Below is a list of frequently asked questions about solar energy. Are there other things you'd like to know about solar? Send us an email and we'll try to add your question.
What is solar energy?
Solar energy takes advantage of the sun's rays to generate heat or electricity. It is an infinitely renewable resource and unique for its ability to generate energy in a quiet, clean, and consistent manner. Can't beat the sun for being oh-so-cool!
How do solar photovoltaic cells work?
In layperson terms, photovoltaic cells are comprised of a semiconductor material such as silicon. Added to the silicon are the elements phosphorous and boron which create conductivity within the cell and activate the movement of electrons. The electrons move across the cell when activated by the sunlight's energy into the electrical circuit hooked up to the solar panel.
How much will I really save on my utility bills from a home solar electric power system?
Of course this is a relative question. It depends, in part, on how much electricity you use and how efficient the appliances are that you operate. That said expect to generate excess electricity in the summer (when days are long) which can potentially offset the energy you use from the grid in the winter. A combination of energy efficient appliances and light bulbs can help reduce your homes energy bill by over two-thirds. Find out more about the costs and potential savings from a residential solar electric power by contacting us at 866-926-9997
What's the difference between solar electric and solar hot water systems?
While both types of solar systems capture energy from the sun, solar electric systems use photovoltaic panels to produce electricity. Solar hot water, or thermal, systems capture sunlight to heat water for domestic use, to heat a swimming pool, or for a radiant heating system.
How do solar pool heating systems work?
Pool heating systems use a modified solar hot water system to capture the sun's rays to heat your pool or hot tub.
How much maintenance do solar energy panels require?
Solar electric panels require little maintenance; no need to wash or dust. It is, however, important to place panels where they will remain clear of shade and debris. Thus you will have to wipe them off if too much snow or leaves fall on them. Solar hot water collection arrays don't need much attention either. It does help to periodically use a window wash brush, biodegradable soap, and water to clean the tubes.
Can I use a financing system?
Yes. Solar energy systems are viewed as a major home energy savings upgrade and there are financial tools out there that reward you for your efforts. Remember, installing a solar electric energy system is comparable to any other upgrade you might do to your home, such as installing a new deck or remodeling a kitchen. However, a solar electric system pays back!
Do I need special insurance requirements?
Standard homeowner's insurance policies usually suffice to meet electric utility requirements. Electric utilities usually require that homeowners who take advantage of net metering sign an interconnection agreement.
Will I need a building permit to install a solar electric energy system in my home?
Yes. You'll need to obtain building permits to install a solar electric system. Similarly, building electrical codes also apply. That said, residential solar power systems do not use radical building techniques and most jurisdictions have building codes that fully embrace solar electric energy technology. Solar professionals will roll the price for permits into their cost estimate.
What if I'm the first person I know to install a solar electric system on my home?
First off, congratulations! Secondly, there are plenty of resources out there. Most solar electric building standards are based on the National Electric Code (NEC) Article 690. If you happen to be one of the first in your area to install a solar PV system, you can work with Highlight Solar to successfully install your solar electric system.
When should I seek a solar professional?
Although solar electric energy systems work in parallel with conventional residential electrical systems, there are quirks in the process well suited to seeking out professionals who specialize in solar power installation. Solar electric installation professionals can help you determine the type and size of system most suited for your needs. Please contact Highlight Solar for your solar panels installation.
What should I ask a solar professional installer?
Solar professional installers can take the guess work out of installing a solar power system. Whether you are considering solar electric, a solar pro can help you determine the type and size of system that will work best and guide you through the process. Highlight Solar is here to help you.
Why is it important to get multiple bids?
As with any major purchase, it's helpful to compare costs and information. Seeking information from multiple professionals can provide constructive advice, set realistic expectations, and help you fine-tune the design that will work best for your application.
How can I calculate the cost and payback time from a solar panels installation?
You can estimate how much a solar electric system may cost if you determine your current energy needs and costs and compare against your future anticipated use. Once you have a sense of how much electric energy you use, you can evaluate the cost of purchasing and installing your solar electric system. Luckily in today's market you can take advantage of multiple federal, state, and local tax credits, rebates and other financial incentives that create attractive and competitive prices for solar electric systems.
How long will it take to install a solar power system in my home?
Planning, configuring, and doing any custom ordering for your solar electric system can take up to a few weeks. However, the installation process itself can typically be completed in few days time.
How can Highlight Solar help me shop for solar?
Highlight Solar is your preferred solar electric service provider. We offer free solar site inspection, free financial analysis, free solar system design and professional solar panel installation.
What components do I need to install a grid-tied solar electric system?
You will need a solar electric array to capture the sun's energy, an inverter to convert the direct current (DC) produced from the solar electric cells into alternating current (AC) used by your home, and a house utility meter called a net meter that can record both the electricity produced from your home's power system as well as any power you may use off the grid. These three system components are then connected through a series of wiring. The solar electric panels are secured to your roof with panel mounts or are installed on poles that can be adjusted for sun angle.
What is a net meter?
Net meters look very much like other outdoor meters with one notable exception they spin both forwards and backwards recording both the power produced and power used.
Do I need battery backup for my solar panels?
Probably not, a backup battery bank can add as much as 40% in cost to a residential solar electric system. It's not necessarily more efficient either; a same sized solar array will yield about 10% less energy if it's battery-tied than its grid-tied counterpart. Though you will remain tethered to your local utilities' grid, you will not have to worry about not generating enough power. You also gain the advantage of offsetting rising utility costs. Most solar electric experts do not recommend adding a backup battery system unless there is concern about a long utility outage or the residence is in a remote location.
How much space do I need for a solar electric system?
In bright sunlight, a square foot of a conventional solar electric panel will yield 10 watts of power. That's a helpful rule of thumb for calculating a rough estimate of how much area you might need. For example, a 1000 watt system may need 100 & 200 square feet of area, depending on the type of solar electric module used.
How many solar panels do I need for a solar electric power system?
The size of the solar electric system is correlated to your home's energy-use needs, available space for a system, and overall costs for the system components and installation. Highlight Solar can help determine the best size for your solar electric system.
How much shading is too much for solar electric panels?
Unfortunately shading a solar electric system dramatically decreases its output. Just shading the bottom row of wafers alone amounts to an 80% reduction in efficiency. So above all, don't shade your array!
How do I know if solar panels will work on my home?
Take a look at the position of your home on its lot and particularly your roof. Ask the following questions:
Is there good southern exposure? Orienting solar panels to the south maximizes the effectiveness of energy collection.
Is the exposure free of trees or buildings that could shade the panels or drop debris on them? Shading solar electric panels dramatically reduces their effectiveness.
What is the pitch of your roof? Most roofs, from flat to 60-degrees can accommodate electric panels.
Do I need to have south facing exposure to have a solar energy system?
Although southern exposure increases the effectiveness of a residential solar power system, your home may still work for solar power without having south facing exposure. Seek advice from Highlight Solar to ensure success.
What other factors are important to consider when installing a home solar electric system?
The location of your home and the local climate will play into where you place and how you install your solar electric or solar hot water system. Wind speeds, heavy snow loads, and salt water can all affect a solar array. Understanding how those inputs effect performance will determine the types of mounts or how the arrays are angled. Highlight Solar is quite knowledgeable and can help you design what works well for you.
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We are the top rated Bay Area solar installer on Yelp, Solar Reviews and Better Business Bureau. We have received the Solar Power World Top 500 Solar Contractors award in the US. Highlight Solar is your ideal partner for renewable and clean solar energy. We also install high quality pool solar collectors that can double your swimming season!