Since SolarCity introduced their glass solar tiles, the first thing many people have asked is “How much do they cost?” It is estimated that the average 2,500 sq.ft. home with of a 70% solar roof (the percentage that the average home needs to generate to cover all its electricity consumption), including a storage battery, would be $58,200. That does not account for incentives or electricity savings, but it does provide a good starting point for comparison. Elon Musk said the material will average $21.85/square foot.

Of course, that still leaves us with the question: “How does that compare with other solar options?” These new solar tiles are still a very early technology. Today’s traditional solar PV systems are the most affordable and productive in the market. That having been said, although every installation is somewhat different and uniquely fit to your home’s specifications, we can offer a solid baseline for price point comparisons.

Rooftop Solar Systems with Solar Panels

Most traditional rooftop solar systems consist of rack-mounted solar panels connected to a power inverter. LA Solar Group typically uses a low-profile mounting system, which positions  the panels as close to the roof as possible for a more aesthetically pleasing effect.

There are number of factors that affect the price of solar systems, including:

  • Power output in watts
  • Efficiency rating
  • Degradation rate
  • Manufacturer
  • Manufacturing method (i.e.: poly v. monocrystalline)
  • Number of modules installed

Rack-mounted systems like this typically range from $15,000-$30,000, before factoring in electric bill savings or incentives. This is a reasonably priced and commonly chosen option for homeowners who are deciding to go solar. The return of investment on purchasing a solar system is between 5-8 years, depending on system size.

Solar Shingles

SolarCity isn’t the only company that’s been working on integrating solar photovoltaic (PV) cells into roofing material. Several companies offer solar shingles, including Certainteed Apollo Shingle and GAF Decotech. Solar shingles are installed directly into the roof, without roof penetration or racking.

Solar shingles are slightly less efficient that solar panels, and cost a bit more, but are more aesthetically pleasing. They don’t require any racking systems because the shingles themselves are the roofing component. Homeowners can maximize solar shingle productivity by having them installed on their roof in locations that capture the most sunlight throughout the day.

Shingles are also lightweight. At about 12 pounds each, they don’t require structural reinforcement. Solar shingles also have an advantage over traditional solar panel system in wire management, since they eliminate any hanging or exposed wiring.

Roofing Without Solar

It’s important to note that traditional roofing without solar is also an expense. According to Consumer Reports, clay tile roofs average $16,000, asphalt shingle roofs are roughly $20,000, and slate roofs average $40,000. If you need roofing work done and have a little wiggle room in your budget, that’s an excellent time to go solar. You can handle your roofing needs and lower your electric bills at the same time for only a few thousand dollars more.

Other Considerations

Price isn’t everything, of course. You’ll want to know that your solar system is working properly and continues to perform at the levels you were promised. Your system should include power monitoring for your home, so you can track how your system is performing for free.

You’ll also want to know your installer stands behind its work, and that you’ll have someone to call if things aren’t right. LA Solar Group is California State Licensing Board-licensed for solar, roofing, and electrical installation. All our solar installations–traditional panels and solar shingles alike–carry a 25-year power output warranty.

If you have any questions about the cost of going solar, we can answer them. There are also a lot of solar power incentives in Los Angeles and financing options to help you go solar. We would be happy to help you learn about them and your eligibility for each.

If you’ve ever tracked your exercise, nutrition, or finances, you’ll know how useful monitoring can be. The same can be said of tracking your new solar system’s power production and consumption. Power consumption monitoring systems can help you make informed decisions about your energy usage. This is especially useful if you have a net metering agreement that credits you for sending power from your system to the electrical grid, or if you pay a time-of-use (TOU) rate for power.

Let’s look at what power consumption monitoring systems are available for your LA home, including their similarities and differences.

Monitoring  your Solar System’s Power Generation

Most solar systems are warranteed to produce a set level of power over time. Those production levels are backed by the system installer and the solar module manufacturers. Some installers will keep tabs on your system to ensure it’s performing as promised. Many also include power consumption monitoring systems, which let you check your solar system’s performance as well. Monitoring systems track power production, overall system health, historical performance, and points of comparison, such as other energy sources and producers.

To enable monitoring, your solar system installer will connect current transformers around the main lines entering your electric main panel. The transformers send data to a consumption monitoring device for analysis, enabling secure internet access by you and your family.

Most monitoring lets you check via desktop or mobile device and delivers data in real time. You’ll be able to tell if your system is performing properly or is underperforming, and which  module is causing the problem for easy troubleshooting. If the problem requires your installer’s attention, they will be able to make any necessary changes quickly, without having to test every module onsite.

Now that we’ve gone over general monitoring capabilities, what about specific monitoring systems? LA Solar Group offers four monitoring systems from different manufacturers; although they all excel at the general monitoring functions described above, each has specific features that make them especially well-suited for specific applications.

Enphase: MyEnlighten Works Well With the Connected Home

Enphase’s monitoring system works well as part of an overall home energy solution, giving system owners energy usage insights. It also offers an optional line of connected home monitoring gear, called Envoy. If you want to know your home’s power consumption down to the appliance level, this is a great option. You’ll be able to spot and replace energy sucks as needed.  

SunPower: Track Savings in Dollars and GHG Emissions

SunPower also lets installers monitor your system’s performance remotely, so they can make adjustments as needed. SunPower presents the data it monitors in simple, easy-to-read graphics. The interface includes bill savings estimates and environmental savings, so you can track your reductions in both dollars and greenhouse gas emissions. SunPower was the first monitoring provider to offer an iPhone app, and wireless in-home wall-mounted displays are available as well.

SolarEdge: Module-Level Monitoring, Remote Service

SolarEdge’s monitoring solution includes sensors and transmitters built into the optimizers and inverters, and sends the measurement data via powerline, no WiFi setup needed. SolarEdge displays all your system’s modules in a map, with color-coded performance for both watts and dollars saved. The company notes that its inverter and module-level real-time monitoring is free for 25 years.

Sense: Built-In Energy Monitoring

The Sense monitor is installed in your electrical panel, and the solar version compares your energy production to consumption. It also tracks energy usage by every device in your home, without additional sensors. Much like a learning thermostat, which improves its efficiency based on your usage and preferences, Sense emphasizes its ability to suggest improvements over time. It can even use algorithms to distinguish between specific appliances for added accuracy.

Power consumption monitoring is a relatively low-priced add-on for solar systems. Considering the potential energy savings these systems make possible, the payback time is only a few months. If you have any questions about LA Solar Group’s guaranteed solar system performance, monitoring hardware, or software, let us know.

There are usually a lot of questions that pop up when you consider going solar. One important question is how going solar affects your financial relationship with your local electric utility. If you go solar and connect your system to the electrical grid, how does that change your relationship to the utility? What if you lease your rooftop solar system instead of buying your own? Let’s look at a few common scenarios to illustrate what California homeowners can expect when going solar.

Net Energy Metering

The most common rooftop solar system is interconnected to the electrical grid and local electrical utility. Staying connected to the grid ensures you’ll have power when the sun’s not shining (setting aside battery storage for the moment) and gives you someplace to sell your excess power, should you generate more than you use. That’s done through net energy metering (NEM), so-called because the utility meters the net energy you consumed vs. produced, and credits you for any difference.

If you, like many Los Angeles residents, have been getting your power from Southern California Edison (SCE), you can keep them as an electricity provider. After your rooftop solar installation, the city will perform an inspection to make sure the solar, roofing, and electrical work meets its requirements. Then SCE (or your local utility) will install a net meter. Once they’ve done that, you’ll get the official Permission to Operate, and you can start generating power from sunlight and selling any excess back to SCE.

Power Purchase Agreements

Some homeowners get the benefit of going solar without ownership. If you’re one of these people, you’ve entered into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with your utility. The utility sets a price for the energy generated from your rooftop system, then enters into an agreement to buy a certain amount of energy over time from you. As a result, you get a set low price for your power, and the knowledge that your electricity comes from a renewable fuel source. If you own the home, entering into a PPA could raise your home’s value as well.

The utility likes this arrangement because it gives them another cheap source of power and leasing solar systems to customers may count toward their requirements for increased use of renewable power sources. The system installer and financier also get paid, so everyone gets something from this arrangement.

Self-Generation Incentive Program

The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) offers rebates to qualified distributed energy generators. Put simply, generating solar power at home makes things easier on utilities, since they don’t have to generate and send as much power to you from a power plant. This also applies to residential energy storage, which similarly helps manage power demand since customers who store power don’t add to demand during times of peak usage. CPUC’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) is designed to encourage more distributed energy generation and energy storage like this. The program requires metering, but not an interconnection with the utility.

Note: The SGIP has been extremely popular, and benefits now vary somewhat by utility. As with any incentive, please call us directly for the latest information on eligibility and requirements.

Going Off-Grid

If you are going solar to in order to go off-grid, you can kiss your utility goodbye if you like. You don’t have to sell extra power to anyone—you can store it in a battery to use when and how you like, including powering any electric car charging stations you might have. You don’t have to be connected to the power grid to take part in the SGIP rebate mentioned above. You will simply need to utilize performance metering and report how much energy you’re generating and/or storing.

LA Solar has helped more than 2,000 homeowners go solar all over California. If you have questions about how going solar will affect your physical and financial connections to your utility, give us a call.

If you are a Los Angeles homeowner thinking about investing in a rooftop solar system, you’re probably hoping to slash your electric bill and save a few bucks. Thanks to California’s commitment to solar energy generation, you could also be eligible for various incentives that will make even the most modest solar additions more lucrative. Los Angeles utilities and governments (up to the Federal level) have invested in electric bill credits, rebates, and tax incentives for homeowners going solar. Here is what you need to know about this year’s solar power incentives.

Solar Incentives in Los Angeles Expiring Soon

Net Energy Metering 1.0

Net energy metering (NEM) programs pay you a variable amount for any unused excess energy from your panels. Payment, if you’re owed one, comes in the form of a bill credit. If you’re a homeowner, this is an attractive incentive—especially since you don’t pay the (much higher) utility rate for the power you generate. The only requirement is that your rooftop system must be under 1MW to qualify. (But don’t worry—that’s most home systems.) Payment is made according to a formula:

Net payment = Energy delivered from the utility -
Net excess amount metered (charged) to the utility.

The NEM 1.0 program will not be around much longer: It expires June 30, 2017 at midnight, or when SCE has served 2.24 GW under the program. Any installations made by June 30th are qualified, regardless of the wattage cap. Then it switches to NEM 2.0, which we’ll discuss in a minute.

  • Incentive: Savings from generating your own power vs. price for electricity from the utility; credit for any solar energy you don’t use that’s sent to SCE.
  • Who qualifies: SCE customers.
  • System size requirements: Based on your historical usage, under 1MW.
  • Technical restrictions: For systems connected to SCE.
  • Deadline: June 30, 2017, or when SCE has served 2.24GW under the program. All installations by June 30 qualify.

Solar Incentive Program (SIP)

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) offers rebates to homeowners who install rooftop solar systems between 1.5KW-1MW in size (beyond that, LADWP requires a special meter be installed to measure system performance). Applications must be made within 60 days of the installation of an LADWP solar net meter.

The program is set to expire at the end of 2017. The rebate rate is currently set at $0.25 per watt of expected production. That will drop over time; the date and rate of the next drop are still being set. It’s also worth mentioning that you can only apply for this rebate once—you can’t re-apply if you go solar on a second or subsequent home.

  • Incentive: $0.25/watt rebate on rooftop installations.
  • Who qualifies: Los Angeles county homeowners.
  • System size requirements: At least 1.5KW.
  • Technical restrictions: Systems of 10KW and greater require a performance meter. Applicants may only apply once; previous SIP recipients ineligible.
  • Deadline: Applications must be made within 60 days of the installation of an LADWP solar net meter.

Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP)

If you’re thinking about using a battery like the Tesla Powerwall to store energy from your rooftop system when the sun isn’t shining, the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) is for you. The SGIP gives homeowners rebates on their energy storage purchases. As referenced in their website, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) funds the SGIP.

While this program is not expiring or going away anytime soon, the first participants get the best deal: Phase 1 offers $0.50 per watt hr. toward battery purchases, but that rate drops after June 4th.

Phase 2 SGIP participants get $0.40/Whr. Steps 3-5 are commensurately lower. You can get the complete lowdown here (See p. 23 for energy storage residential rates).

  • Incentive: $0.40/Whr rebate on residential energy storage (batteries like the Tesla Powerwall.
  • Who qualifies: IOU customers who add residential energy storage.
  • System size requirements: Incentives decrease at 2MWh and over. Unless you’re Tony Stark, don’t worry about it.
  • Technical restrictions: Your system must be connected to the grid and monitored by your smart meter, which your utility will handle.
  • Deadline: You must complete all project milestones within 90 calendar days of receiving a Conditional Reservation Letter (i.e. initial approval).

Ongoing Solar Incentives in Los Angeles

Net Energy Metering 2.0

When NEM 1.0 moves to version 2.0 in July 2017, it’ll be based on a time of use (TOU) model. Instead of paying the same rate for electricity you use in the middle of the night as you do during the day, you’ll get charged higher rates for energy from SCE during peak hours (between 12-3 pm). This is based on a standard tier rate.

Homeowners in Los Angeles should be aware of a couple of new fees associated with NEM 2.0 as compared to NEM 1.0. SCE customers with systems less than 1MW in size will pay $75 for interconnection to the electric grid, in addition to non-bypassable charges on electricity from SCE. Those charges will support community building and energy-efficiency efforts such as low-income electric bill assistance, retrofitting older dwellings, and helping make sure that the county has more opportunities to go solar.

  • Incentive: Credit for electricity you don’t use that’s sent to SCE; grid-supplied electricity pricing varies by the time of day it was used.
  • Who qualifies: Los Angeles county homeowners.
  • System size requirements: Based on your historical usage, under 1MW. Systems over 1MW will incur an $800 fee upon joining.
  • Technical restrictions: For systems connected to SCE.
  • Deadline: Program begins July, 2017, and runs until NEM 3.0 is rolled out in 2022.

PACE Financing

Credit for the electricity generated by your new rooftop isn’t the only type of financial incentive available to homeowners who go solar. Many municipalities let homeowners who go solar finance it through payments on their property bills. The arrangement is known as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). Minimum financing is typically $5,000, with a maximum of 15% of the home’s value.

  • Incentive: Financing for solar energy through property bill payments.
  • Who qualifies: Los Angeles county homeowners.
  • System size requirements: None.
  • Technical restrictions: None.
  • Deadline: None.

Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit/Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

Uncle Sam has something for homeowners who go solar too. If you add solar to a residence, you will be credited for 30% of the net system cost on your federal taxes. As with several of the solar incentives, the enticement diminishes over time: the break will fall from 30% to 26% starting in 2020, then fall to 22% in 2021, and 10% in 2022—if Congress chooses to continue the program past 2021.

  • Incentive: 30% federal tax credit for the net system price
  • Who qualifies: Homeowners who add solar to their home. Exception: You may claim credit only for the same year your solar system was installed—so you may be eligible but not qualify.
  • System size requirements: None.
  • Technical restrictions: Primary and secondary residences only—Sorry, no rental properties.
  • Deadline: Currently funded through 2021.

Property Tax Incentive

If you’re building a new house and not just revamping an existing home, you’re eligible for a whole different set of incentives. Some areas will give you a one-time property tax break. The CA State Board of Equalization still lists ongoing property tax credits of 100% of the value of the system for new homes that include solar. Note: We called and checked with the L.A. County Office of the Assessor, and this was still the case as of May 11th. As always, check with us for the latest information on solar incentives.

  • Incentive: 100% of system value from property taxes.
  • Who qualifies: Los Angeles county homeowners.
  • System size requirements: None.
  • Technical restrictions: None.
  • Deadline: Program expires 12/31/2024.

Renewable Market Adjustment Tariff (ReMAT)

Less common than net metering, rebates, and tax credits, feed-in tariffs (FIT) are yet another financial incentive to go solar. Basically, you and your electric company make a long-term agreement on how much they’ll pay you for any power you sell to them. Why would they do this? Because it lets them buy power from you during peak demand periods for way less than they’d pay other providers.

The most recent rates SCE published were set at $37.23/MWh for (as-needed) peak power. For comparison, the baseload rate was $89.23/MWh. SCE keeps this option close to the chest compared with some of its more well-marketed offers, but it’s there if you know where to look.

  • Incentive: Feed-In Tariff.
  • Who qualifies: SCE customers with solar.
  • System size requirements: Up to 3MW.
  • Technical restrictions: None.
  • Deadline: None.

What About the California Solar Initiative?

The California Solar Initiative is a statewide program administered by SCE and other IOUs that has offered rebates and other incentives to homeowners and homebuilders who go solar. It’s been so popular that rebates for rooftop solar systems for homeowners in the SCE service area have been exhausted, although there are still incentives available dedicated to solar water heating systems and affordable solar housing. If you get your electricity connection from someone other than an IOU—an electric service provider, publicly-owned load-serving entity, or a rural electric cooperative—you may still qualify.

There are additional incentives available to homeowners who add energy storage to their rooftop solar system. Check with us if you’d like to know more.

How Do I Make the Most of this Information?

As you’ve most likely noticed, these programs are designed to be more attractive the earlier you sign up, with lower savings and more conditions attached over time. So it’s helpful if you can get your system installed sooner rather than later.

For homeowners who are SCE customers, the best thing you can do right now is get on board with NEM 1.0 before June 30th. Also, keep an eye on the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. Up to 30% of your rooftop system cost may be credited toward federal taxes owed the year of installation, up until 2020, when the credit percentage drops.

Another key thing to consider is who you choose to install your rooftop solar system. LA Solar has helped more than 2,200 homeowners throughout California go solar since 2012 and is one of the 100 fastest-growing private businesses. We make sure our customers get answers to all their questions before, during, and after the installation process. If you have questions about any of the information here or about other aspects of going solar, we want to hear from you.

Ready to begin your Solar Journey?

Those who live on the California beach know it’s a unique and sometimes challenging environment. Wind, sand, mist, and sea spray all combine to create that iconic coastal atmosphere. If you are thinking about updating your beach house with a solar system, you might wonder how that atmosphere affects the cost of solar panel maintenance and installation. What’s required to maintain a rooftop solar system at the beach? Fortunately, LA Solar Group has experience installing solar for homes in beachfront communities, and are ready to answer all your questions.

Why Worry About Corrosion At the Beach?

Corrosion can degrade the exterior of solar panels as well as the panel’s electronic components, all of which reduces the amount of power they produce and may necessitate replacement. Physicists and engineers work constantly to make solar panels more resistant to corrosion. The relevant international standard for corrosion resistance for panels used at the beach is IEC 61701 (salt mist corrosion testing of photovoltaic modules). The vast majority of Tier 1/Grade A solar panels (the only type LASG uses) conform to this standard.

Does Distance From the Beach Affect Corrosion Concerns?

There are six different levels of corrosion resistance as measured by the IEC standard test. The most corrosive conditions tend to be within 200 yards of the beach. Within that zone, the closer you are to the beach, the higher the level of corrosion resistance you’ll want. If your installer chooses the right panels, they can be exposed to frequent sea spray, and you’ll still be fine.

The highest corrosion resistance-rated panels do not cost substantially more than others in the Tier 1 class. A qualified installer will be able to answer any questions about how your system will stand up to sea spray over time.

Do Corrosion-Resistant Panels Cost More to Install?

Every solar system is customized based on power requirements, rooftop architecture, and other considerations. However, all things being equal, going solar at the beach doesn’t cost any more than it does further inland.

Will Rust Resistant Solar Panel Racks and Mounts Cost More?

The racks and mounts on which your solar panels are mounted need to be corrosion resistant too. Your best bet is to avoid ungalvanized steel or aluminum alloyed with a high percentage of rust-susceptible metals. Most racks and mounts used by reputable installers are corrosion-resistant, thanks to a high amount of aluminum or special coatings and treatments.

Will Inverters or Connective Wiring Rust & Need Replacement?  

Besides the panels and mounts, your system will include at least one inverter to convert the direct current from your panels into alternating current for home use. For beach homeowners, make sure your installer either uses weather-resistant housing, or else places your inverter indoors. Similarly, you’ll want all wiring installed in a way that does not leave connections exposed. Having a licensed electrician on your installation team is a good way to ensure those types of details get the proper attention. If they do, you should get at least as much use from your solar system’s components as you would further inland, and replacements won’t be necessary.

Does Solar Panel Maintenance Cost More at the Beach?

In addition to standard issue grit and dust, panels can get sea salt and grime on them. Sometimes algae or other living matter can take hold as well. However, maintaining your solar panels shouldn’t cost you any more just because you live at the beach. It is worth noting that leaving your panels dirty can affect your system’s output. Estimates range from less than 1% loss in power generation to nearly 20%.

Should I Be Worried About High Winds and Sand?

Crystalline solar cells themselves are relatively fragile, and even microscopic cracks can reduce the cell’s ability to collect solar power. However, solar cells come in casing to protect them, typically hard plastic or laminated glass. The protected panels are scratch-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about sand diminishing their performance.

The panels are also lab-tested for impact resistance by simulated hail, and for wind speeds equal to a Category 4 hurricane. If they’re properly mounted and installed, your rooftop system will stay put in all but the most extreme weather conditions.

I Have More Questions About Solar for Beach Homes

Each project is different and brings with it a unique set of questions. LASG has installed rooftop solar systems for more than 2,000 homeowners across the LA area. We’re experienced roofers and licensed electricians, too, so we’d be happy to answer any questions you have might have about your particular solar panel project.