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Solar Panel Certifications Demystified
Jul17

Solar Panel Certifications Demystified

With dozens of brands of solar panels on the market, choosing which one to buy can be a conundrum. One of the things you that may help you navigate this field is to understand the various certifications that are given to solar panels and all the acronyms that go with them. UL (Underwriters Laboratories) is a global independent safety science company with more than a century of expertise innovating safety solutions. The first thing you need to know is the difference between a “standard” and a “certification”. Standards are design qualifications written by entities like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) whose acronym makes better sense in other languages. When a solar panel receives a certification, it means that a recognized, approved lab has tested that solar panel to make sure it meets certain standards.  UL 1703 is the set of standards for safety for flat-plate PV Modules Let’s look at UL 1703 as an example. Officially published by Underwriters Laboratories, UL 1703 is the set of standards for safety for flat-plate PV Modules (aka the commonly used solar panels with the glass on the front). Cities and counties in the United States will only provide installation permits for systems that have solar panels that have the UL 1703 certification. This means that a manufacturer must send their solar panels to a Nationally Recognized Test Laboratory (NRTL) like Underwriters Laboratories, Intertek, TUV or CSA Group to have it tested. If it passes the test, that lab will provide a certification that the solar panel meets the UL 1703 standard. This process is also called UL listing and when the solar panel gets its official certification the manufacturer can say it is UL Listed. A UL Listed solar panel will have a special “mark” on its label from the NRTL that certified it. TÜV Rheinland is the leading provider of product testing and certifications for the worldwide marketplace.  While getting the UL 1703 Listing is a requirement, the solar panel manufacturers can step up their game and have the lab also test for other standards like IEC 61215 standards for durability and performance for standard monocrystalline and polycrystalline PV module. The IEC 61646 is a similar set of durability and performance standards for thin film PV modules. There are also very specific standards like IEC 61701 that includes salt mist corrosion tests (which you should look for if you are installing your solar panels on your beach house) or IEC 62716 that includes ammonia corrosion tests (in case you are installing your solar panels in agricultural environments).    PVEL is the independent lab for the...

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Solar helps you sell your home faster and for more money

If you’ve read pretty much any article on the benefits of converting your home to solar, you’re probably well aware of the great ROI it provides by paying itself off over the course of several years, decreasing energy bills to zero. But what if you’re thinking about selling your house and don’t have several years to wait for that return? Turns out, the benefits of owning solar panels don’t just pay dividends on energy bills, but can also significantly increase your property’s value and help it sell faster, too, A study by the Lawrence Berkely National Lab (LBL) titled “Selling into the sun: Price premium analysis of a multi-state dataset of solar homes” found that on average home buyers are willing to pay a premium of $15,000 more for homes with a standard 3.6-kW PV system. Surveying over 20,000 homes throughout California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, and Pennsylvania, the research shows that premium prices for PV homes are a national trend. The general breakdown for increasing a home’s value comes to about $4 per watt in California and $3 elsewhere. For example, homeowners in California installing a 5kW (5,000 watts) system could fetch up to $20,000 more on the market when selling their home. This chart shows the premium prices above market value that a home with a PV system will fetch Together with state incentives and a 30% Federal Tax Credit, the financial benefits of selling a home with solar could equal or outweigh the costs of the system itself. Companies such as Go Green Solar, which allow homeowners to install PV systems for less with DIY assistance and offer competitive professional installer pricing, help people looking to sell homes with PV systems recuperate higher profits when reselling their homes while paying lower energy bills in the interim. In terms of resale, John DiStefano, president of First Fidelity Appraisal Services of New England, said about PV panels, “They definitely add value to your home as long as they are purchased. If they are leased, the banks do not recognize a value.’’ One reason for increased home value is that buyers view solar panels as upgrades, such as a new kitchen or bathroom. Unlike the aforementioned living amenities, however, the government will actually give you money back for this PV home improvement, with some states even offering the bonus incentive of not calculating the value of the upgrades into additional property taxes. That means that going solar will increase the value of your home even though you won’t get charged extra taxes for it.   Even though going solar will increase the value of your...

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Installing Solar? Your State Might Require This Certification If You Want Incentives
Mar04

Installing Solar? Your State Might Require This Certification If You Want Incentives

When it comes to home solar installations, the number of certifications, acronyms, and obscure bills bombarding your research can be enough to cause the sort of migraine you might get from staring too long at the sun. But after slogging through all that work of shopping for the just the right panels, inverters, and a battery storage solution, it would be a shame to miss out on state rebates and incentives because you didn’t have someone involved on your project with this one, crucial, certification: North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Founded in 2002 as a non-profit, this accreditation was established as an industry stamp of approval to let homeowners know which installers have the specialized knowledge and expertise to install a solar system correctly. The requirements to attain a NABCEP are so rigorous that it quickly became the industry gold standard. It wasn’t long before some states made it a preferred or mandatory for a contractor with this certification to be involved in solar systems installations to be eligible for incentive programs. “What most of these states are looking for is that person with a NABCEP-cert is engaged somewhere along the process to look at the equipment and say whether it’s legit or not,” explained Go Green Solar’s NABCEP Certified Senior Design Engineer Dave Donaldson. “If a state is going to pay you for the solar energy you’re generating they want to make sure it’s been installed or reviewed by someone that knows what they’re doing.” Go Green Solar’s NABCEP-certified Senior Engineer Dave Donaldson (purple shirt) directing city of Los Angeles workers how to mount the solar panel In Utah the NABCEP-certification is a prerequisite to qualify for a state solar contractor license and Austin, Texas won’t allow electricians to build a grid-tied system without it. Minnesota, Maine, and Wisconsin are among the states that require a NABCEP-certified professional to install PV solar systems to make it eligible for rebates. And still, other states including California, Massachusetts, and Delaware, take a less stringent approach “recommending” PV solar systems are installed by a professional with NABCEP certifications making permits and rebates much easier to attain. For its part, NABCEP does not encourage or discourage state regulatory efforts. The credentials, which much be renewed every three years, are voluntary and are intended to act a professional differentiator in the same way a realtor that sells houses is able to become a broker after passing his/her license exam. An opinion blog post published by NABCEP argues why the organization feels its certifications should not become mandatory as there might not be enough certified professionals in America to keep up...

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Californian’s to pay for SCE $1 Billion Gaff
Feb21

Californian’s to pay for SCE $1 Billion Gaff

When utility companies come up short on annual profits, ratepayers are the ones expected to foot the bill and make up the difference. Such is the case for customers of Southern California Edison (SCE) this month, as the state’s Public Utility Commision (PUC) gave the company permission to increase energy bills by approximately 5% in 2019 to recover a $983.8 million deficit. The decision comes as another blow to California residents not generating their own electricity with solar power systems, following Pacific Gas and Electric’s January bankruptcy filing, which is expected to cause 15% rate increases for its clientele.    “The gas market is no longer competitive,” Commissioner Martha Guzman said after voting in favor of the PUC’s unanimous decision. Public Utilities Commissioner Martha Guzman voiced her disappointment with Southern California Edison after it recommended raising its energy bills to pay for a nearly $1 billion deficit. Comments made by members of the PUC in their official findings and at the public hearing make it clear they are disappointed with SCE for the nearly $1 billion revenue shortfall, but don’t have much wiggle room when deciding how to finance it. SCE writes that the reasons for its undercollection are “due to various factors, mostly related to the limited availability and increased cost of natural gas, especially over the summer.” Constrained gas supply and higher prices coupled with aging fossil fuel infrastructure is good reason to believe that such annual rate increases to cover operational costs will happen again. For its part, the SCE didn’t get in hot water by incurring a deficit, but rather got in trouble for not reporting the event to the PUC sooner. California Assembly Bill 57, passed in 2002, allows investor owned utility companies to recover fuel and purchase costs from ratepayers by raising their bills, but must notify the PUC if they need to cover more than 4%. SCE states that it didn’t notify the PUC in May when accounting showed there might be a problem, because it thought the market would correct. It never did. As a result, Californians in SCE’s region will be the ones paying a higher tab, seeing a increase in their energy bills. Luckily for residents that converted their homes to solar, utility bills will see a minimal change, if any, thanks to the self-generating energy ability of renewables. Events such as the PG&E bankruptcy filings and, now, SCE’s eleventh rate increases have generated more interest than ever before of homeowners looking to break free from utility companies unpredictable changes to their monthly energy bills. Companies such as Go Green Solar, which offer Do It Yourself solar systems and...

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3 Reasons To Go Solar After PG&E’s Bankruptcy
Feb07

3 Reasons To Go Solar After PG&E’s Bankruptcy

If you haven’t yet heard, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the country’s largest power utility filed for bankruptcy last month as a result of more than $30 billion in liabilities incurred from wildfires ignited by its grid. Surprisingly, this isn’t a first. PG&E declared bankruptcy in 2001, but the circumstances surrounding the company’s bankruptcy this time around are different and, once taken into account, make some of the best reasons yet why it’s time for Californians to decentralize their grid and switch to residential solar. RATE INCREASES ARE COMING When it comes to going solar, money is often the strongest motivator, and $30 billion in outstanding liabilities is no small sum to cover. But who is going to foot the bill? A recent article by Bloomberg reports that ratepayers who don’t generate their own electricity will eventually be the ones stuck with PG&E’s tab, getting charged a higher monthly cost for power. “A 15% rate increase would raise an extra $1.9 billion (for PG&E), enough to fund a $20 billion 5 yr amortizing bond at 4.5 percent,” Liam Denning of Bloomberg states. “That would cover much of the immediate liabilities pertaining to previous wildfires…” What that hike would look like for the average Californian is about $17 more a month, or a power bill that’s around $127. Paying that much for power would give PG&E’s service territory the dubious honor as being one of the three most expensive in the country. By switching to solar, not only will homeowners get the cost benefits of the federal government’s 30% tax credit before it expires at the end of this year, but they’ll be able to avoid having to pay for a company’s mistakes. MASSIVE WILDFIRES ARE THE NEW NORM Climate change isn’t some distant boogie-man lurking in the near future — it’s here now, and has made devastating wildfires the norm, and not some freak event. In 2018 California wildfires burned 1.6 million acres and killed 100 people. In 2017 PG&E reported 1,552 equipment related fires according to an article by the Los Angeles Times. But PG&E is not alone in the blame. California’s other utility companies are responsible for igniting thousands of fires over the past three years, costing property loss and lives, and incurring billions in fines from state regulators. With nearly 300,000 miles of power lines to inspect, both state legislators and utility companies are struggling to maintain a centralized grid in the face of chronic wildfires. While short term solutions include using drones and AI to monitor more power lines than the human cost permits, the long term solution is clear — a more flexible, decentralized...

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