Solar Energy & Battery Backup FAQs

Residential Solar Electric

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 26% 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 Flexible Energy Solutions 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.  If you are interesting in a Home Battery Energy Storage System to power your home during grid outages, we offer that as well.  Please click here to visit our Home Battery Energy Storage System page for more information.

What happens when the utility has a power outage?

For safety reasons, your solar system will automatically shut off if the power goes out.  To keep your powered during a grid outage, please click here to visit our Home Battery Energy Storage System page for more information.

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.

Home Battery Energy Storage

Why would I want a home battery energy storage system?

A home battery energy storage system (ESS) provides energy independence in several ways.  As a backup power source,  battery systems can power your home during utility blackouts or planned power outages.  When tied to solar electric systems, battery storage systems can allow your solar systems to operate during a utility outage.   Also, a home battery can save you money by optimizing when you buy energy from the utility, by charging when energy is less expensive and discharging when it’s most expensive. Having a home battery system also enables customers to elect a more advantageous utility rate plan otherwise reserved for Electric Vehicle owners.

How does a home battery storage system work?

Home battery energy storage systems store electrical energy, either produced from solar or purchased from the utility, which can then be used at a later time.  The battery system immediately recognizes when grid power is interrupted, and an Automatic Transfer Switch disconnects your home from the grid.  The battery system instantly takes over, providing power to your home and allowing your solar system to keep functioning.  When the power grid is on, battery systems are charged using power from your solar system which can be used later during more expensive ‘peak rate’ times.

What does a battery storage system look like?

A battery storage system for a home are aesthetically-designed, electric storage boxes similar in shape to a large desktop computer.  Often a ‘dedicated loads sub-panel’ is installed adjacent to the battery pack(s) with smaller electrical box called a Gateway or Automatic Transfer Switch, with each part connected by electrical conduit.   The battery system is typically installed in your garage or outside of your home near the main electrical panel.

Can I go off grid?

Typically, battery system are not configured for pure off-grid functionality.  Solar battery storage solutions are designed to store energy which can provide electricity during the nighttime hours and backup power for essential devices during outages, but if the power is out for several days in a row and the sun is not strong enough for optimal solar production and re-charge the battery, the ability to power a home ‘off-grid’ is limited.   Also, some incentives available for solar and storage are also only for grid-tied applications.

How much storage do I need?

Every household’s energy needs are unique. In the same way that we size the number of solar panels to your household’s energy requirements, your battery storage capacity should also be matched to your needs.  The size of your storage system is generally sized by determining what you want to power during an outage, how large the energy loads are to power them, how long you’d like to power them.

Do I need a permit for a home battery?

Yes.  In most cities and utilities, you need a permit to install a home battery. SolarCraft will handle everything for you, including obtaining any permits you need from your city or utility.

Aren’t home batteries more expensive than backup generators?

Traditional generators are often less expensive upfront, but with ongoing maintenance and fuel costs, a home battery is often equal to or more cost effective over the long run. For example, traditional fossil fuel generators require constant supply of natural gas, diesel, or propane, and yearly maintenance to keep all the moving parts working. Service agreements for standby generators can exceed $1000 per year. A home battery requires no fuel or planned maintenance. Moreover, all home batteries purchased through SolarCraft come with a 10 year warranty, which is often double the length of warranties for traditional generators. Lastly, home batteries are simply a better backup power source as generators are often run on natural gas, which is turned off with electricity, or large propane or diesel tanks are required onsite, which can pose their own hazards in case of fire or natural disaster.  Battery systems are automatic, silent, and clean, and when paired with solar panels, they can provide backup power through extended outages.

Do I need solar panels to have a home battery?

No. A home battery functions without solar panels by charging from the electrical grid. Without solar panels, a home battery can be sized to provide more or less power, depending on your usage and the loads you’d like to backup.  A home battery can also save you money every day by charging when electricity is cheapest, and discharging when it’s most expensive.

Can I add a home battery to an existing solar installation?

Yes, but there are special circumstances that require expert analysis and planning.  Certain home batteries can only be installed with new solar installations, whereas others can be installed with new or any existing solar installations.  Also, the existing solar system will have to be disconnected and often reconfigured electrically to work optimally with the battery system – this requires solar and battery expertise, which SolarCraft provides.

How long can a home battery power my home during a power outage?

In theory, a home battery can power your home for extended periods when paired with solar panels, but it’s optimistic to plan on more than 7 consecutive days. Solar panels power your home during the day and recharge the battery, and the battery powers your home at night. Without solar panels, the duration of power will vary depending on the size of your battery and how much energy you use. In general, we advise homeowners to size their system to provide at least 12 hours of backup power, but during storms or situations where solar energy production is hindered, the battery will not be able to recharge.

Can I save money with a home battery?

Yes.  In our area of the North Bay, electricity prices are much higher during certain periods of the day and during summer, and a home battery can charge when electricity is cheap and discharge during those peak rate periods, saving you money every day.  Battery system can also enable customers to use more solar-advantageous utility rate plans reserved for electric vehicle owners.  However, while battery systems can enhance the financial benefits of solar, or provide some ‘rate arbitrage’ from utility rates, batteries do not provide the investment returns or savings familiar to solar customers.   Batteries do not typically ‘pay for themselves’ from an investment or financial payback perspective – their primary benefits are grid security and backup power.

Will I still get paid for solar energy I sell to the grid through net metering?

Yes. A home battery does not affect net metering or the amount you get paid for energy you send back to the grid. In some circumstances, a home battery may reduce the amount of energy you send back to the grid, because it allows you to store excess solar energy for use when you need it at night. But for any energy your solar panels send back to the grid, you will be compensated the same as without a home battery.  Please note that battery systems can only power loads in your home, they cannot sell energy back to the grid.

For how many years does a home battery last?

All home batteries that SolarCraft offers come with a manufacturer warranty of 10 years or more. That means if anything breaks in the first decade, you’re covered.

What's in a home battery?

Home batteries include a few key components. The ‘battery system’ includes a number of battery modules or battery packs, which in turn are made of a bundle of battery cells. The battery cells use lithium ion chemistry to store and release electrical current. The lithium ion cells are almost identical to those used in popular electric vehicles and cell phones. For example, the Tesla Powerwall generally uses the same cells that Tesla uses in the Model S and the LG Home Battery generally uses the same cells that LG provides to Chevrolet for the Volt.  A home battery also contains a battery management system, which controls the charge and discharge of the battery and also monitors the condition of each battery cell. Some home batteries also include a dedicated inverter to convert DC electricity from the battery into AC electricity for use in the home and an automatic transfer switch to be able to isolate itself from the grid during an outage.

Are there different sizes of home batteries?

Yes. Most models are modular, meaning that they can be combined to create larger systems based on your energy needs.

What’s the difference between different kinds of home batteries?

Home batteries have several differentiating factors.  Battery size and the cycle life of the battery are critical to determining it’s use. For example, a Sonnen can be cycled 10,000 times, making it great for self-consumption of solar energy over the life of the solar panels (generally 25 years).  The Tesla Powerwall can by cycled daily for 10+ years, making it good for time-of-use optimization, power backup and self-consumption. The older lead acid batteries only have 5 year lifespans and require constant maintenance, but new energy storage system technology requires little to no maintenance and can last over 15 years.

What is involved in the installation?

The battery itself is mounted on the wall or on the floor near your main electrical distribution panel, generally in the garage of side of the house. The appliances and rooms that you want to backup are then rewired from your main distribution panel to a critical loads panel adjacent to the battery. If you have solar panels, they are also rewired to the critical loads panel. The battery is then connected to the grid through the main panel, and to the critical loads and solar panels through the critical loads panel.

How much does installation cost?

The cost of installation will vary greatly for each household, depending on the type and size of your home battery, the amount of electrical work required to backup your critical loads, and other factors. The cost of installation includes labor and other components, including the critical loads panel, disconnects, wires, and other materials.

How much does a home battery cost?

Different types and sizes of home batteries vary in price from a few thousand dollars up to tens of thousands of dollars. In general, the smaller capacity batteries with lower cycle lives are less expensive than larger batteries with a longer cycle life.

Are there any financing options for home batteries?

Yes. SolarCraft  offers $0-down financing for home batteries. We also offer Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, a state-supported clean energy financing program that allows homeowners to pay for clean home energy upgrades through their property tax bill.

Are there any financial reimbursements or incentives available for home batteries?

Yes.  If a home battery is installed with solar panels, the home battery is eligible for the Investment Tax Credit, which provides a tax credit equal to 26% of the cost of the solar + storage system.

Are home batteries safe?

Yes. Home batteries are UL-listed home appliances. The battery cells in a home battery are identical to those in electric cars and your laptop or phone.

Are home batteries recyclable at the end of their useable life?

Yes. Lithium ion batteries typically contain over 99% recyclable materials. But you won’t need to recycle your home battery anytime soon because they are warrantied for 10 years and can last over 15 years.

Commercial Solar Electric

How will switching to solar power benefit my business?

You can use the sun to reduce your electric bills. By installing a solar electric system, you will also be helping to protect the environment because you will be using a clean renewable energy to power your business. You can virtually eliminate your electric bill and protect against future utility price increases. From day one, solar power offsets a portion of your electricity purchased from the grid and your electric bill.

Will solar improve my company’s image?

Absolutely! Consumers are increasingly demanding that the companies they do business with engage in sustainable business practices. Going solar will demonstrate that your company is committed to environmental responsibility.

How much does a solar system cost?

Total cost depends on the system size, equipment and installation type. The experts at SolarCraft will analyze your specific electrical usage and project site to determine the best system size and installation type for your facility. Other factors such as current electric rate schedules, financial incentives, and system financing can affect your overall investment. Our company offers competitively priced systems with the highest level quality service and products.

Call SolarCraft for a FREE, no-obligation financial analysis.

Are incentives or rebates available for solar?

The federal government currently has a 26% Investment Tax Credit which helps to offset a large portion of the upfront system investment. Our team of rebate and interconnection specialists can help you navigate the incentive process from beginning to end. In most cases the only work you will have to do is sign a contract and the rebate paperwork and we take care of the rest.

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.

Will solar increase my property value?

Yes. According to a study published in The Appraisal Journal, every $1 of electricity that you offset through solar will increase the value of your building by $20. This means that your property would increase in value immediately by about the total net cost of the system after rebates. Also, solar electric systems are exempt from property tax assessment increases.

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 pole-mounted, amongst other custom variations depending on your site and space. See examples of SolarCraft’s design and engineering solutions for a variety of commercial solar installations.

What size solar electric system do I need?

The recommended size of your system depends on your power consumption. If you want to completely offset your current electrical usage from the utility with a solar electric system, the first step is to review your annual energy consumption which can be obtained from your utility bill. Commercial systems can range in sizes from 10,000W up to and beyond 100,000W, or 1,000 to 10,000 square feet of solar modules. Your needs will depend upon the size of your facility and your energy loads.

How much mounting space do I need?

How much space your solar panels take up on your roof depends on the size of your system. A single panel can have a footprint of about 4′ long and 30″ wide, so an array of 8 panels can be approx. 24′ long, depending on how they are oriented. In almost all cases, rest assured your roof will accommodate the right size system for you, and our knowledgeable staff will walk you thru this process during the consultation phase. A good rule of thumb is that you need 100 square feet of roof space for every 1 kW of conventional solar panels.

How long does it take to realize a 100% return on investment for solar?

The typical commercial system combined with the current rebates and tax incentives can usually pay for itself in about 3-6 years. That is considering that the typical utility costs escalate about 7% per year which is approximately the number provided by the California Public Utilities Commission.

If you finance your system, you may realize net savings as early as the first year. Instead of paying your monthly utility bill, you’ll be making loan payments for your solar PV system. You will effectively be paying less for your loan than you currently pay your utility company. Your exact payback period will depend on your electrical usage, electric rate schedule, and cost of your system.

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.

Will I need to modify my business to run on solar power?

No. Solar power electric systems fit seamlessly into your building. You won’t have to buy new appliances or change your electrical outlets; everything will work just the same as it did before. You should experience no practical changes except for one noticeable change — you no longer will need to pay exorbitant rates for energy.

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.

Can the building owner sell power back to their utility?

Yes, through “net metering” any excess electricity generated will spin your meter backwards which has the effect of selling your excess power to the utility at a full retail rate. On a monthly basis, you pay only the “net” of the power you used. If you generate more power than you used in a month your utility company will forward your excess solar energy credits to be used during the next month. This allows any excess energy generated in the summer to be used during the winter when there is less solar energy and usually higher energy usage.

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 does the Federal Tax Credit work?

Established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, owners of renewable energy property are eligible for a Federal Incentive Tax Credit equal to 26% of the eligible system cost. If the tax credit exceeds the customer’s first year tax liability, the excess amount may be continuously carried forward for 20 years. Commercial projects may also apply for a Department of Treasury Cash Grant in lieu of the Incentive Tax Credit.

Can businesses depreciate solar equipment?

Businesses installing solar systems can now benefit from the 1 year 100% bonus depreciation or MACRS accelerated 5 year depreciation schedule, which significantly increases their rate of return and decreases risk on the investment.

What is a Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC)?

A SREC is a tradable certificate that represents the clean energy benefits of the electricity generated by a solar electric system. A SREC is issued for every 1,000 kWh generated by the system and can be sold to generate additional income. California law (Public Utilities Code §399.12[f]) defines a REC as: “a certificate of proof, issued through the accounting system established by the Energy Commission… that one unit of electricity was generated and delivered by an eligible renewable energy resource.

What is the warranty on your installation?

Modules

The modules must have a performance warranty from the manufacturer that protects against the electrical output of the unit degrading more than 10% over a 10-year period, and more than 20% over a 20-year period.

Inverters

Inverters have a 10-year warranty provided by the equipment manufacturer that protects against defect or component breakdown.

Installation

SolarCraft provides a full 10-year warranty for parts and workmanship. SolarCraft will provide diagnosis, repair and replacement of any system or system component, including roof attachment penetrations which carry our 10-year warranty against roof leaks.

Is it possible to supply all of my power needs with a solar system?

In some cases, it is possible to offset all or nearly all of your required electrical power with a solar PV system. The main determining factors are whether you have enough space with sufficient hours of sun exposure and your normal hours of operation. The experts at SolarCraft will analyze your site and energy use to determine how much of your power needs can be handled by a solar system and what system type and design would be best for your facility.

How do I maintain my solar PV system?

Solar energy is truly one of the most hassle-free products in today’s market. 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 electricity 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.

Solar Pool Heating

Will a solar pool heater really heat my pool?

Of course! Depending on your weather and climatic conditions, you can expect your FAFCO solar pool heater to:

  • Raise your pool temperature 2 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit each time the water passes through the system, and
  • Raise your pool’s temperature 5 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit over a period of several days of good weather

A solar blanket will help hold in this heat at night or when it’s windy, and can help the system be even more effective.

Can it also cool my pool?

During the hottest part of the summer, running the solar pool heating system at night can cool a pool to a more refreshing swimming temperature — down several degrees in one night if the conditions are right.

Can pool solar panels be used to heat the house?

No. Solar pool panels and controls are designed specifically to heat a large volume of water in a swimming pool, and to operate in temperature ranges of 80 to 100 degrees. Household space heating and household hot water are different applications of solar, requiring heating smaller volumes of household water to higher temperatures.

How much would a solar pool heater cost for my pool?

Solar pool heating system prices for a residential pool can range anywhere from $2500 to $7000. The location and size of the pool, location of the solar panels, desired temperature and season, and type of pool equipment determine system size and costs. Because of all the variables, it is impossible to give an accurate estimate without careful inspection of the site. To set up an appointment for a free analysis and estimate contact us.

Will a solar pool heater save me money?

If a pool owner heats their pool with natural gas through the normal swimming season, an investment in solar can pay for itself in 2 to 3 years. If the pool owner does not have a gas heater or wish to use one, solar will not really “save” money, but the pool will be much warmer and more inviting. A swimming pool, with decking and landscaping, represent a sizable investment for the homeowner. Maintenance costs exist whether the pool is used or not. The investment in solar pool heating will assure that the pool is used and enjoyed much more.

How much does a solar pool heater cost to operate?

The majority of residential solar pool heaters use an automatically controlled valve to divert the existing filtration flow to the solar panels, so there is no additional cost to operate the solar pool heater. Some pools might require an additional solar boost pump that would cost a few dollars per month to operate during the swimming season.

How long will the solar equipment last?

FAFCO solar collectors made of patented stabilized polypropylene can be expected to last between 20 to 25 years. Thousands of FAFCO solar pool heating systems that were installed over 20 years ago are still going strong, even in harsh climates such as Arizona and Florida.

Should I use a pool cover with a solar pool heating system?

With a properly sized solar pool heater, a pool cover is normally not required to keep the pool at a comfortable temperature during the normal swimming season. However, a pool cover does help retain heat at night and prevent evaporation loss. The cover traps the solar heat that has been added during the day, and is very complementary to the solar pool heating system. The solar pool heating system can be viewed as actively adding heat. The cover retains that heat passively.

What special maintenance is required on a solar pool heater?

Usually no special maintenance is required during the season. Modern electronic controls allow you to “set and forget” the solar heater. It is recommended that the panels be shut off and drained in the winter. SolarCraft offers this winterization service for a small fee.

How do I purchase a solar pool heater or receive more information?

Contact SolarCraft today
Phone: (415) 382-7717 or (707) 778-0568
Email: info@solarcraft.com
Web: Click to request a free analysis and estimate.

What qualifications should I look for in a solar contractor?

Installers of new solar energy systems are required by the State of California Contractor’s License Board to be properly licensed and insured. The licenses required to install solar heating systems are C46 (solar), C36 (Plumbing) or B (General Building). Contractors holding only a C61, (pool maintenance), license cannot legally install new solar energy heating systems.

Contractors are required to have their license number on all contracts. The status of a license can be quickly verified at http://www.cslb.ca.gov/CSLB_LIBRARY/license+request.asp