Frequently Asked Questions
A 5kW solar electric system will cost approximately $20,000 (before tax incentives and rebates). That total includes the cost for all components – solar panels, panel mounts, and inverter – and labor associated with the installation.
Consult the Go Solar California website for a benchmark on solar prices.
In a solar lease or solar power purchase agreement (also known as a “PPA”), a customer pays for the solar power system over a period of several years, rather than in an up-front payment. Often customers can purchase solar for little or no money down, and often realize energy savings immediately. In a power-purchase agreement, a customer agrees to purchase all the energy from a solar system over a fixed period of time.
Solar renewable energy credits or SRECs show that a certain amount of electricity was produced using solar energy. They are typically used in conjunction with state-level renewable energy standards (also called Renewable Portfolio Standards – RPS) to show that regulated entities are meeting their solar energy goals. One SREC is emitted for every 1,000 kWh of generated solar energy. There are some specific markets where SRECs can be sold and bought; their price fluctuates in function of the offer and the demand.
Solar panels are flat panels of photovoltaic arrays mounted on a roof or a pole to capture the sun’s rays. Building integrated photovoltaic materials are PV arrays that are integrated into the building material itself, primarily windows, roof tiles, or walls. Solar panels work well for retrofits or remodels while BIPV are appropriate for new construction or a major renovation. However, there are some new technologies available to integrate solar panels into the roof for a seamless appearance, at the same price of a typical solar installation on top of the tiles. Ask us about our integrated solutions.
While both types of solar systems capture energy from the sun, solar photovoltaic systems use photovoltaic panels to produce electricity. Solar hot water, or thermal, systems capture sunlight to heat water for domestic use, to heat a swimming pool, or for a radiant heating system.
With no moving parts, solar photovoltaic panels require little maintenance. They would probably need to be cleared from dust or debris once a year, but in an area like Southern California where snow is inexistent, maintenance is very minimum. You are also able to monitor the production of the system. At Brighten Solar, we also monitor the performance of each of our installations and proactively act when we notice a slow down in production.
Standard homeowner’s insurance policies usually suffice to meet electric utility requirements. Electric utilities usually require that homeowners who take advantage of net metering sign an interconnection agreement.
Yes. You will need to obtain building permits to install a solar photovoltaic system. Similarly, building, electrical, and plumbing codes also apply. That said, residential solar power systems do not use “radical” building techniques and most jurisdictions have building codes that fully embrace solar energy technology. Solar professionals will include the price of the permits into their cost estimate.
Planning, configuring, and doing any custom ordering for your solar energy system can take up to a few weeks. The timeline is dictated by the reactivity of the utility to agree on the interconnection and of the city to validate the permit. The installation process itself can typically be completed in a few days time, and in many cases even less.
Although southern exposure increases the effectiveness of a residential solar power system, your home may still work for solar power with east and west facing exposure. You can consult our page “Is my home right for solar” to have a better idea of the factors to consider to determine if your home is a good candidate for solar. A professional solar designer or installer should proceed to a site audit and a shading analysis to accurately estimate the solar array production.
Currently, most of the United States is under a system known as Net Metering, which allows your net electricity costs to be reduced to zero, but no further. In a select few places in the U.S., you can be paid for any excess electricity you create, in what is known as a Feed-In Tariff system, but in most cases, the buying price of the excess electricity is too low to foster excess production. A system sized appropriately will meet your current electricity needs and zero your bills.
A solar system can save you money today and even pay for itself in as little as five to seven years. Even if you move before your solar investment is completely paid off, a recent study shows the cost will likely be returned in added value to your home (about $6,000 per kW of solar energy installed) from a recent study conducted by the Berkeley laboratory. This study also shows that California houses equipped with solar systems sell twice faster than a regular home.
Not necessarily. There are technics available where we integrate the system into your roof. Your solar array takes care of the waterproofing as your tiles used to do. When you have to reroof, you only reroof the roof space around the system. This way, you save on tiles. And the system blends into your roof, it is much less visible than traditional solar array installed on top of the tiles.
Thin film panels usually require more space to produce the same electricity as conventional silicon-based photovoltaic panels. The upside is that they are typically more aesthetic, are more efficient with diffused light and are less negatively affected by heat.
Your installer will take care of this for you. As for tax incentives, check with your tax professional to help you take advantage of the 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit.
A good rule of thumb is 100 sq. ft. of roof for each kW of system size. The average system size in the US is around 4 kW.
There are a number of states that have laws to prevent homeowners’ associations from interfering with improvements that save energy. These laws were enacted because legislators found that some homeowners’ associations were unreasonably restricting new forms of renewable energy generation.
According to DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency), a HOA cannot prevent you from installing solar on your property:
“HOAs are barred from restricting a homeowner’s right to install solar panels. States which have laws that override any HOA contracts seeking to deny the right to install solar PV systems include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.”
If you are in the planning stage of a new home, we can help you integrate solar energy into your new home. Keep in mind that specific solar rebates are available for new constructions, making solar even more affordable. If you cannot afford to add solar, you should work with your architect to have a “solar-ready roof” to maximize the efficiency of the solar array, when you are ready to go solar.
If properly installed, a solar system can last 30-40 years. Some systems that were installed in the 1970’s are still fully operational today.
No, for safety reasons, your solar system will automatically shut off if the power goes out. If you have a solar battery system as well as a solar PV system, your power will continue to work. However, solar batteries can add as much as 30% to the cost of a solar system, so most homeowners do not go with this option. The good news is that battery storage will come down in price as manufacturers perfect the technology, and when that day comes, you will be able to add-on a solar battery back-up system to your solar PV system.