How To Buy A Solar Power System
We, at ACA Solar, want you to be satisfied with our services. We therefore think it is particularly important for you to understand the benefits -- and limitations -- of solar power systems for their particular electric application. So we take a somewhat unconventional approach to evaluating your site and recommending a solar power system.
1. Do you want to do the right thing for the environment?
Sun-generated power is clean -- no pollution, noise or fossil fuels. A typical 6 kilowatt system eliminates 120 tons of carbon dioxide over its 30+ year lifetime. Your investment will help reduce our usage of fossil fuels, reduce global warming and help make our country energy independent.
2. Is your monthly electric bill over $50?
If you are paying more than about $50 per month for electricity it is likely that you are in one of the higher rate tiers -- and the solar energy system will save you a significant amount on your electric bill. If your electrical consumption levels are very low your paybacks are likely to be in excess of 15 years. Nevertheless, the environmental benefits of clean, distributed power produced by a solar energy system may be compelling to you; just remember that you can't save more than your current bill.
3. Do you have at least 200 square feet of unshaded roof or yard space that has a southerly exposure?
Solar energy systems will perform best if they are completely unshaded and oriented due south at roughly a 10 to 40 degree tilt angle. Shading will compromise the output in a somewhat non-linear way based on the time of day and time of year that the shading will occur. Orientations that are due east or due west will have outputs about 10 to 30% less depending on tilt angle. In many cases, unshaded east or west roof areas are better than partially shaded south roof areas. If you don't have at least 200 square feet of unshaded area, then a solar power system is unlikely to pay back in fewer than 10 years.
4. Do you want a professionally installed and guaranteed solar power system?
Installing a solar energy system is not brain surgery, but does require expertise that can only be gained from day-in and day-out installations. Professional solar power installers have the experience to select the right equipment, wiring, connections and components -- and know the tricks of the trade to ensure long, trouble-free operation. Moreover, the paperwork necessary with your state's energy commission to get your rebate and with your local utility to get the necessary installation permission is onerous. You can find sources for the major components on the web, and most of these mail order providers are quite reputable. But many of the DIY customers that have subsequently contacted us for "emergency assistance" have found that these mail order systems are poorly matched for their actual needs, do not include all the necessary wiring and connection components that they require, leave them with a mountain of paperwork to fill out so that they can get their rebate and connect to the grid - and then they find out that they have to pay income tax on their rebate (we'll help you avoid that trap).
If you want a professionally designed, installed and guaranteed solar energy system:
- Select a reputable solar power installer in your area with good references.
- Make sure they have a current contractor's license and Workers Compensation insurance for their installers.
- Make sure they carry at least $1 million in liability insurance.
This professional firm should be able to:
- Do an accurate solar site survey (using a Solar Pathfinder.)
- Give you specific solar power output, annual savings and payback information for your particular system (not a generalized "optimistic" scenario.)
- Provide you with a five-year warranty for the system.
- Take care of the necessary building permits, Rebate Applications, Utility Interconnect Agreements, warranty paperwork and tax credit/depreciation advice so that you can minimize your out-of-pocket system costs.