San Diego gets an average of 261 days of sunlight a year, so it’s not surprising so many Southern California homeowners and businesses are embracing solar installation as a way to save serious money on their electricity bills and lower their energy footprint. Making the investment in solar panels is a big decision. In this article, we’ll walk you through some important ways you can prepare for your solar panel installation at three major milestones: before your consultation, after your consultation, and before the installation.
Before Your Solar Consultation
Before you set up your initial consultation with a solar contractor, there are a few things you can do to make sure the first meeting goes smoothly and that the solar contractor has the information needed to make the best recommendations possible.
Determine If You Have the Right Roof
Unfortunately, certain roofs are just not a good match for solar panels. Roofs need to be at least 200 square feet to offer enough space for solar panels, and ideally your roof will be at least 400 square feet. At least one side of the roof should face south or southwest to have access to the most sunlight possible. Certain roofs with a very extreme pitch may also make it difficult to install solar panels.
If you suspect your roof might not be ideal for solar panels, not to worry! Installing solar panels on the ground may also be an option.
Figure Out Your Energy Usage
A solar installation specialist will need to know how much energy your home uses on average throughout the year in order to recommend the ideal solar panel array size for your home. You can help the specialist by presenting a year’s worth of electricity bills, which will include monthly usage. Most electric companies have online customer websites. Create an account or log in to access your previous bills.
Estimate Future Electric Usage
If you know that your electric usage will change in the coming years, then it’s a good idea to invest in a solar array that will give you all the juice you’ll need tomorrow rather than just what you’re using today. For example, do you want to purchase an electric vehicle in the next year or so, or do you have plans to install a hot tub? These items will require a lot of electricity, so make sure you let your installation specialist know about potential future electricity needs during your consultation!
Choose the Right Solar Contractor
The most important decision you’ll make when it comes to installing solar panels is the contractor you hire. Your contractor can make the process stress-free or leave you feeling completely frustrated. The ultimate success of the installation will depend upon the training and expertise of your solar contractor as well as their understanding of your budget and your solar needs. Don’t skimp on doing your research to make sure you find an experienced, highly regarded, and honest contractor. There are many great solar contractors in San Diego, including Semper Solaris.
After Your Solar Consultation
During a solar consultation, the solar specialist will assess your roof, make a recommendation on the solar panel array that is right for your needs, give you financing options, and answer your questions. Many homeowners and business owners come out of the consultation excited and ready to schedule the installation. However, there are important steps you’ll need to take first to prepare for the installation.
Decide If You Want to Lease or Buy
Your solar installation specialist will lay out your financial options during the consultation. The two most popular options are to buy the solar panels or to lease them.
Leasing solar panels often requires little to no upfront payments, which might be the right option if you are working on a limited budget. However, you’ll be paying a fixed rate for your electricity, and the solar company can take back the panels when the leasing period is up. Buying your solar panels will require a significant upfront payment, but then you own the panels. Ideally, the array will pay for itself and more over its lifetime.
You’ll need to look at your finances and your personal preference to determine what is the best option for your situation.
Figure Out Available Incentives
As you work out a budget for this project, you’ll need to know what solar incentives you can rely on from the federal government, state government, and your solar installer. Currently, the federal government offers a 30% tax credit through 2018 for qualified expenditures for home solar systems. At Semper Solaris, we try to make solar as affordable as possible for our customers by offering a $500 online coupon, $2,000 off a new roof, and additional discounts for veterans and first responders (all offers subject to change. See Offers Page for current discounts).
Address Roof Problems
It’d be a shame if you went through the entire process of installing solar panels only to have to replace your roof two years later! Before installing solar panels, ensure that your roof is structurally sound enough to hold the extra weight. If your roof is old, leaks, or has damaged shingles, you’ll need to repair all of these things before your solar installation.
Consider that solar panels last roughly 20 to 25 years. If your roof is aging, even if it’s not falling on top of your head yet, it may be a good idea go ahead and replace it. It’ll be a big investment, but a new roof will increase the value of your home and allow you to get the most out of your solar panels.
At Semper Solaris, we also offer roof repair and replacement services so our customers only have to deal with one contractor for the entire solar array installation process.
Get Permissions and Permits
If you have a home owner’s association, you’d better bet that they will want to know if you are making major changes to your roof. Additionally, the city and public utility company will need to know that you intend to change the way you power your home, especially if you want to give excess electricity back to the grid.
Your solar contractor should handle all these requirements, from receiving permission from your HOA to pulling an electrical permit, filing the right documents with the city utility, and getting the necessary electrical inspection completed.
You’ve decided how to pay for your solar panels, your roof is ready to go, and your installer has permits and HOA permission in hand. Now can you start? You’re almost ready. Here are the last two things to prepare for before the work gets started.
Make a Decision on Metering or Battery
California’s utility companies have done a good job of embracing the solar panel revolution and allowing homeowners and businesses to send excess energy back into the grid in exchange for credits. In order for this to happen, the utility company will need to install a production meter to measure the amount of electricity your new panels produce and feed back into the grid. Your installation company should take care of this process.
Alternatively, you may decide that you want to keep all of the electricity your solar panels produce, thank you very much! If this is the case, then you’ll need a way to store the excess power during the day so that you can use it at night or on overcast days. Your solar contractor can recommend the right battery option and even build a utility nook to house the battery, along with the other extras that you’ll need, including electrical inverters and integration equipment.
Develop a Family Plan for Installation Day
Solar panel installation day is exciting… and also loud. People will be walking on your roof all day long, as well as drilling and hammering. If you have skittish pets or young children at home, you’ll need a plan to either keep them calm during this time or to remove them from the home during the installation. You’ll also need to be on call during the day in case the installers have questions or run into unforeseen challenges. It also doesn’t hurt to alert your neighbors of the coming commotion as a curtsey. With a little planning, you can make sure your installation goes quickly and smoothly for every member of your family!
Hopefully this article gives you an idea of what to expect as you begin your solar panel planning.
A huge component to a successful solar array installation is choosing the right contractor. We know you have the choice of many solar contractors in San Diego, and we hope you will consider allowing us to compete for your business. At Semper Solaris, we are dedicated to providing you with the best customer service, the highest quality solar panels, and the best installation possible. Please schedule a free onsite energy analysis when you are ready to get this process started.