Frequently Asked Questions
Solar Panel FAQs
What is solar Photovoltaic (PV)?
PV stands for Photovoltaic. It is a solar energy technology that uses unique properties of semiconductors to directly convert solar radiation into electricity.
how much does solar panels cost?
Lowest advertised residential solar panel turn-key installed prices after incentives in San Diego reached $1.99/watt in August 2016, down from $3.5/watt in 2013. Before incentives lowest advertised prices in San Diego are $2.90/watt in August 2016, down from $5/watt in 2013. Larger systems are generally priced at a lower cost per watt than smaller systems, depending on many factors, such as number of arrays, complexity of installation, quality of equipment and balance of system.
California and 5 other states surpassed "Parity" by 2012, meaning it is less expensive to produce electricity than it is to purchase electricity from the utility, even excluding incentives. For those that intend to own the system, there are still great incentives available, like a 30% Federal Tax Credit available through 2019, which steps down to 26% in 2020 and 22% in 2021. For residential installations where there is a home based business, tax credits can be much higher, even for rental units. Starting in 2022, only commercial installations receive a 10% Federal Tax Credit.
Can i finance the purchase?
Makello offers a new way to finance energy efficiency upgrades through energy cost savings. Different than a loan, a Lease-to-Own program offers a way to receive a utility discount rate and a multi-stage upgrade, while retaining flexibility to upgrade to higher value packages of solar PV, Plug-In Vehicles and Energy Storage. Makello offers a totally unique solution that pays back in 1-3 years, and you can own or upgrade the system at the end of the term.
Home Equity loans are a great way to finance energy efficiency upgrades and the interest is tax deductible.
"Solar Loans" or "Green Loans" are available from banks and credit unions like Point Loma Credit Union, Admirals Bank, San Diego Metropolitan Credit Union, and Matadors Community Credit Union, from 5 to 20 year terms, ranging from 4.99-9% APR, depending on credit score. Some "Solar Loan" options have an acquisitions fee of 3%.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Loans have 5 to 25 year terms, ranging from 5% - 9% APR, but can have program fees in addition, of up to 8%. Some PACE loans have tax deductable interest.
Traditional solar leases do not provide a tax credit, have long-terms and higher monthly payment than solar loans offset by the solar ITC tax credit.
Traditional solar leases and PACE loans are considered a last resort for financing energy upgrades.
What is solar electric energy?
Solar photovoltaic (PV) is also called Solar Electrical Energy. Both are generally interchangeable terms. Solar electric systems utilize sunlight to create electricity.
What is a solar hot water system?
A solar hot water system is equipment that heats potable water using sunlight. These systems do not produce harmful greenhouse gases and hence are considered a green form of energy. Uses include domestic & commercial hot water, heating pools etc.
Water can be heated by solar PV electric at less cost than traditional solar thermal water heating, and with much less complexity, using patented and patent pending appliances available today, subsidized by a rebate and tax credit.
What is a solar panel, or Solar PV Module?
A solar panel or individual solar module, is a solar PV device consisting of a number of individual cells (usually 60 or 72) connected electrically, laminated, encapsulated, and packaged into a frame. A solar panel can refer to an array of two or more solar modules framed or joined together. The term solar panel has become commonly used to refer to an individual solar module or an array of modules.
What are the different technologies of solar panels, in order of efficiency?
When it comes to solar technologies, the most efficient will generally be the most expensive. Mono-crystalline modules are most efficient, and the most expensive. Poly-crystalline modules are less efficient, but they are cheaper than the mono-crystalline modules. Finally, thin film solar modules are the lowest efficiency, but also the cheapest.
The solar technologies change rapidly, and there is price convergence. The cost of the lowest quality and least efficient solar modules are only about $0.5/watt less expensive than the highest quality and highest efficiency solar modules available today.
What are the different types of inverters?
AC Micro inverters and DC string inverters.
When is a string inverter used?
String inverters are generally used for small to medium sized residential or commercial solar PV systems. General system size ranges from 2kW to 100kW. Multiple string inverters are used for systems larger than 100kW and up to 500kW range. It is usually a design criterion and there is no fixed rule of thumb. If the solar array is near to obstructions that would shade during peak solar production hours, then AC micro inverters or DC string power optimizers are added to mitigate the shade effect on unshaded panels.
when is a microinverter used?
Micro inverters are small inverters that go one each per solar module. These are usually used for residential or small commercial systems. They perform very well in a solar PV system installed on different roof levels, pitch and where there is possibility of little shadowing at certain periods during the day. Currently Enphase is the only manufacturer of micro-inverters that we trust for our installations.
how long does a solar panel last?
Most industry standard solar modules come with a 25 year linear power output warranty and a 10 year product warranty on materials and workmanship. A few manufacturers offer enhanced product warranties to 25 years. Generally, when not damaged by external factors, good quality modules outlast the 25 year period.
What is a linear power output warranty?
As like any equipment, aging also affects solar modules and cells. Output power efficiency linearly decreases over time. Current industry warranties for highest quality modules is above 90% efficiency after 10 years and linearly decreases to about 82% - 85% at 25 years. But the modules still continue to produce power beyond 25 years.
Marketing materials often exaggerate competitor weaknesses and misrepresent their strengths with false comparisons of module performance. Read the fine print and you'll sometimes discover that a website or advertisement is comparing the latest highest efficiency modules to a lowest efficiency competitor technology from 5-6 years ago.
how long do solar panels last?
A solar electric system usually lasts 25 years and beyond. If undamaged and maintained properly, solar panels extend beyond 25 years. String inverters generally carry a initial 10 year warranty, extendable up to 25 years, and may have to be replaced after 10 to 15 years. Micro inverters and power optimizers have warranties up to 25 years, but will more frequently require replacement if installed impromperly with poor ventilation, or undersized for the module output. Good quality inverters have a longer warranty and extended life. Racking and mounting mechanical systems typically have a 20 to 25 years warranty. It is important to chose highest quality longer lasting components and also look for available extended warranties if affordable. The most important factor is to use ethical, honest installers that will install the job correctly, and document the quality of the installation, in full transparency - that is the Makello way.
What are the warranties on the solar panel system?
Solar modules - 25 year linear power output warranty and a 10 year product warranty on materials and workmanship.
Inverters - 10 to 15 years with available extended warranties. Some manufacturers offer up to 25 years. Racking and mounting systems - generally between 10 to 25 years. Labor &
Workmanship warranty - general industry standard is 10 years, but a recent trend is to offer 20 years. Beware of solar installers that offer rock-bottom lowest cost prices that do not have enough profit or warranty hold-back to honor the warranty, or allow for the labor cost of quality workmanship.
What kind of maintenance do solar panels require?
Solar panels generally require very little maintenance since there are essentially no moving parts. A few times a year, the panels should be inspected for any dirt (soiling) or debris that may collect on them. Most of the time, rain cleans them off. To clean, simply use a standard garden hose to wash the face of the panels either early in the morning or in the evening. Avoid spraying cold water onto hot panels or you could risk cracking them, since uneven thermal shock could theoretically break the glass. Pressure washers should be avoided because high pressure spray could compromise the glass and frame seal.
Does my solar installation increase my home insurance premium?
All installation (roofing and electrical) work will be done by licensed professionals with proper county and state approvals.
Equipment will carry UL certifications, where applicable.
All this does not add any risk to your home and thus home insurance in most of the cases does not get affected at all, although the system does contribute to an increase the home/property value, but is taxed at 0%.
How will it effect the value of the home?
According to several studies, the value of a house, as well as resale value, increases with installation of a solar energy system that is owned, not leased.
In San Diego, a 3.5% increase is reported for homes having solar. Savvy home buyers sometimes negotiate for a lower home price when there is a traditional solar lease or a Property Assessed Clean Energy loan, or if the system was installed by subcontractors, or with signs of poor quality or potential for roof leaks.
Does my solar installation increase my property taxes?
If I move, can I take my solar electric system?
In addition to traditional solar PV installation, Makello offers 7 system options that are mobile and have no roof penetrations: Roof mount, Awning, Pergola/Trellis, Carport, Ground mount, Shed, or Mobile Energy Ecosystem (trailer).
Tranditional solar PV installation has numerous roof penetrations, flashing and stand-offs integrated with the structure in the rafters. We perform the highest quality traditional solar PV roof installations and have never had a roof leak. Roof leaks are common problems with other solar PV installation companies. Visit the "Why Makello?" for more information about how our installation is different and documented highest quality, to protect your home and warranty.
Although you can take a solar electric system with you if you move, it usually is better to leave it on the original house because it increases the resale value of a home. Some incentive programs may require a system to stay on the home within an initial period of time.
How do I know if my system is producing what it is supposed to?
Many PV systems these days come with data logging, monitoring and reporting systems. This will allow you to see how much energy the PV system is producing daily, weekly, monthly and annually. System owners can see this data locally on-site or from a remote location provided the monitoring system is connected to the internet. These systems continuously monitor the health and performance of the PV system, continuously collect all the data from the inverters on the system side, thereby keeping you informed of the system's status at any given time. In case of the event "Error", they also have features that inform you immediately by e-mail or text message. Remote diagnosis is also possible. An internet connection is required to use all these features.
What is net-metering?
Net-metering is an important and interesting 12-month accounting concept. A net-meter is a special type of electrical meter that spins (moves) both forward and reverse. When your solar PV system is producing a lot of electricity during the day and if your appliances or electrical loads are not using all of it, the excess electricity is exported to the utility grid (goes from your solar PV system to the electric utility pole or underground junction). The net-meter in this condition moves reverse. During early mornings, evenings, nights or at any time when there is not enough sunlight for your solar PV system to meet electricity demand, your appliances and electrical loads use power from the utility grid (import). The net-meter in this condition moves forward. Generally, the utility company calculates the difference between energy imported versus exported each month and bills the customer. If you have a sufficiently large PV system that produces 100% of your energy needs, your electric bill can very low, except for some account maintenance charges. An oversized solar PV system will overproduce during the year, resulting in a credit that can serve to reduce the non-bypassable utility charges (taxes, infrastructure, misc.).
Why is net-metering important?
Because solar energy is an intermittent resource, you may not be using the power when it is generated. Net-metering allows you to receive a value for the surplus electricity you produce without installing and investing in a battery storage system.
How do I determine what size system I need?
The size of your solar electric system depends on how much electricity you use currently and in the future. Two homes the exact same physical size may use different amounts of electricity and therefore require different size systems. Major electrical loads in a home are air conditioners, electric heaters, other heating element appliances, motors, pumps and energy use habits of the occupants. Generally, the total number of kilowatt-hours used in the last 12 months is used to estimate the system size you would need to meet your annual electrical energy needs. Sometimes a slightly over-sized system is installed to allow for the possibility of a growing family, immediate future electrical loads or other factors that may play a part. When a solar system produces more electricity than consumed, the unused portion is fed back into the utility grid and will actually be credited back to your utility account in a program called net-metering. In some states, an over-sized system without justification and approval may not be eligible for some types of grants, credits or incentives.
In San Diego, because of the extremely high cost of utility power, and the large differential between energy efficiency program rates, any size solar PV system can have a large impact on reducing the electric bill. Makello provides a unique Energy Analysis solution to discovering your optimal sized system, with lowest up front cost and fastest payback.
What factors determine the size of the system I can install?
Primarily the roof size and structure, orientation of the property, un-shaded roof or land sites, energy requirement, budget, electric panel, permit office, utility program administrators, etc.
What happens when I need to re-roof?
In most situations, a traditional roof mounted system can be easily removed and reinstalled. For a nominal cost, systems can be installed, then re-installed once the re-roofing is completed. If the roof is a tar and gravel design, it may be possible to simply tilt the panels up and re-tar and gravel.
For Makello's mobile systems, having no roof penetrations, the process is even easier. Many of the mobile solar PV options do not have effect the roof, so the system does not need to be moved in order to install new roofing.
Does my solar system produce power on a cloudy day, rainy day, foggy day?
Yes, a solar module does produce power even on such days, but less. Production directly depends on the intensity of sunlight, also called irradiance. On the grayest days, a solar panel may produce as little as 20% of the rated nameplate power.
Plug-In Vehicle FAQs
What is a plug-in vehicle?
A Plug-In Vehicle has the ability to recharge from electricity. Plug-In Vehicles include Battery Electric Vehicles with only 1 fuel source (electricity) and Plug-In Hybrids with 2 fuel sources (electricity, gasoline).
Current hybrid vehicles have a gasoline engine that is assisted by an electric motor, which helps it save gas. A typical hybrid vehicle conserves fuel a few different ways. It recaptures energy lost through braking and decelerating. This recaptured energy is stored in a battery pack as electricity. As demand warrants, the stored electricity is used to power an electric motor that assists the vehicle's gasoline engine--usually during acceleration.
While a conventional hybrid vehicle may travel short distances in pure-electric mode, plug-in hybrids are designed with larger batteries to travel extended distances with little or no assistance from the gasoline engine. Even before the charge is depleted, the gasoline engine may be called on to provide additional power for recharging the battery, accelerating, passing, and merging.
While operating on the additional plug-in charge, a plug-in hybrid more-or-less works the opposite of a conventional hybrid, with the electric motor acting as the primary power source, and the gasoline engine providing supplemental motivation.
Battery Electric Vehicles typically have larger battery pack sizes and larger electric motors, to support longer distance driving and faster acceleration.
What happens when the Plug-In battery is depleted? What if I forget to Plug-In?
For a Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle, when the traction battery is nearly empty, the vehicle operates as a normal hybrid, and continues to function normally as long as there is gas in the tank. The large battery captures regenerative energy, for better fuel economy, even on days when you didn't plug-in.
For a Battery Electric Vehicle, when the traction battery is depleted, it must be recharged before it can be used.
Will I still use gasoline?
If the vehicle is a Electric Vehicle, there is no gas engine, so it must be recharged with electricity.
If the vehicle is a Plug-In Hybrid, there is a 2nd fuel source other than electricity; therefore you can plug-in when you want to, but sometimes, when the traction batteries are depleted, the 2nd motor is required, most commonly a gasoline engine.
What is the payback or expected fuel cost savings?
Driving on fuel you produce at home costs about $1-$1.25/gallon gas equivalent if you own the solar PV system.
A rule of thumb is 3 miles driving / 1 kWh energy stored in the battery for an efficient electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid. Over the life of the system, solar power costs about $0.06/kWh - $0.1/kWh for cash purchases, $0.09/kWh - $0.15/kWh for loans, or $0.15/kWh - $0.24/kWh for traditional solar leases.
Driving on costly electricity from utility power or from solar PV systems financed by traditional long-term, high interest or oversized loans and leases can actually cost more than gasoline equivalent. In San Diego, the 2nd highest utility rate cost/kWh in the nation, charging an electric car on SDG&E power can cost as much as $5/gallon equivalent.
For some, the biggest payback is driving past gas stations, setting a good example and doing what they think is right for our future. For others, driving electric pays back by making by creating U.S. jobs that can't be outsourced, by reducing harmful emissions and by increasing our energy security and energy independene.
What kind of receptacle is required to charge an EV or PHEV car?
Most vehicles come with Level 1 charging included, which will work on a standard 120v, 15A or 20A, grounded household receptacle.
Level 2 charging typically requires a 240 volt 30A or 40A outlet, which is commonly available if there is an unused electric dryer outlet. Otherwise, a dedicated circuit can be installed in the electric panel or subpanel, and a conduit run to the vehicle charging area, interior or exterior of the structure.
Level 3 charging is available from some vehicle manufacturers, such as Tesla, and require special electrical equipment for the home.
The most common connector in use in the US for OEM electric vehicles is J1772. Another common connector is CHAdeMO. Both are weather resistant and safe for operation.
How long does it take to charge a battery pack from empty to full?
Divide the battery pack size by the rate of charging. See vehicle manual or dashboard to determine battery pack size. See charging equipment for charging rate settings.
Level 1: Up to 1.9kW (120v @ 16A)
Level 2: 2.5kW to 19.2kW (240v @ 80A)
Level 3: 11.6kW to 96kW (240v @ 400A)
Research models at https://insideevs.com, https://www.hybridcars.com, or https://pluginamerica.org
How much does it cost for the electricity?
Utility rates vary greatly within a utility territory and between utility companies, based on many factors such as baseline, tiers, time-of-use, region, water heating method and non-bypassable charges like taxes and transmission infrastruture.
Makello's Energy Analysis examines multiple utility rates and various energy efficiency upgrades to determine optimal and lowest cost / fastest payback solutions.
In San Diego, for example, SDGE's Time-Of-Use overnight electricity rates are least expensive, typically $0.225/ kWh - $0.275/kWh, or about $5 to recharge a Nissan Leaf for 75 miles range. For such an efficient electric vehicle, driving on solar electricity costs about $0.03/mile, compared to $0.10/mile when driving on gasoline. Actual costs depend on vehicle selection, driving habits, energy use, energy production, energy storage and utility rate selection.
Can I plug in more than once a day?
Yes! The more you plug in, the less gasoline you'll use.
How 'green' is the electricity to power the vehicle?
Compared to gasoline, electricity is cheaper, cleaner and domestic. (Felix Kramer)
Cheaper: 2 cents to 4 cents per mile for electricity compared to 8 cents to 50 cents per mile for gasoline.
Cleaner: an electric vehicle is lower in conventional emissions and greenhouse gas emissions that a gasoline car, even if the electricity comes from coal power generation. Best of all is electric vehicle driving from renewable energy sources.
Domestic: Electricity can come from many sources, but primarily it is domestic. Gasoline fuel comes from oil, either domestic or imported, but primarily it is imported. Electricity can come from renewable sources like wind, solar, wave, geothermal, and other domestic sources like natural gas and nuclear. Oil is limited and most of the oil future is controlled by other governments, and sometimes in hostile areas that support terrorism or require a military presence.