Frequently Asked Questions

Posted July 21, 2020

Terms to better understand:

Kilowatt (kW): This term is used for the size of your solar system that is determined by the number of panels. # panels x panel Watts = kW size 

Ex. 20 panel 315 watt’s; 20 x 315= 6,300 Watts

1000 Watts =1 kW;  6,300 W = 6.3 kW

Kilowatt-hour (kWh): The kilowatt-hour is a unit of energy. The kilowatt-hour is commonly used as a billing unit for energy delivered to consumers by electric utilities. Typically seen on your electric bill, kilowatt-hour is the term used for your systems production determined by your system kW size and annual sun production. Annual sun production varies by many factors including your roof/panels geography, elevation, positioning, and shade.

Net Metering: Net metering is a program that exists with many retail electric providers as a solar incentive that allows you to send your excess energy back to the grid in exchange for credit on your electric bill.

Site Survey:  A survey of your roof to assess the space, orientation, tilt angle, and shading to determine the best layout for optimal solar production. 

Solar Panel: A collection of photo-voltaic (PV) modules creating a panel that absorbs sunlight creating energy.

Solar Array: A system of solar panels.

Shutdown: A shutdown is when a request is made for the power to be temporarily disconnected from the service address so the electrical work may be performed. 

Service Panel: The service panel is the Main Breakers on the outside of your house. This is where we will connect your home with your solar panels. 

PTO: Permission to Operate is given once your electrical provider has inspected and passed your new system. 

ICA: Interconnection Agreement is the paperwork required from your electrical provider to tie your solar system into their electrical system.

Pre- Install FAQ’s

How does solar work?

Your solar panels use photovoltaic (PV) cells to absorb the sunlight generating direct current (DC) energy. Your DC energy then travels to your inverter where it is converted into usable alternating current (AC) energy. That energy is then distributed by your service panel and flows through your home.

How is the size of my system determined?

We use your previous electric bills to determine how much energy, or kilowatt-hours (kWh), you consume each month. We then can determine your yearly average kWh consumption to determine the number of panels and kilowatt (kW) size needed. Each kW of solar installed produces a certain number of kWh that varies based on many factors and directly offsets your utility electricity consumption. The more electric bills you have the more accurate it is determining the size system needed.

What happens to the excess energy?

The energy your solar panels produce in excess that you do not use gets fed back into the electric grid. This is where net metering and buyback programs come into play. Your electric provider will store this energy for free and at the end of the billing cycle will buy back the remaining balance. Please contact your retail electricity provider to learn more about your net metering plan options as not every retail provider offers this incentive.

What is offset and how is my offset determined?

Offset is the percentage of solar that covers your annual consumption. The offset is determined by several factors such as how much energy you consume, the size and positioning of your roof, and your system size. 

Why is my offset not at 100%?

Your system is tied into the electrical grid which allows you to use power at night. Unless your solar energy system includes battery storage and you are fully off the grid, you will still receive a bill from your utility. Your electrical provider typically buys back the excess energy, net metering,  generated at wholesale cost. (what they pay to get/generate the energy) There will be some months you use all the energy you produce and other months you will not. Since the buy back is typically wholesale cost you are not getting full credit for the energy you produce. The goal with solar is to achieve a 60%- 80% offset so you don't lose out on the energy you produced. 

Will I still receive an electric bill?

A common misconception about installing solar panels is that your electric bill will go away entirely. Even if you install enough solar to completely offset your electricity use, you will still receive an electric bill from your utility as long as your property remains grid-connected. However, this doesn’t mean you will always be paying money on your bill.

When will my panels be installed?

You won’t have solar panels on your property the day after signing a contract. The time it takes before you’re up and running with solar power largely depends on five factors:

  1. Alternative Solar efficiency 
  2. Local permitting and inspection processes
  3. Size and type of solar panel system
  4. Property characteristics
  5. Utility company and interconnection

Given these various factors, a solar panel system can be up and running in as soon as a few weeks. The average time period most people can expect from signing a contract to running on solar power is approximately three months.

Why are my panels not turned on the same day as installation?

After your solar panel system is installed, a representative from your utility company will need to come to visit your property to inspect the system and approve it for interconnection to the grid. This often involves installing a new meter that will allow you to take advantage of net metering. Similar to the approval process, the amount of time it will take for a utility company to approve a solar panel system interconnection will vary by utility. A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that it typically takes one to two weeks after the installation dates to officially receive permission to operate (PTO). 

When will my panels be turned on?

Once the system is approved for interconnection to the grid you now have permission to operate (PTO).

Can HOA deny my solar panels?

Legally in the state of Texas your project can not be denied per Texas property code Sec.202.010 Regulation of solar devices, see link:

Post Install FAQ’s

How do I know my solar panels are producing as projected?

The SolarEdge monitoring application enables PV installers and system owners to perform remote monitoring on the go using their mobile device, thus maximizing solar energy harvesting. The application enables users to view the most updated data and be up to speed with their site's performance. In addition to that you will have quarterly and yearly assessments to make sure your panels are producing as projected. We also highly recommend signing up for Smart Meter Texas to monitor your energy consumption.

Tax Credit?

We highly recommend that you speak with your tax professional for any tax credit questions that you have. Taxes vary person to person and there are many factors that contribute to each person’s taxes.

Who to contact for any unanswered questions?

Please contact your sales representative if you have any questions about switching utility companies, incentives discussed in consultation, financials, referrals and anything discussed in your solar consultation that you still have questions about.

If you have any questions regarding the permitting process, interconnection process, HOA process, SolarEdge monitoring, or scheduling, please contact our customer service representative at (866) ALT-SOLAR ext. 4.

If you have any questions regarding site survey, installation, city inspections, utility inspections, materials, or SolarEdge maintenance/repairs, please contact our project management team at (866) ALT-SOLAR ext. 3.

If you have any questions regarding Human Resources, please contact our HR representative at (866) ALT-SOLAR ext. 5.

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