Don't Go Solar... before reading this,

January 16, 2018

Don't go solar before reading this account from a solar customer:

In Summer 2016 I went to a residence in Antioch, CA to discuss solar and our professional services. After my proposal, the customer elected a different solar company who was slightly lower priced, less than 2k less to be exact, but I wished them well and congratulated them on their new venture (assuming they did their research).

It was about a year later when this customer reached out to me again. Apparently, they had just received their first true-up bill from PG&E, billing them $3,000 for the year, which is almost the same amount they had to pay before going solar. They asked me if I could help them now since their solar company was out of business. It was Sungevity they went with and for a year now they had paid their lease agreement of $200 a month but were not able to afford the additional true-up bill. Both together would now even be more than before.

Additionally, although their solar company no longer existed, the finance company was still collecting monthly payments on the solar panels that were not benefiting this consumer at all. After hearing their concerns, I inspected the solar system, in an attempt to figure out what the problem with their solar system may be. I found that it was divided into two arrays. One on the south side of the house, which is standard practice, but the other array was facing NORTH, which was not going to provide the output needed by this family to decrease their PG&E bill.

 

A north facing system is never able to provide full solar production because the sun never shines from the north, on our side of the hemisphere. This is standard knowledge in the solar industry. Furthermore, their solar system was placed close to the HVAC system on the roof (similar to a chimney) which is in this case is casting a constant shadow on some of the solar panels. The fact that this customer had their solar system placed wrongly on their house led to an increased bill between the PG&E and the solar bill and an increase in stress as a result of the financial hardship that it caused. Not only did the family have their solar system installed wrong, but they were not able to correct it because their solar company was no longer operational. Unfortunately, I was not able to assist this family because liability coverage does not allow me to manipulate another company's products. I was only able to recommend that they seek assistance from an attorney.

 

Using that family as a source of what not to do, here are some important tips to acknowledge prior to installing solar on your home:

 

  1. Only lease a solar system if you don't pay taxes. Leases are for Non-profits or people with no taxable income.

  2. Make sure you see the system drawing before the solar company installs. You do not want your system facing north. South or south-west is the best orientation.

  3. If you have any shading on the roof, make sure you don't get string inverters. Better are micro inverters, but they also tend to get too hot and fail throughout the summertime. You will not be able to harvest energy from the sun when the microinverters are out. Sometimes it takes weeks for some solar companies to come out to fix their system. A better solution would be optimizers, this way each solar panel works individually. The only downside is, optimizers steal a little energy to run. So make sure only have them if there is shading on your roof. Wherever you use optimizers on no-shade arrays, you are missing out on higher performance.

    The best solution is a “hybrid” inverter. A hybrid inverter is a solution where optimizers are installed where necessary and central inverter where possible. SolEnergy is at this moment the only company offering this.

  4. It would be helpful if the solar company has a performance guarantee (read the fine print). As far as I know, SolEnergy Consulting is the only company who offers it to an amazing extent.

 

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