Call (888) 338-0183 or click here for solar pricing


Choosing Batteries for Solar
Feb18

Choosing Batteries for Solar

There has been a lot of buzz in the solar industry about batteries. They are necessary for most off grid solar applications and becoming an add-on trend for grid-tied systems. You can read our article “Should You Add Batteries to Your Solar” to find out if installing batteries is a good idea for you. If you do decide you want them, the next step is to choose which batteries are right for you.  One of the factors involved in this decision is what other equipment you will be using. From a technical standpoint, the inverter you will use will determine the required battery voltage. For example, the Outback Radian inverters typically need a 48 volt battery bank which means you are likely going to buy batteries that are 2, 6 or 12 volt and wire them in series to get a 48 volt battery bank. On the other hand, SolarEdge inverters require a 300 volt battery so you will typically use something like the LG Chem batteries that output that higher voltage.  From an install perspective, there are advantages to the higher voltage batteries. The higher voltage means lower amperage so the wires from the batteries to the inverter can be smaller and can be run much longer distances. Typically, with a 48 volt battery bank, your wires are going to be 2/0 AWG or 4/0 AWG and less than 10 feet. With the 300 volt batteries, it would be 10 AWG or 8 AWG and a 50 distance is no problem.  Battery ventilation requirements are also something to consider as this varies with the different battery chemistries. The least expensive batteries are flooded lead acid chemistry. They vent hydrogen gas and must be installed in a well ventilated area away from sparks or flames and separated from living spaces. Other battery chemistries, like sealed lead acid and lithium, do not vent any nasty gases and are much more flexible on where they can be installed. The physical space needed for batteries is also a consideration. If you have room for a lot of batteries on the floor or large battery cabinets or shelving, you can get the batteries that are shaped like boxes and spread them out on the floor, install them on sturdy shelves or put them in cabinets that are designed for batteries. They make almost all battery chemistries in this box shaped style. If you don’t have a lot of space, you should consider the lithium batteries like the LG Chem that are a slim box that hangs neatly on the wall. This will be the more expensive option and you won’t get as much...

Read More
Foresight is 2020 – 3 compelling reasons to switch to solar this year
Feb13

Foresight is 2020 – 3 compelling reasons to switch to solar this year

Financial success doesn’t happen by accident — it takes planning and foresight. When it comes to determining how solar will fit into that equation for you and your home in 2020 three compelling reasons are encouraging many to make the switch before the earth completes yet another migration around the sun.  1. The Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit If you’ve considered going solar over the last few years, you’ve no doubt come across the most lucrative environmental subsidy in America’s history, the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit, or ITC for short. 2019 to 2020 saw the credit step down from 30% to 26%, causing a sudden rush of homeowners looking to lock in the rate before the year’s end. The same pattern will repeat again this year, with the ITC dropping another four points to 22%. The average homeowner stands to lose approximately $1200 by procrastinating another year to make the change.  The 26% Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit expires at the end of 2020 2. Increasing Electricity Rates Lost money in the form of a federal tax incentive isn’t the only financial motivation putting pressure on homeowners to install solar. Since 2008, the average electricity bill has increased by 29%. In some states, rates are rising fast as 2-6% per year, with utility companies passing on the costs of repairing their outdated grids and lawsuits onto the customer. The best way to ensure your utility spending remains consistent is by generating your power with solar.  To partially quote the famous 1967 film The Graduate, “I want to say one word to you. Just one word…are you listening?”  3. Batteries. Solar plus storage is gearing up to be the biggest game-changer and influential factor in the coming years. In states where net-metering is coming under attack, the ability for a homeowner to better store the power he/she generates for later use is finally coming into fruition. Add to this that some states are offering additional incentives to offset the costs of renewable batteries, and you’ve got yourself a winning combination. 4. Added Bonus Installing solar is now cheaper than ever, with the installation cost dropping over 70% since the last decade. Companies such as Planet Plan Sets have streamlined the process of getting municipal approval and government subsidies, making the project more effortless than ever as well. When you consider that utility bills are all but guaranteed to rise year after year, the 10 to 20-year investment in a solar system for a home has an ROI that easily outperforms keeping the money in a traditional savings account. It helps home equity and keeps monthly energy costs predictable. The...

Read More
Can Solar Power Your Air Conditioner?
Feb06

Can Solar Power Your Air Conditioner?

Maybe your electric bills aren’t that bad, except for summer when you have to run the air conditioning. But you are the conservative type, so you set the thermostat at 80 degrees and suffer through it. Because of this, you don’t think getting solar for your whole house can help you. You would only need the solar for a few months and only for the air conditioner.  Is it possible to just get solar panels for your air conditioning and not for anything else? It depends on who you ask. There have been many solar companies over the years that have advertised solar powered air conditioning systems but what were they really selling? Some of them were selling evaporative coolers (also known as swamp coolers). Contrary to having the word “swamp” in their name, these types of cooling systems only work in the desert because they rely on evaporating water to cool the air. They have very low power consumption and can often be operated with a single solar panel. If you live in the desert and don’t already have an evaporative cooler installed on your house, this is not a bad option to save on air conditioning. But, chances are, if evaporative coolers work well in your area, you already have one and it’s already saving you money on your air conditioning costs whether or not it has the solar panel. Other companies advertising solar power for your air conditioner were really just selling standard grid-tied solar power systems but sizing them smaller so they only offset the usage of the air conditioner and not anything else.  There really is no practical way to only power the air conditioner with solar panels. If you really wanted to do it, you would have to separate the electric circuit for the air conditioner from the rest of your house. Then you would purchase an off-grid solar power system with batteries to make sure that the air conditioner always had power even when it was cloudy. After you set all that up, you will have paid a lot of extra money for all the battery equipment and when the air conditioner wasn’t running you have solar panels on your roof going to waste because you isolated them to only run the air conditioner.  If you are going to install solar, you might as well install the system to the whole house. First, solar panels produce a lot more power in the summer than they do in the winter so they would be working hardest for you when you are running your air conditioning. Second, most electric companies offer net metering on...

Read More
Choosing Solar Panels
Jan23

Choosing Solar Panels

The biggest part of a solar power system is the solar panels themselves. With dozens of different solar panels in warehouses across the US, how do you decide which ones to get? There are many ways to compare solar panels so let’s talk about what to look for. Many people make the assumption that a solar panel with higher wattage is always the better choice, but this isn’t necessarily true. If you are comparing solar panels that are same physical size and one of them is higher wattage, that means it is more efficient and will cost more money per watt. If you have a limited amount of space to install your solar panels, then the more efficient solar panel would be a good idea because you can fit more wattage in the space you have. But if you have plenty of room for solar panels, it may not be worth it to pay the higher price per watt for the more efficient panels. Lower efficiency does not necessarily mean lower quality.      Which brings us to the discussion of quality. Determining the quality of a solar panel is not an exact science but there are some things you can look for. Looking at the manufacturer is a good idea. Ask questions like how long they have been in business and whether they make things other than solar panels. What you are trying to judge is whether or not they will be around 20 years from now to honor their warranty. If they have been making solar panels for a long time, chances are they are good quality or warranty issues would have put them out of business. If are a major electronics brand, that make other things chances are they will stick around and honor their solar warranties because they will still want to sell their other products. Another way to determine solar panel quality is check what certifications it has. You can see our blog article “Solar Panel Certifications Demystified” for more details but all solar panels have to be certified to meet the UL 1703 standard but they can also take it up a notch and get certified to meet other IEC 61646 standards for durability and performance or get tested over time for the DNV GL PV Module Reliability Scorecard which is what financial companies look at when investing money into solar farms. Solar panel manufacturers can also get their factories certified to certain quality standards as well for added peace of mind.  Some people get hung up on different types of solar panels. They might insist on monocrystalline solar panels because they heard they are...

Read More
Where Should You Install Solar?
Jan21

Where Should You Install Solar?

Everyone knows solar panels can save you money, but where should they go?  First, let’s discuss location on a larger scale. There is no place in the United States where solar wouldn’t work. You might think you it is too rainy, too cold or you live too far north and don’t get enough sun but let’s drop those excuses.  There is no location that gets too much rain. Even in Seattle with 226 cloudy days and 38 inches of rainfall per year gets enough sun for solar panels to be worthwhile because solar panels will still produce electricity on cloudy days, just not as much as they would on sunny days.  Too far north is not a problem, but there are things to consider. Unless you are at the equator, solar is going to produce more power and in summer and less power in winter because of the angle of the sun and the amount of daylight hours. The further north you go, the more extreme this is. In Alaska, solar works great in the summer but it won’t do much in the winter. In the continental US, you will still get solar power in the winter and with most grid-tied systems you would be on yearly net metering billing with your electric company so it doesn’t really matter what month the power was produced. Many people think solar panels don’t work when in the cold, but they actually work better when it’s cold out. Cold temperatures can increase solar production by as much as 10%. The other side of that is really hot temperatures will lower production by 10% but that still means your getting a lot of free power from the sun, so don’t sweat it. So now that you know you are in the right geographic location for solar, let’s talk about where to install solar panels on a smaller scale. If you have a few acres of land you will probably have plenty of room for a ground mounted solar system. Even a half acre yard might have enough space that isn’t shaded by the house, depending on the layout. Ground mounts have advantages in that they are easier and safer to install (no lugging solar panels to the roof or worries about fall hazards) and you also have more options on orientation. You can check out our article on ground mounts vs roof mounts to get a better understanding of whether or not ground mounted solar is right for you. If your yard is small, then your roof will be the best place for the solar panels. Solar panels facing south will produce the...

Read More
Should You Add Batteries to Your Solar?
Jan14

Should You Add Batteries to Your Solar?

Fast food order takers ask “Do you want fries with that?” every time you order a burger and now solar installers are asking all their customers if they want batteries with their solar. Add-ons are all the rage so if you have solar or are planning to install solar soon, you need to decide if you should add those batteries.  One thing that might sway your battery decision is power outages. Many people don’t realize it, but a standard grid-tied solar power system will not provide any power if there is no utility power. The only exception to this is that SMA inverters can provide you with one power outlet that will operate small appliances when the sun is out. This is handy if the sun is out and you need to charge your cell phone, but if it’s cloudy or night time, you are out of luck.    So if you have a lot of power outages in your area, batteries might be a good idea. Even if you don’t have a lot of power outages, but having one would cause a serious problem because you require an oxygen concentrator or you like to keep a side of beef in your freezer, you might think about those batteries. What equipment you need depends on what solar equipment you have or are getting but the parts for a battery back-up system to run small things like an oxygen concentrator or freezer might only run a few thousand dollars. A Do-it-yourselfer with some electrical experience can install a simple system fairly easily. If you are thinking in terms of disaster preparedness and want to be able to run your air conditioning, electric hot water heater and swimming pool pump during the zombie apocalypse, the battery system will be far more expensive and complex. You can still install it yourself, but the parts might run into the tens of thousands of dollars depending on how extravagant you want to live during long term power outages. For some people, it is worth the peace of mind. Back-up power aside, there might be other reasons to say yes to the batteries. Changes in electric rates are a big reason why batteries are becoming more popular. Time of use rates are becoming mandatory for some electric customers and this may decrease their solar savings. Solar produces the most power around noon when the electricity is cheap and then electricity is more expensive at 8pm when the sun has gone down. A battery system can store the electricity generated during the “off-peak” cheap times so you can use it during the “peak” expensive time which will...

Read More