What kind of maintenance does a solar system need?
Solar is virtually maintenance free. There are no moving parts in the solar modules, the wiring, and in most inverters. The things to look out for are the result of weather, critters, and the occasional sporting neighbor’s children. Panels should be washed if there are prolonged periods without rain because dust acts like a thin carpet on the panels and will impact the production.
A system check is a good idea every year to make sure electrical connections are fully functioning, and to check fuses to ensure there is no unexpected resistance in the wiring.
What are the advantages of owning versus leasing a solar system?
Outright ownership and third-party ownership are both viable ways to experience the benefits of solar. Although leasing is not available in every utility market, it can be beneficial if you’re looking to reach the 30 percent federal tax credit or if you don’t have the funds to purchase the system. Ownership can be achieved through a cash purchase or through a variety of financing options. It is possible to own the system with no money down and positive cash flow from the start of the loan. Solar ownership will also increase the value of your home or increase the cap rate of your business facility.
What is the best technology?
Lighthouse Solar offers a range of technologies that are suitable for multiple scenarios. Looking for the best technology is equivalent to asking which is the best fruit. Solar technologies include the solar cells, solar modules, inverters, and monitoring. Of each, there are several choices we can help you make to get the most value out of your system.
What happens if technology improves such that my system is obsolete?
As long as your system is still operating as it was intended, it will not be obsolete. There may be the case that as efficiencies improve (as theyncrementally have), you can achieve a larger energy offset by using a smaller area. We encourage our clients to consider maintaining the current system and looking for additional areas to add capacity.
Further, the technologies that are improving more radically include storage and interactive inverters. These devices are designed to be integrated into older solar modules technologies with some flexibility, rendering the concept of planned obsolescence obsolete.
What is the best way to evaluate my investment?
Solar can be valued in many different ways. The essential fact is that you are investing in an energy source that does not require any fuel. Once you install it, it will continue to produce energy without any rising costs. In this way, it is a powerful hedge against rising electricity costs. How you evaluate depends largely on your overall perspective on investments. Solar can be seen as a high yield, but stable, 25-year annuity. It has an ROI, or return on investment, as well as an IRR, if you are comparing it to other possible uses of your resources. When financed, it becomes a powerful enhancement of your cash flow.
If you don’t intend to stay in your house or office for long term, you may be able to recoup your investment much faster and with greater returns, given the fact that the solar system lowers the building’s operating expenses and thus adds direct value to the property.
What is the best orientation and tilt for my solar system?
The best orientation and tilt of your system is a direct result of the goals you are seeking to achieve. The best aspect for maximum annual harvest is oriented to solar south and tilted at an angle equivalent to the latitude. However, this may not be practical and achieving this condition may be more expensive than taking advantage of other available structures or roof planes. The truth is that the solar resource is very forgiving and can be placed due east, due west, and in some cases, even to the north in lower latitudes if the pitch is very low.
What if my roof needs to be replaced?
We recommend having your roof evaluated by a professional roofer if there is any question as to its longevity. Our site surveyors will bring up the condition of the roof to alert you to any conditions we see while evaluating the solar resource.
A solar system will last for 25 years or more. The roof under the solar system will effectively be shielded from direct environmental degradation, but we do not recommend installing solar on a roof that needs imminent replacement. We can install solar on a new roof and the warranties can be directly aligned.
What happens in hail storms?
Hail storms can vary considerably in impact, and much larger hail can be catastrophic to all things in its way. Solar panels are warrantied against direct impact of hail measuring 1” in diameter. Much larger hail can be catastrophic to all things in its way. If the roof is damaged during a hailstorm and a claim is made, the solar panels can be removed and replaced in the context of the roof replacement. This is why we recommend adding your solar system to your homeowner’s policy.
What does the warranty cover?
We stand by our work. Most systems will have three major warranty components: the panel warranty, the inverter warranty, and the Lighthouse Solar Lifetime Workmanship warranty. Panel warranties are typically 25 years in length and guarantee the panel’s power output over that time. Inverter warranties have mostly 10 year terms, but are often extendable to 20 or 25 years. Ask your Lighthouse Solar representative for more information on warranty extensions. Finally, the Lighthouse Solar Workmanship Warranty covers all items related to our installation workmanship including roof penetrations, wire runs, and wire terminations.
How long will the system last?
Systems are designed to last 25-30 years, but some PV systems installed over 40 years ago are still operating today!
Who do I call if the power goes out?
Call your utility provider to report the power outage as normal. Your inverter will sense that the grid power has gone and will stop exporting solar power immediately. After your utility power is restored, the inverter will start exporting solar power again after 5 minutes.
Can I expand my system later?
Yes. If you have future system expansion in mind it is always good to mention this to your technical sales engineer at the start of the process. This allows us to make accommodations for the future expansion which can often lower the cost down the road.
What kind of credit do I get for the electricity I produce?
The electricity you produce is “net metered,” which means you get the retail rate for your solar energy production. If your system produces a kilowatt hour that you consume in your home or business, that is one less kilowatt hour that you pay for during that billing period. If that kilowatt hour is not consumed on-site and flows back onto the grid, it will spin your meter backwards by one kilowatt hour as it passes through!
How many panels do I need?
This depends on how much energy is used annually in the house or building and will vary widely. Your technical sales engineering will work with you to design a system which balances your goals with your home or business’ energy producing potential.