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Price increase expected for solar panels — but not for the reason you might think
Aug23

Price increase expected for solar panels — but not for the reason you might think

The cost of solar panels has steadily decreased over the years but now some analysts are predicting an increase for the first time in nearly two decades — but not for the reasons you might think. A sudden rush to buy solar panels has created a rare seller’s market for panel manufacturers as U.S. solar developers are stockpiling resources for future projects to lock in the 30% solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that starts phasing out next year.   Among those hoarding inventory to claim the full subsidy are big hitters in the utility world, such as Duke Energy, 8minute Solar Energy, and Shell-backed Silicon Ranch. The demand has caused module prices to spike more than 10% from earlier in the year, according to a U.S. Solar Market Insight Report from Wood Mackenzie and SEIA.  Consumers who purchase residential solar before the end of 2019 will also be eligible for the full tax credit, however, unlike firms that only need to spend 5% of a project’s capital cost by the end of 2019 to lock in the subsidy, residential projects have to begin solar installation before the year ends. Current subsidies for residential solar will decrease to 26 percent in 2020, then to 22 percent in 2021, and finally, drop to 10 percent in 2022.  DIY home solar companies that sell directly to homeowners such as Go Green Solar are one of the few available resources for those not wishing to pay a premium for panels that have been marked up amid the blitz to beat the expiring ITC.  The U.S. solar industry has urged lawmakers to extend the solar tax credit, which has helped solar deployment grow by 10,000 percent since it was introduced by a Republican-controlled Congress in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. Last week Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) sent Congress a letter signed by nearly 1,000 U.S. solar companies to extend the credit, however, the recent spike in solar panel purchasing suggests the outlook for the credit’s extension is not favorable. Luckily for homeowners, direct to consumer home solar companies such as Go Green Solar can help people lock in their 30 percent ITC before it expires while giving them some of the lowest rates for panels on the market.  Check out their website to get a free estimate on how much you will save making the switch or call (866)...

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Understanding Permit Plans for DIY Solar Projects
Aug22

Understanding Permit Plans for DIY Solar Projects

It is very common for a Do-It-Yourself solar installer to get the permit plans drawn up by the distributor or by a third party company. Doing this definitely makes things go smoother when pulling the permit at the city or county building department and these plans also serve as instructions on how to install your system so it is worthwhile to talk about how to interpret them. Sample page from a solar permit plan First, we have to say that looking at the planset does not substitute for reading installation manuals. It is important that you read the installation manuals for your solar panels, solar panel racking system and inverter (or microinverters). There will be a lot of details in those documents that won’t be covered in the plans so don’t treat the plans like the cliff notes you used to get through English class in high school. Next, you should look over the plans before you submit them to the city or county. Make sure they show all the correct equipment and correct equipment locations. When the inspector comes out to look at your installation, part of their job is to check that everything matches the plans. Look at what the plans say about your main service panel (especially the busbar rating, main service breaker rating, and main service breaker location). If any of that is incorrect, you want to get the plans changed before submitting. Also make sure that there is room on the wall to install the inverter, AC combiner and AC disconnect where they are shown on the plans. Measure your roof area to ensure the layout on the plans will work and the fire code setbacks shown on the plans are really there. If the inspector calls you out on incorrect setbacks after you have installed the system, you will have to move the panels on the roof which will not be fun. When installing, make sure you follow the plans. Things like the fuse or breaker size must be installed as shown on the plans. You have to get the wire type exact, THWN-2 has different ratings than THWN so it is important to pay attention. You should also use the conduit type that is on the plans, the NEC code and individual building departments have lots of rules about this so it says RMC, don’t try to substitute EMT.   You do have a little bit of flexibility to use larger wire or larger conduit than what the plans show but never use smaller. If the plans say 10 AWG and there is a sale on 8 AWG, the inspector typically won’t have...

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Best Battery Types for Solar
Aug06

Best Battery Types for Solar

Installing batteries with solar is necessary on off-grid systems if you want power at night and also becoming more popular on grid-tied systems. Choosing what type of batteries to install can be a bit complicated so this article will cover the basics for you. The batteries that are most commonly used for solar are lead acid and lithium chemistries. No matter what, you will want to choose a “deep cycle” battery that is rated in amp hours (AH) and not a starting battery that is rated in cold-cranking amps (CCA). Car batteries are great for providing a lot of amps really fast to start a motor but they don’t do well with the long, slow draw of running the lights, TV and refrigerator in your home or off-grid cabin. If it is the zombie apocalypse and car batteries are all you can find, they will work but they aren’t the best choice for the application. Let’s start with lead acid batteries which can be broken down into the two basic types of flooded and sealed. Flooded batteries will be less expensive but they require maintenance and ventilation. When you purchase flooded batteries you are committing to adding distilled water to the batteries on a monthly basis. Without the added water, they can run dry which means they lose all charge and are likely to never hold a charge again. If you are not good at regular maintenance, buying these batteries can be a costly mistake. Even if you get the self-watering kit that does the work for you, you still need to maintain water in the reservoir and check to make sure the kit is correctly maintaining the water levels high enough. The ventilation requirements are also very important to consider because these batteries will vent hydrogen gas which is poisonous and flammable. Installing these batteries in your living space or anywhere there might be an open flame could have some nasty results. Sealed lead acid batteries are a little pricier but solve the unpleasant issues of the flooded batteries. You do not have to add water to them, they do not vent large amounts of poisonous, flammable gas and they can also be installed on their sides without worries about hazardous chemical leakage. The most available types of sealed batteries are gel and AGM. These are also often referred to as VRLA for Valve regulated lead acid batteries. Even within the categories of sealed and flooded lead acid batteries, there are different technologies being employed. For example, the Outback EnergyCell Non-Carbon batteries are a type of enhanced sealed lead acid batteries that have improved charging efficiency and a...

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Tips for Do-It-Yourself Solar Installation
Aug05

Tips for Do-It-Yourself Solar Installation

Installing your own solar power system on your home will save you money. Reading this article before you do that install will save you time and headaches. Read The Manual! First, read all the installation manuals before you start. It probably the most important and most often skipped step. If it hurts your “I know what I’m doing” pride, read them at night when no one is looking. It only takes a few minutes and can save you a ton of trouble. There’s nothing worse than finishing the job and then having to re-do it because you didn’t do something right.  Another important thing is to make sure you have permit approval before you do any work. It is common for installers to get itchy and do something like install stand-offs while they are waiting for the city approval then end up having to move some of the stand-offs to accommodate local fire codes. Just don’t do it. If you are eager to do something before you have approval, re-read your install manuals. Typically, the solar panels are going to be mounted on the roof which means getting all your tools and equipment up there. We know you are strong enough to carry all that stuff up ladder, but it’s not safe and there is no reason to wear yourself out like that. Get a bucket and a rope and when you are finished you won’t feel like it was leg day at the gym. When it is time to hoist up those awkwardly heavy solar panels, get helpers. It is much easier with at least two people and a broken solar panel will cost more than paying someone for a couple of hours of labor so it is worth it. When it is time to hoist up those awkwardly heavy solar panels, get helpers. It is much easier with at least two people and a broken solar panel will cost more than paying someone for a couple of hours of labor so it is worth it. Once you have things on the roof, keep the equipment in boxes and your tools in a bag. Having things strewn all over the roof is a safety hazard, plus you won’t be able to find what you need when you need it. Also, if it is a warm day, anything that is metal is going to heat up quickly in the sun and will burn your hands when you touch it. This includes tools, mounting hardware and solar panel frames so make sure you have a good pair of gloves on the roof with you. The roof attachments for your solar...

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Optimize Your Solar Production
Jul24

Optimize Your Solar Production

The price of solar panels has come down significantly but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t try to get the most energy possible from them. The key to optimizing solar panel production is in the installation. We all know to install the solar panels with blue side facing up, but there is a little more to it than that. It is all about the direction the solar panels are facing (often called Azimuth by people in the solar industry) and the tilt angle which would be the angle from horizontal. If a solar panel is oriented so that the sun hits it directly at a 90 degree angle, it will produce the most possible power but the sun is a moving target. Not only does it move across the sky throughout the day, but it is higher in the sky in the summer and lower in the sky in the winter. Many people don’t realize in North America in summer, the sun rises in the Northeast and sets in the Northwest. In the winter that becomes is Southeast and Southwest. It only rises due East and sets due West on the Equinoxes in March and September.  In order to keep up with the sun, many people think they should make the solar panels move. Solar panel tracking systems have been around for a long time, but they aren’t necessarily practical. For one thing, it would look pretty silly to have one on your roof, not to mention the structural and wind load issues you would be dealing with. Ground-mounted solar tracking systems are a possibility, but you are adding moving parts that typically have 5 year warranties and lots of maintenance to an otherwise passive system with a 25 year warranty. The bottom line is that even if you have room to install one in your yard, a solar tracker will be expensive and a pain in the neck. You might gain 20% production, but it would be cheaper and easier to just install 20% more solar panels. So now we are back to talking about what fixed orientation gets you the best bang for your buck. The short answer is to face you solar panels due South at tilt angle slightly less than your latitude. That means if you are as far South as San Diego it would be a tilt angle of 32 degrees and if you are up North in Seattle it would be a tilt angle of 47 degrees. If you want to be very particular about it, a lower tilt angle will give you more power in the summer when the sun is higher...

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