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Mike reviews inverter operation with the customer

It’s so rare these days to find contractors (licensed and otherwise) whose prices are fair and who do what they say, when they say it will be done and, when finished the results are above expectation.

Stephen Pizzo

Sebastopol

Inverter Fan Vents

Cleaning the Inverter on Grid-tie Systems

The fan area on inverters needs to be kept clean. Use a slightly damp rag to remove any buildup.

Backside of a ground-mount, grid-tie solar energy system, showing the sub-panel, inverters, and the solar panel supports

A beautiful sunset over Bodega Bay with a black solar panel system in the foreground

A roof-mounted solar system with black panels in Sonoma, CA

What maintenance is required on a grid-tied solar system?

The primary homeowner maintenance of a grid-tie solar system is to keep the solar panels clean, and, if a string inverter is used, keep the fan vents cleaned. For more information on solar cleaning please read our blog post – Cleaning Your Solar Panels

A few don’ts

  • Do not use a pressure washer, as it can break the seals between the glass and the panel
  • Do not use harsh chemicals, as they can break down the rubber gasket seal
  • Do not use anything that will scratch the glass. Scratches cause shading and potentially lead to cracking.

For those who do not want to clean their own panels, Synergy recommends a quarterly service from North Coast Solar Clean.

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What is Sonoma Clean Power and should I choose them or PG&E?

In most cases we recommend Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) to our users as they offer generation at slightly lower rates, a larger percentage of their power is from renewable sources, and they are providing local jobs. For a more detail look at SCP, see our blog: Sonoma Clean Power or PG&E for the residential customer

Can I use solar to charge my Electric Vehicle?

Yes you can. This will increase the size of the solar system to be installed to cover the additional Kilo-watts used for charging the car. See our two blogs that cover the Chevy Volt specifically, and the costs of charging a car in general: Driving on Sunshine and 30 years of fuel for the equivalent of $1.00 a gallon, anyone interested?

What is Net Energy Metering (NEM)?

Rates schedules with PG&E usually have differing rates during the winter and summer.

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Does solar affect how I use my energy?

Not with a grid-tie solar system. All appliances, lights, power tools and other electrical devices work as they always have.

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How does my PG&E bill change when I go to a solar system?

Most customers who chose a grid-tie system, select a net energy metering rate schedule with PG&E. The most noticeable changes customers experience are that the main electrical costs will go to an annualized billing, and a second monthly statement will be received.

How does the Federal Tax Credit (30%) work when going to solar?

The entire costs of installing a photovoltaic solar system can receive the 30% federal tax credit. It can be calculated as 30% of the system cost. The final invoice showing the system cost is all that is usually needed for an accountant.

The credit is currently slated to run through 2016. If a credit cannot be used entirely in one year, it can be rolled forward into future years.

The above description is the usual policy, but it is highly recommend you speak to your accountant to verify your specific situation.

What can be included in the Federal Tax Credit?

Often other costs can also be included in the credit. For ground mount systems, this can include land clearing and running new electrical lines. In selective roof mount systems, solar laminates that adhere directly to the roof can allow for the roof to be included in this credit. For all systems, the electrical components, new sub-panels, and meter-main upgrades required by solar can qualify.

The above description is the usual policy, but it is highly recommend you speak to your accountant to verify your specific situation.

What is DC power?

DC, or direct current, is the type of energy produce by solar panels and battery chargers. Batteries store DC power for later electrical use. DC energy only flows in one direction. To use DC power in most homes an inverter is needed to convert DC to AC power – see below.

What is AC energy?

AC energy, or alternating current, is the type of energy we use in most homes and businesses. Unlike DC energy, AC energy periodically reverses direction.

What is the function of the inverter(s)?

In a grid-tie system, the inverter converts the DC energy produced by solar panels to AC energy most of us use in our homes and businesses. In a power outage, inverters cycle, no longer pushing energy out to the grid, to protect line men fixing the outage. In an off grid system, the inverter may also manage the charge controlling of the batteries and integrate to other producers, like wind and hydro systems.

Does solar energy produce electricity on foggy/rainy days or in partial shade?

Yes, photovoltaic solar is dependent on light and will produce energy in the fog or rain, but at a lower level. Shading from trees, chimney’, power poles, etc, is taken into consideration during the solar system design, and new technologies may allow ways to minimize the effect of this shading on production.

Will my roof be able to support the weight of a solar system?

A solar system, on average, adds about 3-4 pounds per square foot to the weight of a roof. Most roof designs can to easily handle this increased weight.

What is the typical payback in years of a solar system?

Most residential systems we work with have a 7-10 year payback. Variances in the time are caused by several factors, including the current electrical usage, the rate schedule from PG&E, whether the system is a roof or ground mount, and the ease of installation.

Usually a customer paying over $100 per year, can install solar and have a positive cash flow when you consider the rebates and credits available.