Our Solar FAQs answer some of the most common questions we hear about residential solar power systems, commercial solar power solutions, and battery backup systems. You can also learn more about these and other concepts in visual form with our Solar Friday feature on the blog.
At their most basic level, solar panels convert light into electricity. Solar panels absorb photons, which are tiny particles of energy from the sun. When your solar panels absorb these photons, they react with silicon (a key ingredient in modern electronics) inside the panel to produce an electric current. Photons excite electrons inside the silicon’s atoms until they start to dart around and break away – creating an electric current. This current is known as direct current, or DC.
DC then travels along copper wiring through an inverter where it’s converted to alternating current or AC. After passing through your breaker box, the AC is now available for in-home use. You’re finally using the electricity you’ve produced with solar!
If you’re considering a solar PV upgrade there are a few factors to consider.
Which direction does your roof face? For solar installations in northern Florida along the Gulf Coast, a south facing roof surface is always preferred. East and west facing rooftops are also suitable as long as they have a bias/tilt towards the south.
Is there significant shading from nearby trees or buildings that may block your rooftop area? Consider anything that might obstruct the sun’s full power from hitting your roof. If there is tree shading would you be willing to remove the foliage in order to accommodate a new system?
Minimal Obstructions & Surface Area
How suitable is your rooftop area for a solar PV power system? Do you have dormers, peaks and valleys or any other obstructions? The more open area the better. However, we can still work around your immovable vent pipes, chimneys, and skylights. A solar PV system can be mounted to any type of roofing material including traditional asphalt shingle, clay tile, and metal.
Understand Your Consumption
Understanding your overall electricity consumption is a good place to start. This is measured in kilowatt-hours, or kWh. Refer to your most recent electricity bill. This will give you how many kWh you purchased the previous month, previous year, and across the current year. Knowing the amount of kWh you’re consuming allows us to build a customized solution just for you.
If you’re interested in receiving a quote, you can send us a copy of your power bill directly. If you’re a Florida Power & Light customer, you can also check out our step-by-step guide on where to find your consumption on your most recent power bill.
Think About a Budget
It’s important to understand that a solar PV system is an investment and could cost several thousands of dollars. The price tag on residential and commercial installations varies based on energy usage and goals. However, keep in mind that the investment will be offset and paid back over many years in the form of cheaper power bills, net metering credits, and the 30% Federal Tax Credit.
Do Your Homework
Make sure you do your homework on solar contractors in your area. Look for references and NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) Credentials. SunFarm Energy is a NABCEP Certified Installer (PV Installation Professional – Murphy Allen # PV-042217-015332).
Once you make the smart decision to install solar, the first step is finding a contractor. At SunFarm Energy, we walk you through the custom design and engineering of your system and assist you with signing all the necessary forms and contracts. The entire process should take between two and four weeks from the moment you sign the contact to the completion of the job.
For the average residential installation, your project will be complete within the week barring inclement weather. SunFarm Energy provides a turn-key service from permitting to installation to completion. The final step for installation is utility approval of an “interconnection agreement.” We help to expedite this process, but the individual utility company must sign off. The timing on this last step can sometimes be unpredictable, but is usually resolved within a few weeks of the completed install.
Installing a solar PV system can seem like a big investment. However, we like to say that if you can afford to pay your current power bill you can afford to make the switch to solar. Plus, you’re locking in your energy cost at today’s rates and protecting yourself against inevitable rate hikes in the future. Switching to solar today means more money in your pocket tomorrow and in the decades to come.
Every solar PV system is different because every customer is different. Overall cost can depend on your current consumption, power goals, and other factors like equipment and the age of your roof. SunFarm Energy also offers a variety of financing options including zero-down and 0.99% interest rates. Plus, we offer military and other customer discounts.
The biggest incentive to make the switch to solar is the Federal Investment Tax Credit or ITC. This program is a true credit on your taxes the following year and currently stands at 30% of the cost of installing your system. The 30% rate is available until December 31st 2032. In 2033 the ITC will drop to 22%. It’s important to keep in mind that the federal solar tax credit is not a rebate program.
In addition, there is no sales tax on a solar PV or thermal upgrade. Plus, thanks to Florida Amendment 4, the value of an upgrade cannot be added to your annual property taxes. Check out our guide to the federal solar tax credit.
Net metering is a policy that requires your utility to compensate you for the excess energy you send back to the grid.
Most solar PV systems generate more energy than a home can use. When this happens, excess energy is returned to the grid and you receive a credit on your next utility bill. Once your meter is re-programmed, you will be able to see how much energy you are receiving from the grid and how much energy you are returning.
Net metering is an important incentive for installing solar and these policies help expand the use of solar energy in the Sunshine State.
Solar PV systems often produce more energy than a home typically needs. In most cases, this excess energy is sent back to the grid and you receive a credit from the power company. This is what’s known as net metering.
With solar + storage, you can store that excess energy for use at a later time. When your solar power system produces more energy than your home can use, that excess energy is stored in your battery. With solar + storage, you can keep your home running smoothly even in the event of a power outage. Think of a solar + storage solution like a generator, but without the noise – and the need to wait in a long gas line. Instead of relying on a fossil-fuel guzzling generator, you’re powering your home with the clean, renewable energy you’re already producing right on your rooftop.
Solar + storage provides energy independence and security. Interested in relying a little less on the grid? Solar + storage is your answer. Want peace of mind in the event of an outage? Solar + storage is your answer. As long as consumption is monitored, solar + battery storage can provide reliable power in the event of an outage for an unlimited amount of time.
Solar + storage creates a more resilient grid. When folks are producing more electricity closer to home with solar, that means less stress on transmission lines. In addition, installing energy storage helps utilities more easily manage the flow of electricity, offset energy usage at peak time, and create a more resilient and diversified grid. Learn more about battery storage.
Energy efficiency and solar go hand in hand. Here in Northwest Florida, we’re lucky to enjoy warm temperatures almost year-round. But that means we also use a lot of electricity. When you’re thinking about installing solar, energy efficiency upgrades can be crucial to help increase your cost savings.
The more efficient the structure, the smaller the PV system. Lots of folks think that the size of your solar PV system directly correlates with the square footage of your structure – but that isn’t always true. A larger building with better insulation, LED lighting, and efficient appliances will often need a smaller system than an older, smaller home with less efficient amenities.
We build systems for your lifestyle. We consistently make recommendations that fit your energy needs so that we can build a
customized solution just for you. Looking to offset 100% of your energy? We will always make energy efficiency recommendations
before designing a larger system.
Energy efficiency upgrades are even more important for Florida residents. Here in Northwest Florida, we’re consistently in the path of large storms. Making these upgrades can create a home that remains comfortable for an extended period of time after a power interruption – especially during a hurricane.
Whether you’re looking to make some big adjustments, or just some small changes, we’ve got recommendations on how to make your home more energy efficient.
Solar energy reliably powers hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses each day across the United States. Our solar PV systems come with a 30-year warranty backed by an A-rated third-party insurance company.
SunFarm Energy monitors our installed systems weekly and provides a real time monitoring platform by computer or smart phone app. Our clients can also keep tabs on their hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly power production.
Just like any large home project, your solar power system should be included in your property insurance. Solar can be a big investment and it’s important for that investment to be protected.
We always recommend touching base with your insurance agent before moving forward with a solar project to avoid any surprises. If you’re having trouble finding coverage, check out our preferred service providers list for some local agent recommendations.
We’re no strangers to extreme weather on the Gulf Coast. The good news is, solar panels hold up very well in extreme weather situations – including hurricanes.
Manufacturers constantly test modules to make sure they can tolerate an extreme weather event and most panels are certified to withstand up to 2,400 pascals, or the equivalent of 140mph winds. A study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on 50,000 PV systems installed during a seven year period found that only 0.1% of all the systems reported damaged or under performing panels each year.
Part of our installation process includes attaching racking pieces to the trusses of the roof to ensure maximum stability and strength. The added layer of PV modules not only keeps your traditional asphalt shingles from flying off, the system can also help keep your roof intact. Check out the below picture of Tyndall Air Force Base following Hurricane Michael in 2018. You will notice that the roof faces with solar fared far better than those without.
But what about other types of weather like rain, hail, and colder temperatures?
Panel manufacturers also ensure that modules can withstand rain. Solar panels use aluminum and glass casings to hold each solar cell in place. These pieces are highly waterproof, ensuring there is no water damage during heavy rain.
Solar panels are also consistently tested to remain durable during hail storms. Most panels are certified to withstand hail up to 25mm (or one inch) falling at 23 meters per second (approximately 50mph). During a major storm in Golden Colorado in 2017, hail stones shattered car windows and left dents in vehicles and roofs. But the storm was no match for a nearby PV array. Only 1 panel out of more 3,000 suffered any damage. (Source: Energy Sage)
Lastly, solar panels perform more efficiently in colder weather. If you followed the news out of Texas this past winter, you might have heard
some misinformation about renewable energy in colder temperatures. Solar panels perform well in colder weather, and power output can even improve. White snow can also reflect light and improve panel performance. While we don’t see much snow here on the Gulf Coast, we still experience some colder temps. Even during the winter months, a PV array will continue to generate clean, reliable power.
Most solar PV systems are grid-tied, which means that you are always connected to your local utility company. If the power goes out, your solar PV system automatically shuts off. When power is restored, your solar power system will automatically begin working again. However, by adding battery storage you can help keep the lights on even when the grid is down.
Most solar PV systems generate more energy than a home can use. With a traditional PV system, that excess energy is sent back to the grid and the customer receives a credit. By adding a battery storage system, you can store that excess energy that would normally return for to the grid. Use your battery during evening hours when the sun isn’t shining, or during a power outage. As long as you monitor your consumption, your battery can keep your house functioning for an unlimited amount of time.
Yes, your system will produce power even on cloudy days. As long as the sun is up, your solar panels will generate energy. However, your system may not produce as much power on a cloudier day. In rainy or cloudier conditions, panels will produce about 10-25% of their normal power output. While it’s true that solar panels may not perform as well on cloudy days, they can still help offset your power needs. In some areas, the presence of clouds can even boost performance by reflecting and magnifying sunlight.
Will my panels work at night?
The short answer to this question is no. Solar panels do need some form of sunlight to continue generating power. However, net metering programs can help you earn credits when you send excess energy back to the grid. During nighttime hours, you can draw from these credits for your power needs. Another solution is to add battery storage. Instead of sending any excess energy back to the grid, you can store it for later use during evening hours or in an outage
What about shade?
Your solar PV system will perform best on sunny days with no clouds or additional obstructions. That means it’s important to factor in any shade on your property. Do you have large trees or roof features that might block your panels during daylight hours? Be sure to work with your Energy Consultant to make sure all shade factors are considered when adding solar.
Yes! But it’s important to make sure your solar PV system is properly sized to accommodate the charging load of an electric vehicle. There are a few key factors we need to calculate the system size needed for your electric: EV range, battery capacity, daily commute distance, and hours of ideal sunlight (insolation). Check out our step-by-step guide on how to calculate the system size for an EV, or use our online calculator.
*Please note that in both calculators, we use 5 hours as the number for insolation. Most southern states like Florida and Alabama receive about 5 hours of ideal sunlight per day.*
During the springtime, you might notice pollen and dirt build up on your panels. But do they need to be cleaned? The short answer is no.
In regions with high amounts of smog, dust, dirt, or sand blowing around, solar panel cleaning might be more necessary. However, here in Northwest Florida and Southern Alabama, we see significant amounts of rainfall. This rain helps naturally and safely keep your panels clean, ensuring they produce energy at maximum capacity.
If you’d like to give your system a facelift anyway, we recommend using fresh clean water and a damp cloth. If you notice grease on your panels, try using a little isopropyl alcohol and a rag. Remember to stay away from strong cleaning fluids. These can leave streaks and cause
damage to the glass. If you feel like you really need to use soap, start with a small amount of dish liquid.
Will dirt and pollen build up affect my energy production?
In our region, a small build up of pollen or dirt will not affect production. However, it may be a good idea to freshen up your panels if you live in an area with a high amount of particulates in the air.
Should I pay someone to clean my system for me?
If you’re nervous about getting up on your roof for safety reasons, you might look into hiring a pro. However, panel cleaning services are kind of like a car wash. Professional cleaning companies do exist, but they won’t necessarily do a better job than what you can do yourself.
The short answer is yes! But we’ll explain some of the nuances.
The biggest determinant of home value and solar is whether your system is leased, financed, or owned outright. SunFarm Energy does not lease solar power systems. We have many customers who finance their systems and pay them off over time, while some prefer to pay up front in cash.
Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and mortgage guarantor Fannie Mae, concluded in a study that was conducted from 2011 through 2020 that solar power systems that are owned by the homeowner are likely to increase the value of the home by the system price. That means that whatever you paid for your solar power system, it’s likely to increase the value of your home by that amount.
There have been many studies over the years that have tackled the solar and home value question. In 2019, a study by Zillow found that homes with solar sell for about 4.1% more. This average varies by location.
Source: The Wall Street Journal & Energy Sage
If you’re purchasing a home with solar, it’s important to ask for past utility bills, information about the system, and the energy-production/saving history of the system.* That way, you have a better idea of how much the system has made an impact on energy savings before you even move in.
Industry experts also urge buyers to become familiar with local and state incentives for solar power systems, especially net metering.
It’s also best to take a closer look at the condition of the roof. Solar companies should never install a system on a roof that would need replacement within five years. However, if there are roof issues, keep in mind that the solar power system will need to be removed before roof replacement and reinstalled once replacement is complete. If this is necessary for the solar home you’re considering, you may seek price concessions to cover this cost.
*Note: Each SunFarm Energy client receives an Owner’s Manual with this information when their installation is completed.
Source: Wall Street Journal
We often ask our clients how long they intend to be in their home to ensure a return on investment. The longer you live in your solar home, the higher your return on investment, so solar is best for folks who think they have found their forever home.
But, if you are selling your solar home, it’s best if you own your system outright. However, there are a few options if your system is financed. Homeowners can roll the remaining cost of the system into the home’s overall price, or the prospective buyer can take on the solar loan – although this is highly uncommon.
Solar panels will also be included in the appraisal of the home in the following situations:
– The homeowner owns their solar panels
– The solar equipment is financed as a fixture to real estate – meaning it can’t be repossessed if the homeowner defaults on payments
Unfortunately, if the system is financed as personal property, it cannot be valued in the appraisal. Also keep in mind that any credit issues may be a problem. If you fall behind on your solar payments to the finance company, it could create delays in the home sale or raise costs.
It’s also best to hang on to all documents related to your solar installation such as contracts, system specs, and estimated system production.*
*Note: Each SunFarm Energy client receives an Owner’s Manual with all of this information when their installation is completed.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Don’t see the answer you’re looking for?
Call us at 850.472.0341 to speak to a solar power specialist at SunFarm Energy!