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Should You Be Your Own Solar Installer?
Dec11

Should You Be Your Own Solar Installer?

Choosing to go solar is easy. Everybody wants to save money, right? Choosing whether you should have a contactor install your solar or go the do-it-yourself route is a tougher decision. Yes, installing the solar yourself will save you even more money but is it worth it? First, let’s ask the easy questions. Are you an electrician or roofer? If the answer is yes, then you should be able to handle at least half of the installation process without much difficulty because it involves things you do every day. If you aren’t an electrician, don’t fret, you are not automatically disqualified, if you’re handy, you can still get through it.  The electrical work that you will need to do might be slightly more complicated than regular household wiring but it is not that much different. It also depends on what type of system you are installing. If you do microinverters like Enphase, almost the whole job is regular household 240 volt split phase. Only the wires on the solar panels are DC and those are simply plugged into the microinverters with the connectors that are already on the equipment. That part really is plug and play. If you are doing a string inverter, then it will be DC power from the solar panels to the inverter but it really isn’t that different. The biggest rule is that if you run it inside the house (attic wire runs are common) it must be in metal conduit.  The other part of the electrical work that might not be in every electrician’s daily routine is the conduit. It is common for residential rooftop solar installations to have EMT conduit running from the roof to the ground level equipment. There really isn’t any special things you need to know about bending EMT conduit, it just takes a fairly inexpensive bending tool and some practice. There are also lots of ways to cheat using LB’s and pre-bent 90 or 45 degree sections. You can also avoid a lot of EMT if you run the wiring through the attic. There you can often get away with flexible metal conduit for the DC and if its AC, some jurisdictions will allow Romex with no conduit at all just like any other household wiring.  The real hurdle on doing the electrical work for solar is knowing electrical safety, if you are an electrician, we would hope you already have a good grasp on that. If you aren’t an electrician, there are plenty of other ways to learn electrical safety if you don’t already know it. So now let’s talk about the roofing part of the solar installation....

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Grid-Tied Solar Interconnection Options
Nov19

Grid-Tied Solar Interconnection Options

If you are installing solar to save money on your electric bill, it is going to be a “grid-tied” system. When we talk about the “grid” we are talking about the electric company’s network of transmission lines and equipment that bring the electricity from the power plant to your house. The “tied” part of “grid-tied” means exactly what you would think it does, you are going to connect your solar power system to that grid.  The actual point of interconnection is typically your main service panel. This is the point where the grid ends and your home’s electrical system starts. It can generally be said that anything before your main service breaker belongs to the electric company and we call this part of the system the line side or supply side. Anything after your main service breaker belongs to you and we call this the load side because that is where your loads are. A load is anything that uses electricity like your lights, washing machine, air conditioner, etc. There are a few different ways to make that interconnection at the main service panel and that is the point of today’s article. The simplest method for the do-it-yourself solar installer is a load side connection made with a circuit breaker in your main service panel. This means you are going to add a circuit breaker in your main service panel next to all the circuit breakers that feed your loads and you will connect your solar inverter output to that circuit breaker. One thing to note about this type of load side connection are that the inverter circuit breaker will need to be as far as possible from your main breaker so you may have to move a few load breakers to make space for it at the end of the busbar that holds all your breakers.   Another thing you need to know about a load side connection with an inverter circuit breaker is that you have to follow the 120% rule (2014 NEC 705.12(D)(2)(3)(b) or NEC 2017 705.12(D)(2)(3)) where the main service breaker plus 125% of the maximum solar output must be less than or equal to 120% of the busbar rating. You can see our previous article about evaluating your main service panel for solar to understand the math on this but the bottom line is there are times when you can’t make this type of connection without an expensive main service panel upgrade, so let’s look at the other options that are available.  So, if you are not going to interconnect your solar power system on the load side of your main service breaker, that means...

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Homebuilders Seek Solar Contractors To Comply With California’s Newest Solar Mandate
Nov18

Homebuilders Seek Solar Contractors To Comply With California’s Newest Solar Mandate

Starting next year, California will require the construction of all homes to include solar systems that offset their expected energy usage.  California’s new home solar requirement is part of the state’s Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, which the California Energy Commission updates every three years. The mandate is an attempt by the state to achieve Zero Net Energy in all new homes by 2020. Such demands will create new challenges and opportunities for home builders looking to comply with the state’s law while maintaining competitive prices and offering unique value propositions to potential customers.  As of 2019, approximately 15,000 solar systems were installed on new homes. By next year that number is set to quintuple to nearly 75,000.  To keep pace with California’s growing demand for residential solar, building contractors are looking to partner with established home solar companies such as Go Green Solar, which have both the experience and track record necessary to help them streamline the transition while keeping a lean budget. Offering a wide selection of solar equipment and roster of subcontracted roofers, electricians, and engineers to help get the job done, Go Green Solar has the following traits that building contractors will want to consider when working with a home solar installer: Comprehensive knowledge of California building code and Title 24 requirementsGo Green Solar started in California and has over 13 years experience in the solar industry. Its sister company Planet Plan Sets specializes in making the solar permitting process easy for any home builder in the nation — meaning that when it comes to the tedious details such as building codes and laws, the company has a long-standing track record of success. Flexible and easy to work withMost DIY solar companies sell the equipment for a person or company to convert their building to solar and the relationship ends there. Go Green Solar is a hybrid of sorts, offering the freedom of choice and ownership that comes with DIY along with the additional help and assistance of installing should it be something a customer requires. Quality workmanshipGo Green Solar’s reviews speak for themselves. Having helped thousands of customers nationwide make the switch to solar, the company has a roster of full time and subcontracted workers that have been stringently vetted to do their work, and do it well. A wide selection of BOMs Not every home is the same. Different locations and budgets require different materials. Go Green Solar has a variety of photovoltaic panels, inverters, microinverters, and energy storage solutions for contractors to choose from, knowledge of how to install them, and a nuts and bolts understanding of how they will perform.  California’s Title 24 requirements...

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Is Your Roof Right for Solar?
Nov15

Is Your Roof Right for Solar?

If you look around, you are likely to notice that more and more roofs in your neighborhood are getting filled with solar panels. Which makes sense because all those homes use electricity and the solar panels are going to save those homeowners lots of money. But not every roof is the ideal place for solar so let’s talk about what makes a roof right for solar. First, the weather where you live will make a difference in your solar output, but even places where it rains a lot like Portland get enough sun for solar to make sense. If you are getting a solar production estimate, it is important that you use the correct zip code so you get an accurate estimate, but any location is going to have enough sun to save you money. The next thing to look at is the orientation of your roof. Solar panels produce the most power when the sun is hitting them directly. While you may think that north-facing roof looks bright and sunny, the sun never hits it at a direct angle and it is not a great place for solar panels. But sometimes people do install solar on the north facing roof so let’s get into some details on this. In the continental United States, solar panels facing South at about a 30 – 40 degree tilt angle will produce the most electricity annually. If you are in the southern states, the lower angle is better because the sun is higher in the sky. If you are in the northern states, the steeper tilt angle is better because the sun is lower in the sky.  If your roof is not quite facing due south but it’s close (within 30 degrees of south on a compass), it will still produce almost the full amount of power. If it is facing east or west you will lose about 15% – 20% of the annual production. The steeper the roof is, the more you will lose. So if the roof is pitched 10 degrees to the west, it will only be a 15% loss but if it is at 35 degree pitch to the west it will be more like 20%. A north facing roof will be a 30% – 50% annual loss depending on the pitch.   The pitch also matters on a south-facing roof 30-40 degrees is ideal for annual production and a roof that is totally flat will be at a 10% loss in the southern US and a 15% loss in the northern US.    Now, there are times where annual production is less important and you want to optimize production...

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GoGreenSolar Solves the Frustrations of DIY Solar
Oct30

GoGreenSolar Solves the Frustrations of DIY Solar

Many aspects of a solar project can be frustrating, which is why contractors charge so much for a turnkey solar installation. But, if you are smart and get your system from GoGreenSolar, you can avoid the cost of the contractor and keep clear of the most common issues of a do it yourself solar project. With solar, the headaches start long before you begin installing. First, you have to decide how big of a system to get. This means evaluating your roof and understanding your local fire code rules about setbacks and walkways. You will also have to determine how much solar your existing main service panel can accommodate and what your options are to modify it to so you can install more. Finally, you have to figure out what the system size will do for you in terms of saving money on your electric bill. This means understanding your current electric rate and what options you will have for your rate after installing the solar. Fortunately, the experts at GoGreenSolar can walk you through this whole process. Once you have decided on a system size, you still have to choose what equipment to get. With dozens of brands of solar panels, multiple inverter types and all sorts of different racking options this can be a bit daunting. Researching it yourself could take months and every manufacturer says their product is the best so if you read every brochure available, you will even more confused than when you started. You definitely want help from someone with experience who can tell you what will work best for your individual situation and make sure you get a system where all the components are compatible and nothing important is missing. Now you’ve finally selected all your equipment, but you still have to pull a permit before you can start installing anything. Solar is very complex and building departments expect a lot more than a few hand drawn sketches and some specification sheets. A typical solar permit (like the one you will get from GoGreenSolar) is 10-15 pages with all the notes, calculations and details that will get your permit approved easily. As a bonus, this permit paperwork will also be a guide for your installation as it includes helpful things like your wire and conduit sizing so you will save all the time of trying to figure that out. But wait, you’re not done with the paperwork yet. You also have to apply for “net metering” with your local electric company. This is rarely a simple process and the timing of the submittal is different depending on which electric company you are...

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Sizing Your Solar Power System
Oct10

Sizing Your Solar Power System

You know you want to install solar, but how much solar do you want to install? There are many factors to consider when making decisions about system size. The system size will be dependent on how much energy you want to generate. If you are doing a grid-tied system, you will start by looking at your electric bills. You should add up the last 12 months of electric bills so you have your annual usage. If you only use one month or one season, you can end up way off because your electric needs can change dramatically from summer to winter.  Sample Electric Bill – look for the kWh! Once you know your annual usage, you should ask yourself some questions. If you have solar on your roof and you’re no longer paying crazy high prices for every kilowatt hour (kwh), what might you do differently? Would you turn the air conditioning setting down a couple of degrees so you never break a sweat? Would you buy an electric car? Do you have any other plans like installing a swimming pool? If you answered yes, then you will want to add some kwh to your current usage to account for the additional air conditioning run time, the electric car, the swimming pool or whatever else you might dream up that will use extra electricity.  The next big question is how much of this projected energy usage do you want the solar to offset. This will depend on your electric rates and how your electric provider deals with net metering. If your local utility company gives you full retail credit for every kwh that you feed into their system then you should consider a system that generates close to 100% of your projected usage. Going over 100% is generally not beneficial as most utilities will not pay much for the excess power generated over the course of a year.  Sample electric bill before and after solar If you are sizing an off-grid system, you will have to do a little more work to get your projected usage.  You will need to make a list of everything that will use electricity. Then you have to determine how many watts each of those items will use and how many hours you plan to run them. You can multiply the watts by the hours to get watt hours. Divide the watt hours by 1,000 and that will give you the kilowatt hours (kwh). Now you know what you need to generate but that still doesn’t exactly tell you what size system to install.  Because there are so many factors (like location, weather and...

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