse.
A typical solar panel contains metal conductor strips, antireflective coating, silicon layers, metal backing and up to 72 solar cells.
Solar cells convert light into electrical energy. For this to happen, electrons within solar cells have to get fired up enough to transform into an electrical current when the sun hits. That’s why solar cells require materials with semiconducting properties.
The majority of solar cells are made of crystalline silicon, which is currently the most efficient and effective way to generate solar power.
This combination of panels and cells is sometimes referred to as a photovoltaic system. Photovoltaics is a simple term for the complex process of converting solar energy into electricity.
While solar panels generate power from the sun, it’s still not enough to turn your home into a solar powerhouse. That’s because panels produce direct current power (DC), but almost everything in your house runs on AC, or alternating current.
Enter the inverter, a device that converts DC to AC.
The two most common types of inverters are string and micro. String, or standard, inverters are standalone boxes usually installed next to the panel box to convert your system’s production from DC to AC. Micro-inverters, smaller in size than string inverters, are individual units positioned under each solar panel on your roof. Each panel discretely converts production from DC to AC.
Both types of inverters may be used for grid-tied solar systems. Micro-inverters typically cost more upfront but they optimize panel performance and minimize the impact of any single panel on the entire array’s production. In other words, if one panel is malfunctioning, the rest of your system is working just fine.
The mounting component that attaches solar panels to your roof is called racking. It provides structural support, prevents system failures and ensures the longevity of the installation.
Racking materials are lightweight and made of corrosion-resistant metals rails and hardware. Footings and stand-offs secure the racking assembly to the roof or ground surface. There are a variety of racking materials to accommodate your home’s location, needs and roof surface.
Racking systems are designed to sustain wind and snow loads on your home for many years.
Pulling it all together
Panels, inverters and racking make up the main body of a home solar system. Think of it this way:
- Panels are the eyes of the system, taking in as much light as possible
- Inverters are the heart of the system, necessary to establish electric pathways that are functional
- Racking is the bones of the system, structurally supporting the system on your roof