solar panel payment options

Everything you need to know about solar panel loans, leases and purchases

When considering purchasing a solar panel system in Southern California, it is important to decide which payment option is best for you.

There are several options that you can consider depending on the amount you want to spend up front, and if you are willing to pay interest on the purchase.

Solar Loans

Exactly like a home loan or a car loan, a solar loan is specifically for paying for adding solar to your home. You can begin receiving tax credits and incentives associated with solar. Many solar loans are now available via banks, credit unions, and solar companies themselves.

Ideal for: Homeowners who want to save a large payment up front and place $0 down, and who will be able to use the corresponding tax credits to offset the cost over time. Keep in mind that you will be paying additional interest on the loan over time, which increase the cost of the product.

Solar Leases

Just like leasing a car – you pay a monthly fee and the solar leasing company installs your panels on the roof. The solar leasing company services them, and you receive the energy they produce while saving on your electric bill. Obviously, this option is best if you are planning to stay for a medium amount of time in one home to reap the full benefits. Leasing also takes away the worry of any damage or problems with the system as the company services the panels regularly.

Ideal for: Homeowners who want to go solar with $0 money down and as little hassle as possible. Also good to let someone else manage the solar panels maintenance.

Solar PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements)

A Power Purchase Agreement is where you pay for the power your panels produce each month from a solar company, just like your regular utility contract. Usually, this is at a reduced price for the length of the contract. A solar company installs and services the panels. So essentially you are paying a reduced rate for electrical power, as well as adding to the environmental benefits of solar.

Ideal for: Homeowners who would want to benefit from the power coming off the panels, and saving money due to the discounted power rates. In most cases, the final savings are typically equivalent to a lease option but could vary if you have exceptionally sunny or cloudy days.

Solar Cash Purchases

A cash purchase is where you pay for the whole solar unit and installation upfront. The clear benefit is that you own the system outright, which provides you with a free source of electricity and considerable utility savings over time. As well as this, you receive any tax credits and incentives associated with installing solar in your state. Adding solar panels to a property can also increase the overall value of the home.

Ideal for: Homeowners who have the funds ready, and are willing to pay for their system upfront in exchange for the highest savings in the long-run. A cash purchase is a long-term investment that definitely continues to pay for itself.

 

G C Electric Solar is a San Diego-based solar panel installer. Our solar panel installers will ensure that your system is installed according to the highest quality of workmanship available in the industry. We custom design each project based on your needs and pay close attention to all details. Contact us today to find out how our Solar panel systems can work for you.

Is my roof too small for solar panels?

Is your roof ready for solar panels?

Many people who live in Southern California realize that having solar on their roof can be a great way to save money, increase the value of their home, and reduce energy consumption. However, with the shrinking size of homes in the US, it can sometimes be confusing whether solar panels are an option for houses with small roofs.

Is my roof too small for solar panels?

The average size of a solar panel installation used on rooftops is approximately 65 inches by 39 inches (165cm x 99cm). Photovoltaic cells come in a standard size of 156 square millimeters, (approx 6 inches x 6 inches).

The average solar panel system in the U.S. is 6 kilowatts (kW). Therefore, if you install a 6kW system with 20 average-sized panels, your system will measure approximately 352 square feet (32 square meters).

To measure square footage multiply the length by the height. So for example, a 15’ x 20’ roof has 300 square feet. This amount of space is generally enough to manage a solar panel system.

Of course, not all roofs are rectangular, so it can make sense to have a licensed professional solar installer take a look.  Most solar panel installers can design solar energy systems for all kinds of roof configurations.

Dormers, vent pipes, chimneys, and skylights take up roof space and can also cast shade on panels. However, the good news is solar panels still often works on those homes.

Is my roof too old for solar panels?

If your house is older than say 30 years, then the roof itself may need repair before you can install panels. It may be worth checking with a licensed builder to determine the lifespan of your roof.

If your roof doesn’t have at least ten years of lifespan left, meaning the shingles are cracked or in poor condition, you should consider replacing your roof before installing solar.

These are usually the two biggest reasons why people cannot install solar panels on their roof. However, with planning and the assistance of a licensed and experienced solar panel installer, this can easily be overcome.

If you are looking to install solar panels onto your southern California home, then look no further than GC Electric Solar. We are one of the top rated solar panel installers in San Diego and have been installing solar for over ten years.

Do I need a permit to install solar panels in California?

Do I need a permit to install solar panels in California?

If you’re considering installing solar panels in your California home, one of the biggest questions is whether you need a permit to install. The short answer is yes.

But the good news is that it’s relatively simple and straightforward to do, especially when you work with a licensed Solar Panel Installer.

It is essential to speak with an experienced professional, as installing photovoltaic panels without applying for the proper permissions can have serious consequences. In some instances, there can be fines, or you may be required to remove the panels.

Permit requirements for Solar Panel installation in California

A great resource to review is the California Solar Permitting Guidebook, produced by the Center for Sustainable Energy.

Since 2015, the requirement for installing solar panels has been somewhat expedited for homeowners.

The Assembly Bill 2188 (Muratsuchi, 2014) requires local governments to adopt an administrative ordinance that creates a streamlined permitting process for small rooftop solar system installations on or before September 30, 2015. It also limits the number of inspections that may be required.

To comply, you must ensure that your solar panel system meets the following criteria.

1. Are no larger than 10 kilowatts alternating current nameplate rating or 30 kilowatts thermal

2. Conform to all applicable state fire, structural, electrical and other building codes as adopted or amended by the city, county or city and county and paragraph (3) of subdivision (c) of Section 714 of the Civil Code

3. Are installed on a single-family or duplex family dwelling

4. Do not exceed the maximum legal building height as defined by the authority having jurisdiction

Most solar panel installers will know about and abide by these conditions, which will ensure the process for application is relatively straightforward. They will guide you through each step and explain what is possible for your home.

 

If you have questions about getting a permit for your home for solar panel installation, you can contact GCE, based in San Diego, California. We employ experienced engineers and solar installers to ensure that your system will be installed according to the highest quality of workmanship available in the industry. We custom design each project based on your needs and pay close attention to all details.

solar panel installer san diego

The 5 Components of a Solar Panel System

Ever wondered how Solar Panels work? How does that light get stored, converted, and even sent back and forth to the Utility company?

Here is a basic guide to help you understand how the sun on your roof turns into savings and free energy for you.

To make it simpler, each solar panel system has five different components

1) Solar Panels

These are sometimes known as solar modules and are made up of silicon cells that absorb photons (sunlight) to create a ‘photovoltaic’ effect. This is the process that converts sunlight into electricity. When the panels are connected together, they are called a ‘solar array’. This solar array is then connected to your home via an inverter, delivering the electricity you need.

2) Solar Inverter

A solar inverter is an electrical box that turns the direct current (DC) electricity that is produced by solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity that is used in your home. When solar inverters are connected to the grid, this allows the AC electricity to be sent back to the grid if you solar panel system produces more energy than you use.

3) Solar Meter

A solar meter monitors the electricity your system produces to ensure it is working well. With most solar meters today, you will have access to assess your solar system’s performance, both online and from your mobile device.

4) The Grid

The ‘grid’ is basically the network of power lines that carries and transmits electricity from power plants to individual homes. A lot of systems today are grid-tied (ie. connected to the grid), so you are still able to power your house when the sun doesn’t shine, and take advantage of tax incentives and rebates.

5) Utility Service

Depending on where you live, either a local municipality or a large power producer will send power to you via the grid. At the end of the year, if you’ve produced more energy than you used, some utility services may compensate you for this extra power. To find out if this is an option where you live, contact your local utility service provider or visit their website.
Of course, as a solar-enabled home, it is unlikely that you will need to be dealing with any of these components, except to engage a solar panel installer. They will set up and connect your home, and arrange all the paperwork for you to connect to the grid.

If you need help getting started with Solar Panels, you can trust GCE. We are known as one of the top San Diego solar panel installers. Our experienced engineers and solar panel installation team will ensure that your system is installed according to the highest standards of workmanship available in the industry. Speak to us today to learn more about Solar panels installation for your home.

solar panel installation san diego

7 Factors that affect the cost of Solar Panels

“How much does it cost to set up solar in your home?”

As a Southern-California Solar Panel installer, this is always one of the first questions we are asked. And understandably so.

However, the answer can be a little complicated. Even though we would love to have an exact dollar amount to give each person immediately, solar energy is not a one size fits all solution.

Each solar system is custom designed to meet a home’s specific needs, and also takes into consideration their tax and rebate benefits.
This is why several variables will impact the final cost.

A solar panel system is designed to cover as much of your energy usage as makes economic sense for you. It’s our goal to provide you with a system that fits your needs while delivering the shortest payback period and best return on your investment.

7 Pricing Factors for Solar Panel Systems

1) Type of Installation

There are many different types of solar panel installations. Roof mounts are the most common. However, ground mounts and carports installations can require additional posts that must be anchored into the ground. This can sometimes create higher labor and component costs.

2) Type of Equipment

The two basic variables with solar panels are power density and color.

Power density is the amount of power that a solar panel produces per unit of size. As a rule, the more ‘power dense’ the panel, the higher cost per watt. Color is the other variable with solar panels.
A basic panel has a blue cell, a white back sheet, and a silver frame. Modules with a black frame, will have a black back sheet, or black cell and are generally more expensive.

String Inverters: solar Panels are linked together in one or more groups. Each group feeds into a ‘string inverter,’ which feeds several panels into one inverter. String inverters tend to be more cost-effective than other types of inverters, and hence are a popular choice for homeowners.

Micro Inverters: microinverters are mounted next to individual solar panels and prevent performance issues if one or more of your solar panels are shaded. Although this type of inverter does have its benefits, they tend to be the more expensive type of inverter.

Power Optimizers: power optimizers have many of the benefits of micro-inverters. They are generally more expensive than string inverters but are less costly than micro-inverters.

3) Roof Type

Solar panels can be installed on metal, shingle, and flat roofs. Each type of roof requires different components and varying levels of labor to install.

Shingle roofs require a specific flashing piece to attach the panel racking to the roof. For a ribbed or standing seam metal roof, racking is connected directly to the metal. Panels are installed on a flat roof using a ballast mount – a tray held in place by a concrete block.

4) Energy Consumption

Most solar systems are designed to offset as much energy consumption as possible.\. However, the more energy production needed, the more panels and equipment the system will require. There can often be a ‘sweet spot’ of cost and energy production that each homeowner needs to consider.

5) Shading & Weather

The environment surrounding your solar panels is critical to consider. Depending on how much shade your yard will impact the number of panels needed and the location. A system that is in full sun will potentially produce the more energy with fewer panels, whereas more shade will mean more panels to provide the same amount of energy.

As well as this, weather patterns in each region are different. In areas like San Diego solar panels are an ideal solution because the sun shines almost every day. In cloudy or snowy regions this is not the case. Today, most solar panel systems are designed with shade and weather variables in mind, and it will impact the system size and the equipment needed.

6) Interconnection Cost

Interconnection is the process of connecting your solar panel system to the community power grid. Each local utility has specific requirements that must be followed, and some of these could impact the type of meter you need, or whether transformer upgrades are required.

The interconnection cost is different for each project, depending on how much solar is already in your area, the age and strength of the equipment on your line, and the size of the solar array itself.

7) Distance to the Interconnection Point

Any unused power that is repurposed for net metering must be transported to the utility meter. The farther the solar panels (sometimes called a solar array) is from the interconnection point with the utility, the higher the cost can be. This is due to the conduit installation and the trenching required, as well as the size of wire needed. The farther the distance, the larger the wiring required.

The seven factors can affect the overall cost of solar panel installation and can require a custom quote for the solar installation. This is why working with a professional solar installer can help.

G C Electric Solar is one of the top-rated San Diego solar panel installers. You can trust in our experience helping to reduce energy costs for many homeowners. Contact us today to learn more about Solar panels installation for your home.

Can I install solar panels myself?

Can I install solar panels myself?

When people contact us a solar panel installer, we often get the question “why can’t I just install these panels myself?”

This is a valid question, and obviously, yes, you can do anything yourself. However, there are several benefits to having a professional installer. Here are the main reasons our customers usually decide to work with a professional.

1) Solar panels require a lot of research

If you are the type of person that loves to look into the details of every different product you purchase, then this might be appealing. For most of us, however, the idea of reviewing a whole list of solar products can be mind-numbing. This is where a professional can help. We have worked with a variety of brands and know the pros and cons of each type. We can give you an experienced overview of the best solar panels for your style of home, and electricity needs.

2) Quality of the DIY solar panel kits can vary

Most DIY low-cost solar panels are made overseas and travel thousands of miles from to reach your home. Many of them are made with outdated photovoltaic technology and provide less efficiency. If you do choose to purchase the DIY solar panels, ensure you get high-quality, top-output panels as part of your kit.

Also, keep in mind, any returns for broken or damaged solar panels may not be a simple process. Especially if bought from overseas, or through a third party distributor. While the appeal of cheaper panels is tempting, remember that often the add-on costs and risks can cause more expenses.

3) Understanding the correct sizing

In just about every case, panels from a kit designed for DIY installation won’t be as effective as a custom-designed system. This is because a custom solar panel installation is based on your property’s specific energy needs. When installing, it is important to consider what size solar panel system is best suited for your electricity usage, today, tomorrow and potentially 25 years from now?

4) Understanding the requirements of your home

A lot of the role of a professional solar panel installer is to do with measuring up your roof and considering the needs of your home. We will look at issues such as:

  • If your roof has sufficient space at the correct angles for sunlight
  • Where solar panels should be positioned and the optimal tilt
  • If your roof can bear the load of solar panels

Also keep in mind that if solar panels are not placed correctly, it is difficult to get the optimal amount of power. Over time, this may be the biggest issue that causes your costs to rise. The offset cost over time may not be worth the initial investment.

5) Getting the paperwork completed

Even if you decide on a DIY solar power installation, you’ll require a local licensed electrician to prepare the sign-off paperwork for connection to the grid. This is crucial if you are planning to take advantage of net metering.

Also, keep in mind that many of the local, state, and federal rebates which solar savings actually require the installation be completed by a licensed installer.

In conclusion: The most significant part of the process of getting solar panels isn’t just putting them up on the roof. It’s taking the time to research and plan every part of your system beforehand. The assistance of a licensed solar panel installer can help you understand how solar panels work and the basic principles in the planning process. Even though you may appear to save a few dollars up front, the small cost savings over time can work against you.

G C Electric Solar is known as one of the top San Diego solar panel installers. You can trust in our experience helping to reduce energy costs for many homeowners. Our experienced engineers and solar panel installation team will ensure that your system will be installed according to the highest standards of workmanship available in the industry. Speak to us today to learn more about Solar panels installation for your home.

What is Net Metering 2.0 (NEM 2.0) and how does it work?

What is Net Metering 2.0 (NEM 2.0) and how does it work?

Many homeowners install solar panels because they can see the value of saving money through net metering.

Net metering is when a solar panel system produces more power than what is being used in the home. The excess electricity is sent back to the grid, and a credit from your utility provider is given at the retail power rate per hour.

Each kWh of power that your produce offsets the cost of another kWh drawn from the grid at a time your solar system can’t produce power (at night or on cloudy days).


How Net Metering 2.0 (NEM 2.0) works:

As more homes install solar panels, and the volume of energy being sent back to the grid, the percentage of energy coming from solar started to become significant. This is excellent news for the environment, however, the state Public Utilities Commission, decided it was time for a new NEM standard.

The new standard was named NEM 2.0, and it’s actually still a great incentive for solar panel owners.

Here’s an 8 step breakdown of Net Metering 2.0:

  1. You decide to buy a solar panel system and install it on your roof.
  2. The utility company sets them you with an interconnection agreement, which includes a small fee of $75-$150. This agreement allows your to get your solar panel system connected to the grid and start earning credits.
  3. You also signs up for Time-of-Use (TOU) billing, meaning you pay more for electricity when the demand is high (peak time) and less when people aren’t using as much (off-peak).
  4. You then receive bigger credits for solar energy sent to the grid at peak times, and lower credit for energy sent at off-peak times.
  5. The resulting kWh are netted monthly, meaning that the amount used is offset by the amount sent to the grid. The homeowner also has to pay a minimum monthly fee (the same as non-solar owners), and a small fee for each solar kWh sent to the grid (approx 2 cents per kWh.)
  6. At the end of each month, the homeowner pays the bill for the monthly charge.
  7. At the end of the year, all the kWh that were sent to the grid are subtracted from all the kWh that the customer used, and a final bill called the “true-up” is due. (Here is an example True Up bill from PG&E).
  8. If your solar system is sized to meet your usage and you hit that number, your true-up bill could be $0. If you used more electricity than you sent to the grid, you have to pay for the balance. If your panels made more than you used all year, you will receive about 3-4 cents per kWh for the extra.

 

Getting Started with Net Metering 2.0

These 8 steps will help you get started with Net Metering for your solar panels. If your home is served by SDG&E, SCE or PG&E, your NEM 2.0 arrangement will likely very similar to what this scenario shows.

If you have specific questions about the best rebates for your solar panels, then GCE can assist you.


G C Electric Solar is widely known as one of the best solar panel installers in San Diego. We employ experienced engineers to perform our solar installations, to ensure that your system will be installed according to the highest quality of workmanship available in the industry. We custom design each project based on your needs and pay close attention to all details. Call us today to learn more about our Solar panel systems and how we can help you.

how to clean solar panels

A Quick Guide to Cleaning Solar Panels

If you purchase your electricity from a conventional supplier, then any maintenance that is needed is done by the electricity company.

However, when it comes to solar panels it’s not as simple. The solar panel system is purchased by the homeowner, and although there is a warranty on parts, the responsibility of maintenance falls to the homeowner.

Regular solar system maintenance can ensure a better energy efficiency for the panels, and a greater amount of electricity being generated for net metering and home use.

Helping your solar panels to remain efficient

Most solar panels installed today will have a lifespan of approximately 25-30 years. They typically come with 20-year manufacturers warranties stating they’ll produce at least 80% of the rated power after two decades of usage.

On top of this, some solar panel 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.

Cleaning Your Solar Panels

So you’ve decided you want to clean your solar panels yourself. The good news is that in most cities, rain will take care of keeping your panels clean.

Solar panels that are installed at steeper tilt won’t tend to get covered in dust and pollen, and it will typically be washed off with every rainfall. If they are flatter, the dust may not wash off as easily.

In cities such as San Diego and most of Southern California, rain is not as common. (Remember that old Albert Hammond song?)

If your solar panels start to accumulate dust or pollen, you can easily clean them with plain water. A simple hosing of the rooftop every 3-6 months is typically all that is needed.

Cleaning with Soapy Water

If you are willing to climb onto the roof, the most effective way to clean your solar panels is with a hose and a bucket of soapy water.

When washing by hand, there can be a danger of scratching the glass, which will reduce the light that gets to the solar cells. For this reason, when you choose solar panel cleaning products, it’s important to avoid any type of abrasive cleanser. As a rule, if you wouldn’t use it on your car, then don’t use it on solar panels.

Detergent cleaners can cause problems if they leave streaks and smudges that may be hard for you to see. These can also decrease the light that passes through.

Rubbing alcohol dissolved in water can take care of any oily residue or other dirt that may have found its way onto the glass.

When wiping down your panels, you can use a soft cloth or squeegee. As solar panels are made of glass, you don’t really need to shop for specialized solar panel cleaning tools. It’s basically the same products that you would use to wash your car.

Sun and Shade Monitoring

When they are first installed, solar panels are placed in a location that allows maximum sun exposure. Over time, trees can grow taller, and cause the patterns of sun and shade can change. Also, new construction on adjacent properties may have an effect on how much sun your installation gets.

Because of this, during the lifetime of your panels, it’s important to make sure that they are still located with the optimum sunlight orientation.

Overall, solar panels don’t require a lot of maintenance as there are no moving parts.

Always remember to be safety conscious when inspecting your panels and if your panels are too high up on the roof, consider hiring a professional cleaner.

G C Electric Solar is known as one of the best solar panel installers in San Diego. We employ experienced engineers to perform our solar installations, to ensure that your system will be installed according to the highest quality of workmanship available in the industry. We custom design each project based on your needs and pay close attention to all details. Call us today to learn more about our Solar panel systems and how we can help you.

Do solar panels increase the value of a property?

Do solar panels increase the value of a property?

The verdict is in: an increasing number of homeowners are installing solar panels to save money. But on top of this, there is another type of value that is worth considering.

One question we as solar panel installers often get is, do solar panels increase property value?

The good news: yes they do.

According to a study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBL), installing solar panels can significantly increase your property’s value. according to their 2015 study from over 3,000 homeowners with solar panel systems, “We find home buyers are consistently willing to pay PV home premiums across various states, housing and PV markets, and home types.”

This builds on previous research which concluded that California homes with solar panels sold for more than those without solar. In some cities, the retained net value was 46$% higher than the actual cost of the solar panel installation.

How much solar panels can increase home values depends on some factors:

  • Whether the solar panels are owned
  • What area of the country you live in
  • The type of home you own, and the appearance
  • What the starting value of the home already happens to be. (Higher-valued homes will tend to receive more value)
  • How much energy you will be saving (can be a drawcard for future owners)

1 Kilowatt in energy savings can grow home values by $5000

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory also offers a handy guide to determine how much a property’s value will increase. Their research shows that each additional $1 in energy bill savings (from a solar installation) adds $20 to a home’s total value.

Of course, the exact numbers vary with each property and installation. However, in a state like California, a small 3.1-kilowatt (kW) system could add an average of $18,324 to the value of a medium-sized home.

The property value advantages of solar energy will increase as you scale up. Installing 5kW of solar panels adds an average of $29,555 to the retail value of a medium-sized home.

With all these numbers, it’s important to note that these statistics only apply to today’s current housing prices and current utility rates. But of course, as electricity prices go up, the savings potential of solar energy rise will continue to rise as well.

G C Electric Solar is a San Diego-based solar panel installer. Our solar panel installers will ensure that your system is installed according to the highest quality of workmanship available in the industry. We custom design each project based on your needs and pay close attention to all details. Call us today to learn more about our Solar panel systems and how we can help you.

average lifespan of solar panels

How many years will solar panels last?

When considering a solar panel installation, one of the top questions we get asked is “How long can I expect solar panels to keep working?”

While a residential solar system might be about the environmental benefits for some people, but for most people, it’s also the savings that are possible. For this reason, people are concerned whether the investment in a home solar panel system is worth it.

What is the Lifespan of Solar Panels?

When looking at different brands of solar panels, you will notice a similarity. Almost every solar manufacturer offers a 25-year standard solar panel warranty. This means that power output should not be less than 80% of rated power after 25 years.

This is quite impressive when you think about it. How many other types of technology can you find with a 25-year guarantee?

Some solar panels last beyond 40 years

Solar panels are still a reasonably new technology, with their popularity starting in the late 1970s or early 1980s. This means that today most solar panels are within the 25 year age range, and some being up to 35-40 years old.

The good news is that experts are finding most solar systems are outperforming all expectations, lasting between 25-40 years.

The results of 2012 studies are showing that solar panels are only losing approximately 0.5% amount of efficiency annually, meaning if you install solar panels they could last as long as initially expected.

When you combine this long-term lastability with incentives such as net metering or government rebates,  it is easy to see why so many homeowners are choosing to install solar photovoltaic panels in their homes.

G C Electric Solar is one of the best rated solar panel installers in San Diego. You can trust in our experience helping to reduce energy costs for many homeowners. Our experienced engineers and solar panel installation team will ensure that your system will be installed according to the highest standards of workmanship available in the industry. Contact us today to learn more about Solar panels for your home.