Author: Wholesale Solar

Wholesale Solar of Mt. Shasta, CA, is an employee-owned company specializing in the design and distribution of custom solar systems and components. Since launching in 2002, Wholesale Solar has helped thousands of DIY homeowners achieve lower power bills and energy independence. Learn more at WholesaleSolar.com.

Install of the Month – December 2017 Round Two

Install of the Month – December 2017 Round Two

Worth the Wait With Jason S.

Our second DIY hero this month is Jason S., who installed a Grid-Tied system on his Indiana home to save money on his power bill. Jason is the kind of guy who knows research, planning, and striking while the iron is hot will often pay off in a big way.

After his initial phone call to solar tech Jeremy A., Jason took two years before he decided to pull the trigger. He called Jeremy to answer his questions, and he gained the confidence to install himself.

Over two years working together, Jason was able to learn more about the specific system he wanted and was able to watch the market to purchase at the perfect time.
– Solar Tech Jeremy A.

Once he was confident DIY was right for him, and that quick ROI was attainable, it was just a waiting game: Jason watched the solar market closely and picked the time when he projected he’d save the most before giving Jeremy the go-ahead on Jason’s project.

But you know what they say about mice and men… Once Jason received his system parts and was ready to get to work installing it, mother nature decided his wait wasn’t over just yet. He was hit with a big rainstorm, making the space where he planned to put his ground-mounted system too muddy for a stable installation. But Jason wasn’t daunted. He just sat back, waited for the ground to dry, and soldiered on, finally completing his system in about a week. Now he only has one more wait… by the mailbox to see the big fat zeroes on his next power bill!

Interview with Jason

What type of solar power system did you install?

Grid-tied, but I had a lot of land to do a ground-mounted system so I could zero out my monthly power bill. 

What was your primary reason for going solar?

I had always wanted to become more energy independent and solar power made the most sense for us. It also made financial sense, especially since I had the means to install the system myself and save more money.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

I am a locomotive engineer but I had a remodeling/construction business for a few years. I don’t like paying people to do anything, so I always tackle projects on my own and learn as I go. 

I don’t like paying people to do anything, so I always tackle projects on my own and learn as I go.
– Jason S.

What was the most challenging part of the installation?

The wiring and panel installation was a little technical, but easily manageable with patience. The most difficult part we faced was battling the weather and mud to get the pipes and concrete piers set in place for our ground install.

How many helpers did you have?

It was just my wife and me. To her credit, she is quite handy herself and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. 

Did you hire a contractor?

Nope! We did everything ourselves from start to finish.

 Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

No additional parts. As for tools, I did have a construction business, so I do have more tools than the average person. I didn’t need to go out and buy anything special.

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

It was spread out over the course of 2 weeks due to my work schedule and the weather. If I had more time and good weather I could have completeled in less than a week. I saved myself about $11,000 in costs from my efforts.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

It was a great feeling to get the project completed…and an even better feeling once the power company swapped out our meter, put the system online and started generating our own power!

Who else did you consider before going with Wholesale Solar?

Wholesale Solar was the first company I found. I looked elsewhere, and the price and customer service couldn’t be matched! 

What was the total cost of your solar installation project?

Total cost for me was around $18,000. $13,300 or so was the price of the solar system, while the rest covered the cost of equipment rentals and materials such as pipes, wiring, and concrete.

How much did going solar save you on your taxes?

We will be saving around $5,000 when we file taxes for this year thanks to the Federal Tax Credit. We live in Indiana, so we’re lucky to have no sales tax on our purchase or added property tax from the install.

Components in Jason’s System:

Tips:

Write off Sales Tax. You can include your system’s sales tax as part of your expenditures for installing solar. (30% Solar Federal Tax Credit). Learn more.

Pay less in property tax. Most states have a renewable energy property tax exemption. This means the value that a solar system adds to a home does not increase the property taxes you pay! In other words, you only pay property taxes against $200,000, and not the new appraised value of $256,000 with the additional solar system added—unlike a new kitchen where you have to pay more taxes for that additional value, you added to the property.

Jason's Solar Breakdown:

  • Cost of Solar Components From Wholesale Solar: $13,300
  • All Other Expenses: $4,700
  • Cost of Contractor: None
  • Cost of Electrician: None
  • How Much Going DIY Saved Him: $11,000
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $5,400 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Total time to install: ~1 week
  • Design Output of kWh per year: 13,000-14,000 kWh
  • Utility rates per kWh: 11.64¢/kWh
  • Average Monthly Utility cost: was $130
  • Feed-in Tariff/Net Metering Issues: None
7 Questions to Stump a Solar Salesperson

7 Questions to Stump a Solar Salesperson

What You Should Know Before Buying Your Off-Grid System

Choosing the right solar tech to install your off-grid system isn’t like going to a car dealership. Don’t get hassled or let yourself get hustled by sales tactics and industry jargon. Today, we’re giving you a few insider tips, so you’re in the know.

These 7 questions show you’ve done your homework before going solar, and they cover info every solar technician should know – so if yours can’t answer them, that’s a big red flag!

Save yourself some time and money with these 7 head-scratchers:

1. Does the number of cells in a solar panel matter?

Yes, because most Off-Grid Charge Controllers are optimized to handle voltage from 60-cell panels. There are charge controllers engineered to control the voltage demands of a 72-cell panel system, but they require pricey components and are not cost effective for most consumers.

 So what happens if you use a 72-cell panel system on a charge controller designed for 60-cell panels?

You could fry your charge controller! 

Make sure your solar technician knows your needs. Your charge controller and solar panel cell count should be compatible when designing your system. Many of our off-grid customers prefer the Midnite Solar Classic 150 Charge Controller, which is perfect for 60-cell panels in your array, usually arranged into strings of 3 linked panels.

2. Will I see an ROI on my battery-based system?

Not likely. Off-grid is more about energy independence than ROI, by the time your solar system pays for itself you’ll most likely need to replace your batteries (every 7-10 years). 

Most off-gridders aren’t going off the grid for the long-term investment. They aren’t getting the benefits of net metering or the short payback period you’d get with a grid-tied system.

Off-grid tradeoffs include: 

  • Complete self-reliance and the freedom to “be your own power company.”
  • Not paying for power lines to be run from the utility provider to your property.
  • More options when buying land, with remote, off-grid parcels often being much more affordable.

3. Should I use a tracker with my panels?

While a sun tracker will boost your energy production, you could just install a few more panels instead and save yourself some money. 

A tracker introduces moving parts, and therefore additional maintenance and added cost to your solar power system that you won’t have with a stationary install, and the benefit they add rarely outweighs the price. 

The only time a tracker would make sense is if you have a shortage of space, and need to squeeze every single kilowatt possible out of your array. 

If your solar tech pushes a tracker on you without proper assessment, they’re probably trying to add to their commission.

4. How close does my inverter need to be to my batteries?

Almost all 24v and 48v battery-based inverters should be installed within 10′ of the battery bank to avoid “voltage drop.” The further the battery bank is from your inverter, the more voltage bleeds off as it travels through the wiring. The closer you can get the equipment, the better (10′ being the recommended maximum distance away). 

Most packaged systems will come with a 10′ long inverter cable for just this reason. Any good solar tech should be planning your system’s layout with this in mind, so it’s a good thing to check when laying out the installation.

5. Do I need the most efficient panels out there?

Don’t let your solar tech upsell you on the “most efficient” solar panels on the market! Most panels on the market today are going to offer you the wattage output you need and remain cost effective. 

So why would you spend more money in the most efficient PV array?

You’d only want the most efficient array if you have limited surface array to mount it on. That’s when high-end modules such as those from SolarWorld would make sense. They produce a higher wattage output for around the same space requirement as competitors, but for an added expense.

Say you need a solar array to output 7 kW to power your home. Let’s compare two brands of solar panel, each with different wattage, pricing, and array coverage: 

  • 24 Panels at $350/panel (+)
  • 60 Cells per panel
  • 295 Watts per panel (+)
  • 433 ft² total array coverage (-)
  • $8400 total (-)
  • 7 kW output
  • 26 Panels at $275/panel (-)
  • 60 Cells per panel
  • 270 Watts per panel (-)
  • 456 ft² total array coverage (+)
  • $7150 total (+)
  • 7 kW output

If you buy the SolarWorld panels, your solar array will be 23 ft² smaller in size than an Astronergy array. This is great if you’re trying to save space, but even with two fewer panels, the SolarWorld array will cost $1250 more! If you have space (and in most cases, you will), then opt for the less efficient panels: you’re saving money without really losing anything in the process.

6. Does the type of solar panel I use matter?

Solar panels can be manufactured a few different ways: polycrystalline, mono-crystalline, SIG, thin film, etc. How the solar panel is manufactured rarely matters, but who manufactured it does.

All solar panels operate on the same fundamental principle: using silicon-based semiconductors to convert the sun’s energy into electric power. However, the top 5 or 10 manufacturers make a higher quality, more reliable product than the 50 manufacturers below them. Those bottom-tier brands produce the panels that people can buy on eBay for $100. If the price is that low, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

Bargain-basement panels use cheaper components and manufacturing techniques. Many cheap manufacturers skimp on quality to save a buck or two, and pass the “bargain” on to you, the consumer, but in reality, you’ll be paying the price as they degrade quicker and require replacement!

Low-end manufacturers also skip the UL listing required to permit these panels, as well, which will cost you even more if you can’t pass inspections and permitting requirements.

TL, DR: Don’t get swindled by sketchy sales techniques, and don’t be a cheapskate when it comes to buying better panels! 

7. How Do I size My Off-grid Inverter?

First, you’ll need to use a Solar Cost Calculator to figure out how much energy your home and appliances will be using. Pay particular attention to the stuff that’s always on such as your fridge, well pump, outlets, etc. Some appliances have a higher “surge current” when they’re initially switched on – often appliances with motors or compressors, such as your well pump. In this case, they may have special requirements, which can vary widely. We recommend you choose a 4kW inverter minimum and consider larger ones to handle excess surge current.

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Install of the Month – December 2017

Install of the Month – December 2017

A Family-Sized Install with Martin Verdin

This month we’re taking a look at a sprawling ground-mounted install with Martin Verdin. With a little help from solar tech Wil Burlin, he was able to install a massive solar array and grid-tied solar system for his dad.

Martin had bought a system from us in the past. He was already so knowledgeable because of his previous install, that it was a breeze to work with him.  – Solar Tech Wil Burlin

This SGA installation required a lot of work grading the land, digging holes, pouring cement, mounting panels and so much more, but the end result is worth all that effort, and the power it provides is hard to argue with!

Interview with Martin

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

I work full-time,  so we worked on weekends and a couple hours before or after work. I’d say from the day we broke ground to final county inspection it took about 2 months to complete the entire install. 

How many people did it take?

It took 3 people in total: myself, my wife and my son. Digging 26 holes for the ground-mount poles went a lot quicker with three people doing it! 

Did you have any previous construction experience?

I have some construction experience, but I’m no expert. My wife and I built our house together 20 years ago, and I currently work as an electronic technician, so we had a bit of experience between us that came in handy on this project.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

Digging holes for the ground-mount poles was the most physically demanding part of the install. Figuring out how to align the poles was also a bit more difficult than I expected. Thanks to IronRidge’s how-to videos, I learned about using pipe horses which made installing the pipes and mechanical tubing much easier.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

Getting the proper extensions for our auger was a bit more difficult than we thought it’d be. Specialty tools like that can be a bit hard to find parts for.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I got estimates from a couple of the big solar companies,  and after checking with Wholesale Solar, I concluded that  I could DIY install for less than half the price. Plus after the federal tax credit, I’d be saving even more! It was a real ” no brainer” decision: the system would pay for itself after 5 years or so, and then it’s all ROI.

Martin’s father wanted to go solar and be more eco-conscious while reducing his power bill. His house uses quite a bit of power and we helped them into a very large grid-tied solar system. – Solar Tech Wil Burlin

What was your primary reason for going solar?

I have always wanted to go solar, but the cost in the past wasn’t worth the effort – by the time I paid off the system, it would be time to replace it, plus electric rates kept going up every year. After getting a quote from wholesale Solar,  it was an easy choice. Going green and decreasing my electric rates to 1/4, was the main reason.

Components in Martin’s System:

We went with SMA Inverters so they could have backup power during a grid outage, and we chose the panels because they were American-made with the best price. He went with Suniva over SolarWorld to save a few bucks and get a faster return on investment. – Solar Tech Wil Burlin

Martin's Solar Breakdown:

  • Cost of Contractor: None
  • Cost of Electrician: None
  • Total Hours to install: 105 hours
  • Design Output of kWh per year: 36,000 - 37,000 kWh
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $13,500 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility rates per kWh: 15.59 cents/kWh
  • Average Monthly Utility cost before installation: $650
  • Feed-in Tariff/Net Metering Issues: None
  • Solar Payback Period: 4 Years, 1 Month
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I Rent My Home… Can I Still Go Solar?

I Rent My Home… Can I Still Go Solar?

4 Steps to Investing In Solar When You Rent or Lease Your Home

Do you rent or lease your property? Did you know you can still go solar?

While residential solar systems are normally associated with homeowners, you still have options as a renter or lessee, and you can still shave a chunk off your power bill and rely on renewable energy.

The trick is finding the right situation for your solar aspirations – most landlords won’t let you mount solar panels on the roof they own (and you rent from them), so sometimes you have to get creative.

Below are a few good solutions to going solar when you rent or lease.

1. Modular and Portable Systems

Some solar systems can be set up with little to no installation processes – no bolting racking to the roof or installing heavy ground-mounted poles.

Lightweight, flexible panels from SunPower® can be a great choice for renters and travelers, easy to transport and set up quickly. 

There are also specialty solar kits that can install on your balcony railings, window ledges, and banisters, allowing you to make the most out of your apartment or home space, without needing to install. Some of these systems even qualify for the 30% federal rebate, so you might end up saving more than you expect! The Rolling Thunder RT-1000 is a great plug and play portable option.

2. Join A Renewable Community

Some communities, neighborhoods, or even full districts can be remotely tied into solar farms or other renewable plants which power their utilities.

It’s possible to sign up for programs such as these through your regular utility company, which will often pay out in credits on your power bill. There are also experimental solar communities such as New York’s Brooklyn Microgrid and California’s SolarShares program.

The Brooklyn Microgrid, NYC's renewable community project.

Renewable communities are taking off in a number of states, with some cities already onboard for 100% renewable energy, and many more on track to join them in the next 20 years. Burlington, Vermont is already completely run on renewable energy sources, the first city in the nation to do so! It was quickly followed by Aspen, Colorado and Greensburg, Kansas, with Georgetown, Texas on track to achieve 100% renewable status by the end of this year.

Other, bigger cities are pushing for their own renewable energy goals by the end of the decade, including San Diego, Rochester, and Grand Rapids. If the trend continues, finding a city to live in that’s 100% powered by renewable energy should get easier every year!

3. Play the Market

If you can’t put solar on your roof, you can invest in those who do! Investing your portfolio in one specific industry or sector can help you diversify your holdings and profit when that industry grows.

Tesla, SolarWorld, and Enphase are all publicly traded companies whose stock shifts when the market fluctuates, and with the right investment and stock broker, you can cash in when the market grows. You can also put your money in an Extended Trade Fund (ETF) – a less risky option that covers several companies at once and can be traded similarly to stocks. When the solar industry profits, you profit.

Bonds are another potential source of investment, allowing you to invest in the long-term future of a particular project or company. The caveat is that these usually take far longer to pay off than stocks, so it’s best to be in it for the long haul if you invest in this way.

Investments in renewable energy will pay off, the industry is growing and new renewable projects are added every day. According to the most recent data, renewable energy is a growth industry poised to pay off bigtime by 2030, and that means 2017 is a prime time to put your money in the renewable market.

4. Baby Steps

If you can’t afford larger PV panels and the equipment that goes with them, you can still make an impact by going solar on a small scale. Solar chargers for your laptop, cellphone, and other small appliances can make a big difference, allowing you to use less power from your home or apartment outlets without the need for heavier equipment, permitting, or your landlord’s permission.

A portable solar charging station designed for charging electronics at camp.

There are a number of solar power systems that can hang on your balcony or windowsill, be used indoors (in a sunny window spot, for example), or that are portable for camping and hiking.

So you can see, it’s not impossible to go solar when you rent! You can still make a difference both economically and environmentally, even if your landlord won’t let you put solar panels on the roof. Going solar has never been easier, so choose the option that’s best for your situation.

Filing Solar Power Permits in 2017? Consider the Following Factors

Filing Solar Power Permits in 2017? Consider the Following Factors

Here's What You Need to Know.

All of these factors are important to consider when permitting your solar system, and can help streamline your process. Take the time to consider these often-overlooked aspects so you’re not caught off guard! 

This guide is the perfect prep work to get you started on going solar, and can save you a ton of time so you can get your install going and claim your Federal Tax Credit before the 2017 tax season ends in December.

Geographic Location

Every state, and many different cities within them, has different permitting processes and requirements for homeowners looking to install solar. California is our go-to example for state requirements: cities in California have some of the strictest zoning, building, and fire codes, so chances are if you can meet their standards, you can meet any state’s standards. We recommend you check your local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) for full regulations.

Some things to consider with your location include:

  • Urban or Rural Property
  • Off-grid or grid-tied
  • Zoning regulations
  • Fire codes and building codes
  • Property lines and neighborhood restrictions

Residential or suburban areas often have stricter zoning and installation requirements than rural areas – and if you own several acres of land you can more easily accommodate different mounting types such as ground or Pole-Mounted systems. In some cases, you have more of a choice in the matter – if you’ve recently bought property that’s off-the-grid, it’s a much more affordable option to go solar rather than paying tens of thousands of dollars to run wiring out to your property. Factors like this can help make your installation decision easier, and will affect your permitting and engineering needs down the line.

Wind & Snow Loading

Areas with high precipitation or snowfall require some planning – solar panels can usually only bear a certain load weight – snow and debris can add up quickly during the winter, so it’s something to plan for. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars just to lose your entire solar setup when the snow hits this winter.

Moreover, your local AHJ will have building codes that require new structures (such as a solar array) to meet the requirements of your environment, so check with the authority for specific requirements. Many authorities require at least 10-40 PSF (pounds per square foot) load-bearing on panels, and most panels are rated for much higher than this at around 150+ PSF. 

Engineering

Engineering your system is essential in some areas, with many AHJs requiring a “wet stamp” which means an engineer needs to review each individual project and sign off on it before approval. Some areas require that ground mounted arrays get soil engineering, where an engineer tests the soil properties to determine how the foundation should be engineered before they can approve your permits.

DIY solar kits tend to include components from a number of different sources and manufacturers, so getting the right approvals and permitting can add time to your install. Some companies aim to alleviate this, for example, IronRidge racking is engineered for all 50 states, and typically meets any local wind or snow requirements – your AHJ and any needed engineer or building code authorities will need to know this info. 

Equipment

Newer or more complex equipment can delay or complicate your permitting and install process. Grid-tied systems are usually the most straightforward, but a grid-tied battery backup system will be scrutinized more closely because of the complexity, and often the local inspector will have questions. Expect to be asked about your battery bank’s brand, model numbers, battery type, venting method, enclosure, and other details.

Sometimes this also happens with new technology. A few years back, a lot of inspectors were confused about SolarEdge since it is a unique inverter with DC optimizers on each panel. We heard a lot of questions from the building departments about sizing and system calculations. Today, SolarEdge is the #1 residential inverter in the US, and we don’t hear as many questions from inspectors about it. More recently, some newer systems, such as Tesla’s powerwall, require specially-authorized (and often very hard to find) installation professionals who have been certified to work with their equipment.

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Install of the Month – November 2017

Install of the Month – November 2017

“Going Big on Going Green” with Jeff Dickens

They say “go big or go home,” and that’s just what professional installer Jeff Dickens did for this month’s feature. He went big by going green with a full solar system on a commercial business, and the results are truly impressive. Mt. Shasta Animal Hospital is now powered by renewable energy thanks to his install.

I have worked with this customer in the past as he is a local installer.  He is one of the easiest electricians and solar installers that I have ever worked with. 
– Solar tech Jeremy Allen

This massive install was a huge undertaking, but the results can’t be ignored, and the benefit of offsetting the client’s power bill speaks for itself.

Interview with Jeff

What Solar System Type Did You Install?

I chose to install a grid-tied system to suit my client’s power needs.

What Was Your Primary Reason for Adding Solar to Your Home or Business?

My main goal was to provide green energy in a commercial business and to offset grid power consumption. The solar array I installed collects enough energy to power, and should help Mt. Shasta Animal Hospital save money month-to-month on their utilities.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

Yes, I’m an electrical / solar contractor and have installed numerous systems. My experience in the industry allowed me to make this install go very smoothly.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

An install on a roof like this, safety is your biggest concern. You need to be aware of your rope rigging and all safety measures taken. Sloped metal roofs can be extremely dangerous, so we took extra precautions with scaffolding, a man-lift, fall-prevention gear and waited for dry weather conditions to be as safe as possible. There was also a small snag with some of the permitting process, but we took care of it quickly.

Our wiring diagram had to be taken to a local electrical engineer to be stamped which was out of the ordinary, however did not slow down the process and was completed with only minimal additional cost. 

 – Solar tech  Jeremy Allen

How Many Helpers Did You Have?

I had two experienced workers helping with the install, who were also general contractors.

Did You Hire a Contractor?

Being a professional contractor, I always recommend at least consulting with a electrician or solar contractor before a DIY Install. It can save a lot of headaches. In this case, I was the contractor in question, hired by Mt. Shasta Animal Hospital to install their solar system. Wholesale Solar’s DIY systems make my job that much easier for a professional install.

Were There Any Unforeseen Additional Parts or Tools You Needed?

Not really. In the nuts and bolts category, a couple extra is always better than the exact amount.

How Long Was the Full Installation Process?

Start to finish for the complete install was about 7 days. The roof work to install racking and panels was 4 days. It took 3 days to complete all the electrical and setting the inverters.

How Did it Feel to Get Your Solar Project Finished?

The owners of the business are very happy with the install.

Who Else Did You Consider Before Choosing Wholesale Solar?

I only shop at Wholesale Solar.

How Much Did You Save On Your Taxes?

The client will save around $14,000 with the Federal Tax Credit and California’s state incentives combined.

Components in Jeff’s System

Questions about Jeff’s install? Ask us in the comments below.

Say Hello to the Next Generation of Grid-Tied Solar Power Inverters

Say Hello to the Next Generation of Grid-Tied Solar Power Inverters

Every grid-tied solar power system needs an inverter, and there are a lot of different ones on the market. Today we’ll help you narrow down your choice, because we’re focusing on the best of the bunch: the HD Wave Inverter from SolarEdge.

SolarEdge’s HD Wave is one of the most innovative grid-tied inverters on the market today: 50% smaller than most inverters and with an efficiency rating of 99%. It sports a number of improvements over traditional inverters, and SolarEdge spent a lot of time developing it to be the next leap forward in the industry – likened to the jump from “fat-backed” televisions to flat-screen plasma displays: it’s a huge innovation.

But before we dive into the details of the HD Wave and what makes it so great; let’s take a look at why the inverter plays such an important role in a Solar System setup.

Why do we need an inverter anyways?

The inverter is the “brain” of your solar system. It manages your power flow, taking the DC power produced by the solar panels and “inverting” its current into AC power for your appliances and home electricity.

DC power is “unidirectional,” meaning it flows in one direction. This is what your solar panels produce when they convert the sun’s heat and light into electricity.

AC power “alternates” by changing the direction of the power flow periodically. This is the type of energy your home uses to power its appliances and devices.  

The more efficient your inverter is, the more you can take advantage of the sun’s energy, and the HD Wave Inverter is currently the most efficient grid-tied inverter on the market.

SolarEdge Leads the Pack for Innovation

This revolutionary new grid-tied inverter doesn’t come without a fair share of competition. There are hundreds of other inverter manufacturers in the world, so SolarEdge had to truly change the game in order for their design to come out on top.

SolarEdge’s innovations proved so revolutionary, in fact, that they were awarded the Intersolar Award in 2016. This prestigious award is granted to companies deemed instrumental in driving forward progress in the solar industry.

The HD Wave Inverter is not only more efficient, but it’s also considered to be one of the most reliable systems on the market. SolarEdge stands by their new technology by providing lifetime system monitoring services and a 12-year standard warranty.

6 Reasons Why the HD Wave is the New Gold Standard for Inverters:

  1. Smaller and lighter for easy installation. The small form factor of the HD Wave Inverter makes it easy for DIY installers. It weighs less than 25 lbs (regular inverters weigh much more, 50-100 lbs!).  
  2. Rated at 99% efficiency by the California Energy Commission (CEC). Most traditional inverters, when converting DC to AC, will lose 3-5% efficiency. But the HD Wave Inverter only loses 1%—allowing your system to produce more energy on average. Improvements include:
    • New digital processing technology
    • 16x less magnetics than other inverters
    • Newly optimized capacitors that improve power output.
  3. The SafeDC System: Limits each panel’s output to 1 volt. (discharging capacitors and shutting down power optimizers). This makes it safe for installers, firefighters, and maintenance personnel who are working on or around your panels.
  4. Four-button touch panel interface on the front of the HD Wave allows for smooth operation. This allows for easy setup and adjustment of your system.
  5. 12-year standard warranty ensures the system holds up over time, and can be repaired or replaced. This can be upgraded to a 20 or 25 year warranty for added peace of mind.
  6. Lifetime system monitoring (household energy consumption & production app) – sign into your SolarEdge account and keep track of your system diagnostics, PV panel performance and power flow from your computer or phone. You can even track faults or issues that crop up in real time, so you can make repairs and adjustments as soon as possible.

The SolarEdge HD Wave Inverter is available for most solar systems, sized at 3.8kW, 5kW, 6kW, and 7.6kW Watt modules, with 10kW and 11.4kW sizes coming soon, allowing it to be used for most grid-tied solar power systems.

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Should You Buy, Lease, or Loan to Finance Your Solar System? Understanding the Differences Can Save You Big $$$

Should You Buy, Lease, or Loan to Finance Your Solar System? Understanding the Differences Can Save You Big $$$

Buy, Lease, or Loan: Financing Your Solar System Has Never Been Easier

Solar panels are an asset to your home that can increase its value, save you money, and increase your energy independence. For many homeowners, there are two important factors to consider: the cost of entry and the ease of installation. After all, time is money, and if you’re already spending a hefty sum on acquiring your equipment, the added cost and time spent installing it can be problematic. We address the latter by selling only DIY solar kits, for which there is no cost of installation, and the job can be done over a weekend. For the former, we look at the options you have for solar power financing. There are also numerous  incentives, such as the 30% federal tax credit, and state rebates which can drastically lower your cost for going solar in the long run. 

The incentives begin: federal, state, and local

Since 2006, there has been a federal tax credit that underwrites some of the costs of a solar purchase and installation. The government didn’t have a lot of luck with the original limit of $2,000, so the plan was changed to cover 30% of the total cost of the solar purchase and installation with no upper limit. 

Soon, state governments got involved, offering state-sponsored rebates, subsidies, and grants. Eventually local administrations joined in as well and local utilities agreed to buy excess energy that was fed back into the grid, often at twice the going rate that they were charging for electricity. Why? Because by using a certain percentage of renewable energy, they were granted carbon credits which they could use to offset the pollution they were creating elsewhere.

Both of these programs combined can save you 30-50%, anywhere from $3,000 – $10,000 in the long run, but they’re usually applied after you’ve purchased – which means you still need money up front to actually buy your equipment. Enter your financing options.

solar financing options

Buy, Loan, or Lease?

What if I can’t afford to buy a solar system outright? Can I finance it? Some of our customers have enough in savings to purchase a system in cash, which is what we usually recommend (debt can be dangerous!). However, for those who want to take advantage of the Federal Tax Rebate before it sunsets in 2021, there are other options to help with affordability, such as:

If financing your solar system is the only way you can afford one, however, there are financing options available to help alleviate some of the costs. There’s a lot to consider with financing: you’re probably not buying solar purely for ROI, but getting a return on your investment is certainly one of the more enticing factors. Take into consideration how much you’re going to spend buying the solar system, how much you’re going to get back from federal and state incentives, and how long the system is going to take to pay for itself by offsetting your utility bill costs over the years, and you’ve got a good idea of what to expect. Let’s take a look at the three forms of financing, and their various benefits and drawbacks.

Buy:

  • If you buy it, you own it.
  • There is a fixed, predictable period of time over which it will pay for itself (The “payback period” of 3-6 years, depending on the install), after which it is pure profit (the ROI – Return on Investment).
  • It increases the value of your home.
  • You get to keep all of the subsidies, grants, and tax credits;
  • You get paid for extra power production if your utility allows net metering.
  • In most cases you can claim the interest on your loan to purchase the system as a deduction on your taxes, something you cannot do with the solar lease program;
  • Systems are very reliable; they hardly ever need maintenance aside from a scheduled inverter replacement a decade or two later. Inverters come with a warranty of 10 years (upgradeable to 20 or 25).
  • Upfront cost using your own money, often as a lump sum.

Lease:

  • The “zero-down” claims are not entirely true. You may not be giving them cash money, but by signing that power purchase agreement (PPA) or lease, you are giving them your 30% federal tax credit and any eligible state or local incentives. You’re giving them the thousands upon thousands of dollars that should rightfully be in your pocket or your bank account.
  • When all the adding up is finally done, you’ll discover that you paid the leasing company more than twice as much as it would have cost you to purchase the system yourself and finance it. With the available incentives it should cost less than $2 per watt (all-in) to install your solar system if you DIY it (like many of our customers do; see our Customer Installs of the Month)
  • Leasing is still a commitment, your panels and systems are installed on the home, but can be repossessed and uninstalled if you fall behind on payments.
  • Leasing IS however a great option if you’re more concerned about offsetting your power bill and using renewable energy sources instead.
  • If you lease a solar system, you are not responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, and operation of it – that falls under the responsibility of the lenders, giving you some added peace of mind, especially if your solar system is on a vacation home or summer getaway.

Loan:

  • FHA PowerSaver Loans are available to qualified applicants in many states. These loans help cover the cost of solar installation (among other green energy improvements) and come with a reasonable interest rate.
  • With a loan, you’re paying back both the solar system’s costs and anything you owe on your mortgage, property taxes, etc, making any ROI or utility bill offset negligible until the loan is paid.
  • Loans can often be paid off in 10 to 20 years, which means you may be paying them off for the entire life of the solar system – by the time your loan is paid off, you may need to replace vital components to keep your solar system functioning.
  • A loan is, however, a “quick fix” solution for funding your solar system. Assuming you have the credit to qualify for one, this can be a desirable solution at the cost of a delayed return on your investment.

The Takeaway

Leasing or getting a loan for solar panels is a great idea… for the lender. It is not a consumer-friendly business model. In our recovering economy, loans and solar leases no longer make sense. Those two methods actually represent the most expensive ways for consumers to use solar energy. They were designed for investors to take advantage of a market in recession, not to help homeowners install solar.

Even more insidious is the escalator payment scheme, which allows leasing companies to increase your payment rate by 3% per year for 20 years. By year 20 you’re paying more than 175% of what you paid in year one.

By contrast, buying your panels outright saves you more and more money every year you own it. Even if you have to finance it, with a low enough interest rate there is still a good potential for positive payback.

 

Install of the Month – October 2017

Install of the Month – October 2017

"Solar After the Storm" with Cyril Richardson

Have you ever weathered a hurricane?

Come face-to-face with the wind and the rain as it blows at you with twice the speed of a car on the freeway?

It’s one of the most powerful, terrifying experiences on Earth—and Cyril Richardson and his family went through it twice.

First, in early September, 2017, Hurricane Irma devastated the US Virgin Islands that Cyril calls home.

But then, just as they were only starting to wrap their heads around recovery, Cyril, his wife, and their two children had to stare down Hurricane Maria—their second category 5 storm in two weeks.

They made it through both safely, but, like thousands of other Virgin Island residents, they found themselves without power—and with no real hope of having it restored for months.

Luckily, before the hurricanes were even a concern, Cyril had started looking into solar systems. What had started as a plan to simply offset his utility bill quickly became a lifeline.

After considering his options, he chose Wholesale Solar as his supplier, working with Solar Technician Jeremy Allan, who helped design and deliver a custom system within 8 days.

Cyril and his family installed an off-grid system—the obvious choice, given the power system in the USVIs. To cope with both the rough weather and the requirements of his home, Jeremy helped Cyril settle on the dependability of The Ranch 8.85 KW system; this set-up both suits his needs now and can be programmed to work as grid-assisted once power is restored next year.

Cyril Richardson: In his own words

What kind of system did you install?

I bought an off-grid system, which just made more sense for the situation here. The power won’t be restored here for almost nine months, so it makes perfect sense to provide my own power and become self-sufficient.

What kind of battery bank did you get and why?

A 16-AGM (Absorbed Gas Mat) battery bank because it requires little-to-no maintenance. That makes it useful for going off-grid.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

I own a company that builds and maintains reverse-osmosis water treatment, so I’ve done hands-on work in the past.

Was there anything difficult about the installation?

Pulling the wire through the conduit was a bit more difficult than I expected it to be, but I managed. There was some heavy lifting involved, so I had a couple of guys assist me with carrying the panels onto the roof. I definitely appreciated having extra help.

The batteries for the system were delayed unexpectedly, due to shortages. We were able to work with the manufacturer to ensure the quickest delivery of the freshest set of batteries, however. In the meantime I helped Cyril use batteries that he already had on-site to get his system up and running.
–  Solar Tech Jeremy Allen.

Did everything go smoothly?

I had everything I needed already, and was able to do it without hiring a contractor. It took about 14 hours after everything was said and done. The installation process went smoothly, and there weren’t any major delays.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

Very excited! It felt great to finish a project this big and to have power restored to my home. It’s a great relief to have the lights on and everything functioning again.

Did you consider anyone else before choosing Wholesale Solar?

I looked at a few other companies here in the Virgin Islands, but none of them offered the same independence or DIY ease-of-installation that Wholesale Solar did.

What was your total solar install cost?

After everything was said and done my total install cost was around $30,000.

Cyril's Solar Breakdown:

  • Cost of Contractor: None
  • Cost of Electrician: None
  • Total Hours to install: 14 hours
  • Design Output of kWh per year: 15,000-16,000 kWh
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $10,000 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility rates per kWh: 13.12 cents/kWh
  • Average Monthly Utility cost: was $175
  • Feed-in Tariff/Net Metering Issues: None (once Grid is Up)

Questions about Cyril's install? Ask us in the comments below.

[ Videos ] Become a Ground Mount Installing Pro: Beginner and Advanced IronRidge Videos

[ Videos ] Become a Ground Mount Installing Pro: Beginner and Advanced IronRidge Videos

Finally gain the confidence you’ve been looking for! Our Friends at IronRidge want you to be a Ground Mount expert. In these 2 detailed videos you will learn the basic and advanced approaches to installing your Ground Mount solar foundation.

Intro to Ground-based & IronRidge Design Assistant

Ground Mounted solar arrays often appear very simple, but their foundations can vary in depth, width, and spacing, making them one of the trickiest variables to handle. In this presentation, we review the forces affecting ground mount foundations and show you how to use Design Assistant to quickly reduce foundation size and cost.

Advanced Ground-based & IronRidge Design Assistant

As you know, no two Ground Mount Systems installations are the same. In this presentation, we explore the wide array of site conditions installers encounter and review best practices around topics like dealing with groundwater, building on sloped land, and planning for cold climates. In addition, we’ll share a field-tested and proven method of saving time on large-scale installations. We’ll also show you how to use the new visual interface in Ground-based Design Assistant to plan your project and generate a bill of materials.

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