Category: Buying Solar

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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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.

 

How does the federal solar tax credit work: And how much longer will it be around?

How does the federal solar tax credit work: And how much longer will it be around?

Solar’s 30% Federal Tax Credit Is Ending Soon.  How can you max out savings before it’s gone for good?

One of the most significant U.S. federal incentives in current history, the 30% Federal Solar Tax Credit, is soon coming to an end. Since 2006, the Federal government has helped make solar an affordable option for many homeowners. The solar tax credit saves customers upwards of $3,000—$10,000+ on residential solar installations. However, as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end,” and by the year 2020, the federal government will begin trimming back on its 30% tax credit incentive. By the year 2022, the feds will stop incentivizing residential homeowners altogether.  The good news is there’s still time to capitalize on the full 30% tax credit that is available today.  In this short article, we’ll equip you with the necessary info needed to help maximize your return on investment when going solar this tax season.

What is Tax Credit?

A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of the income tax you owe. For example, if you owe $1,000 in federal taxes but are eligible for a $1,000 tax credit, your net liability drops to zero according to Turbo Tax.

Simply put: Federal Tax credit = Less Taxes.

What is Total Solar Cost?

Keeping track of your expenses is a critical step to maximizing your savings: the more you spend on your solar installation as a whole, the more your tax credit value increases. Here are some of the expenses associated with going solar that you can add to your total solar cost:

  • Solar Components
  • Freight Shipping Costs
  • Solar Consulting fees
  • Professional installer
  • Electrician Fees
  • Engineer Fees
  • Tools bought or rented
  • Wiring
  • Screws, Bolts, Nails, etc
  • Equipment purchased or rented (scaffolding or a man-lift, for example)
  • Permitting fees
  • Permitting service costs

Your solar cost will vary depending on your specific approach and resources needed when installing your system. For instance, if you decide to DIY your solar, you can add your new tool/equipment expenses to your total solar cost and increase your tax credit value. Just make sure to keep your receipts for proof.

Making The Federal Tax Credit and Solar Cost Work For You.

Let’s say your solar expenses total at $10,000. 

Multiply 10,000 by 30%

or

10,000 x .30 = $3,000

That’s $3,000 LESS you owe on federal income tax!

Furthermore, let’s say your neighbor bought the same system but he needed additional tools and equipment, putting the total solar cost at $12,000. That would mean he would owe $4,000 LESS on income taxes!

The more you spend, the more you save.

How Much Time is Left To Max Out Your Savings?

December 31st, 2019 is your last day to get the full 30% residential renewable energy tax credit. After that, the tax credit percentage will drop every year accordingly:

  • 2016 – 2019: The tax credit remains at 30% of the total cost of the system.
  • 2020: Owners of new residential and commercial solar can deduct 26% of the cost of the system from their taxes.
  • 2021: Owners of new residential and commercial solar can deduct 22% of the cost of the system from their taxes.
  • 2022 onwards: Owners of new commercial solar energy systems can deduct 10% of the cost of the system from their taxes. There is no federal credit for residential solar energy systems.

Why You Should Buy and Not lease.

There is one caveat when deciding to go solar — you’ll need to buy solar and not lease it before 2020. If you do choose to lease, just remember, it’s the lessor who receives the 30% tax credit, not you, since they technically own the solar system you pay to use. Also, take into account that leasing has a 15-20 year pay off period when compared to a DIY system that only has a 5-10 year pay off period, and that's for the same solar system.  The sooner you pay it off, the more money you save.

How to apply for your 30% Federal Tax Credit

Once you’ve spent the money on solar, you’ll need to prove it to the government to claim your tax credit.  This requires you to file a specific form during tax season.  It might be easiest to reach out to your tax professional to help guide you.   For those that do their own taxes, you can use the steps below to file your Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit.

  1. Gather all your expense receipts and put them in a safe place.
  2. Determine if you are eligible for the Federal ITC (Investment Tax Credit) – make sure you credit for ownership and that federal tax liability are in order. You are eligible for the Federal ITC as long as you own your solar energy system, rather than lease it. You are also eligible even if the solar energy system is not on your primary residence – as long as you own the property and live in it for part of the year, you can claim the solar tax credit.
  3. Complete IRS Form 5965 to validate your qualification for renewable energy credits. Simply fill in the segment regarding energy credits, and you’re good to go! For a more in-depth look at this process, read here.
  4. Add your renewable energy credit information to your typical form 1040.

There you have it, all the info you need to go solar and claim the 30% federal tax credit. It’s easier than it sounds, and the financial benefit is too good to pass up! So don’t let your solar project stagnate, get going soon before the tax credit is no more!

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So When Does Solar Pay Off?

So When Does Solar Pay Off?

We’ve already discussed maximizing the ROI on your grid-tied solar power system, but when does solar truly start to pay for itself?

At first glance, pricing your solar array and determining  cost-offsets, payback period, and overall ROI might seem like a complex formula, but we’re here to help simplify the process. After reading this article, you should have a clear understanding of how much to spend and when you should expect it to pay off.

To figure out when your solar power system will begin to pay for itself, there are a few things you must consider:

  • Gross cost of purchasing the solar panels and all equipment (racking, power center, inverter, battery bank, etc). This is the “up front” price.
  • Tax incentives and rebates which can save you money once you install a solar power system. These can save you a significant amount on the back-end, at state, local, and federal levels.
  • Your monthly wattage use. You should know this right away, using our solar power cost calculator online you can predict how much electricity you’ll need to produce with your solar array, based on the electronics you use in your home and your average power consumption per month. The higher your electricity bill, the shorter your overall payback time if you’re able to zero that bill out on a grid-tied solar system.
  • Average electricity generation is another important factor - it’s often beneficial not just to provide enough power to keep the lights on at home, but also providing over the amount you need. With grid-tied systems, over-production can be paid back to the utility company, which can yield credit paid to you. With off-grid systems that have a battery-backup, this can give your home extra power on-hand should an outage or mechanical failure occur, or provide some extra juice for unexpectedly high usage (say, having guests over).

These are the basic factors to consider when buying any solar power system, but now we’ll delve into the differences in payoff period between different types of solar. Grid-tied and off-grid systems both pay off in different ways and over a different time period, so understanding the specifics of your situation.

This helpful chart from Understand Solar visualizes all of this data into a helpful chart on a state-by-state basis. As you can see, ROI on a solar system is at its absolute peak in Hawaii due to the state's extreme cost for utilities. If you're planning a solar installation on your home, this chart can provide a very helpful at-a-glance analysis.

average solar ROI per state

As a rule of thumb - the higher the price of electricity in your area, the quicker your payoff period as you offset the cost of the monthly utility bill.

For more information on getting the best ROI for your solar array, Wholesale Solar has a dedicated information page to assist you. 

Grid-Tied Solar:

Most solar customers in residential areas choose grid-tied solar, for obvious reasons! With a return on investment of only 4-6 years, your grid-tied systems start paying for themselves in very short order. If you’re producing more electricity than you need and paying it back to the power company, you can pay back your investment even faster. Government incentives pay up to 30% back, so your barrier to entry is comparatively low, and you will start seeing the difference in your power bills almost immediately.

With grid-tied power systems, this short payoff period means a much greater boon for you long-term. Power companies’ prices are only getting higher, and since most panels and inverters have 10 to 25-year warranties, you’ll be living off essentially “free” electricity for the majority of that period.

Off-Grid System:

Off-Grid solar is a very different investment from grid-tied. Generally more expensive than their grid-tied counterparts, off-grid systems give you nearly double the investment, however, as they start paying off immediately - having no connection to the grid at all and providing 100% of the power for your home (with the slight downside that the system can’t be backed up by the local grid if it fails for some reason). This minor downside is of course compensated by having a battery bank to store excess power and keep the lights on even if something goes wrong with the main system.

Installing an off-grid array using a DIY solar power kit helps you save even more money - no need to pay for an electrician or professional installer when doing it yourself. You’ll still need to file for permitting your solar array, but beyond that it’s all up to you to purchase and install.

One of the main reasons off-grid solar yields such a high ROI is the cost of wiring. If you wanted to get grid-tied solar in an extremely rural area, the price to install wiring alone can cost upwards of $50,000 - an added expense you definitely don't want! By going off-grid, you save yourself a bit of time and a ton of money. 

The More You Know

So there you have it, the lowdown on getting the best return on your solar investement. Remember, the higher your utility costs without solar, the quicker your new array will pay for itself as it cancels those costs out once installed.

Our Core Values

Our Core Values

OUR CORE VALUES

Today we'd like to share a message about who we are as a company that Allie Coleman, CEO of Wholesale Solar, recently shared with us.

By ALLIE COLEMAN

Happy Summer, Folks!
 
Let's talk about something that we're so passionate about that we made it our #1 core value: creating the highest quality customer experience possible.
 
There are so many intricacies and pathways along your solar journey. From the very first quote through to your final purchase and install, it seems like a difficult process - too much for one person to DIY, even.
 
 Fortunately, we've gotten really, really good at delivering the best customer support and assistance! That's because everyone in our offices really cares about the people we work with and the product we're providing. What a great place to start!
 
Customer Experience = the collective result of a customer's every interaction from the very first visit on our website to the very last click! 

"There are so many intricacies and pathways along your solar journey. From the very first quote through to your final purchase and install, it seems like a difficult process - too much for one person to DIY, even."

What makes a great Customer Experience?

Building Trust:

We know that buying a solar system is a big deal! We strive to provide customers with as much information as they need in order to feel comfortable working with us and to create trust in their own abilities. We will be accountable for our actions and meet the expectations that we set: we do what we say we will, and always keep our word!

Simplicity:

We aim to make solar simple. We will work to make our website, communication, delivery, and products as user-friendly and seamless as possible. Great news! Our product and tech team plan on having Quick-Start guides for our systems complete this year!

Support:

We aim to empower our customers to DO IT YOURSELF...With us! We're actively creating educational content (articles, videos, checklists) to guide our customers through every step of their solar process from your first quote and permitting to the final install. We will pick up the phone and we facilitate providing the support they need!

Appreciation:

Without our customers, we can't create the kind of great change in the world we want to see. With this in mind, we're always looking for ways in which we can thank our customers and showcase their incredible handiwork!

How can we make a great Customer Experience every time
 
Simple. Quality assurance is all about mapping out the repeatable ideal pathway down which we will lead our customers. Our tool for this will be clearly defined and easily accessible processes for each step of the buying cycle. More and more clear direction around ALL processes is coming soon!
 
How do we measure the quality of the Customer Experience we're providing?  What can you do to make our service better?

Do you have ideas about improving our customer experience? We want to hear your voice! If so, take a moment to fill out our survey below.

Spread the word

The Simple Math Behind Saving Big On Solar

The Simple Math Behind Saving Big On Solar

Solar Payoff: It’s Simpler Than it Seems

Let’s face the facts: we all need electricity.  It’s a necessity that we pay for every month.  The idea here is to pay off your solar system with what you would normally spend on your utility bill.  Month after month and year after year you’re spending money on power with no end in site.  Why not spend that money on a solar system instead with the goal in mind to never pay for power ever again!

You’ve probably heard talking points like payoff period, ROI and many other money-saving terms when it comes to buying solar.  The payoff period is how long it takes to pay off the cost of your solar system with the money you would have spent on your utility bill.  The money you save on your utility bill over X amount of years will play a key role in figuring out your payoff period, so knowing how many years that will take could be the deciding factor for a lot of people looking to convert to solar. Once the payoff period has been reached, every cent saved afterwards is pure ROI – return on investment.

The Basic Formula

To figure out when your solar power system will begin to pay for itself, there are a few things you must consider:

  • Gross cost is the sum of your solar system and additional contractor work.  This includes components like Solar Panels, Racking, Charge Controller, Inverter, Battery Bank, etc. This is the “upfront” price.  (Note: Always talk with a Solar Technician before building your system.  They’ll be able to help you with designing a highly efficient solar system tailored for your location.)  Hiring someone to help with part of the install is totally fine and often recommended when it comes to hooking up some of the electrical components to your house.
  • Tax incentives and rebates can save you money once you have installed your solar power system. These will save you a significant amount on the back-end.  You can cash in on these incentives at the federal, state and local levels.  That’s an opportunity to 3X your savings.  Now, combine that with the HUGE discount you get with a DIY solar system, and watch your path to savings quickly accelerate!
    1. 30% of the cost of your Solar Electric System and installation can be deducted from your federal tax bill.
    2. Selected states have their own additional incentives.
    3. Regional or local districts can also have additional incentives.  Be sure to do a quick Google search to find out.
    4. The DSIRE database shows both state and local incentive programs. Utility providers will have info on their website if they offer an incentive. For example, Google: “PG&E solar incentives,” or whoever your utility company is.
  • Your monthly power usage can be found in your monthly utility power bill. Ideally, you’re going to want to enter that into our solar power cost calculator.   This should help you to figure out what kind of solar power system you’ll need to power your home.   If you don’t have your monthly power usage, you can select the option to use your average monthly utility cost.
  • Average electricity generation: Under Net Metering, power produced by a Grid-Tied PV system is sent into the household load panel, where it powers appliances. Any excess power feeds into the grid, turning the utility meter backwards and applying a credit towards your bill for every kWh generated.  The utility will take a look at your usage, typically once annually, to determine if you over-produced or under-produced. If you under-produced, they send a bill. If you over-produced they offer to roll over credit to next year or pay you for the credit. But they only pay a small amount for extra power — for example, if you buy power at $.12/kWh, they may only pay $.06/kWh.  With Off-Grid Systems the approach is different.  Off-Grid Systems are eliminating the dependence on the utility grid and going completely independent.  Basically, you become your own power plant.  Off-Grid Systems require a Battery Bank to store energy for night time use and when the sun isn’t as efficient. We also recommend a Backup Generator for recharging during long periods of overcast weather and as a backup power source. These are additional costs that you must consider when using an Off-Grid Solar System, and therefore a longer wait until it’s paid off.  Usually, the goal of an Off-Grid system isn’t directly tied to long-term payback.  Normally people go Off-Grid because there is no utility power source close enough to power their home and it’s much cheaper to use solar than to run cables from the grid.
  • Additional Cost:  Before you get your Solar System, you’re going to need to get a solar permit.  Getting a permit is often accompanied by some light weight fees that your local authorities will add on.  But, there’s good news.  We have a free Downloadable Solar Permitting Cheat Sheet that is a great asset for anyone trying to save time with getting their permit.  Time is money, so considered this a way to off-set any permitting fees.

How do you equate an accurate payback timeline so that you can mark on your calendar the day you don’t have to pay for power anymore? Simple! We’ll show you:

Easy Math, Big Savings

Now that we have all the components, we can begin to see how long it will take pay off your solar system investment. let’s run an example:

A typical equation might look something like this: 12,900-4,370 = 7,530 / 1,440 = 5.3 years till solar system is paid and you’ll never pay for power again.

Based on 1,000 kWh per month usage, package #1890914, price of $.12/kWh for power.

Costs

  • Exp: DIY Solar System $11,000
  • Exp: Electrician costs: $1500
  • Exp: Permit Costs $300

Total Expenses: $12,900


Savings

  • Save: 30% Federal tax rebate $3870 (12,900 x 0.30)
  • Save: State and Local Level incentives $1500 (estimated additional state & local incentives)

Total Upfront Savings: $5,370

Annual Utility Savings $1440/yr ($.12 x 1,000 x 12)


Total Expenses (minus) Total Upfront Savings (divided) Yearly Savings = Payoff Period In Years

or based on our example: 12,900-5,370 = 7,530 / 1,440 = 5.3 years

If you’ve ever considered solar, you should grab our free Downloadable Solar Permitting Cheat Sheet.  It can save you hours of time when you’re ready to invest in solar.

Solar Permitting Step-By-Step 1: Interconnection

Solar Permitting Step-By-Step 1: Interconnection

Permitting for your planned solar array installation may seem like a daunting prospect, but we’re here to help take hours off the process by streamlining it for you. You may have already signed up to receive our free Permitting Checklist, and even read our Step-By-Step guide online.

You may have already priced your planned solar power system by using our online solar power calculator, or called one of our sales people or technicians for some early advice. Before you even set foot on your roof comes the real work – getting your system installation approved by your city or county authorities.

Begin by determining your AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) – this will either be your City or County Building Department. This will be the authority to whom most of your paperwork will go. Once you’ve determined whether your home falls within county or city jurisdiction (usually based on whether your home is in an urban or rural area), you will be able to determine their requirements for hooking up solar power.

If you’ve got your DIY solar kit picked out, you will need to show your utility company what you plan to use – they need to confirm whether or not the equipment is UL 1741-certified (meaning it’s approved for tying into the power grid).

When you consider interconnecting solar power to your home, you should expect to cover some preliminary facts, including:

  • Location of utility meter, electrical panel(s), proposed PV array and other landmarks
  • the number of solar panels and inverters, including manufacturer and model being installed
  • the capacity rating for your planned power inverter and PV panels

When planning out your solar array at this step, it’s also a good idea to check your state’s Rebates and Tax Incentives, which can help lower the cost drastically and make going solar that much more affordable.

With the above steps done, you’re ready to move on to the next: Contacting Your Local Permitting Office. 

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SolarWorld Americas Sheds Some Light On Company Status

SolarWorld Americas Sheds Some Light On Company Status

Some of our readers may have heard that SolarWorld was facing some financial trouble in May 2017. While that is true, and some difficult decisions had to be made by the company at an international level, rest assured, SolarWorld is still with us in the form of SolarWorld Americas.

SolarWorld Americas, based in Portland, Oregon, strived to pick up the slack from its German home company and continue the tradition of providing the highest quality crystalline-silicon photovoltaic panels and solar power systems on the market, retaining a standard of excellence even in the face of stiff competition from overseas manufacturers.

The 42-year-old solar company aims to improve its services immediately with the introduction of dual-warranty protection. A little extra peace of mind at no added cost, the Dual Warranty plan goes into effect immediately in the event the original warranty can no longer be supported (due to expiration, invalidation, etc.). This provides an extra layer of protection guaranteed on your expensive solar equipment, so you can worry less and enjoy the summer weather more.

This new package, dubbed SolarWorld Assurance, offers these protections with zero premiums, zero deductibles, and transferable policy ownership – you, the customer control the policy with no strings attached. In the wake of the parent company’s insolvency, this shows SolarWorld Americas sending a clear message: quality matters, the customer is king, and they intend to keep American-made solar coming for a long while yet.

Dual Warranty SolarWorld With Wholesale Solar

This shows SolarWorld Americas sending a clear message: quality matters, the customer is king, and they intend to keep American-made solar coming for a long while yet.

So what does this have to do with Wholesale Solar? Well, SolarWorld’s Dual Warranty is 3rd-Party backed and guaranteed, meaning we get to offer it when we sell you solar power systems featuring SolarWorld products – such as our 4th of July Free Shipping offer! We always help our customers ensure their warranty info is filed with the manufacturer and guaranteed to be honored, so this new SolarWorld Assurance policy provides a new level of customer confidence, offering peace of mind at the perfect price: free.

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Free Energy or Fire Hazard? Shedding Light on Fire Codes With Solar

Free Energy or Fire Hazard? Shedding Light on Fire Codes With Solar

There’s no question that solar power is good for the planet; however, there’s a reason that solar arrays have to go through extensive permitting, reviews, and inspections before being installed on the roof of your home: if done incorrectly, they cause series problems for firefighters.

Recent concerns raised by firefighters have shown that, in emergency situations, the added weight of solar panels on rooftops, as well as the potential for electrocution, poses significant risks to firefighters attempting to extinguish fires in residential areas. Firefighters must have access to a building’s roof – they frequently cut holes in the roof to vent smoke and heat, and with solar panels blocking their way, the firefighting operation can run into trouble.

Of course, there are precautions in place when it comes to solar hookups — all permitted solar arrays must have shut-off switches clearly marked, and city and county fire codes ensure there is ample space for emergency workers to work in just such an occasion. But not all cities and counties are the same — LA, for example, has some of the strictest fire codes in the nation regarding solar array installation.

However, some locations, such as Manchester, New Hampshire, where a fire occurred this January, still uses old fire codes from 2009, which have yet to adopt safety precautions and requirements for PV panels. Although firefighters in that situation had not encountered problems with solar arrays until then, they’re determined to adjust their tactics in the future as solar power becomes more prevalent.

Of course, any new technology has its fair share of teething problems. When electric cars were first introduced, firefighters and rescue responders encountered a very similar problem. Electric and hybrid vehicles use a much higher voltage battery to power them, and in the event of a traffic accident, rescue workers can’t simply disconnect the battery like with a standard vehicle. They risked electrocution at first, but new legislations came about that made their job safer, with clearly marked breakers and kill-switches so they can shut off EV batteries quickly and perform their duties. Solar power is no different – as more and more people switch to clean, renewable energy sources, legislation will catch up to them, making the choice to go solar even easier, as it remains safe and reliable.

Of greater concern in recent weeks has been Tesla’s Solar Roof Tiles. While an innovative concept, Elon Musk has taken great pride in showing just how durable these tiles are, able to withstand hailstones shot at them at 100 mph. That kind of durability is impressive….but what if there’s a fire? That would be significantly harder for firefighters to cut through in an emergency – under normal conditions, firefighters have around ten minutes to cut into the roof and relieve smoke and heat pressures on the house before it collapses. If they’re slowed by ultra-tough roof tiles, they may run out of time, and, since Tesla’s solar roof tiles look almost identical to conventional roofing, and the homeowners may not be able to inform the rescue workers in question, they may pose a real danger.

Don’t let all of this scare you away from solar, though! As one of the leaders in our industry, we pride ourselves on providing safe, effective renewable energy sources with our DIY kits. Our skilled technicians help you every step of the way – from the initial permitting process (which includes checking your city or county fire codes!) to the completed installation and inspection, to ensure that your solar installation is compliant with local regulations, safe for your home and family, and brings you the peace of mind that comes with a job well done. 

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5 Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Mounting Your Solar Panels

5 Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Mounting Your Solar Panels

Your solar power system is only as good as the racking it’s mounted on. You want to get the most durable, effective, flexible racking for your panels, while also keeping in mind several important factors that can make or break your project. So before you start installing, make sure you’ve considered the following important aspects of racking, and save yourself time, money, and peace of mind:

Price: Determining the size of your solar project, as well as the expected cost of it, is an essential part of the process. Take into account that you’re not just buying solar panels, but also racking, power inverters, charge controllers, battery banks and even generators depending on the size of your project and whether you choose grid-tied solar, off-grid solar, or another format. 

Use the Wholesale Solar cost calculator, check to see what incentives your state offers for switching to solar power, and determine how much you’re willing to spend to get the most out of your planned solar power system before you start installation. Keep in mind that the cost of your solar power system is only one aspect of the project. Many states also require permits, surveys, soil samples, and even minor engineering in order to accommodate a solar installation, which can add unforeseen expenses that you will need to budget for and plan around.

Ground Mount of Roof Mount?: Setting up your solar panels on sturdy racking such as an IronRidge XR10, XR100, or XR1000 mount ensures that your solar power system is secure and protected against high winds or inclement weather.

Choosing the right racking usually comes down to a combination of cost and available space.  Roof-mount racking is generally more affordable, and uses the available space on your roof, while ground-mounted systems can be quite expensive with extensive preparation work required before installation – including obtaining soil samples, digging, and pouring cement upon which to mount your planned racking.

Efficiency: With any solar power system you want to get the most efficient setup you can and maximize your return on investment. This means more than simply getting high-efficiency panels, however – in fact high-efficiency panels are often costly, and not necessarily better for residential customers (“efficiency” in this regard normally means more power produced with a very small panel size, useful for NASA satellites in orbit or other expensive projects). However, high-efficiency systems are often desirable if working with a limited amount of space, where getting the most out of the room available is essential. 

An efficient solar power system here is one that makes the most use out of available hours of sunlight, taking into account the angle at which they’re mounted and the amount of roof or ground mount space is available to you. Making sure your panels are mounted so that they don’t get covered by shade, wind-blown debris, or other factors is also essential  – even a small amount of shade, leaf litter or pine needles can reduce a solar panel’s output by 50%, so plan out your installation accordingly and get the most out of your investment!

Orienting your solar panels correctly can help get the most out of your investment as well. True “solar-south” orientation is the most desirable, allowing for the most coverage during the day and therefore the most sunlight collected by your panels. If your roof does not face solar-south, however, east and westward-facing panels can still be productive.

The Right Setup for Your Roof: Roof types can make all the difference when setting up a DIY solar power system. The type of roofing material can make mounting and racking more or less difficult, and determining what works for your particular situation is an important step – one that’s best to tackle ahead of time before you start spending!

  • Metal roofing is especially easy for mounting solar panels, strong and durable like the panels themselves. Usually found on industrial buildings, this roofing type accepts roof mount racks easily, with little extra work needed. Metal roof clamps either drill into the roof to fasten securely, or clamp onto the metal seams with no drilling necessary. 
  • Shingle or Slate roofs need to be drilled into in order to mount your racking system. Due to the fragile nature of this material, precautions need to be taken regarding flashing and sealing your drill-sites against the elements, to ensure your roof doesn’t leak after installation. Shingle or slate roofs need to be in good repair before you mount solar panels – we recommend a roof with a projected useful lifespan of 10+ years. 
  • Tile roofing is slightly more difficult, as we know from April’s Install of the Month, as you need to fit specialized tile hooks or brackets to your mounting in order to support the racks. Some roofers recommend replacing tile altogether, as tiles often break during the installation process.

Choose the Right Racking: Planning out your solar array to be the most efficient and cost effective setup is important. In order to do this, mounting your panels on the right racking, keeping in mind the importance of location, angle, and the scale of your overall project, is vital.

To this end, we put together a cheat sheet of different racking types and brands, to help guide you in getting an idea of what’s right for your project. Our technicians are available via phone to assist you, as well.


Learn more about each racking brand: IronRidge XR and SGA, DynoRaxx, MT Solar, General Specialties, Tamarack Solar.

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