Perhaps you have thinking about purchasing a residential solar electric system for your roof top but have been confused by what appears to be the complexity of it all.
- What panels should I choose?
- Should I go with micro-inverters or optimizers?
- What permits do I need?
- How big a system do I need?
- How will I be compensated by the utility company?
- How much will my system cost?
- Once I decide, how soon can I have it installed?
These are some of the questions that we wrestle with in trying to make the decision on investing in residential solar for my home. This blog will provide some guidance for you and some helpful tools.
What panels should I choose for residential solar?
One of the major decisions is the selection of residential solar panels. Panel manufacturers are grouped by Tier. Tier 1 being the fully integrated manufacturers and Tier 3 tending to be the smaller player who tend to do only part of the overall manufacturing process, such as assembling the cells into the panels.
Since the panels are the most critical component of the system which will be producing power for the next 25 years, we recommend limiting you choice to Tier 1 manufacturers only, especially as prices have fallen to the point where there is no longer as large a difference prices. Among the Tier 1 manufacturers, we recommend Hanwha Q.CELLS, LG, Canadian Solar and Silfab as good choices. Each of these companies is an established industry player and warrants the output of their panels over 25 years.
Once you have picked a panel manufacturer, the next step is to select the specific panel for your system.
See our blog – Choosing the right solar panel for my home for more information on panel selection.
Should I go with micro-inverters or optimizers?
There is basically two methods of converting the power generated by the residential solar panels in the AC power required in our homes. Microinverters are attached to each panel and covert the DC power produced by the panels and send the AC power through the distribution system. Optimizers route the DC power produced by each of the panels to a central inverter where it is converted to AC power and fed into the distribution system. Aside from the technical differences, there is little performance difference between the two technologies. Optimizer/Inverter systems tend to cost less, however they require that an additional piece of equipment (the inverter) be mounted in proximity to the electric service panel.
Thus we believe that the choice is more of your individual preference as opposed to overall performance of the system.
See our blog – Solar Micro Inverter vs. Power Optimizer and see which works best for you
What permits do I need?
At a minimum you will need a permit from your local jurisdiction (AHJ) for the construction of your system. In addition, you will need a permit to operate from your local utility (PTO) and an approved interconnection agreement. These applications require a detailed description of the system, the electric path of the system and other technical data. Preparation of the applications is best done by professionals who are intimately familiar with the process. For example, at OneClickSolar.com we send a trained professional to perform a site inspection which provide us with all of the information required to prepare and file the required documents and obtain the necessary approvals to proceed.
How big a system do I need?
You should size your system to offset slightly less than your estimated usage. This is because the utilities have a minimum monthly bill requirement (currently approx. $10) an under NEM2.0 no longer compensate homeowners for any excess power generated. Net usage is calculated on an annual basis so you will pay a minimum of approx. $120 even if you have a net surplus in your account. The exception here is if you expect a significant change to your historical usage pattern. Some examples are adding an electric vehicle of a pool heater which may significantly change your historical usage. Our system calculator at OneClickSolar.com provides you with an easy to use tool for you to calculate your system sizing based on historical and estimated future usage.
How will I be compensated by the utility company?
For a detailed explanation please see our blog titled – Net Metering 2.0. All new installations now fall under NEM2.0 in California.
In short, you will receive full retail value credit for excess electricity produced and pay the retail rate for electricity provided by the electric utility. The current rate schedules are based on the time of day (TOU) that the electricity is provide or used by the homeowner. Each month’s bill will show the amounts of the credits produced and used with an annual “true up” of your account with the net balance due to the utility. Under NEM2.0 customers do not receive credit for any net surplus at the annual “true-up”, nor can any surplus be carried over to the next period.
How much will my residential solar system cost?
System costs will vary by size and the equipment selected by the customer with the net cost of an average sized system being in the $12,000 range (net of the current 30% Federal tax credit) and has a payback period of approx. 7 years. Since residential solar panels have an estimated useful life of 25 years, this means may year of “free” electricity and freedom from future utility rate increases. At OneClickSolar.com we have the tools for you to design and order that system that is right for you.
Once I decide, how soon can I have it installed?
OK, so now you have made your decision and want to proceed. For OneClickSolar.com customers, you will be presented with a calendar where you select a date that works for you for the site inspection. Upon completion of the site inspection is completed we expedite the permitting and application process. Once the permits have been approved you will be notified and presented with a calendar where you pick your installation date. It is a simple as that!!
We are encouraging anyone considering residential solar to act now as current prices, especially panels are at all-time lows. This may change in the latter part of this year as there is a pending anti-dumping investigation underway. If the claimant is successful the current price of panels would increase in the order of 50% to 75% from today’s prices. It is impossible to currently predict the outcome of this investigation, however, it is better safe than sorry so decide now and lock in the cost of your system.