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If you have an electric vehicle (EV), the best way to keep both your recharging costs and your EV’s carbon footprint to a minimum is by charging your car at home using Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE). And while rooftop solar panels aren’t a requirement for adding EVSE, if you already have solar or are considering making the investment, adding a car charging station to your system is a practical and straightforward option.

Hooking up your electric car charging station to your solar panel system gives you more control over the price of electricity used to charge your EV, as charging from home costs less than most paid charging stations. You also get the added bonus of ensuring your EV runs on emissions-free electrons. Let’s take a look at some of the other benefits.

Setting Up Your EVSE Is Straightforward

Some people use 110V AC wall sockets to charge their electric cars at home, but that can be very time consuming. Charging in this way takes up to 20 hours, so you’d only be able to drive every other day. To charge faster, you’ll want two parts: a 240V outlet and a charger.

Outlet

You will need to hire an electrician to connect an outlet to the main service panel. The most common outlets for Level 2 charging (what most EVs use) are NEMA 14-50 (240V, 50A) or NEMA 14-30 (240V, 30A). These outlets can cut down your charging time to under 8 hours. If you’re going solar or already have a rooftop solar system, the electrician can connect the outlet directly to the system.

Charger

EV chargers are not especially exotic and can be found at your local hardware store, with prices anywhere from $400 to $3,000. Your installer should either offer a selection themselves, or be able to suggest a range of choices for you.

Once the outlet is installed, you can plug the charger right in to power your EVSE (most EVs fit into standard outlets). If you want to move or change your charging equipment, you just disconnect the plug.

EVs and Energy Storage Work Well Together

If you have an energy storage unit (battery) like a Tesla Powerwall or sonnenBatterie at home, you’ll have even more options for charging your EV. You can use it to time-shift your power consumption, since many utilities charge more for grid-supplied electricity in the middle of the day, when air conditioners are on and demand is high. If you have residential energy storage, you can use the battery to charge your EV whenever you like.

Batteries combined with solar means you’ll always have power, storing energy away for when the sun isn’t shining. A battery can also be useful for charging your EV in case of an electrical grid outage.

Your EV Outlet May Give You a Kickback!

Many utilities have special rates for EV owners to make charging more economically viable. Sometimes they’ll install a meter just for the EV outlet, and if you only charge your EV during off-peak hours, they’ll charge you a discounted rate for that power. You may also be eligible for rebates and other incentives. For instance, Burbank Water & Power customers who add EV chargers can get $500 back. The same goes for the customers of LADWP and Anaheim Public Utilities.   

Experienced EV Consultation Is Available

If you want your electric vehicle charging station installed professionally, we can handle that. We’ll make sure your charging station is safely installed by updating your main electrical panel as needed, and connect your charger to your home’s electrical system. If you have solar power, we’ll ensure your panels will charge your EV for an end-to-end green solution. LA Solar Group is a California State Licensing Board (CSLB) C-46 licensed solar contractor and a CSLB C-10 licensed electrical contractor.

If you have any questions about adding an electric car charging station for your home, would like to know if your main electrical panel will need an upgrade, how long it’ll take to charge your EV, or anything else about electric vehicles and solar power, we’re here to make sure you have the satisfaction of knowing you’re keeping both your carbon footprint and EV charging costs down.

Once you decide to go solar, the next step is to do some research to see what warranties and other guarantees installers and providers will offer you. Will your installer stand behind their work? What about the individual components? What type of performance should you expect over time, and will your provider compensate for lapsed levels? All of these are serious questions that deserve to be answered in detail.

To make sure you get the most out of your conversion to solar power, we have put together a guide to what to look for when researching warranties and guarantees about solar panel equipment, installation, and power production.

How Long Is Your Warranty For?

Most solar power system manufacturers warrant their equipment for about 10-12 years. These warranties guarantee that your panels will work at a certain power level for a set amount of time. For example, a solar system warranty might only guarantee full power for the first 10 years, and then allow a lapse to around 80% of the original power level after the warranty expires.

For a more sustainable and cost efficient alternative, try to find a manufacturer who will provide you with a longer warranty. For example, Enphase’s warranty is for 25 years instead of 10-12 LA Solar Group covers all systems with an extended 25-year workmanship warranty, regardless of original manufacturer.

LA Solar Group also provides customers with an extremely accurate projection of power output with every solar system proposal. We project power output over a 25-year timeline, so you’ll know what to expect over the lifetime of your system, not just the first 10 years. Our systems are monitored to ensure power production of the promised amount. Any lapse in power is reimbursed for the difference at $0.19 cents per kwh.

What Else Is Your Warranty Covering?

Another thing to consider is how much of your solar system is actually covered under warranty. Some warranties cover only the panels or the power production levels, and do not extend to individual components such as power optimizers or mounting equipment.

A comprehensive solar system provider will offer equipment from high-quality industry vendors and then include all that equipment under the warranty. For example, LA Solar Group works with the following industry leaders to provide and cover the following:

  • Hyundai, LG, Panasonic, and SunPower panels;
  • Enphase, SMA, SolarEdge, and SunPower string and micro-inverters and power optimizers; and
  • Quick Mount PV, ProSolar TileTrac, and Ironridge mounts and rails.

What About Installation and Workmanship Warranties?

Also be sure you ask about installation and workmanship warranties. These cover system design and installation, and will generally run between 1-10 years. A good provider will be willing to back up their work by promising customer satisfaction. Similarly, a trustworthy installer will be upfront with you if they use subcontractors and be willing to cover their work under warranty as well.

LA Solar Group’s workmanship guarantee is good for every part of the system for 25 years. Moreover, we guarantee every project will be installed and activated within 60 days from the time you sign the service agreement. Our team has built strong relationships with city and county offices to help expedite every solar project, with proactive follow-ups and project tracking. Our permit and interconnection team works every hour of the day to navigate the approvals needed to get your solar system up and running as quickly as possible.

Labor is also covered under our extended 25-year warranty. If anything goes wrong with your solar system, we’ll visit, access, inspect, repair, and replace it without any cost to you. Your system is also supported through our always-available customer service solutions team and website.

Are You Covered For Roof Damage?

A properly-mounted solar system will not cause leaks, but what happens if your roof does start leaking after installation? Most installers will guarantee the solar paneled area of your roof against leaks for a period of about 10 years. You should always make sure this guarantee is included in your coverage, and that your installer has some kind of roofing certification.

LA Solar Group is licensed for solar, electrical, and roofing work by the California State Licensing Board, and we have a $1,000,000 general liability and insurance bond. We specifically guarantee every inch of roof that our equipment is installed or mounted on against leakage for 10 years. Additionally, if you’re having roofing work done when you go solar, we’ll include a 25-year material warranty for any work done on our behalf.

What Will A Good Warranty Cost?

Very few installers offer price-matching warranties. LA Solar will match or beat any quote on equivalent solar systems offered in the California area. We’re proud of our work and are happy to stand behind it. Should you have any questions about specific coverage, or about any other aspect of going solar, we want to hear from you.

There are many ways to store energy. Water may be pumped uphill or dammed to run turbines later; molten salt can store heat for slow release over many hours. Batteries are probably the most familiar energy storage method, and battery technology has improved tremendously over the past couple of decades—especially rechargeable batteries, which are now used in everything from cellphones to locomotives. But what about solar energy? How does one store that away for a rainy day?

Due to the increased global demand for solar installation, Tesla has begun developing Powerwall batteries specifically for use with rooftop solar systems. LA Solar Group also offers sonnen eco storage battery solutions. Both batteries can store energy from your solar panels, from the electric grid, or even your plug-in electric vehicle. Here is a basic overview of both models:

Tesla Powerwall

The lithium-ion Powerwall battery comes in one size: a 44” h x 29” w x 5.5” d 270-pound unit that can be used indoors or outdoors, mounted on the floor or a wall. It can store up to 13.2 kWh of energy, and as many as ten can be used together. The price starts at $7,000 plus installation, but battery prices tend to drop quickly, so check with us for the latest. Tesla also makes the larger Powerpack for business and governmental use.

Note: Tesla updated the Powerwall’s specs and housing in 2016, and sometimes refers to it as Powerwall 2.0.

sonnenBatterie

German energy giant, sonnen, uses Sony lithium-iron phosphate batteries in its eco line for residential energy storage. It claims its battery chemistry is especially safe and well-suited for use with rooftop solar. Sonnen gets points for a modular approach, offering sizes ranging from 4 kWh to 16 KWh in 2 kWh steps. That’s six different capacity levels. These are divided into two unit sizes:

  • 51” h x 26” w x 14” d housings for the 4, 6, and 8 kWh batteries
  • 71” h x 26” w x 14” d housings for the 10, 12, and 14 kWh batteries  

Sonnen shows its eco line deployed in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings, both floor and wall-mounted. Because unit weights range from 121 to 600 pounds, you’ll need more than a studfinder to get the bigger units up securely, but we’ll handle that for you.

The eco line starts at about $9,500 plus installation. It also offers a compact line of batteries priced 20% lower that are designed exclusively for self-consumption (not as backup in an outage). Again, price quotes on batteries can really vary, so as part of your research, give us a call.

There are many benefits to residential energy storage. Having a battery for your home means you’ll never be without power. It helps you pay the lowest possible price for electricity at all times. It lets you say goodbye to your electric utility, if you’re so inclined. And in some cases you can even get a rebate on your purchase. Let’s examine each of these benefits in a bit more detail.

Having a Battery for Your Home Means You’re Never Without Power

Energy storage solves the problem of intermittency that comes with using sun or wind-power, providing electricity in dark or calm conditions. In the case of your rooftop solar system, your battery will power your home at night after the sun goes down. There’s also a sense of security in having that power on tap: Should there be a power outage on the electrical grid in your area, your lights will never flicker. You won’t have to fire up a generator or light a single candle, unless you’re in the mood. When needed, the switch is near-instant. In the case of an extended outage, you’re likely to become a very popular neighbor very quickly.

You’ll Always Pay the Lowest Possible Electric Rate

The Tesla Powerwall and sonnen eco have software to handle the flow of energy between your solar panels, the electric grid, and–if you own an electric vehicle–your car. This software helps you choose the best times to charge and discharge power at the most efficient rate. One of the great things about this system is that it keeps an eye not only on efficiency, but on costs. You can charge your battery with power from your panels for free, and use it as needed instead of high-priced power from the electrical grid. That’s especially useful If your utility bills are based on time of use, with prices that spike during peak hours.

Your battery is also an alternative to selling excess power to the grid. If you’re producing more energy from your rooftop solar system than you’re using, and exporting it to the electrical grid, your utility bill credit or check will depend on your net metering terms. Depending on what those are, you may be better off storing it for yourself for later use.

If You’re Going Off-Grid, You’ll Want a Battery

The idea of getting rid of your utility bills once and for all, whether you’re in a remote area or in downtown LA, is enormously appealing. However, unless you plan on going full Thoreau, you’ll probably still want electricity for hot water or the occasional Netflix binge. That means your system will need to produce an average of 8MWh per year, according to the US Energy Information Administration. With solar and storage, you can generate your own electricity from the sun, store it for nighttime use, and eventually kiss your utility bills goodbye.

Rebates Are Available Now for Residential Energy Storage  

Thanks to a program funded by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), there are rebates available right now to help homeowners buy energy storage batteries. These rebates can be used in a number of solar scenarios: when you install your rooftop solar system, as an add-on to an existing system, or as a standalone solution used without rooftop solar (charged by your household electricity feed from the utility just like any other electric appliance).

Like a lot of renewable energy incentives, the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) offers the best deals for the earliest applicants. Phase 1 of the program offers rebates of $0.50 per battery Watt-hours. Phase 2 begins June 5th, when the rebate drops to $0.40/Wh. Phase 3 starts in a few weeks, and will drop the rate to $0.30/Wh. Phases 4 and 5 will be commensurately lower. As we mentioned in our ultimate 2017 guide to solar incentives, getting started sooner means higher rebates.

LA Solar Group Can Answer Your Storage Battery Questions

Tesla Powerwall and sonnen eco storage battery solutions are both available in different sizes and formations so that you can add capacity over time. The Powerwall’s attractive affordability may be a factor in your decision, but you can tailor combinations of sonnen’s modular units to suit your needs more precisely, which may yield better financial results over time. Choosing a battery make and model is important, but there are other important factors to consider in an energy storage project. Many companies cover battery selection in only the briefest of terms, without consulting you first. That should give you pause.

In the end, deciding which system is best for you will require considering your energy usage, costs, rebates/incentives, system size, warranty, TCO, and payback horizon. To safely and efficiently install this high-voltage equipment, it is best to consult with experienced electricians who know their way around a roof. LA Solar Group is a CSLB C-10 licensed electrical contractor and CSLB C-46 licensed solar contractor. We’re also experienced roofers, and have been dedicated to helping homeowners all over the Southland for over a decade. If you’re considering going solar and have questions about energy storage — or if you want a battery without solar and want to know your wiring requirements — we’re here to help.

If you Google “smart meter,” you will find that people are asking a lot of questions about them. There are hypotheses about their potential dangers, how they are used as listening devices, and how they give you cancer.

LA Solar Group is an expert on smart meters, and we’re here to put your mind at ease. Smart meters are no more dangerous than cell phones. We can also assure you they are not spying devices, or part of a government mind control plot. They are, however, a crucial piece of the solar power puzzle. For more about some of the main questions asked about smart meters, read on.

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters are modern versions of the electricity meters that have been used on homes for decades.The digital display on modern readers is easier to read than the old analog dial system, but the thing that makes this meter truly “smart” is its connection to your utility (if you’re in LA, likely SCE or LADWP). That connection enables the technician to read your meter from their office, without having to schedule trips out to your home once a month.

What was wrong with the old meters?

Besides requiring personnel to read them, old meters were often out of sync with billing. If a meter-reader couldn’t access yours on the assigned day, the utility would estimate your usage and bill you accordingly. This was done with as much accuracy as possible, but there was always the chance you were being overbilled.

By comparison, smart meters are accurate to within a day. You can go online and check your usage. That information can help you make energy usage decisions in real time to save money. You also can have peace of mind, knowing that your energy bills will reflect your actual energy usage every month.

So the utility is actively monitoring my house?

The only thing smart meters track is electricity usage on a daily basis. Usage also includes your rooftop solar system, so that you may be credited for any excess power you produce and send back to the grid.

Will the data smart meters generate remain private?

Information about your household’s electricity usage is stored securely by the utility. They are legally bound to maintain your privacy and secure your data, and the information may not be sold or passed to anyone.

I’ve read that people’s electricity bills spiked after getting smart meters. What’s with that?

The first waves of smart meters were sometimes billed directly to customers in lump sums, which made for some nasty electric bills. Now, however, the costs are typically either covered by utilities or otherwise spread around; in California, the Public Utility Commission (CPUC) has funded smart meters through a rate increase of approximately 1.6% across the board. SCE notes also that you can use smart meter data to save enough energy to offset any cost increase.

Smart meters use radio frequency (RF) waves, so are they potentially harmful to my health?

As the American Cancer Society (ACS) says, smart meters use the same RF technology as your cell phone, cordless phone, and/or WiFi router. Unlike household appliances that use RF, however, smart meters usually mounted outside your house, so your exposure even lower. Finally, smart meters only transmit data to the utility in short bursts, so they only put out RF signals about 1% of the time.

Should you have additional smart meter-related health questions, we encourage you to read more at the ACS site.

I’ve heard smart meters could catch fire!

As long as it is properly installed, your smart meter should be just fine. However, like anything else associated with high voltage, smart meters should be accessed and installed only by licensed electricians. LA Solar Group is CSLB C-10 licensed for electrical work, so we are fully equipped to handle smart meter installations. For that matter, we can also upgrade main electrical panels, install energy storage batteries, or set you up to charge your electric vehicle at home.

Are there any other smart meter benefits?

Lots!

One of the reasons utilities are excited about the rollout of smart meters is that it allows them to monitor electricity usage and the electrical grid more accurately and in close to real-time. That means they have a far better handles on balancing loads, keeping peaker generator usage to a minimum, and running everything more efficiently and at the lowest cost. It’s the type of efficiency that helps avoid building more power plants.

Okay, but what’s in it for me?

You’ll have online and mobile access to data on your electricity usage that can help you find potential savings and make energy- and money-saving decisions about usage. If you’re a rooftop solar customer, the smart meter is what ensures you’ll get credit for any excess electricity you generate that you send back to the electrical grid. Also, it means not having to worry about your meter reader’s next visit.

If you have questions about how smart meters work with rooftop solar, how you can access your meter’s data online, or other smart meter questions, please let us know. LA Solar Group has been a leader in the solar power field for over a decade, and continues to be a key resource for all energy-efficient homeowners throughout California.

NEM, known as Net Metering Energy is one of the primary incentives for solar. Utility companies that commission (PTO) a solar system are mandated by California State to enroll the property owner into a NEM program. California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) utility customers which include SCE, PG&E, and SDG&E will deduct from the bill energy that’s exported back to the grid from daytime solar generation that exceeds the electrical demand of the property, in return crediting the customer for earning a surplus of kWh energy. The credit will be applied to the bill to offset any demand that was delivered to home during evening hours when solar is not producing energy.

A solar system installation includes what’s called a “smart” meter which is a bi-directional meter that tracks energy being sent to the property and energy that is being delivered to the utility. Under NEM 1.0, a solar customer will continue to receive monthly bills, but only for charges like taxes and fees. On an annual basis, which SCE has termed as a “Relevancy Period”, customers will only be billed for electricity based on their net use for that previous year. The difference at the end of the year can either be a surplus of energy credits or a balance to pay. Customers who already have NEM 1.0 will be allowed to continue with NEM 1.0 for up to 20 years. After 20 years, they will be transitioned to a successor program.

NEM 2.0

Once NEM 1.0 expires on June 30th, 2017 @ 11:59pm or if the kW cap is not met, the solar application will be automatically transferred to the NEM 2.0. We encourage all CPUC utility customers to get their applications submitted prior to the deadline, if they choose to go with NEM 1.0. This means not waiting last minute. Unlike NEM 1.0 which had no fee, NEM 2.0 will require an interconnection fee of $75 for systems less than 1MW in size. For larger systems over 1MW, the fee is $800.

One of the biggest changes from NEM 1.0 to NEM 2.0 is the mandatory switch to a Time Of Use (TOU) plan. With TOU, the cost per/kWh is based on off-peak, low-peak, and low-peak period of the day and the season. Afternoon hours are considered a high peak, morning low peak, and nights and weekends off-peak. You can learn more about the various TOU rate options available to you here.

Grandfathering of TOU and NEM are two separate benefits. For example, if a resident submits their application on July 1st, 2017 the TOU grandfathering will run through July 1st, 2022 (5 years). The NEM 2.0 grandfathering will run through July 1st. 2022 (20 years).

What if you’re an existing NEM 1.0 customer and you want to expand your generating system? If your system expansion doesn’t exceed the greater of 1kW or 10% of the original interconnected capacity your entire generating system including the expansion can stay on NEM 1.0. If the expansion is greater than 1kW or 10% then the entire generating system will be treated as NEM 2.0.

If you’re planning to go solar before July 2017, we highly encourage you to contact us so we can prepare and submit the application for interconnection before the deadline.