Solar Considerations

Deciding to go solar may seem daunting to many people. Solar panels and solar power systems for home are a new technology, and information is constantly changing and evolving. What are the factors to consider, their importance, and their risk levels? A solar power system for home is a great benefit, and we want our customers to understand why. For many of our customers that decided to go solar, there were major decision factors and concerns. Here, we will address those problems:

Goals

Are you interested in lowering and having predictable monthly bills, hedging against increasing electric rates, saving money in the long run, helping the environment, increasing the value of your home, planning on consuming more electricity, or all of these? LA Solar Group starts with understanding your goals to ensure that our recommendations and solutions help
you achieve them. We strive to be one of the best solar companies in Los Angeles, and that means putting our customers’ needs first.

Plans

Ideally, you should be planning on living in or keeping your home for at least as many years as it will take to recoup your investment in the solar panel system. After you recoup your investment on your solar power system for home, you can view your subsequent savings as income or profit. Even if you are planning to live in your home for a shorter period or need to relocate, you may be able to recoup the cost based on your solar system’s potential increase in home value (since the new homeowner will be paying a reduced electric bill). LA Solar Group will help you analyze your current situation and plans to determine if and how best you should go solar. Solar power systems for home should be uniquely designed to your specific situation.

Current consumption and payments

Generally, the higher your consumption or electric bills, the more it makes sense to go solar. You should also consider solar panels if your  consumption may increase. For example, with an addition to your family, installing a swimming pool, or purchasing an electric vehicle, you can expect your rates to rise in the future. Keep in mind that there is no magic threshold that your current monthly electric bill has to be above or below to determine if you should go solar. LA Solar Group will help you analyze your current andfuture consumption, electric rates, and net metering rules to determine if and how going solar will benefit you.

Rate plans and consumption pattern

Some customers found that by learning about and switching to another rate plan (e.g., from tiered to time-of-use) and changing their energy use patterns (e.g., doing laundry during evenings or weekends), they could save enough money so as not to go solar – and that is okay. At LA Solar Group, we want to do what is right for you. We will help you look at going solar as part of an overall energy plan, including consumption monitoring, efficiency, and conservation. All while maintaining or improving your lifestyle.

Roof space and orientation

When considering solar panel installation, roofing is a main factor. To generate the most electricity from solar, you should have sufficient usable roof space that faces the right direction – preferably south or southwest. If that is not the case, LA Solar Group can provide options such as reverse-tilt mounting or high-efficiency panels to maximize energy production from the available roof space and orientation. If no such roof space is available, mounting panels on your garage, carport, awning, or the ground could be other options that LA Solar Group will help you to consider.

Shading

Shading from adjacent buildings, chimneys, roofs, trees, and other obstructions will prevent sunlight from reaching the solar panels. Many times, the shading is temporary within a day (e.g., shading from a tree during morning hours) or within a year (shading from an obstruction during the winter months). The shading may be permanent (e.g., building) or removable (e.g., trimming a tree). Depending on your situation, LA Solar Group will design the best solution to maximize the energy output, recommend ways to remove or reduce shading, or even suggest that going solar is not viable.

Electric Main Panel

Going solar will require that your electric main panel handle the extra load from the solar system and the additional breakers. If it cannot, then the electric main panel will need to be upgraded. LA Solar Group is a C-10 certified electrical contractor that can upgrade your electric main panel as part of the solar installation.

Financing

For quickest payback and to take the most advantage of available incentive programs, it is best to own your solar system – either cash or financed. If you finance, then your payback period will increase due to the interest payment, but you will have a very low upfront payment. In either case, owning your solar system allows you to take advantage of the rebates and tax credits. It also places no encumbrances when selling your home. As an alternative to owning your system, you could lease it. Compared to purchasing, your benefits will be less and there will be some conditions, but leasing mayallow you to enjoy the benefits at possibly no effective cost to you. LA Solar Group provides many financing and leasing options to meet your needs and provide you with the best return.

Timing

Incentives and Rebates

Most, if not all, utility and government incentives decrease over time or as they are claimed. If you are considering going solar, you should decide early. The earlier you decide, the more you can benefit from the higher incentive levels. Solar power systems for home greatly help the environment, and you will benefit from your decision to use renewable energy.

Production

The benefits of solar panels are directly proportional to the amount of energy generated by the system. The longer it is in production, the more energy it will generate. If you are considering going solar, the earlier you decide, the more days your system will generate electricity and contribute to your savings. LA Solar Group will inform you of the currently available incentives, current levels, and planned reductions so you can make an informed decision.

Warranties and guarantees

Any solar panel warranty or guarantees should be carefully reviewed. The quality of a company’s warranties and guarantees signifies the company’s confidence, willingness, and ability to stand behind its work.

Solar panel warranty and guarantees are important in protecting your solar investment. The details of the solar panel warranty and guarantees are very important – the terms, the support process, the inclusion of replacement parts and labor, and other specifics should be known upfront and included in the total system offering and price considerations.

The guarantees and solar panel warranty that a company offers is relatively less important than a company’s ability to honor them until the end of their terms. After all, what good is the “best” warranty if the company is not there to honor it? Warranties and guarantees from a stable, reputable company will provide you peace of mind. From a financial perspective, they will allow for determining the carrying cost of the system. This carrying cost should ideally be zero. The higher this carrying cost, the longer the payback period becomes since each repair bill will eat away at the savings generated by your solar system.

LA Solar Group’s warranties and guarantees are among the best in the industry and come from a growing and reputable company. Additionally, our competitive prices result in shorter payback periods and reduce your risk reliance on company longevity. It is important to protect your solar panels, and quality warranties and guarantees will help you to do that.

Installer

Once satisfied that going solar is the right choice, most of our customer’s biggest consideration is choosing the installer who will complete solar panel installation. It is important to take solar panel installation seriously. Solar panel installation should be completed by a certified professional. These are the traits most often sought: integrity, reputation, quality, price, choice, warranty, in-house expertise, support, and relationship. At LA Solar Group, we have built our business from the customer’s viewpoint and needs. We are not interested in selling you a solar system – we want to provide you with a solution that meets your goals and needs. That’s why we’re one of the best solar panel companies in California.

Concerns

In addition to considerations, our customers had “what if” questions and concerns about going solar. Solar panel installation is a big decision, and we want to help customers plan accordingly. Solar power systems for home have huge benefits, and we want to encourage all customers to take advantage of those benefits.

Future Price Decline

Although the cost of solar systems and solar panel installations have been dropping and may continue to do so, the question is how much will the price drop and how quickly? Since the total system cost is comprised primarily of material and labor, it is possible that the material cost may see future price declines. However, the cost of labor will likely not decline unless more efficient means are developed to reduce installation labor.

This is actively being worked on by LA Solar Group and the industry at-large.

If prices decline but incentives decline at similar rates, the net cost will remain essentially the same.

If prices decline or remain the same, but the electric utility rates increase, then the system cost declines since the energy generated has increased in value.

The sooner the system is in operation and generating energy, the quicker the savings will start to offset the costs. Unless the future anticipated cost decline will be greater than the savings, then waiting for a future price decline may not be beneficial.

Technology Obsolescence

Today, almost all technology and products are constantly advancing and upgraded. The most relevant solar technological advance is the conversion efficiency from sunlight to electricity. Currently, the most efficient and mass-produced residential solar cells have efficiency ratios in the low 20% range.

The highest efficiency recently obtained from silicon-based cells is about 26%. The maximum theoretical efficiency of silicon-based cells is about 29%. The most efficient solar cells of any technology is about 46% efficient [source: NREL]. Although the range between the low 20’s to the high 20’s (theoretical high for silicon-based cells) is not much, the price difference between the two is relatively high, especially for residential applications. Therefore, at a high level, current technology and products will not be obsolesced in the near future when higher prices of the newer products are considered.

Aside from efficiency, other advances could be in the areas of form factor (e.g., solar roof tiles, flexible solar panels) or aesthetics (e.g., all black or frameless panels). As is usual for any new product, there is a time lag between the initial introduction and the following design, installation, and support expertise, which results in increased prices and risk.

Ultimately, deciding not to install solar panels because something better may come out tomorrow is a personal choice. In practicality, though, waiting may not be warranted. The longer you wait for an uncertain future, the less time your current system has to generate electricity and provide benefits.

Expiration/Decrease of Federal Tax Credit

As of 2017, the federal solar tax credit (Investment Tax Credit – ITC) allows the homeowner to claim a federal tax credit of up to 30% of the cost of an installed solar power system for home. Please consult your tax adviser regarding income tax credit eligibility. This is a tremendous benefit. For residential homeowners, the credit will reduce from the current level of 30% to 26% in 2020, and then to 22% in 2021. Although the credit will decrease over time, the timetable remains known – allowing you to make an informed decision.

Net-Metering Changes

Net metering is the key that translates the electricity generated by the solar panel system to tangible financial benefits. If the net metering rules change, your financial benefits will change and possibly affect your payback period and return-on-investment. If the net meter rules do change, there is forewarning and existing customers are usually grandfathered in for a long enough period so they are not adversely affected.

No Production at night

Solar panels require light to generate electricity. Therefore, a solar system does not generate electricity at night, and generation is reduced in low light conditions such as during cloudy weather. Based on historical data, the average amount of annual useable sunlight for a given geographical location is well known. This is the data will be used to design and size the solar system properly – i.e., non-production at night and adverse weather are already factored into the projected production of your system. Since the solar panels will not generate electricity in low light conditions, electricity will be consumed from the utility company when more electricity is needed than is generated, and you will be charged at the rate in effect of your usage. This should not be an issue since your usage from the utility will be reduced by the amount of electricity that you do produce. Additionally, depending on your rate plan, the utility’s charge is lower at night when the solar system is not producing. If desired, you can install storage batteries to store any additional electricity that you produce. You can then use that stored energy, when needed, instead of consuming from the electric company.

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