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Solar Energy Articles
What are Solar Energy Tax Credits and Rebates for Homeowners?
In fact, by 2025 the renewable-energy portfolio standards - or RPS - in 29 states will produce enough energy efficiency to power up 56 million homes a year. (New York Times Dispatch, October 24, 2018). And that’s something that we at HomeLink Pros support.
Rooftop Solar Energy Systems
The time to go solar is now. Not only have solar panels helped lower our utility bills by reducing rising electricity prices for homeowners, it’s become a national passion. People care about saving the planet.
Solar rooftop by solar rooftop, we are moving away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy systems and energy efficiencies in a big way; around the planet, across the United States, and in our neighborhoods.
Renewable Energy Tax Credits
HomeLink Pros customers have gone solar, and we’ve helped them save hundreds of millions of dollars. For those of you who are currently reviewing solar possibilities for your home - did you know that federal tax credits and state and local refunds and incentives can reduce the overall costs of your solar energy system by thousands?
The Federal Tax Credit for Solar Ownership
The solar federal tax credit (also called the investment tax credit, or ITC) is popular for homeowners who want to fully purchase their solar energy systems. For sustainable-shoppers who want to own, this 30% tax credit from our government will save you thousands.4
If you’re planning on buying your solar panels, you qualify for a 30% tax credit toward what you’ll spend to install your system. If your system costs $21,000, you’ll save $6,300 in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your income taxes that you would otherwise pay the IRS.
Make sure your tax accountant is aware of this credit so that he or she files accordingly. In addition, the 30% credit is applied to the total cost after any available state rebates have been deducted.
The Federal Tax Credit for Solar Leasing or PPA
Are you considering a solar lease or a power purchase agreement (PPA)? You won’t get left behind. HomeLink with SunRun maximizes the ITC credit and passes its benefits to you, too, in the form of lower monthly or PPA payments. Speak with a HomeLink Pros solar advisor for more information. We’ll walk you through potential savings.
Don’t Miss Out on Solar Credits
There is a reason why we say there’s no better time to go solar. There are restrictions (see Energy.gov). Bottom line? This 30% federal tax credit will be reduced over the next couple of years:
- 30% for systems placed in service by 12/31/2019
- 26% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2019 and before 01/01/2021
- 22% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2020 and before 01/01/2022
- There is no maximum credit for systems placed in service after 2008.
Systems must be placed in service on or after January 1, 2006, and on or before December 31, 2021
Your solar energy system must be installed in your residence (and a second home qualifies, too) between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2021. And this tax credit is administered by the IRS. It’s a good idea to have a qualified tax accountant assist you when you file for your taxes.
State Incentives and Rebates
The federal government isn’t the only agency that encourages sustainable energy practices. Many states offer rebates and incentives to help their citizens go solar, and state-level solar incentives are continuing to expand nationwide.
If you’d like more information about your state before you give us a call - visit DSIRE®, which is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency. There is a wealth of information on this website to help you understand incentives or rebates that could save you thousands of dollars on your solar energy system.
At HomeLink Pros our solar advisors will also walk you through all available rebates and incentives to ensure you get the best solar deal possible. We offer our products and services, and are working hard to bring solar to everyone across California.
What is the Cost of Solar?
A big question we get from our customers is on the price of a solar panel system (or a solar plus energy storage system). As we covered in this article, there are tax credits and state and local incentives that play an important part in your final costs.
But there are also other factors to consider: weather, utility prices, quality and angle of your roof, household energy needs... to name a few. Our HomeLink concultants come out and inspect your home from top to bottom to ensure that solar energy is a fit for you and your power needs before moving forward.
Top 10 Economic Benefits of Converting to Solar Energy
Going solar is a decision that has enormous impact in today’s world of climate change and the unpredictability of rising energy costs. We’re glad you’re here. We gathered the top ten economic benefits to consider when you choose rooftop solar.
Solar Saves on Energy Costs
We all want lower utility bills.
Check the utility rates in your location. Chances are your utility bill is higher than you want it to be. You find yourself constantly reminding your family to turn off the lights, stop doing so much laundry and don’t run the dishwasher unless it’s packed full. All noble efforts, to be sure, but often hard to accomplish. Heaven forbid if you have a heatwave. The stress of the inevitable increase in your utility bill makes you wonder if turning on the air conditioner is worth it.
When you choose to install solar panels, or get solar panels + plus solar battery storage, you can bring the total cost down to a manageable level (averaged over the course of a year). Homeowners with high electricity rates from their local utilities are the ones who save the most when they convert to power from the sun. But you’d be surprised that most solar rooftop systems can save every homeowner thousands of dollars over the life of the product - which is two decades at the minimum (and probably more).
No more Time-of-Use rates (TOU).
For states with TOU rates, going solar with a battery backup allows you to run your appliances when you want to, and not when the utility companies dictate you should. TOU rates are charged during peak hours - after work and during dinner - which means you’ll have a higher utility bill. It's utility surge pricing. If you can use energy in the morning or during the day, you’ll probably pay less.
But let’s face it. We need to power up our homes when it’s convenient for us. We can’t do chores at work. With solar+ battery storage you are in control. Excess energy is stored in your battery. Use it when you need it the most!
If it’s available - Net Metering is your friend.
If you’ve started to research the benefits of going solar, you have probably come across the term Net Metering. Net Metering is a practice in which your utility credits you for the excess electricity generated by your solar panels. It’s that simple. There are different net metering plans across the country. Each state is different. Some utility companies are hesitant to adopt net metering, so benefits may vary, but it is well worth your time to check into it. A professional solar company can walk you through the details.
There are solar Federal and State Incentives for going solar.
If you haven’t discovered these tax deductions and credits yet, you’ll be pleased to know that you can deduct 30% of the cost of your purchased home solar system from your federal income taxes (your personal income tax credit).
And there are many state and local governments that offer property and sales tax exemptions. Don’t forget to ask about cash rebates! These rebates help you reduce your costs even more, in some cases by as much as 10 to 20%.
Own your solar system? Your home value goes up.
The research is in. A primary solar driver is an increase in the value of your home, making it a safe and wise investment. The right size installation can net you a possible $20k increase in home value, or more, if you plan to sell. When residential home owners began buying solar roughly a decade ago, there were no reports or analyses to consider for the financial gains. Now? You’ve got several to choose from. Again, the research is in and its says that solar is a good investment.
Solar Saves Lives
Renewable energy helps others in times of need.
We need energy to live our daily lives, but we also need energy to help others in time of desperate need. Solar saves lives. People all over the world are using solar energy to push through power outages caused by severe weather storms that often result in unnecessary fatalities. Fatalities that can be avoided with renewable energy.
Climate change has caused devastation around the world. Flooding, wildfires, severe hurricanes, rising sea levels, hunger from environmental destruction… the list is growing. And the costs associated with climate change is growing, too: rising health care costs, destruction of property, increased food prices and more. The adoption of solar and other alternative energies must continue to be adopted on a wide scale so we can address the negative societal and economic impacts of dirty fossil fuels on our planet, and on our lives.
Clean air saves lives.
We need clean air to live our daily lives, so why not clean energy? Solar energy creates a planet that is clean and green. When you live in a healthy environment, you’re bound to be... well... healthier. The Environmental Defense Fund states that pollution is responsible for the deaths of 6.4 million people per year. Let’s say that again: 6.4 million people die from dirty air across our planet every year.
Smoggy air contains ozone which is a colorless, unstable gas. There is, however, a good ozone and a bad ozone. The good ozone starts about six miles above our heads and protects the earth from the sun’s harshest rays.
Needless to say, bad ozone kills. It comes from cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries and chemical plants - to name a few - and hangs around close to the ground in the air we breathe. Pollution is so bad in some parts of the world that people are instructed to stay indoors to limit the negative effects. And this is not uncommon. It’s not only harmful to human beings, but also crops, trees and other vegetation.
When we eliminate harmful toxic emissions caused by burning fossil fuels, people breathe better air, lead better lives and protect the planet for future generations.
Solar creates American jobs, and supports families.
When your community is gainfully employed, it stands to reason that everybody benefits. The solar workforce saw an increase of 168% in roughly the past seven years. In 2010 the industry hired 93,000 people. Fast forward to last year and the number of jobs rise to 250,000. And it’s expected to continue to grow. The best thing? These solar jobs cannot be outsourced. They are here, in America, and a significant contributor to our economy.
Solar Saves on Gas & Fuel
The price of sunlight is zero.
The sun is not sending us a bill to charge our houses with its power. And sunlight is never going away, unlike limited fossil fuels. You can really count on renewable energy each and every day.
Coal and natural gas are not free, and they are expensive and volatile. You never know when these dirty fossil fuels - which are not sustainable - are going up in price (utility prices have increased systematically over the past decade). There is no fuel cost with sunlight. You will know how much your energy prices will be for 20 years, at minimum. HomeLink Pros residential solar system options provide energy at the same, current utility rate every year for two decades.
Solar reduces dangerous greenhouse gases from cars.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported not long ago that new motor vehicles contribute to extremely large levels of dangerous greenhouse gases that - as we speak - are endangering our public health and welfare.
What does solar energy have to do with cars? A lot. An electric vehicle can be powered up by your residential solar rooftop. You can use power from the sun to run your house and charge your car. Every single person who goes solar-plus-EV contributes enormously to the health of our communities and the health of our planet... and saves money on expensive, dirty fuel.
What is the Cost of a Home Solar Panel System?
Given these ten value points, you’re probably wondering about costs. How much is a solar system?
We’d love to continue the conversation with you on how solar power from HomeLink Pros can help lower your energy bill and save our planet - while creating greener savings in your bank account, where it belongs.
Why Going Solar is Like Setting Up A Savings Account
When you were a kid, you probably started your savings journey with a piggy bank or a savings jar. Which then led you to open a savings account to be better prepared for life’s unexpected events.
And while finding ways to put money in your savings account may not be something new to you, with nationwide electricity rates increasing — have you ever asked: “Can I really save with solar panels?”
Think of It As Your Personal — Sunbathed — Cash Cow
Just like a savings account allows you to stash cash for your wants and needs; with Sunrun, you can go solar and save 20% on your electric bill*. Yes, that’s 20% that will stay in your pocket! And it could add up to more depending on how high your electric rates are; how much sunshine you home gets; and the tax incentives available in your state. Nice, right?
“But how much money will I save with solar,” you ask? Picture this: The average U.S. homeowner can save up to $84 per month by going solar; and in some states, it’s more like $150 a month. Now we ask, “Does your savings account bring in this much money each month?”
Besides, taking the HomeLink Pros solar leap is possible with little to $0 down. You just pay a guaranteed low, fixed rate for the solar power the system produces over your 20-year agreement. Are you starting to imagine how great it would feel not having to worry about rising energy costs, hidden fees, and surprise hikes on your electric bill from your traditional utility company? We thought so, too.
Save For A Rainy Day with Your Sunny Days
If you're already familiar with savings accounts, you might know the interest rates are low these days; so how is that nest egg for a trip across the pond, a safety net, or your kid’s college education supposed to grow?
With HomeLink Pros, over the course of 20 years, your solar panel lifetime savings can reach $20,000 or more. Plus, a study by University of California’s Berkeley Lab found that solar panels can also increase property value by as much as $15,000.
Our Shiny Guarantee
Savings accounts are FDIC-insured, meaning financial institutions are there to ensure your money will be protected to grow as intended.
And at HomeLink Pros, we have something similar: our industry-leading solar system performance guarantee. If for any reason your system doesn’t produce the electricity promised, you’ll receive a refund for the difference. From performance to maintenance, to monitoring and repairs; at Sunrun, we’ll always have your back.
Whether you choose to lease, finance or purchase your system, our solar plans & services make it simple. Just talk with one of our solar consultants to get a free quote and save with the sun today.
Three Energy Efficiency Rebates to Take Advantage of Today.
Energy efficiency rebates come in many different forms. You can apply for money-saving grants, or access services created by federal/state governments that will help offset the costs of energy efficiency projects around the house. There are multiple ways these programs can save you money.
Many state governments, local governments, and utility companies offer cash rebates for the purchase of energy efficient products. Some manufacturers put on sales or special offers that will make it even more affordable to purchase their power-saving products. Currently, the federal government does not give cash rebates for buying energy efficient products.
Credits are claimed when you file taxes for the previous year. If you made a purchase of energy efficient items that are approved by the government during that year, you can deduct that amount when you file your taxes with the government. All eligible products are labeled with the EPA’s Energy Star certification.
Energy Efficient Financing
There are many financing options available from local governments, banks, and utility companies that can help you purchase your energy efficient products. This is a great option if you are strapped for cash but looking to purchase your home solar system outright.
What are federal solar incentives?
A great way to get your energy savings started is through the EPA’s Energy Star program. Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) labeling program designed to promote energy efficient products. When purchasing new appliances, windows, or other household items, you can simply look for the Energy Star approval stamp to know you are buying a product that will help increase the energy efficiency of your home. Energy Star also offers up rebate programs that can help with the cost of your energy efficient product purchases.
The federal solar incentives investment tax credit (ITC) was created in 2006 by the federal government. This tax credit allows you to deduct 30% of your total solar system cost from your taxes. Sadly, this federal investment tax credit is set to expire. The ITC savings percentage will decrease to 26% in 2020 and to 22% in 2021. After 2021, there will no longer be any residential credit, and the commercial and utility credit will drop to a permanent 10%. Even though policies can change, there's no better time to go solar than now.
Energy efficiency rebates by state
In addition to the federal investment tax credit, many states offer additional tax and cash rebates. Currently, there are several states with rebate incentive programs that will help you pay for a new solar system. There are also multiple programs in every state that will help you offset your solar system and the cost of making your house more energy efficient. You can find the most up-to-date list of all energy incentives available on the DSIRE website.
How Does Solar Power Work for Your Home?
But first you’re wondering, “how does solar power work?” Glad you asked! It’s a good place to start when you’re thinking about how to go solar, because even though HomeLink Pros takes care of everything from permitting to installation and flipping the on-switch, we want you to feel comfortable every step of the way. Understanding how solar works can help.
How does home solar power work?
Solar panels are made of photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight to direct current electricity (DC electricity). As long as rays are hitting your roof, rain or shine, your panels are converting solar radiation into DC electricity. But in order to get the kind of power needed to turn the lights on in your living room, you’ll need an inverter.
The inverter is a device that takes the DC electricity produced by your solar panels and turns it into alternating current electricity (AC electricity). It’s typically installed on an exterior wall of your house, or in the garage.
Main Electric Service Panel
Solar electricity from your inverter flows to the electrical panel, and then into to your home where it powers your lights and appliances. Or, if you generate more solar energy than you use, it flows into the utility grid and while you rake in the solar credits.
Your Sunrun meter monitors your system production and sends the information to Sunrun through a wireless signal. Since it tracks your energy production 24/7, it will automatically alert Sunrun if it detects problems or irregularities.
Speaking of solar credits, the net meter measures the amount of electricity you draw from the grid, and how much excess solar electricity you push into it. So when you use less electricity than you make, you get credit from the utility company. Sounds pretty sweet, right?
So now that you’re a solar energy expert, the next time somebody asks you, “how does solar power work?” you can tell them how simple it really is. And when you go solar with HomeLink Pros, it couldn’t be easier to sit back and take control of your electricity bill. So what are you waiting for? Go solar today!
How Does Solar Energy Help the Environment?
By the year 2030 - unless we act now - there will be even more extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people due to the rise in temperature from dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. Entire cities or countries face catastrophic consequences from the changes in our planet’s atmosphere and ecosystem.
If governments around the world don’t rapidly transition from traditional fossil fuel energy sources that are polluting our environment (i.e., coal, oil and natural gas produced mainly by power plants), dire consequences from extreme weather events are predicted. There is no room for argument; sustainable energies like solar reduce air pollution and get our planet back on track for future generations.
How Warm is Too Warm for Our Planet?
The year 2030 is right around the corner. In 12 years scientists say our planet will be 1.5C degrees warmer. Doesn’t sound like a lot? It is. Scientists predict that 1.5C degrees of warming could kill up to 90% of our coral reefs. This is a major loss to an important ecosystem that keeps our planet - and the human race - alive and healthy.3 If the reefs go, the effects will be disastrous.
And if the temperature rises 2C degrees? Sea levels will rise nearly a foot globally. Take a look at what climate change is doing right now to glaciers in this CNN video from Reuters photographer, Lucas Jackson. Sea levels have risen by 7-8 inches since 1900, and half of that happened in the last 25 years. It’s easy to see how flooding can occur as our planet continues to heat up.
A Reminder About GHGs
Dangerous greenhouse gases - or GHGs - are polluting our environment and our air quality suffers. Gases like carbon dioxide (CO2 ) and methane hug the ground and trap heat that would otherwise keep rising to keep our planet cool.5
Carbon dioxide from burning toxic fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil6 is the worst offender; it is responsible for the majority of pollution we breathe. “By transitioning to clean energy, like solar, we will sharply reduce the carbon, sulfur and mercury pollution that come from burning fossil fuels, which doctors and scientists say will save 60,000 American lives each year and dramatically reduce the rates of heart disease, asthma attacks, respiratory diseases and even cancer.” - SEIA
CO2 remains in our climate system for a very long time. How long? Thousands of years, states the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Think about that. Thousands of years. It’s reported that even if we hit zero emissions by 2030, the earth still needs a very long time to heal.
Solar plants produce zero emissions or waste. That pretty much says it all.
Solar Power Makes a Global Difference
Let’s state the obvious: power from the sun is sustainable and it’s not going away. Better yet? There are no dangerous emissions from energy generated through solar panels.
Solar panels using photovoltaic technologies produce clean, emission free electricity resulting in strong environmental benefits. And Sunrun™ has deployed 879 megawatts of energy of solar panels to hundreds of thousands of customers across America. That’s the equivalent of recycling roughly 540,000 tons of garbage. We’re proud of expanding solar energy nationwide with our customers, and making it easy for more people to make a positive environmental impact by going solar.
Did you know that solar energy also reduces water pollution? Photovoltaic solar cells don’t need water to operate. Most manufacturing processes need some kind of water for production, but not solar panels. Converting to solar energy doesn’t strain local water supplies… nor pollute them.
Fossil fuels are not renewable, they are expensive to produce, they are damaging to our environment, and they’re finite. Don’t forget - energy from the sun is free, sustainable, clean and renewable.
Making a Positive Change with Solar Energy
It’s not only government that must make changes for the future of our planet, everyone can make a change. Sustainable energy companies, homeowners, landlords, utility companies… together we can deploy solar panels one rooftop at a time to help rid our environment of dangerous GHGs and give our planet a healthy, bright future.
Organizations such as RE100 - a collaborative, global initiative - are gaining huge momentum as they unite the most influential companies around the world who have committed to 100% renewable power. Take a look at the major companies who are part of RE100 for positive environmental change. They are among the most influential and notable companies in the world, many of whom touch our lives daily.
These companies and many more use two-thirds of the world’s electricity to create the products and services that we use every day. But the RE100 companies are making a difference. Switching to renewables makes an incredibly huge impact by building a low carbon economy. Such great news...
And companies like Salesforce and Kaiser Permanente are adopting solar and wind energy with battery storage through Power Purchase Agreements, or PPAs. More good news.
It’s Clear: Americans Want Solar
Although the United States pulled itself from the Paris climate accord last year, states and municipalities across America have continued to push, adopt and even accelerate policies to reduce their carbon footprint. Everyone is moving forward to reduce dangerous emissions - with or without approval from our administration.
In fact, a 2018 poll by SEIA states that the majority of Americans (both Democrats and Republicans) agree that solar can help meet our energy needs while replacing old, outdated and expensive power plants.Citizens across the country want clean air for their families and to move away from fossil fuels. As a nation we know it’s critical for future generations.
Sunrun is Making a Difference
We are proud to mention that Sunrun has recently committed to installing at least 100 megawatts of solar for people living in low and moderate-income multifamily developments. The installations will be done at no cost to the tenants. It is important that everybody has an opportunity to play a part in California’s push to 100% renewable energy by 2045.
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
You can join HomeLink Pros with Sunrun and reduce the need to burn fossil fuels by going solar. Your personal effort to convert to solar energy makes a major difference. Every individual or family that converts to solar helps mitigate the effects of climate change not only in the neighborhood, but around the world.
How Can Solar Help Lower Your Utility Bills?
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), residential electricity rates have risen across the nation at a rate of about 4% on average over the last 10 years. This varies according to what state you live in, of course, but basically everyone has the why-is-my-bill-so-high energy blues.
We can’t conduct our daily lives without electricity. We can’t see in the dark, keep our food fresh, plug in our devices or wash our clothes. We can’t live without winter heaters and summer air conditioners. But everything guzzles electricity, raises our bills, and leaves a major carbon footprint.
How to Lower Your Electric Bill
We all want to reduce our carbon footprint while lowering our electric bills. That’s why using solar to power our homes and lower our utility bills has taken off, big time. Solar was never really discussed in the early 2000s, but now it’s not uncommon to see residential solar on many of your neighbors’ rooftops. Everybody is going solar.
Reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions through rooftop solar panels is a badge of honor, with serious bragging rights. Not only can you boast a lower carbon footprint, you can boast a lower utility bill.
Appliances are not going away. They save lives during extreme weather - the highs in the summer and the lows in the winter - invariably caused by the negative effects of climate change. The winters have been colder and the summers have been hotter and we are using our heaters and air conditioners... a lot.
Just like saving the health of the planet with solar, you can lower your utility bills and save your wallet by using clean energy from the sun.
Heating and Cooling Your Home with Solar Energy
Are you thinking of going solar? Well you aren’t alone. Here at Sunrun™ we have hundreds of thousands of customers. Across America there are an estimated 1.3 million residential solar rooftops. And growing. Your electric heater and air conditioner play a major role for the amount of solar energy you’ll need. Make sure you discuss your home’s energy needs with your solar advisor to get the right amount of power for those hot summers and cold winters.
And don’t forget the importance of weatherizing your house to reduce the amount of power you need to pull from your solar panels or from your local utility grid. It goes without saying that weatherizing will reduce your utility bill regardless of what type of solar system you put in place. These efforts plus switching to renewable energy from the sun will definitely provide additional savings.
How to Lower Utility Bills with Solar Plus Battery Storage
There are certain things to consider about the size of a solar array (i.e., the number of solar panels) for your power needs. Where you live, the angle of your roof, how much sun you get in summer and winter - and the energy needs of your family - to name a few considerations. But when you add a battery you can stand to save even more.
A solar system coupled with a solar battery is the talk of the town right now. Technology is moving fast, and the future is in batteries. A solar battery enables you to store excess energy produced by your solar panels during the day to use at night when the sun goes down, or when utility rates are the highest (e.g. after work and at nighttime). You are in control of your energy needs and your utility company is not. That’s pretty sweet. And when the sun comes back up in the morning? Your battery is recharged... all over again.
TOU Rates Offer More Savings
TOU means “time of use” and TOU rates are put into place by your utility to encourage you to reduce your energy consumption during peak hours when it costs the most. When everybody is pulling electricity from the local grid, energy costs more.
If a specific time-of-use plan is offered by your local utility company, you may want to look into it. By enrolling in a TOU plan you have even greater control over rising utility prices. The times you run your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer matters. It’s cheaper in the morning to run appliances – and more expensive roughly noon to 8pm.
HomeLink Pros understands that there are many residential homeowners that are working couples, and not all of us can do our chores during breakfast (we’re getting ready for work) or want to do them at 9pm on the weekends (we’d rather be out wining and dining or playing Go Fish with the family). Yes, utility rates are cheaper during these times - but who cares? (P.S. Getting a solar battery is a great option.)
How Much is the Average Electricity Bill?
The two most important factors in determining how much you pay are energy consumption and electricity rates. The more people in your family, the more energy you use. Hot summers? The rates are higher. A severe winter storm with lots of people heating their homes? Rates are higher.
And electricity prices change depending on the cost of fuel and delivering electricity to your home. These prices can rise and fall. So there are many factors taken into consideration when “average” prices are determined.
There is No Question, Solar Saves
A quick tip for homeowners who want to purchase their solar system – don’t forget about the federal tax credit of 30% off the price of installation (saving you thousands). This credit amount will be lowered over the next few years, and go away altogether soon. Check out the federal tax details on SEIA.org for maximum savings on solar ownership.
Whether you buy, lease or go with a power purchase agreement (PPA) you’ll save with solar power. The solar movement is strong, growing stronger - and here to stay. Just like our sun.
How Do Solar Panels Produce Electricity?
The Basic Solar Components
The first step in knowing how solar panels work is to understand how they’re made. Many of them use silicon as a go-to material, one of the most common elements found on our planet. Since creating silicon crystals of suitable quality is a difficult and expensive process, home-solar electric systems are usually built from similar, but less expensive materials. Like copper, indium, gallium, and selenide (CIGS); which aren’t as efficient as high-quality silicon, yet still, provide adequate amounts of power –– at a reasonable cost –– for most residential needs. It’s a value win!
During manufacturing, small amounts of other elements are introduced to alter the electrical charges of the silicon atoms. This results in strips of negative (n-type) silicon, which has an extra electron; and positive (p-type) silicon, which is missing one electron. Don’t feel bad for this last guy, though. When sandwiched together, these two types of silicon form a photovoltaic cell –– and when multiple photovoltaic cells are placed under glass simultaneously, they give us the cool solar panels we see atop buildings today. That’s what we call good teamwork.
Inside each solar panel, there’s a conductive metal plate connected to wires that lead to a fused array combiner. A device is used to collect energy through an inverter, where the energy’s natural-direct electrical current is changed to the alternating electrical current required to power human-made structures. Yup, just like your lovely home.
Transforming Solar Power Into Electricity
Sunlight is a form of energy consisting of invisible particles called photons, that have energy, but zero rest mass. Maybe laying off the coffee for a few days would help. When photons come in contact with other particles, energy expands in several ways depending on the kind of atoms they touch. Most times, heat is generated when this happens. Like Paris would say, “That’s hot!”
On the other hand, electricity is produced when electrons circle atoms, the reasoning behind why photovoltaic cells contain materials with different electrical charges. See, when the Sun hits a silicon crystal, the electrons inside of it begin to jump up and down. And eventually, some of them become so charged up, they break free and move more freely. The n-type silicon electrons seek out the ones in p-type silicon to replace the missing electrons within their atoms — producing an electrical current from the motion of these electrons.
The amazing semiconductor qualities of silicon (and comparable materials) make it possible to sustain constant electron imbalances. Meaning, a steady supply of solar electricity is going to be at hand every time the photons hit the solar panels — a current collected by wires and carried throughout the system. That wasn’t too complicated, right?
Four Factors That Mess with Solar Electricity Production
You’ve solved the solar-energy-production puzzle. Yay! Now, it’s important to be aware of the factors that must be carefully considered before, during and after the design and installation of any solar system. Here are the infamous four:
You may already know this, but shaded solar panels won’t produce the same amount of energy as those in direct sunlight. So, if your roof is sun-deprived by un-trimmable trees or non-removable elements; solar may not be the best solution for you. At HomeLink Pros, we offer effective solutions to help prevent excessive performance loss. We can leave the shady characters for a new Netflix series. Don’t you agree?
Like the weather, solar energy production varies day-by-day and month-to-month. A cloudy, winter day won’t be as productive as a sunny, summer one; the important thing here is to focus on the year-round sunny picture. For example, snow can sometimes reflect light and improve PV performance. So in reality, a cold month will only become a solar antagonist if the panels are covered with slush. If Frosty the Snowman comes, he will be asked to leave. Sorry, not sorry.
Unlike a pinball machine, solar panels can benefit from a good tilting.The location, the direction your home is facing, and even your roof’s pitch, have a deep effect on how a system works. Ideally, solar panels should be at the same angle as the latitude where they’re mounted — and pitches between 30-45 degrees usually work well in most scenarios. Happiness is a matter of perspective, indeed.
The azimuth angle is the compass direction from where the sunlight is coming. At solar noon, the Sun’s light comes from the south in the Northern Hemisphere and from the north in the Southern Hemisphere. A wrong azimuth angle could reduce the energy output of a solar PV up to 35%. Quite a lot! Luckily, our system designers tend to use an azimuth of either zero or facing the Equator to avoid any issues. We’re proud to have nerds on our team.
Will Solar Panels Work During a Power Outage?
The bad news is that these are only two examples of disasters and blackouts in 2017; in total there were 3,526 power outages across our country. To understand just how big global warming plays a part in our lives… there were about 5 outages per year in the 1950s. Currently? We lead all developed nations in power outages and blackouts.
Utilities Shut Off Power Grids in 2018
And now, a disturbing trend is emerging in 2018.
Power companies are preemptively shutting down the grid because they anticipate a blackout. For example, news outlets up and down California are reporting that utilities are planning on voluntarily shutting down power. If wildfires or customer demand is too much for the grid to handle, utilities want the authority to turn off the power that feeds our homes.
Our Grid Needs Rescuing
Why? To put it bluntly, grid power is failing. And not just in California. In some places our power grid is over 100 years old. This is worthy of repeating; parts of our power system are more than 100 years old. And we may not be able to fix it if we don’t act soon.
Most of the grid - all 200,000 miles of power lines - has been operating on technology from the 1950s. The majority of Americans get their power supply from this grid to run our homes. The irony is... we can’t live life without electricity. And if we don’t start using renewable energies like solar energy or wind now, blackouts and outages could cause catastrophic damage.
In a nutshell, the grid can’t store excess power or meet high demands from consumers (i.e., when we need it the most). And when that happens? It shuts down.
But there is good news and there are solutions. If utilities build new infrastructure to support sustainable energies rather than fixing an outdated and very old grid, and if they support solar for both commercial and residential - including battery storage - we can create a brighter, more reliable future.
Solar Panels Plus Battery Storage Keep You Powered-up During a Blackout
Now that we’ve given you the background, let’s answer the question:
Will solar panels work during a blackout? No, unless you have battery storage. Yes, if you have battery storage.
Why do you need a battery backup? Currently, the grid will shut down during extreme weather conditions, or if consumer demand overloads the system. This power outage would include your solar panel system. Utilities can also shut down if they think the grid will become overloaded.
One of the reasons for a shutdown is safety. When utility technicians are sent to fix a power outage, we don’t want to electrocute them. The other reason is that your solar panel system is connected to the grid via a solar inverter (or “grid-tied solar”). The inverter runs to a smart meter that records the amount of energy you use, and also the excess energy that is sent back to the utility. So if the grid shuts down, so will your solar panels.
(As a reminder, don’t forget about net metering. If you have net metering plans in your state you can save even more by selling your excess energy back to your local utility company.
Batteries Store Excess Power from Your Solar Panels
When you have a solar system plus battery storage and a power outage happens, your battery kicks in to keep your house humming. Hot popcorn? No problem. Start the movie. When a blackout happens or when your utility decides to shut down the grid because a storm is on the way, your home can run on the energy stored in your solar battery. Yes, it’s as simple as that.
With solar and a battery storage system you generate, store and manage renewable power from the sun, on your own terms. When the lights go out across the neighborhood, your home stays powered up. The battery storage system allows you to store the electricity your solar panels produces during the day, and use it when you need it most.
How Long Do Solar Panels Really Last?
However, this doesn’t mean the panels on your roof will stop producing electricity after a couple of decades. It just means their energy production will decrease by what solar panel manufacturers consider optimal to meet the average American family’s energy needs.
What Is the Solar Panel Degradation Rate per Year?
Solar energy system degradation rates vary depending on the brand, as well as the climate where they’re installed. The good news is, recent data has shown modern solar systems are outperforming all expectations.
According to an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), some premium panel manufacturers offer degradation rates as low as 0.3% per year; and while other brands have higher degradation rates of up to 0.8% per year, that’s still a yearly average degradation rate of only 0.5%.
Meaning, even if you get a standard solar panel 25-year warranty period at 0.5% degradation, your solar panels should continue operating at around 88% of their original capacity after this time.3 Not too shabby at all!
Do Solar Panels Require Maintenance?
Modern solar panels are incredibly reliable, yet, they do require proper caring and cleaning to stay in top shape to guarantee you receive the most significant solar savings possible during the next 20 to 30 years. So if your solar panels don’t experience any physical damage by high winds, debris, or other factors — you can rest easy knowing they’ll last you decades. Sunrun does offer a comprehensive solar panel service guarantee that will keep your system in top shape for years to come.
3 Tips to Make Your Home Solar Panels Last Longer
Just like leaving your car sitting outside at the mercy of the elements, it’s almost certain solar panels left without maintenance will fall victim to failures. But don’t despair. Here are three tips that could add years to the life expectancy of your solar power system.
Tip #1: Team Up with a Trustworthy Solar Provider
The smartest way to ensure your solar panels work long-term is to partner with a well-respected solar installer who offers solid customer service.4 As America’s largest dedicated residential solar, storage and energy services company, at HomeLink Pros, we have guided our customers through every step of their solar journey, while helping them obtain freedom and control from their electric bills.*
Tip #2: Keep Your Panels Clear of Debris and Other Damaging Materials
When your panels are free from leaves, dirt, pollen, dust, bird droppings and falling branches, this gives them the perfect scenario to generate the highest amount of solar energy possible. You can also read more on how to clean your solar panels today.
In case your panels are obstructed or damaged by any of these elements and you don’t have the proper training or equipment to take further action, please contact your solar provider to receive assistance.
Tip #3: Make Sure Your Panels Are Regularly Monitored and Maintained
A healthy solar system is a happy system. Doing routine maintenance checks will help keep your solar system’s panel performance, meters and other parts running at maximum efficiency.
For your full peace of mind, some solar plans currently on the market, including comprehensive professional maintenance and monitoring for years. With worry-free services such as these, enjoying reliable, affordable, and clean energy will be a part of your daily routine for years to come. We also offer a comprehensive solar battery storage service in selected states. Find solar savings and peace of mind for years to come, with HomeLink Pro.
Six Steps to Solar Design and Installation
The most important thing to remember: We do all the heavy lifting. And you are kept informed every step of the way.
The Solar Design and Installation Process
Customizing your solar plan:
Our technicians will visit, measure and evaluate your home to ensure that a solar system is the right fit for you.
Sunrun’s design experts then review and make any adjustments to your custom evaluation. We pay a lot of attention to the details during this step.
We then submit your design to your local city government for permitting.
After your permit is grantedour installers arrive. They’ll go over your custom design, get your approval and then… the work begins!
There must be a final inspection by the city or county before your system can be connected to the grid.
When we submit your documents to the utility company they’ll installnet metering. Your utility will then grant you a “Permission to Operate.”
Now you’re ready to flip the switch and go green with alternative energy. Congratulations!
We’re On It, Peace Of Mind When You Need It Most
Rest assured, we guide this process every step of the way. We’re on it. Some patience is required as the city and state have legal permits and inspections, plus the utility company has an installation, too. During these steps, we are on their schedule.
Again, we do the heavy lifting for you so the entire process should be worry-free. Have a question? Contact us today.
What Happens During a Solar Installation
Now, there’s just the little matter of getting those cool new rooftop accessories installed. Well, the good news is you don’t have to lift a finger during your solar panel installation because we take care of everything from top to bottom. Still, it’s important to know what’s going to be happening every step of the way. Here’s what you can expect on the day your solar panels go up:
Your solar installation team arrives.
A team of friendly installers will introduce themselves, review your personalized solar panel installation plan and ask you for access to work areas like your electrical panel and attic.
The crew marks off work zones and may move some furniture.
This is so the team can get better access to work areas. They’ll be as neat as possible but since your home is a temporary work site, you’ll probably be seeing a few tools and materials in designated areas during the solar installation process.
Safety ropes are installed, as well as the rails your solar panels will sit on.
You may hear some noise when this happens, but it’s nothing to worry about. Rest assured that the solar panel installation team will securely seal all holes at the end of installation. Plus, you have the peace of mind of knowing that you’re covered by a 10-year roof warranty.
Electrical equipment goes on the side of your home.
Crews will mount equipment such as an inverter, a meter and electrical disconnects. They’ll also install electrical wiring (known as conduit) to connect the equipment and custom design it for your home. Did you know that the team can even paint conduit before it’s installed? So, if you have some exterior paint lying around, be sure to let them know.
Time to get those beautiful panes up on your roof.
Up go the solar panels and down goes the crew, leaving your home as spotless as they found it. Now, you’re one step closer to getting clean, renewable energy!
You’re in the home stretch.
Within the next few weeks, the city or county will do its final inspection. Then your local utility company installs its net meter and gives you permission to operate or PTO (don’t worry we submit all that paperwork for you) and you’re good to go.
Congratulations, the solar panel installation is complete! Now you can tap into those shiny new, energy-generating solar panels and start saving big on your electric bill.
What are tiered utility rates?
In many cases, we'll recommend a system that only offsets only your expensive tiers to help you maximize your savings. Solar systems built for people with tiered rates often are designed to eliminate the expensive high tier electricity from your utility.
When we customize your home solar system, we assess your energy needs to determine the number of solar panels you’ll need for your home. You’ll still be connected to the grid in case you need to source any extra energy. However, our goal is to keep you in the lower tiers to ensure maximum savings.
Not all utilities are created equal, and not all utilities have tiered utility rates— in fact, a few states like California have inverted tier rates. Contact your local utility to see how yours is set up. You can also contact one of our expert solar consultants, who can help you with all the ins and outs of your local utility.
How Does Solar Panel Billing Work?
How Do Solar Providers Measure and Charge for Energy Usage?
One of the great advantages of solar lease and PPA plans is that your solar provider will carefully monitor your system’s performance and equipment until your lease or PPA contract ends. And in most states, the average electric bill savings with solar panels translate into thousands of dollars over the next two to three decades.
Solar leases and PPAs are often valid from 20 to 25 years, and like leasing a vehicle, when the term ends you have the option to renew your agreement, purchase the system or, in the case of Sunrun, we can also remove the panels and restore your roof to its original condition before installation.
What Are the Differences Between Solar Lease and PPA Billing?
Solar Lease Billing:
With a solar lease, you have a contract stipulating your solar provider agrees to fund the financing, permitting, and installation of a solar system and charge you a monthly rate for its use during the length of your lease term.4
Consider these three factors:
- Your solar company owns the system.
- You pay a monthly amount to lease the system.
- In many instances, solar leases include maintenance, repairs, system monitoring, and insurance for the duration of your plan.
With a solar lease, such as Sunrun’s BrightSave Monthly, you'll be completely covered with a comprehensive warranty. With BrightSave Monthly, Sunrun will also pass down the value from incentives, rebates, and tax credits to you in the form of a lower solar lease bill; making it an ideal solar plan to secure long-term peace of mind.
Solar PPA Billing:
With a PPA, you have a contract with your solar provider where they handle the financing, permitting, and installation of a solar system in your property for little to no cost.5 Then, you agree to purchase the power produced by the panels at a set price per-kilowatt-hour (kWh); which depending on the type of PPA plan your provider offers, you can pay for the power monthly or prepay for it altogether.
Consider these three factors:
- Your solar company owns the system.
- The system’s expected production in Year 1 determines the price you pay for your energy.
- You pay a monthly bill or pay upfront for all the expected production. And while other solar providers may send you a variable monthly bill, or even an annual True-Up statement if your panels produce more energy than expected; with Sunrun’s PPA plans, the overproduction will always be yours and free of charge. Meaning, there’s no True-Up statements, and we’ll only send you fixed monthly bills based on the system’s expected production.
In many instances, monthly and prepaid PPAs include maintenance, repairs, system monitoring, and insurance for the duration of your plan.
With a prepaid PPA plan, such as Sunrun’s BrightSave™ Prepaid, there are no monthly solar bills. And because you’re prepaying for your energy, you’ll maximize your peace of mind. Besides, with BrightSave Prepaid, Sunrun takes into account the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC),6 so it feels like buying a system, but without the hassles of dealing with IRS forms. Plus, it includes bumper-to-bumper coverage for the life of the product; making it an ideal solar plan if you’re looking for simplicity.
Are Solar Lease and PPA Plans Worth It?
Since solar leases and PPAs let homeowners avoid the high upfront solar panel cost right off the bat and skip the maintenance and monitoring worries of solar ownership, they’re both solid ways to switch to solar.7
Especially with a provider such as Sunrun, where we offer professional installation, maintenance, monitoring, along with system insurance during the length of your solar lease or PPA agreement. And if you happen to sell your home, we guarantee a seamless agreement transfer for the new buyer/owner of the property.
Now’s a Great Time to Go Solar
Solar system prices have dropped to an all-time low,8 prompting solar energy installations to skyrocket. In fact, there are now 1.5+ million residential solar systems installed in America, and approximately every 90 seconds, a new homeowner is going solar somewhere in our country.9
Solar energy is one of the best ways to offset your future electricity bills. Especially when you’re living in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, California or New York; that have the highest utility rates in the U.S.10 Solar panel savings in these states could add up to $36,000 or more throughout the next two or three decades.
While financial returns are a smart reason to go solar, money isn’t the only thing solar systems help you save. When you install solar panels on your roof, you help the environment too, by reducing your carbon footprint.11
Peace of Mind for Years To Come
If you’re considering a lease or PPA plan to get your new residential solar system, we recommend contacting HomeLink Pros.
How many solar panels will my home need?
Every household is going to be different depending on a number of factors. That’s why our solar experts are here to help you sort through all the technical stuff. So instead of wracking your brain over “how many solar panels will I need?” or “what kind of inverter do I buy?”, prepare yourself by asking these questions instead.
How much power do I need?
Check your electric bills to see how many kilowatts you useon an average day. A typical system generates 5 kilowatts per day but your home may need more or less. We’ll go over this with you in more detail during your free solar consultation to figure out just how much power a solar system will need to produce in order to power your home.
What’s your climate like?
The number of panels you need depends on how much solar radiation reaches the ground where you are. Feel like clouds are oftentimes in your neighborhood forecast? Believe it or not, solar can work well even if it’s overcast.
How much direct sun hits your roof?
In general, you’ll need 100 square feet of south-facing roof space for every kilowatt of power. Clouds? No problem, the sun can handle it. Actually, it’s shadows from chimneys, trees, or taller buildings that are a bigger obstacle for the sun’s rays. But not to worry, we can take a look and help with that too.
Even if you don’t have the exact answers to all these questions, it doesn’t hurt to give them some thought. You’ll be all the more prepared and know the right questions to ask during your free solar consultation (and thoroughly impress our solar experts). Consider them as a starting point towards solar success. And don’t worry—we’ll tell you how many solar panels you’ll need too.
How Much Maintenance is Required for Solar Panels?
How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
Solar panels have a lifespan of approximately 25-30 years, and often come with warranties to match, stating they’ll produce at least 80% of the rated power after two decades of usage. They’re incredibly reliable! And although solar systems require little regular maintenance, some solar providers offer comprehensive maintenance packages for the life of their products to ensure they efficiently continue generating clean, affordable, and reliable energy for years to come.
If you lease or buy a solar system from a solar provider who offers a maintenance agreement, your solar technicians will routinely inspect your panels at designated times throughout the year and even clean them for you. Meaning, with a plan of this type, once your system is up, you’ll forget about it — and simply enjoy your electric bill savings; while helping the environment stay clear from harmful greenhouse gas emissions by reducing your carbon footprint.
In case your home solar panels don’t come with a maintenance plan, we’ll walk you through some essential steps you can take to keep them running smoothly.
The Best Way to Clean Your Solar Panels
Remember solar panels need the sun to work. The more sunlight that hits your panels, the more power they’ll produce. But since they are angled toward the sun — this positioning unfortunately allows more dirt, pollen, leaves, birds droppings, and dust to collect on top of them. Even a small amount of grime has the capacity to reduce their energy production. That’s why it’s important to conduct periodic maintenance checks & visual inspections of your system.
Do you live in a rainy climate? In many scenarios, rain will wash off the debris your solar panels collect, especially when installed at a steeper tilt. Yet, if your panels happen to gather an unusually thick coating of filth, or if you’re a desert inhabitant familiar with layers of sand and grit covering your outdoor material possessions — you can easily rinse your panels without leaving the ground with plain ole’ water. Just direct your hose spray up to your panels and shower them off, this will imitating the cleansing action of natural rainfall.
Seeing your roof getting too comfy with a snow blanket? Fortunately, most of the time the snow will melt in around a day or two due to the sun’s rays and the heat your home produces. Besides ice build up, you shouldn’t worry about your solar panels working during the cold weather.
Solar Maintenance Safety Tips
If for any reason using a hose spray at ground level doesn’t wash off the grime on your solar panels, or the snow doesn't melt away. At HomeLink Pros, we can’t stress enough how your safety is our #1 concern and advise against further attempts to clean your panels without the proper training and equipment. So please, contact your trusted solar provider to receive professional assistance.
The United States Department of Energy (DOE) is committed to facilitating widespread adoption of safe, reliable and cost-effective solar energy. One of the reasons it founded the Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (Solar ABCs) organization, with one of their objectives being maintaining quality control and safety standards on PV installations. Click here to learn more about their report: “PV System Operations and Maintenance Fundamentals.”
How Much Does Solar Power Maintenance Cost?
Solar panel maintenance costs can vary greatly depending on each solar provider because system installations are often tailored to the unique energy needs of each homeowner.
With HomeLink Pros our plans include worry-free professional maintenance and monitoring for two decades. However, if you’re looking to purchase your own solar system, Our plans also have your back by letting you receive the equipment warranties directly from top manufacturers in the industry.
And if you have more questions about which maintenance routine your future solar system will need, our team of advisors is ready to discuss your energy needs and help you find the ideal solar solution for your home. Start with a complimentarysolar quote today!