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What is the PTC rating on a Solar Panel and why is it important?

When receiving a quote for solar power, it’s best to make sure the solar panels quoted output are using the PTC benchmark. But what does that mean? Well there are two types of tests used to quote the output of solar panels: STC (Standard Test Conditions) – the solar panel’s output is tested in a lab, the output stated by the manufacturer PTC (PVUSA Test Conditions) – the solar panel’s output it tested in real world conditions at the PVUSA testing center in Davis, California. The PTC rating is typically 10-15% lower than the STC rating. The real neat part of the PVUSA testing center is the setup. PVUSA lines up solar panels from different manufacturers and puts them head to head and records the output data, an independent test of output, which is great number for consumers to look at when shopping for solar panels. Below are some satellite images of the PVUSA testing center. The PVUSA testing center is a 800kW facility with all the latest solar...

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The first thing you should do before you think about going solar

Thinking about going solar? Start off by looking and trying to understand your electric bill. Yes, we know no one understands how to read a bill, we don’t blame you its so complicated! Most people just pay the bill at the end of the month without really looking at the bill. When going solar its important to do an analysis of your usage. You should look for the following when looking at your bill: What are you paying per kWh (kilowatt hour)? Is there a time of use charge? Are you paying a higher rate during peak hour times? Winter usage compared to summer usage…..does your electric bill spike up in the summer? What service period does the bill cover? How many total kWh are you using during your service period? What rate tier are you in? To conduct a proper analysis its best to have the last 12 months of your bills hand to come up with the most accurate number of your usage. Starting with your bills is a good place to start in figuring how much solar you need to reduce or eliminate your bill. Sometimes it much more cost effective to just use solar to reduce your peak hour usage to drop you into a lower paying tier….so use your bill as a roadmap for your solar power...

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Why isn’t solar power used more often?

If solar power is so great why isn’t it on every roof already? Did you know in 1980 President Regan removed perfectly working solar panels from the White House’s roof! There are many reasons why solar power hasn’t gone mainstream, besides the minimal support by the government. Purchasing solar power is a complex investment decision (it’s not easy to go solar!) Solar Power is associated with a large upfront cost There is no nationwide standard for solar power rebates Lack of Feed-in tariffs (a requirement for utilities to buy power generated through your solar power system at a premium) People are used to buying power as a service (month-to-month), consumers aren’t used to “pre-paying” for energy. Lack of information for consumers to make educated decisions Are the people who purchased solar power already eco-freaks? No way, the number one reason consumers who have bought solar power systems already is because it makes great financial sense. If you look at a solar power system in terms of an investment, the rate of return is much higher compared to a Bond, Bank C.D. or even the S&P 500 The best way to start in figuring out if solar power is right for you is to start looking at your utility bills. Figure out how much energy you are using per month…its shocking people have no idea what they are paying for, because most consumers I talk to often pay their bill without even looking at it….when buying solar power most consumers finally understands what the heck their electrical bill really...

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Does a Do it Yourself Solar Energy Install Make Sense?

Consumers are continuously looking new methods to reduce upfront investments or avoid costs to make a solar energy more affordable. The labor costs when dealing with a renewable energy can be significant to the install of a system and could be eliminated if one prefers a self solar install. There are two sides to this coin, because all decisions come with risk, a self install could go very well and you may be able to save lots of money or it can become a money pit. What does it depend on? You! Installing clean energy systems such as solar photovoltaic (electricity), solar hot water (thermal) or small scale wind requires trade skills and in general working with electricity is dangerous. Depending on your trade skills, there is a learning curve to installation, and on your first self install, expect to make mistakes that will cost you in time and money. Depending on how many mistakes you make the end cost of installing a clean energy system could be a rewarding experience because you not only save a lot of money, but you’ll be the master of your system. Questions you may want to ask yourself before you self install? Am I afraid of heights? (if so, consider a ground mount system) Am I comfortable working with electricity? Do I have room for mistakes in the budget? Does the company I am purchasing the products from offer installation consulting / support? Should I buy a turn key system? Do I know how to use a...

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Reducing your upfront investment to go solar

Is going solar is costing more than you expected? Don’t give up! There are alternative options you should think about: 1. If you have good credit we can help you finance your solar power system and make the monthly payments competitive to your monthly energy bill 2. Reduce your consumption of energy (eliminating energy waste can reduce the final cost of a system by thousands) For example insulation, CFL or LED light bulbs, energy star appliances….etc 3. Research and consider Solar Hot Water (heating your water with solar has a much lower upfront cost compared to solar PV, and a faster break even point) 4. Don’t shoot to eliminate your entire bill, the great aspect of a solar power system is that they are scalable, you can always start for example by eliminating 25% of your energy bill and then scale the system up on the future, the system can be expanded quite easily. I hope this advice will help you with your solar energy...

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Planning & Budgeting for Solar Power

Planning and Budgeting is important aspect of acquiring a solar power system. The cost of a solar power system will vary depending many factors including: How big is the structure? How energy efficient is the structure? What is the average electric bill? What is the orientation of the structure? North, East, South, West? How much roof area or ground space is available? What is the latitude? What are the critical loads? What are the potential energy demands? How much of the total energy required is expected to be provided by the solar power system? What unique site issues apply? (Roof area limitations, shading, soiling, snow & ice, etc.) What are the potential energy demands? How much of the total energy required is expected to be provided by the solar power system? What unique site issues apply? (Roof area limitations, shading, soiling, snow & ice, etc.) As a solar power consumer it is important to ask these questions, the questions above will give you a better idea of what to ask when meeting with a clean energy installer. It is always recommended that you prepare for a meeting before you call a solar power installer and answering the questions above will help you establish your goals and help an installer figure out your...

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