Is my home a good fit for solar?
Our free Site Inspections have taken us to homes all over the greater Houston area. We’ve yet to come across any one for which solar didn’t make sense.
Some homes are ideal in that they experience little-to-no shading and offer plenty of south-facing roof area on which to install solar panels. The only practical difference between this ideal site and a less-than-ideal site is the length of time it may take for the system to save the owner more in electricity costs than the system itself cost upfront—in other words, the time it will take for the system to pay for itself. At Sunshine Renewable Solutions, our target for every customer is a 100%-offset system. This means that the power generated by the system will offset fully the electricity requirements of the household. Such a system typically pays for itself at roughly the 10-year mark. At a less-than-ideal site, we may only be able to install a system capable of producing, say, 65% of energy requirements—which would extend this period by roughly 45%. Even with only 65% offset, our example system would pay for itself within about 15 years. To keep this in perspective, bear in mind that our manufacturers’ performance warranties cover your panels for 25 years from the date of installation. Even in less-than-ideal conditions, our systems are designed to last—and to provide free, clean power long after they’ve paid for themselves.
If tree shading is an issue at your home, we’ll be glad to help you with the removal of any problem trees. For obvious reasons, we never recommend this solution unless absolutely necessary. In some cases, removing a single tree can mean the difference between a 50% offset and a 100% offset. Don’t worry—your Sunshine solar system will net a carbon emissions offset throughout its service life equal to that of thousands of trees.
I’ll be selling my home in the near future. Is solar still a good option for me?
Installing solar on your home is a smart financial decision—no matter how long you’ll be living there. The value of a home typically appreciates by nearly the entire cost of the installed system in year one. What other improvements to your home can offer a near dollar-for-dollar increase in the value of your home? (Hint: You won’t get back every dollar you spent on those granite countertops.) What’s more, this appreciation is property tax-exempt!
The icing on this already scrumptious cake is the fact that—although after the federal Investment Tax Credit, you’re only paying 70% of the system cost—your home will likely appreciate in value by well over that amount. If you sell your home shortly after solar installation, you may actually profit from some of that 30% that the federal government paid for!
If you’re planning to sell soon, not only do the numbers work in your favor, your home will likely sell more quickly because it generates its own power.
What warranties will cover my system?
The Sunshine Renewable Solutions workmanship warranty covers anything resulting from the installation of your solar energy system for 10 years from the completion of installation. Although problems that arise from installation typically become apparent very shortly after completion, we offer 10 years of coverage just so you can be confident in the quality of the work completed on your home. If any concerns arise, we’re not far away.
The panel product warranty is offered by the manufacturer of your photovoltaic panels, and ranges in term from 10 to 25 years from the completion of installation, depending on the manufacturer. This warranty covers any problems which may arise due to manufacturing. This could be premature wear and tear such as cracks in the glass panel covering or corrosion of the metal framing.
The panel performance warranty is also offered by the manufacturer of your photovoltaic panels, and covers them for 25 years after the completion of installation. This warranty guarantees that your panels will decrease in efficiency by no more than 20% during the first 25 years. In other words, a 300-watt panel is guaranteed to produce at least 240 watts to your inverter for a full 25 years. The overall lifespan of photovoltaic panels is typically much longer. We have seen panels in the Houston area that are over 40 years old and still reliably producing clean power.
Photovoltaic panels are much more durable than you may think. They’re made of tough, shatter-resistant materials which typically withstand any threat posed by elements such as high winds and hail. Having said that, if that big pine tree in your yard decides to fall directly onto your panels, they will likely suffer damage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies will cover this kind of damage. We recommend informing your insurer of the fact that you’ve installed a solar energy system on your home once you’ve done so. In the case of most of our customers, this has resulted in no increase in premiums.
If the grid goes down, will my home be powered by my solar system?
It depends on whether your system is equipped to do so. Most solar energy systems installed today are standard, grid-tied systems. ‘Grid-tied’ means that the power the system produces bypasses the building it’s installed on, and goes straight into the power grid. Your energy consumption comes from the grid as it always has, and is weighed by your retail energy provider against the amount that your solar system contributes to the grid (see next question for more details). The alternative to a standard, grid-tied system is a hybrid, grid-tied system. The difference is simply some additional hardware, including an automatic transfer switch, a charge controller, and batteries for storage. Whether installed initially or added as a retrofit to an existing standard, grid-tied system, this additional hardware will allow you to draw power from your system in the event of a grid outage. Due to the high cost of existing battery technology, most solar purchasers today decide against hybrid systems—opting instead for standard systems, with the option to add the hybrid hardware at a later date, when battery technologies have improved in efficiency and cost. Sunshine Renewable Solutions offers a wide range of hardware configurations for both standard and hybrid systems.
Is it true that I can sell excess energy back to my retail energy provider?
If you have the right plan, yes! What you’ll want to look for is a 1-to-1 buyback program. With a 1-to-1 buyback plan, your retail energy provider (REP) will remotely monitor both your contribution to the grid (total power generated by your system) and your total consumption from the grid through a process called net metering. The net balance will be purchased at one predetermined price-per-kWh by either you or your REP. For example, let’s say you’re on such a plan at a fixed 12¢/kWh. During a billing cycle in which you consume a total of 1,500 kWh and produce a total of 1,300 kWh, you would pay a bill of $24. If instead, your production exceeded your consumption by the same 200 kWh, your REP would credit your account $24. At the time of this writing, the Houston-area REPs who offer 1-to-1 buyback programs are Reliant Energy and Green Mountain Energy.
What kind of maintenance will I be responsible for?
Solar energy systems require virtually zero maintenance. The efficiency of your system may fluctuate slightly due to factors such as dust or pollen. To ensure your system runs at peak efficiency, we recommend simply rinsing your panels off with a garden hose whenever you’re able to see a change in panel color resulting from collection of dust or pollen. That’s pretty much all the maintenance that you can expect your system to require.
If one of my panels is not performing well, will it affect my entire system?
No. In the early days of solar, if a single panel received shading from a nearby tree or building, the entire array would be affected. This was a limitation of the more basic ‘string’ inverters that were commonplace back then. Today, most installers offer one or both of the two modern alternatives—either optimizers or micro inverters. Either of these two options afford the owner and installer the ability to monitor panel-by-panel health and production, and allow the system itself to intelligently adjust to any sudden changes in production.
At Sunshine Renewable Solutions, we design solar energy systems for our customers using either optimizers or micro inverters.
What incentives are available in my area?
Thanks to the federal Investment Tax Credit, 30% of the cost of any solar energy system installed in the U.S. is tax-deductible. Yes, this means that, after the credit, you can expect to have payed only 70% of your total system cost!
In the great state of Texas, any appreciation of home value as a result of installation of a solar energy system is completely exempt from property tax.
Will my homeowners’ association allow me to install solar panels?
Although most HOAs are surprisingly accepting of solar arrays on their residents’ homes, some are unfortunately still reluctant to approve installation of panels that are highly visible from the street. The fact is, if our calculations show that you’ll get at least 10% more production of energy by installing panels on street-facing roof surfaces, your HOA will not be legally allowed to deny your request based on such aesthetic concerns alone.