Basics of Residential Solar – FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions we hear about solar for your home. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us.

How much can I save going solar?

This amount will vary by your individual situation. We have customers that are saving thousands a year, and most of our customers cost of power goes down by around 50%. You save in 3 ways: your electric bill is reduced or virtually eliminated, you protect yourself from rising electricity rates, and you get a 30% federal tax credit as well as any local incentives (like DWP’s). The exact amount you save depends, but we can help you determine that with a free consultation.

How does solar effect my property value?

Research sponsored by the Department of Energy states that in California, homes that own the solar (not lease) see an increase in home value of about $4 per watt installed. For our customers, that means an increase in home values from $12,000 to $48,000 depending on the size of the system they have installed. Even better, after the 30% federal tax credit, all of our customers to date have seen an increase in their home value greater than what they have paid for their solar electric system according to the study.

Your house will also sell faster according to a different study by NREL of California homes. Their study found that solar homes sold 20% faster and at a 17% premium over regular homes. For more information on this see our blog post here.

How does solar work?

Solar panels produce electricity in DC (direct current) when the sun is shining on them. In the case of virtually all solar panels on houses in California, they are not using heat, but the UV light from the sun to get energize.  The DC power produced is then converted to AC (alternating current) by an inverter. There are different kinds of inverters, but they all serve the same function.

How Solar Works Diagram

After that energy is converted to AC, it is used to power your home, with any excess going into the grid which accumulates a credit for you to use when the solar electric system is not producing enough for your home (like at night). The exact way the credits and billing works varies by what utility you have (more info for SCE and DWP customers here).

How do solar panels make electricity?

This gets a little more technical, and varies slightly by the technology used. For the panels we install, they are made up of 60 to 72 individual solar cells that each produce a little bit of power. The graphic below illustrates a cell. There are 2 layers of a solar cell with opposite charges, and when sunlight hits the cell, it knocks electrons loose and starts the flow of electricity. Individually these cells produce just a little power, but when put together in a panel with more cells, then in an array of many solar panels, the results are enough to power your entire house in most cases.

Graphic of how a solar cell works has compiled more technical information and insight on how solar cells work.

What is net energy metering?

Net Energy Metering (NEM) is how your utility will credit you for the amount of energy you put back on the grid. Instead of getting a monthly bill (or bimonthly in DWP territory), you will receive a statement letting you know how much you energy you have put on the grid, and how much you have used. Since your production and usage will vary throughout the seasons of the year, your billing cycle will now be annual.

Will solar work on my roof?Compass showing ideal orientation for solar panels

We will assess this for you, but to get an idea, we look for roof surfaces that are West, South, or East facing ideally, and we can work with almost all roof surfaces. With flat roofs, we can either install the panels flush or tilt them to capture more sunshine. Also, we look for minimal shade from surrounding trees or structures.


Can I get solar somewhere besides my roof?

There are plenty of other options if for any reason solar will not work on your roof. You can still take advantage of all the great savings solar has to offer through a ground mount system, a solar patio cover, or a solar carport.

Ground Mount Solar Arrays

Ground mount solar array

If you have a roof that just does not work, we still have plenty of options for you. The most common would be a ground mounted solar array. We can tilt it to the best angle and orientation to capture the most energy, or we can have it match your existing hillside. Either way, it is a great alternative to a roof mounted solar array.

Solar Patio Covers and CarportsSolar patio cover with a white frame

Another great option are solar patio covers and carports. If you are wanting to go solar but do not have the right roof for some reason, and have the need for more shade for your driveway or patio, a carport or patio cover might be the right fit for you. We can engineer a system that will fit your energy needs.