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Solar Energy for Your Home — FAQs

What is a solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system?

SolarCraft’s state-of-the-art PV panels are constructed of silicon cells that function as semiconductors which convert light directly into DC electricity. The DC electricity is then converted into AC electricity for household use. SolarCraft uses the most efficient solar panels commercially available. They have a 25-year warranty and a 40-year life expectancy.

Why should I consider buying a PV system?

Solar electricity makes great financial sense — offering an internal rate of return of as much as 15%, and you can recoup your investment in as quickly as 5 years. You can meet up to 100% of your home’s electricity needs, virtually eliminate your electric bill and protect against future utility price increases. Reduce your carbon footprint — solar energy is clean, renewable and reliable. The average solar PV residential system (based on 5kW), will save nearly 132 tons of carbon dioxide over its 40-year lifespan.

How much does a PV system cost?

Installed system pricing is highly site specific. Some of the factors that determine price include:

  • Size of electric bill (and amount you want to offset)
  • Location of your home
  • Shape and height of roof
  • Roof accessibility
  • State and local incentives that may apply in addition to the 30% federal investment tax credit

You can spend as much money, or receive as much solar electricity as you feel comfortable with. Call SolarCraft for a FREE, no-obligation estimate.

Will I need to apply for any permits in order to install a solar electric system?

Permit requirements vary in each jurisdiction. SolarCraft will handle all permitting issues related to installing a solar electric system on your property.

If I sell my property, what effect does PV have on the sale price?

Solar energy can be one of the best home improvement investments you make. A solar PV system will increase the value of your home without increasing your property taxes. The Real Estate Appraisal Journal demonstrated that for every $1,000.00 saved per year, $20,000.00 is added to a home’s value.

Do I have a good site for PV?

Your site must have clear, unobstructed access to the sun. Buildings, trees or other vegetation should not shade your site. Some shade can be worked around with the design of the system. PV systems facing southeast to west deliver optimal production. Several factors such as tilt, sun exposure, and location also affect energy production. If a rooftop is not available, your PV system can also be mounted on the ground, on carports or an arbor, amongst other custom variations depending on your space and needs. See solar installation examples for examples of SolarCraft’s design and engineering expertise.

What should the size of my PV system be?

SolarCraft will customize the size of your system to your electricity needs and budget. The system will be designed to significantly reduce or eliminate your electric bill. Space constraints or sunlight exposure are all factors.

How much mounting space do I need?

A 3 kW PV system can use as little as 230 square feet. A larger system, to meet the needs of a typical household, would use between 300 to 600 square feet. As a rule of thumb, SolarCraft PV systems use about 77 square feet of PV panels for every kilowatt of electricity.

How long does the installation process take?

Installation time depends on the size of the system. The actual installation time for a residential system takes an average of 3 to 5 days to complete, depending on system size and complexity.

What is an inverter?

An inverter is an electronic device that converts low-voltage DC power generated by solar panels to conventional AC power used by lights and household appliances.

Are the panels fragile?

No. While the panels are made of tempered glass, they are quite strong. They pass hail tests, and are regularly installed in Arctic and Antarctic conditions.

Do I need a battery backup?

SolarCraft’s PV systems connect to the local utility grid so no batteries are necessary.

What happens when the utility has a power outage?

For safety reasons, your solar system will automatically shut off if the power goes out.

What is Net Metering?

California’s net metering law allows residential users to get PG&E credit for extra electricity produced by their solar panels at peak retail prices during the day and draw from the grid during the night, at lower off-peak rates. During the day, the electric meter spins backwards as it feeds excess electricity back into the utility grid. At night, or during off-peak producing times, the electric meter spins forward as it returns electricity from the grid into the customer’s home.

PG&E’s standard net energy metering program offers customers the opportunity to get credit for the electricity they have produced in excess of the amount that they have used within a given month. The credit appears on the customer’s monthly utility statement, and is applied to electricity-related charges within each 12-month reconciliation period. At the end of the year, the utility will “true up” how much electricity it provided to you, and compare it to how much your solar system fed back to the utility grid. Net kilowatt-hours produced by you and exported to the grid are valued at the same price per kilowatt-hour that would charge during that same time of use period.

How long do photovoltaic (PV) systems last?

The basic PV module (interconnected, enclosed panel of PV cells) has no moving parts and can last more than 40 years. In fact the first solar electric panel built back in the 1950s is still generating electricity today! The best way to ensure and extend the life and effectiveness of your PV system is by having it installed and maintained properly.

How do I maintain my solar PV system?

Solar PV systems are designed and installed to be low-maintenance. An occasional cleaning of panels by hosing them down will ensure optimal performance.

How does solar help the environment?

Your solar system will reduce the current demand on existing fossil-fuel power plants, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to the fight against climate change. By going solar you will be taking an exemplary leadership role in your community by doing your part to protect the environment from further damage caused by long-established energy sources. Solar energy systems are endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an effective alternative to prevent the release of pollutants into the atmosphere by traditional fossil fuel energy sources.