FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • Does my solar power work if the power goes out?

    What happens if your power goes out? How often does your power normally go out in a day? Not very often, right? If you use solar power and your power goes out, yes, your solar shuts off too, because it’s not safe to put power back on the grid while people may be working on the lines. Your system knows that, it shuts off. That’s not a big deal, because, like I said, power doesn’t go out that much. If it does, buy a $200 generator, problem solved. No need to make it a $10,000 problem when it only needs to be a $200 problem.

  • How long does solar power take to install on my house?

    As far as putting it up on your roof goes, the installation process is fast, and pretty painless. If you have a normal-sized system, it can be less than a day, 2-3 days tops. As far how long it takes from the time you decide to get it to the time it’s up on your roof, it can vary widely based on the region, how hard it is to get a permit, how developed the solar market is, your own personal situation. It could be anywhere from a week to 9 months. The best thing you can do is get a quote, they’ll tell you how long it’s going to take. If you go to One Block off the Grid, you can get a quote from us, we can tell you very quickly based on where you are how long it’s going to typically take to get you installed.

  • Should I buy American made solar panels?

    Where are your panels made? We get this question a ton, and the answer’s complicated, because it’s a complicated supply chain. You’ve got American-made sounding companies that are made in the Philippines and assembled in China, you’ve got Chinese-sounding manufacturing facilities that are made in America and assembled in Taiwan. It’s very difficult to pick apart what parts of your solar panel are made where and where the money ends up. So buying American is difficult if not impossible. In general, it’s kind of sad to say, I think we may have kind of missed our window to become a manufacturing giant for solar. Now what will help is doing it- getting solar in your house. That creates un exportable jobs (people who put it up, you can only do that here and it can’t be done anywhere else) and energy independence. So those two things are valuable, and I’d like the conversation to shift away from where are your panels made, to, let’s get people to do it. So, get a quote today.

  • Do I need to replace my roof before I put solar power on my house?

    What if I need to re-roof? This may be one of the top-asked questions. I think that if you are going to get a new roof soon, yeah, you want to do it before you get solar. If you just got one, or if you got one a couple of years ago, it’s not that big a deal if they don’t line up. You can put solar on, and then when it comes time to get a new roof, pop them off, do the roof, put them back on, that’ll cost you not much more than a grand. Sometimes you can get the company that did the solar to do it for you. Solar protects the area underneath the panels- it’s a natural shield in front of it, obviously, so that’s an added bonus.

  • Can I buy solar panels and put them up myself? (DIY Solar)

    Can I go to Home Depot and get some panels there and put them up myself? The answer is yes, of course you can. But it’s dangerous- you’ve got potentially life-ending amounts of DC current to deal with, the NEC code is kind of tough, and for inspectors, there are ins and out to know there… In general, because the product tends to be so much of the turnkey cost, that small extra cost is worth having a professional do, so they can warranty it. That warranty tends to be worth the extra money.

  • What is thin film solar power and should I use it on my house?

    “Do you guys use thin film?” Our employees hear this a lot from customers. No, we don’t—thin film is usually reserved for commercial applications. Basically it’s a different type of panel that takes a lot more space to get the same production out of it, so a home doesn’t tend to make sense. When you get down to it, if you have twice as much area you have to get twice as much product, so even if it’s half as much you’re spending the same. So it’s not really used in residential applications.

  • Why do you need my electricity usage to design a solar system for my house?

    “Why do you guys need my kilowatt usage?” We hear this a lot. Kilowatt-hour usage is that unit of energy you’re paying for from your utility company. It’s kind of hard to find on the bill, you’ve got to find 12 months of it, you’ve usually got to talk to your utility to do it; nobody wants to do these things, it’s kind of a headache. The best way to do it, and what we do, is if you were to come to us to get a quote for solar remotely, we will literally conference in your utility right then and there, you give them a couple of pieces of information about yourself, they tell us the kilowatt-hour usage, and then we get it on the spot.

  • How does the ownership of a solar power system work on a house?

    “Do I own the system?” We hear this a lot, and if you’re getting the solar on your roof as a sort of pay-as-you-go system (solar lease, PPA, or whatever)- where a third-party company comes and owns it, operates it, maintains it, and guarantees it- that kind of thing, which is what most people do nowadays, in that case, no, you don’t own the system. It’s much like a leased car; somebody else owns it. The difference being, of course, a leased car doesn’t make you money, and a solar system does. So that’s the answer to the question. Of course, if you buy it in cash, and put up a bunch of money, you do own the system just like any other home improvement.

  • How much does solar power cost?

    “How much is the going to cost me?” I think that’s probably the number one question we get asked, and the answer unfortunately is that it depends. If you get solar like most of our customers are getting today, it’s a pay-as-you-go type of thing where a third party owns the system. You pay them basically for energy instead of paying your utility company, or you pay less to your utility and some to them. The energy that you’re getting from your solar system costs less than the energy you’re getting from the utility. The utilities rates, of course, can go up on you over time. The rate from the solar panels- you know what it is and what it’s going to be for the next 20 years. So the answer there is, let’s say if you’re currently paying 18 cents a kilowatt-hour from your utility company, and then you get solar installed and you’re paying 16 cents a kilowatt hour, and you use x over the course of a year, that’s how much money you’ll save. You don’t really have to worry about anything else; the rest of it’s all warrantied and insured, and they guarantee the performance.

  • Which solar panels are the best

    This is one we get a lot- which solar panels are the best solar panels? The good news is it doesn’t matter as much as it used to. Figuring out which panels are best is difficult, and to know which ones to choose would be hard. The industry’s gotten pretty commoditized, which helps, and the second reason is that 90%+ of our customers now get solar in a sort of pay-as-you-go system, where a third party owns the system. In order to make money, they need to make sure that the panels perform as they said they would. There’s always a performance guarantee that comes along with those systems.

     

    If you put solar on your roof, and this company owns it, you’re basically paying for the electricity in a way that’s cheaper than you would be paying the utility. What panels you use don’t really matter all that much. One guy at our company says, ‘if you put a potato on your roof and put forks in it, and that made energy, what difference would it make?’ I think I agree with him.

     

  • How much will solar save me if I put it on my house?

    “How much is this going to save me?” There are two parts to this answer. One is if you’re buying solar the way most people bought it five years ago, in cash, then it’s a pretty complicated answer. You’ve got to make some assumptions about how much electricity’s going to rise over the course of the next couple of decades, you’ve got to make some assumptions about how long the system’s going to last, and then how much you’re saving is a function of how much energy you’re producing and how much you’re paying for that energy.

     

    But in that case, what you need to know is something called net metering, where if you produce a certain amount of energy, you can sell it back to the grid for what you would have paid for retail. It’s a 1 to 1 credit, like rollover minutes. If you made more than you used this month, next month there will be a credit. If you used 2000 kilowatt hours a month and you produced 1000 kilowatt hours, you’re going to pay for half of it. That’s how much it saves you. But the rest of that equation—how long the system’s going to last, how much electricity prices are going to rise on you—those are all assumptions.

     

    The good news is you don’t have to worry about that much anymore. Most of our customers now are going solar with third party ownership where you’re paying for the energy. In that case, another company owns the system, and they’re more or less selling you the energy in a way that’s cheaper than the utility. They’ll guarantee the production of your system, so if its doesn’t make that energy, they’ll cut you a check. So instead of trying to figure out exactly how much it’s going to save you, now all you really need to worry about is the original quote itself, because it has to save you that. It’s usually a pretty conservative estimate.

     

    So, in short, it’s really complicated for a cash purchase, but you’re going to save the amount of energy you produce. For the way most people are doing it nowadays, it’s really simple. If your utility charges you 17 cents a kilowatt-hour and solar costs your 14 cents a kilowatt-hour, you’re saving four cents a kilowatt-hour, and you multiply that times how many you use over the course of a year- that’s how much you save. Of course, if you get a quote from anybody, they’re going to detail how much you’ll save over the course of a month, a year, and the life of the system.

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