Solar Research & FAQ's
Downloadable Solar Industry Research Whitepapers
One Year With Solar by Kevin C. Tofel, 11-13
Solar Energy Customers Are Ecstatic by Jasper Dikmans, 11-13
Why Are We Still Propping Up Fossil Fuels? - Kate Gordan
Both Sides Have It Wrong - Jeffrey Ball
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I got two estimates and they are very different, even with the same kW size system. Why?
The cost difference lies mostly in the quality of the panels themselves. All panels are not the same. Some cheaper panels may be warranted for 10-25 years, but due to lack of quality materials and control, hey may degrade much faster, affecting their ability to produce power. Saving money up front by using cheap panels could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars in energy production savings over the life of the system.How durable are OUR solar panels?Solarponics installs only quality panels. Do you think we want to be replacing a bunch of panels, even when they are under warranty? Here's a great video demonstration.
Some companies are offering free solar panel installation. How can they do that?
A solar electric system is a fixed package product, meaning design, product, installation are all included and covered costs. You pay for the complete system. If they want to say the installation is free, then that cost is billed elsewhere. Simple enough. You should concentrate on the size of the system designed for your needs, the quality of the panels, and the reputation of the company.
A 25-year warranty for solar panels is a long time. How will I know my solar installer will be around that long?
Solarponics is the longest continuously operating solar company in California. We have been installing systems and honoring warranties since 1975. Solarponics is privately owned and now in its second generation of leadership, planning for the next 35 years.
Can I trust an electrical or building contractor who is now offering solar PV systems?
That depends on their experience, training and certification. A solar PV system is an electrical system. But electrical expertise does not guarantee an optimized solar design and installation. Solarponics has been designing and installing solar PV systems since 1975, longer than anyone else in California. Solarponics founder, Mike Emrich is a guest speaker at solar energy expos, and has traveled the world promoting solar power in underdeveloped countries. Understanding micro climates also play an important role.
Doesn't a large solar installer company get volume discounts on solar panels saving me money?
No. Solarponics has a long and personal relationship with manufacturers and vendors insuring they receive competitive panel costs. A large company might be able to shave off a little cost because they have larger volume, but the savings you realize come back to haunt you in personalized service and warranty work when needed.
Most other companies say they are local. Are you?
Yes. Mike Emrich is a Cal Poly engineering grad. He launched Solarponics in 1976 in Atascadero, California, and continues to design and install renewable energy systems today.. There is no other renewable energy company that is more local and has been in business longer than Solarponics.
I hear the term, Solar PV. What is it and how is that different from solar energy?
Solar PV IS solar energy. (PV) stands for Photovoltaics, a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors that exhibit the photovoltaic effect.
We might sell our home in five years. Is solar still a good investment?
Absolutely. Your home will increase in value roughly the same as the cost of the system. You still save on your energy bill each year that you live there as well as benefit from tax credits.
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. Ground mount systems are a viable alternative. A Solarponics expert determine the best array and placement for your energy requirements.
What is the best type of roof for solar panels?
The perfect roof for solar could be described as made of composite and not too steep, with unobstructed space for the solar panels. Solarponics has installed thousands of systems on every roof type imaginable. Our 38 years of experience insures we now many helpful installation techniques that most other companies don't.
How do I know I'm getting the latest technology?
With a Solarponics designed and installed system, you'll know you're getting the RIGHT system. We regularly review and test new systems and evaluate their cost vs. return. Solarponics designs systems to the homeowners or business owners needs and budget. Often times new technologies are superior and we adapt them immediately. Most times, the new technology is expensive and unproven in the field. However, continuously waiting for newer technology does not save you money. The immediate savings outpace the slight increases in future efficiencies.
How much maintenance do solar energy panels require?
Solar photovoltaic 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.
How long will it take to install a solar power system in my home?
Planning, configuring, permits and installation of your solar energy system can take up to a few weeks. However, the installation process itself can typically be completed in only a few days time, in many cases even less. Solarponics makes the process easy and streamlined, requiring no work on your part.
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. During the day, when the sun is at the highest point in the sky, your system produces a lot of electricity, and you're probably not using all the power being produced. The additional electricity your system produces flows back into the grid and runs your meter backwards, earning you credits. At night, when your system is not producing any electricity, the credit you earned during the day carries over, and you take electricity back from the grid.
Do I need battery backup for my solar panels?
A backup battery bank can add as much as 25% in cost to a residential solar PV system. It's not necessarily more efficient either – a same sized solar array will yield about 7–10% less energy if it's battery-tied than its grid-tied counterpart. Your Solarponics expert will evaluate your needs and help you make an informed decision.
How long will a home solar power system last?
Good quality solar panels will still be producing power 40-50 years from installation date (panel production is reduced between 0.5% to 0.7% per year through product degredation. All quality solar panels are warranted to produce at least 80% of their rated power output for 25 years.
How frequently should I clean my panels?
Most dust and debris that gets on your panels won't significantly impact solar production, and average wind and rainfall will keep your solar panels producing at near optimum levels. In certain situations, dust and debris can decrease your solar production by 5% to 15%, but this would most likely occur in special situations, such as a forest fire near your home. It's best to clean your panels only if you notice a significant drop in electricity production.
How does severe weather effect solar panels?
It doesn't have to be completely sunny for your panels to produce electricity. In bad weather, your panel production won't be 100%, but your panels will still be producing power. On a cloudy day, your panels might produce 30% of what they normally would. We hope that snowfall will never be a factor to consider here on the Central Coast.
If the power goes out, will my home solar power system keep producing electricity?
No. For safety reasons, your home solar power system will automatically shut off if the power goes out. This is to protect utility workers who might be working on power lines in an outage from being exposed to live electricity.
Do photovoltaic solar panels on my roof constitute a fire risk?
The risk of a roof or home catching fire because of a solar photovoltaic power installation is extremely unlikely. The MCS (microgeneration certification scheme) is in place to ensure all panels meet rigorous testing standards and installers are properly trained.
What are the hazards of PV in relation to fires?
Should your home catch fire, there is no significant additional risk related to toxic gas emissions, fire spreading or explosions from solar PV panels.
Are firefighters at danger from solar panels when dealing with a fire or other emergency?
Solarponics is highly active in educating and training fire departments on solar PV safety. Firefighters are trained to deal with electricity and PVs are very visible to the fire service on their arrival. The key to firefighter safety is "voltage isolation". Products are now available to isolate the panels at roof level, and prevent electricity flowing into the house.
With rebates having expired, is solar power still a good decision?
Yes. Today, solar power is so cost effective that even without any tax credits and rebate, it is a guaranteed energy cost saver. 30% federal tax credit are still in place thru 2016.
SOLAR DOMESTIC HOT WATER
What is a solar water heater?
A solar water heater uses the sun's energy to pre-heat household water before it enters the conventional gas (or electric) water heater. Because of the tremendous amount of sun that the Central Coast receives, a solar water heater could generate up to 90% of your annual water heating needs.
Will the solar system affect my existing water heater?
Yes. Since the water heater will operate far less frequently, solar will extend its life significantly. Some water heaters that were retrofitted with solar in 1975 are still in service today. The life of an ordinary gas heater without solar is between five and ten years.
How much do I save?
A solar hot water system would save you 60% to 80% of your yearly water heating bill. The exact amount of savings depends upon the size of your family, the way you currently heat your water and the size of your new solar hot water system. The average annual cost for water heating can be over half the expense of a household's entire annual gas bill, especially in those homes with teenagers or those who love their showers. In an average home a person uses between fifteen and twenty-five gallons of hot water a day, which can cost $5.00 to $25.00 per person every month. A family of four could be spending between $384 to $1200 a year just for heating water.
How long does it take for a solar heater to pay for itself?
Solar heating does have a payback, and it can vary from four to ten years. But it may be more useful to think of solar as an investment that yields an annual return, much as a bank savings account provides interest. A solar water heater will generate savings that can equal a bank account generating a twenty percent (20%) annual return, and the savings are not taxed as income, as is the interest you earn at the bank. The truth is, if you want hot water… you will be paying for that heat. You may prefer to pay the utility bill forever, or you may wish instead to go solar, and become your own utility. It is quite similar to the reason you once decided to buy your home and stop renting. Solar is simply the best investment available today because it guarantees a return on money that you will otherwise give to the gas company.
SOLAR POOL HEATING
How do 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. The heaters are large plastic panels that are installed on your roof and connected to your existing circulation system. As the water runs through the system, it takes a brief detour to the panels to be warmed before being sent on its way and flushed back into the pool. Automatic systems can be programmed to open and close at certain times to keep the temperature within a certain range.
Is a solar pool heater better than a gas heater?
A solar pool heater can be less expensive up front than a gas heater, depending on the size of your pool. Once a solar pool heater is installed, your heat is FREE from the sun. With a gas heater you need to pay the gas company depending on how much you use the heater. In the spring and fall when you really need heat, you use the pool heater more, so it costs you more - but solar energy is still free. Also, solar is non-polluting.
Can it Save Money?
A solar pool-heating system generally costs in the thousands of dollars. But according to Renewable Energy Resource Center, it can pay for itself in energy savings in less than four years. The cost of a solar pool heating system is also a one-time expense. As the cost of natural gas and propane fuel increases, traditional heaters become more expensive to operate.
How much does a solar pool heating system cost to operate?
Solarponics solar pool heating systems use an automatically controlled valve to divert the existing filtration flow to the solar panels, so there is no additional cost to operate the solar pool heater.
How long will the solar pool heating equipment last?
Solarponics solar collectors can be expected to last between 15 and 20 years. Many Solarponics solar pool heating systems that were installed over 20 years ago are still going strong.
Should I use a pool cover with a solar pool heating system?
A pool cover prevents heat loss, particularly at night. The cover traps the solar heat that has been added during the day. This is very complementary to the solar system. The solar system can be viewed as actively adding heat. The cover retains that heat passively.
What special maintenance is required on a solar pool heater?
Usually no special maintenance is required. Electronic controls allow you to "set and forget" the solar pool heater. The only exception may be for a solar pool heating array that is mounted below pool level grade. In this case, the panels should simply be drained in the winter.
What is radiant heating?
With radiant heat, every object in the room becomes warm and contributes to your overall comfort. Because you're heating more than just the room's air, your living space maintains an even, satisfying warmth with no air currents, blowing dust, or cold spots. Unlike other heating methods, radiant heat doesn't dry out the air. The warmth starts at your feet where it is most desired instead of blowing out of ductwork and ending up on the ceiling.
Can I use solar power to heat my home?
Absolutely! Radiant heating applies solar thermal technology. Transferring solar energy through pipes into an under floor radiant heating system is a wonderful way to stay warm. Radiant floor systems are typically up to 40 percent more efficient than their forced air counterpart and can be zoned to match thermal comfort to each room.
Will radiant heat damage my hardwood floors?
No. Solarponics radiant floor heating systems are designed for low water temperatures (125 degrees) and, as a result, floor temperatures will be approximately 5 degrees warmer than room temperature. In fact, many customers have noticed that sunlight striking the floor on a bright winter day will warm the hardwood more than the radiant system.
What about carpet over a radiant floor?
Carpet will slow the transfer of heat to the living space, but it can't stop it. Using carpet over a heated slab will simply result in warm carpet that effortlessly heats the room.