3 Reasons Why Solar Owners without Service Coverage Need Sunnova Protect™
This month, we launched Sunnova Protect™, the nation’s first-ever, service-only offerings from a national solar company. Our unique solar service offering provides residential solar owners the opportunity to purchase multi-decade coverage plans, all of which include monitoring, maintenance and repair services so they can enjoy the energy independence and financial savings they expect from their systems.
Deciding to go solar is a big decision and yet we see solar customers buying and financing systems without a service warranty, which means no one will be there to ensure the system is actually working and generating the energy it’s supposed to over the decades-long life of the system. In fact, a well-maintained solar system can actually perform 10-30% better than one that is not1. We’re proud to offer Sunnova Protect™ to ensure solar owners are covered so they can enjoy the energy independence and financial savings they expect from their systems.
Our nearly 60,000 customers already enjoy peace of mind with our best-in-class service warranty, and now, with the launch of Sunnova Protect™ service plans, that service protection is available to any homeowner who owns their solar system. Below are three ways solar owners who do not currently have service coverage would benefit from Sunnova Protect™:
1. Enjoy peace of mind knowing that your solar system is working: Maximize your solar savings by ensuring your system is working at its most optimal level. We’ll monitor your system’s performance remotely and alert you to any issues.
2. Let us take the hassle out of repairs and maintenance: With the Sunnova Protect™ Service Premium and Platinum Plans, you will eliminate multiple phone calls to different manufacturers or installers to fix your system. Our best-in-class warranty helps to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for repairs and replacements.
3. Rest assured knowing your system will produce the energy you were promised: With the Sunnova Protect™ Service Platinum Plan, we’ll guarantee that your solar system will produce within 95% of the energy promised in your Service Plan agreement, or we'll credit you the difference.
The Sunnova Protect™servicing plans offer three different coverage options (Basic, Premium and Platinum) with multiple term lengths (5-, 10- and 20-year). These plans provide solar owners with the freedom to choose the service solution that best fits their needs.
1 - Solar Power World: https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2013/03/what-is-a-solar-operations-and-maintenance-plan/
4 Most Common Solar Panel Maintenance Issues
Switching to solar is a great way to gain energy independence. Thanks to rapidly advancing technology, solar panels are more durable than ever - they’re designed to withstand nearly anything. However, solar panels spend 25+ years living on your roof, and they may need the occasional maintenance or repairs.
If you lease your solar panels, you may be covered under a warranty plan. Sunnova customers have peace of mind because they are covered by our industry-leading, 25-year Sunnova ProtectTM warranty.
However, if you purchased your panels with cash or a bank loan, you’re likely responsible for any repairs your solar panels may need. While solar panels are built to last, some repairs can be costly.
In general, solar panel maintenance is low-impact and straightforward. Knowing when it’s time to call in a professional, and how much repairs are likely to cost will ward off stress when the unexpected hits.
Our Top 4 Solar Panel Repairs
1. Inverter Issues
The two most common types of inverters installed in home solar panels are string inverters and micro-inverters. String inverters connect a group of panels, called a string, to one inverter. This means that you may have a set of panels all feeding into the same large inverter.
By contrast, micro-inverters are an integrated part of each individual panel (on the back of each solar panel), eliminating the need for a larger single inverter.
In both cases, you may first notice an issue with your inverter due to a loss of solar energy production. If you’re a Sunnova customer, we monitor your solar energy production 24/7, and we’ll alert you to any issues*. You can also view your solar energy production in MySunnova. Otherwise, you can check your utility meters or your utility bill to see if you are using more electricity from the grid.
If you have a string inverter setup, you may also notice an error message on your inverter. However, if you have micro-inverters, we do not recommend you get on your roof to check your micro-inverters.
2. Wiring Damage
Most panels are wired either using a series wiring system or parallel wiring system. Series wiring connects a group of panels using one wire so that their total voltage is tied together in a string. Parallel wiring connects panels to a central wire using individual wires for each panel.
The main difference in series wiring and parallel wiring is the number of wires involved. Series wiring only requires one line from the string of panels to the roof, while parallel wiring requires multiple wires connected to the roof.
Wiring may become loose over time due to heavy winds or other weather events. While loose writing is rare, it can cause a drop in solar production. In order to check for loose wiring issues, you’ll need to have your solar installer take a look – we never recommend you get on your roof to check your solar panels.
Alternately, water damage may occur if water is able to enter wiring conduits. Conduits are a covering that protects wires from the elements, and when improperly installed, can sometimes have gaps that allow rain or the water used during solar panel cleaning to damage the wiring housed inside. In the case of wiring issues caused by water damage, you’ll not only need a trained solar repair expert but also an electrician to check out the area before any work can be done.
1. Circuit Breaker Trips
If your solar system is causing your circuit breaker to trip, you could be facing a few different issues: your breaker panel may be affected by external elements like the heat or rain, the connection between your system and your breaker is unreliable, or your breaker panel may be faulty.
Frequent circuit breaker trips can also be indicative of solar panel conductor issues. Solar panel conductors are installed using clips that secure them to the solar system frames. If conductors are damaged, improperly installed, or not up to code, they can cause your circuit breaker to trip.
2. Solar Panel Replacements
In very rare cases an entire panel may need to be replaced. This could be due to extreme blunt force, such as large debris being slammed into the panel during a tornado or hurricane. Damage requiring replacement can also be caused by falling trees or tree limbs.
Solar panels may also need to be replaced due to internal deficiencies. In this case, you’ll need to be able to show proper maintenance and voltage readings to prove that you’re experiencing an internal problem that requires panel replacement.
Are My Solar Panel Repairs Covered?
If you own your solar panels, it’s important to note that most solar panel warranty plans only cover materials and workmanship for 10 years, but your panels are designed to last for 20+ years.
It’s important to understand the three main warranties that are offered with most solar panel installations.
- Workmanship Warranties
Workmanship warranties are straight-forward - they cover damages or faults that occur during installation or due to improper installation.
- Equipment Warranties
Equipment warranties cover all of the main pieces of your solar system, including your solar panels. Your equipment warranty should cover defects in your equipment including manufacturing issues or components that fail prematurely.
- Performance Warranties
Performance warranties guarantee the rate at which your panels will produce energy. Usually, these warranties guarantee a certain percentage based on the age of the system, and if your production falls below the warrantied percentage, you’re covered.
If you purchase your panels through Sunnova Easy Own, our Sunnova ProtectTM warranty covers all three types of warranties
If You Own Your Solar Panels - When Adding Solar Service Plan Makes Sense
If you own your solar panels, it’s important to protect your investment from repairs that are not covered by your manufacturer’s warranty.
Sunnova now offers industry-leading Sunnova ProtectTM Service Plans to anyone with solar.
If your system needs repairs, you may be stuck negotiating with the manufacture for repairs and replacement parts. With a Sunnova ProtectTM Service Plan, we can take on the hassle of negotiating with the manufacturer and coordinating any services to your solar system.
Gain comfort and security knowing that the nation’s leading residential solar + battery storage company is monitoring and caring for your home’s solar system. Learn more about our Sunnova ProtectTM Service Plans.
What is a Home Solar Production Guarantee
When you make the switch to solar, you’re investing in a long-term energy solution. You count on your solar system to produce a certain amount of energy to power your home, reduce your dependence on traditional grid energy, and, in many cases, even lower your utility bills each month.
One of the ways that you can feel more secure in your solar investment is with a solar production guarantee.
When your solar system is installed, your solar provider may offer a production guarantee, which means that your solar system is guaranteed to produce a certain amount of energy during a specific timeframe. The production guarantee is typically for a set amount of years - the solar provider may reimburse you for the underperformance, or repair your system under its warranty to meet the production rate that has been guaranteed.
We’re breaking down how production guarantees work to protect your solar investment.
How Does a Production Guarantee Work?
A solar production guarantee gives you the confidence that your system will perform as expected. Typically, solar engineers predict the amount of energy your solar system should be producing each year based on your geographical location, weather trends, the type of solar system you have installed, the size of your home, and other factors.
That prediction is then guaranteed, which means that if your solar system doesn’t meet its annual production goal, you’ll be reimbursed the difference between the actual production and the production guarantee.
While solar production guarantees may be offered for cash purchases, Sunnova customers are able to benefit from a solar production guarantee with most of our products. Under Sunnova’s production guarantee, if available in your state and with your product, your solar system is guaranteed to produce a set amount of energy each year for the lifetime of your agreement. And if your system fails to meet the mark, you’ll be credited the difference on a yearly basis.1
Own Your Solar Panels? Want a Production Guarantee?
If you own your solar panels but do not have a production guarantee, you can take advantage of an extended production guarantee with the Sunnova ProtectTMServices Platinum Plan. Regardless of who installed your solar panels, or whether or not your manufacturer warranty is expired, you get all of the benefits of our industry-leading production guarantee.
When you sign up for the Sunnova ProtectTM Platinum Plan, our engineers will assess and diagnose your solar system and give you an estimated energy production report that shows you how much energy your system should be producing for years to come. If your system isn’t producing the amount of energy we guarantee, we’ll credit you the difference. It’s that simple, hassle-free, and secure.
With any Sunnova ProtectTM Service Plan, you will get our 24/7 system monitoring for the entirety of your agreement – we will alert you to any issues with your solar energy production.
When you’ve made the decision to switch to solar, you want to do all that you can to make sure that the benefits of your system are as high as possible. A production guarantee is a great way to keep your home running smoothly with less worry.
Interested in guaranteeing your home solar system’s production? Learn more and get a free, no-obligation quote today!
1 Solar system’s cumulative production is evaluated each year, beginning on the third anniversary of the service agreement, to validate the annual production guarantee. If the system produces more than the guaranteed product, the excess in production will be rolled over and counted towards the following year’s production guarantee. A production guarantee may not be available with all Sunnova products or in all states or territories.
It’s Time to Go Solar – The Top 5 Benefits of Home Solar
Solar energy has quickly become one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. In the first quarter of 2018, the U.S. solar market added 2.3 gigawatts of solar, showcasing an annual growth of 13 percent. The continued explosion of home solar begs the question: what’s so special about solar energy?
The answer is simple: the value of solar is too hard for homeowners to ignore. Solar offers homeowner’s energy independence, lower utility bills, potential increase in property value1 – the list goes on.
Home solar technology has come a long way since it was first introduced to the consumer market - solar panels have become more compact, cost-effective, and incredibly durable. Plus, with the addition of solar battery storage, homeowners can enjoy an even greater level of energy independence.
With all of the great benefits that come along with home solar, there’s a solar solution to fit every family’s unique needs. We’re breaking down the top five ways you can benefit from going solar.
1. Gain Energy Independence
We live in a world of virtually unlimited choice, you can even purchase groceries online and have them delivered just in time for dinner. Why, then, should you be locked into one single option for powering your home? Solar energy offers you the ability to gain energy independence and take control of your energy choices.
Solar panels utilize the power of the sun to convert UV rays into energy that keeps your home running throughout the day. With solar panels, you’ll reduce your dependence on the grid - you’ll pull electricity from the grid at night, on cloudy days, and times of high energy use.
You can increase the utilization of your solar production with the addition of solar battery storage. Adding a solar battery to store the excess power that your solar system produces on the sunniest days means you’re using the grid even less and gaining even more energy independence.
2. Reap the Rewards of Tax Incentives2
When you purchase your home solar system with a cash payment or a loan, you can gain access to federal, and in some cases, state tax incentives.
On the federal level, most homeowners who purchase a solar system are eligible for the Investment Tax Credit, sometimes referred to as the ITC. The ITC is a tax credit that can be claimed on federal income taxes for up to 30% of the cost of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system.
A recent ruling by the IRS now allows projects that begin construction in 2019 to claim the full 30 percent ITC tax credit as long as the system is operational before 2024. Previously, in order to claim the credit, a system must have been operational within the same year that construction began.
State tax incentives vary from location to location, but in general, in states that offer tax incentives, homeowners can enjoy Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) payments, income tax credits, or property tax exclusions.
A few of the most lucrative state incentives can be found in Hawaii, Illinois, and California.
In Hawaii, owners can claim up to 35 percent on their income tax returns, In Honolulu, solar can be automatically exempted from property tax. In other counties in Hawaii, homeowners may apply for an exemption.
Illinois residents can take advantage SREC payments that, in exchange for the state being able to “purchase” your excess solar energy, will offer homeowners cash up front for their projected solar production.
In California, home solar owners see a 100 percent property tax exclusion for the value for systems installed through 2024. Stipulations apply.
3. Save Money on High Utility Rates3
The most common reason that homeowners switch to solar is to help alleviate high utility bills. Using less energy from the grid is great for everyone, and in states with particularly high energy rates like Hawaii, California, and Massachusetts, solar can make a dramatic difference in your monthly expenditures.
On average, U.S. homes consume about 900 kWh of electricity each month. Depending on the state that you live in, your monthly energy bill could be over $200/month, not accounting for the times and days when you use more energy than usual. With the addition of solar, your grid usage can dramatically drop, and your monthly bills go down. It’s that simple.
4. Increase Your Home’s Value1
Installing solar in your home isn’t just great for your wallet in the short-term, it’s also a fantastic way to increase your home’s resale value. Research has shown that every dollar in energy savings gained from your solar system purchase adds $20 to your home’s bottom line. Plus, homes with installed solar systems can sell about 20 percent faster than those without solar panels.
The combination of tax incentives, savings on grid energy, and the added value that solar brings to your home can mean a huge return on your investment throughout the lifetime of your solar system.
5. Worry Less About Maintenance
One of the best perks of being a home solar owner is how easy solar panels are to maintain. Not only are solar panels built to withstand weather of all sorts - from wind, to rain, to hail – you can clean and inspect them yourself. Most solar panels are cleaned by the rain and only need a quick visual inspection a few times a year.
With Sunnova Protect4 , homeowners are covered under any circumstance with an industry-leading 25-year warranty. That means no out-of-pocket expenses for maintenance, repairs, or replacements, 24/7 system monitoring, and in many cases, an energy production guarantee5.
The Sunny Side of Switching to Solar
Bringing solar home is easier and more beneficial for homeowners than it’s ever been before. With advanced technology and continued market growth, installation is quick and affordable, and the long-term benefits that solar offers are enough to entice anyone to make the switch.
If you’re ready to take the first step, learning more about the financial impact that solar will have on your household in your area is the perfect place to start.
Sunnova offers options for every homeowner to help you gain energy independence and slash your annual utility costs. Whether you prefer to lease or buy, Sunnova customers in most states enjoy guaranteed energy production, system monitoring, and a best-in-class 25-year warranty that makes solar simple6.
1 Only applicable to purchased systems in certain markets.
2 You may be eligible for a federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) with the purchase of a solar system. To receive the full federal tax credit, you must have federal income tax liability at least equal to the value of the tax credit. Additional tax credits may also be available for homeowners in certain states. Sunnova makes no guarantees regarding customer eligibility for tax benefits or SRECs. Sunnova does not provide tax advice. Contact your personal tax advisor for eligibility.
3Actual savings will vary based on your electricity usage and utility rates. Savings estimates are based on solar energy production, your solar kWh rate, your current utility kWh rate and projected increases in the utility rate (based on historical data and a national average). Estimates do not take into consideration other changes in utility rates. Such changes could affect your overall estimated savings.
4 Refer to the Limited Warranty in your agreement for complete warranty terms and limitations. Your solar system production will vary based on weather and other factors. Solar system’s cumulative production will be evaluated to validate annual production guarantee. Refer to your agreement for details. Restrictions and limitations apply. The service agreement can be transferred to the new homeowner. Sunnova’s approval required. Some restrictions apply. Sunnova does not offer production guarantee for energy service plans in Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. In the state of Florida, Sunnova does not offer 24/7 system monitoring. Restrictions apply. Refer to your service agreement for complete terms and limitations.
5 Refer to the limited warranty in your service agreement for complete warranty terms and limitations.
6 Production guarantee and monitoring is not available in Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Thinking about Solar Panels for your Home? Now is the Time to Buy.
Solar energy is one of the most popular energy choices available, and solar as a whole has become one of the fastest-growing industries in the country. In 2016, the residential solar industry flipped: more homeowners (53 percent) chose to purchase their solar system instead of leasing. This was a huge shift from 26 percent solar system ownership in 2014.
Cash and loan sales have become increasingly popular thanks to the benefits of owning your solar system. Not only has solar become more efficient as the technology has improved over the years, but it has also become more affordable, making purchasing a solar system easier and more advantageous than ever. Tax incentives for homeowners that purchase solar panels mean a greater ROI, and competitive loan terms give homeowners the luxury of choice in their journey to energy independence.
Purchasing a solar system is an investment in your home and your future, and you want to be able to feel confident in your decision. We’ll break down the lease vs loan decision and answer all of your questions to help you make the choice that’s right for you.
Time to Buy: When Purchasing Solar Panels Makes Sense for You
There are a few factors to consider when making the decision to purchase a solar system rather than leasing. Cost, maintenance, and ROI are all pieces of the puzzle.
Typically, purchasing a solar system will cost a homeowner somewhere between $15,000 and $30,000, depending on the size of your home and your energy needs, among other factors. When it’s time to pay for a purchased system, homeowners can choose between an upfront cash payment for their solar system or going with a solar loan.
Solar loans are a great option for homeowners who are interested in utilizing renewable energy to power their home, but for whom an outright cash purchase doesn’t make sense. Generally, APRs are low and range between 4 percent and 8 percent for a term of 10 to 25 years. Solar loans may require down payments, and APRs vary from lender to lender.
With a cash or loan purchase, homeowners get to take advantage of federal tax incentives that allow them to deduct up to 30 percent of the system’s cost from their federal taxes. In the same wave of changes that increased the deduction to 30 percent in 2015, provisions were passed allowing homeowners to be eligible for federal deductions as soon as their solar panels are installed, compared to previous regulations requiring that a solar system had to be operational in order to be eligible for federal tax incentives1.
When purchasing a solar system through loans or with cash, maintenance also comes into play. Usually, you’ll be responsible for servicing your solar system throughout the lifetime of your system and monitoring your solar system’s efficiency yourself.
With Sunnova’s Easy Own loan energy service plan, homeowners can enjoy our best-in-class 25-year warranty and other benefits2:
- Monitoring based on the amount of sunshine your home is getting and recent weather conditions.
- Your solar system is covered under our industry-leading warranty for a full 25 years.
- Eliminates out-of-pocket expenses for maintenance or equipment repairs and replacements for the term of your service agreement.
- Guaranteed production for 25 years or a credit for the difference in most markets.
- A transferable agreement allowing you to pass the benefits to the next homeowner if you sell your home.
If Buying Isn’t Right for You: When to Lease Solar Panels
If you’re more interested in leasing a solar system, with Sunnova, you can still benefit from low up-front costs, production guarantees, system monitoring, and affordable energy rates for the lifetime of your lease.
Leasing a solar system is similar to leasing a car. With Sunnova, we own the equipment, and you’ll pay a fixed amount every month, unless you choose a yearly percentage increase, referred to as an escalator. The purpose of the escalator is to provide more significant savings in the early years of your agreement. You’ll pay a lower initial rate per kWh in return for a slight increase in your rate each year.
We offer zero down leases – a down payment is optional. This means generally that you can start saving money on the energy you need to power your home right away.
Another factor to consider is that with a lease, as opposed to purchasing a solar system, you’re not eligible for federal tax incentives because you do not own the solar system.
Purchasing a Solar System is the New Trend in Energy Independence
The cost of a solar system is lower than ever, and thanks to comprehensive purchasing options, buying a solar system is on the upswing throughout the country. Advantageous loan terms allow homeowners to benefit from tax incentives, energy independence, and, in most markets, substantial savings1 over traditional utility costs. If you’ve been contemplating switching to solar, there is no better time than the present.
Sunnova brings homeowners an easy path to solar ownership with the Easy Own loan and offers the Easy Save lease for those who would rather lease than own. By choosing Sunnova, you’ll work with a company that has earned a reputation for our customer service, industry-leading warranty, and trusted network of partners. We’ll make the process of purchasing a solar system go smoothly from start to finish.
1: You may be eligible for a federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) with the purchase of a solar system. To receive the full federal tax credit, you must have federal income tax liability at least equal to the value of the tax credit. Additional tax credits may also be available for homeowners in certain states. Sunnova makes no guarantees regarding customer eligibility for tax benefits or SRECs. Sunnova does not provide tax advice. Contact your personal tax advisor for eligibility.
2: Refer to the warranty in your service agreement for complete warranty terms and limitations. Your solar system production will vary based on weather and other factors. Restrictions and limitations apply. The service agreement can be transferred to the new homeowner. Sunnova’s approval required. Some restrictions apply. Solar system’s cumulative production will be evaluated to validate annual production guarantee. Refer to your agreement for details. Sunnova does not offer production guarantee for energy service plans in Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. In the state of Florida, Sunnova does not offer 24/7 system monitoring. Restrictions apply. Refer to your service agreement for complete terms and limitations.
How to Maintain Your Solar Panels in the Summer
Thanks to the sun’s higher position in the sky throughout the summer months, your solar system receives more direct sunlight in June, July, and August than it does at any other time of the year.
From the panels to the converter, each component of your solar system is working in overdrive. Protecting your entire system and preparing for higher rates of conversion can mean the difference between optimum output and lost energy.
A single solar panel is comprised of many cells that work together to process particles of light that can generate energy. As the cells in the panel work in unison to convert sunlight into directed energy, the solar inverter converts the energy collected into a usable current that can be used to power your home. During long summer days the cells absorb more energy, and the solar inverter converts that energy at a higher level.
It’s important to keep your solar system operating at its peak to ensure that you’re receiving the highest return on investment possible.
Proper summer maintenance will not only protect your solar system all season long, it can also identify and prevent any issues from impacting your system as the seasons change.
Luckily, there are a few simple steps that you can take to safeguard your system during the brightest days of the year.
Simple Solution 1 – Monitor Your Solar Energy Production
Throughout the year your system has endured rain, wind, unpredictable cold snaps, snow, sleet, and more. Your solar system is built to withstand mother nature but keeping an eye on your system is key to extending its lifespan.
In your MySunnova account, you can track your solar system production by day, month, or year. From “Production” in the top navigation, you can compare your solar system production year-over-year, or you can download your entire production history. Please note that your MySunnova account has a 24-hour delay in reporting.
With Sunnova Protect, you have 24/7 system monitoring.* We track your solar system’s energy generation throughout the year and determine whether or not it is performing optimally. If your solar system isn’t producing the guaranteed amount of energy, you’re covered.*
Simple Solution 2 – Monitoring Fresh Growth
Winter freezes paired with heavy springtime rain can create new foliage growth in areas that were once shade-free, so it’s important to always check for new growth as the summer approaches. You want to check for any new shade that is cast on any part of your system throughout the day to determine what type of trimming or pruning needs to be done.
In addition to reducing shade, monitoring for fresh growth can cut down on the amount of potentially damaging debris that is dropped onto panels via wind, weather, and animals. Solar panels function as a cell, so any disruption to energy absorption in a single panel can affect your entire solar system.
When you decide to trim tree limbs that overhang solar panels, it is important to inform your arborist of the location of each panel. An experienced arborist will be able to trim limbs away from your system to reduce the risk of potential scratching or other damage to panels.
Hassle-Free Solar Optimization – Summer Maintenance Makes a Difference
Preparing your solar system for the summer is an easy and important process that will protect its longevity and functionality for years to come. Getting the most return on your investment, gaining energy independence, and benefitting from a renewable energy source are just a few of the benefits that come along with choosing solar energy. The savings that you enjoy all year long are maximized during the summer months as you see your air conditioning bill shrink.
Enjoy all that the summer sun has to offer – from a solar system designed to bring your home optimal renewable energy, to time spent outdoors with your family – thanks to a few quick and hassle-free steps that will keep your Sunnova solar system running smoothly all season long.
* In the state of Florida, Sunnova does not offer production guarantee or 24/7 system monitoring. Restrictions apply. Refer to your service agreement for complete terms and limitation. Your solar system production will vary based on weather and other factors. Solar system’s cumulative production will be evaluated to validate annual production guarantee. Refer to your agreement for details.
What is the History of Solar Energy?
Today, the solar energy industry has become a leading source of renewable power generation in the United States, which not only helps support the environment but assists with local job markets, communities and the overall reduction of electricity costs. Over time scientists have found ways to use solar power for homes, swimming pools, transportation, outdoor lighting and portable devices.
Discovered in 1839, solar energy has evolved into one of the hottest energy resources on the planet. In fact, renewable energy has been growing steadily in most parts of the world due to communities transitioning to a variety of power sources that support the environment. We can expect solar energy growth to continue to evolve.
Solar Energy Dates Back to the 1800s
Did you know that Albert Einstein, was known as the Father of Solar Cells? He believed in the science of solar energy before it was invented and predicted that energy from the sun could be harnessed for power. Einstein wrote a paper about the power of solar and eventually received the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work.
In 1839, a French scientist Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect at the young age of 19. Edmond was intrigued with the emission of light without heat, especially when displayed with sulfides and compounds of uranium. During Becquerel’s research study of photochemical reactions, he began to comprehend the absorption of light energy and uncovered the value of the photovoltaic effect. He realized when electrons were in an excited state in a conduction band, they could move freely through a material, thus creating a current.
Willoughby Smith, began the development of photoconductivity in 1873 when he began testing underwater cables. He was able to test circuitry with a semi-conducting material called selenium, which ultimately led to the invention of photoelectric cells. Smith realized through experimentation that the conductivity of the selenium rods increased significantly when exposed to sunlight.
The first solar panel was invented by Charles Fritts in 1883. Fritts calculated that by placing a thin, wide layer of selenium onto a metal plate, and covering it with a semitransparent gold-leaf, he could produce a current with a “continuous, constant, and of considerable force,” thus, launching a movement for producing solar energy.
1950s - The Solar Cell Era Begins
When the solar era began in the 1950s, Bell Laboratory scientists focused on photovoltaic (PV) developments and began utilizing silicon to produce solar cells. This breakthrough gave solar energy technology the needed funds for more research. Tests began on how the weather affected solar cells and how to increase the amount of electricity the solar cells were able to produce.
To prove the concept, Bell produced a solar panel with cells that relied exclusively on light power, to run a 21-inch Ferris wheel on solar energy.
During this era, the United States Navy enlisted scientist, Dr. Hans Ziegler, to see if solar cells could be used in lieu of chemical batteries. Through testing, Dr. Ziegler was able to replace the batteries with silicon solar cells because they performed stronger and continued working longer in comparison.
In the 1960s and 1970s, solar panel production proved to be too expensive for mainstream consumers, but scientists continued to develop solar energy technology in order to reduce the cost.
Solar Energy – The Right Price for the Future
Today, solar energy costs continue to fall rapidly. Over the last decade, solar panel prices have decreased 80 percent and across the USA, the cost of solar energy has dropped a whopping 73 percent since 2008. It is estimated that by 2020, with continued tech improvements, mainstream solar energy generation will offer a low-end electricity cost for homeowners.
With the advancements of light, ultra-thin solar panels and improved solar cells (or photovoltaic PV cells), solar panels continue to become lighter and more aesthetically pleasing on homes and businesses. Continued research and technological advancements in PV technology and concentrated solar power (CSP), have allowed engineers to produce more efficient solar-engineered hybrid, which helps drop the cost for consumers. Concentrated solar power uses mirrors to concentrate solar energy from the sun to traditional steam turbines or engines that produce electricity. Combined with photovoltaics, PV technology harnesses sunlight for power generation and then CSP uses the sun’s heat to create thermal energy. Using PV and CSP hybridized solar energy technology, enables high energy conversion efficiency and affordable storage.
Where is Solar Energy Today?
Scientists continue to look for ways to improve the effectiveness and affordability of solar cells. Recently, scientists at the University of Toronto launched light-sensitive nanoparticles named “colloidal quantum dots”, that will help reduce the cost of material for solar cell technology. The new “dots” use both n-type and p-type semiconductors that can function outdoors in any weather condition. Because the colloidal quantum dots don't bind to air, they can sustain stability outdoors. This innovation helps increase radiant light absorption and is found to be up to eight percent more effective at converting sunlight for solar energy. Since this is a new technology for solar energy, the scientists are continuing to hone the power conversion efficiency.
As renewable energy gains in popularity, the battery storage market is also taking off. With a battery, solar energy can be stored for use at night or when the grid is down.
Shifting to solar energy for a primary source of power makes smart economic sense. Solar cell innovations that unlock efficiencies in manufacturing panels, reducing installation costs, and improving performance of power-generation equipment paves the way for a stronger renewable generation market.Sunnova’s global vision is to continue turning homes into energy-saving powerhouses by staying on top of cutting-edge technology to provide extensive knowledge and responsive service.
How do Solar Panels Work in the Winter?
During the summer, solar panel production can produce significant energy thanks to the long sunny days. But during the winter months, daylight hours are shorter, and it can be considerably cloudy and cold in many states across the U.S.A.
If you’re considering solar panels, you may wonder if you can produce enough energy during winter months. Understanding the technology behind a rooftop solar system helps demonstrate how solar panels perform well even in winter.
Solar Panels – Heat vs. Daylight
Solar energy works by harnessing the sun’s energy and turning it into electricity. Solar cells (or photovoltaic PV cells), convert the sunlight directly into electricity, creating direct current (DC) electricity, which then travels to an inverter and converts this energy into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is used in your home.
In general, your solar system production will be lower in winter months than in summer months. However, the difference in production may not be as extreme as you think!
Solar panels do not rely on heat from a sunny day to produce electricity. In actuality, colder temperatures can help improve the performance of solar cells production (PV Performance). Solar panels only need daylight to produce electricity, therefore, unless your solar system is blocked by shade from trees or snow, it will continue to absorb energy during the day – even in the winter.
Cold Weather is Good for Solar Panels!
The reflection from snow on the ground coupled with a good, gusty wind can actually help improve solar system performance. When the sunlight bounces from the snow below to the top of your solar panels, the traveling light helps improve solar system performance.
In addition, the angle of your solar system production is important to ensure proper surrounding air and ventilation conditions. For example, a free-standing solar panel offers prime ventilation compared to a rooftop panel, that’s why it is important to speak to the installer about how your home solar system will be mounted and angled for the best performance.
Winter is a great time to shop for solar panels. Learn more about Sunnova’s products and plans here. We offer four types of solar service agreements to meet your needs.
How Does Snow Affect Solar Panels?
A quality solar system is built to last over 25 years. When choosing a rooftop solar system, remember that premium-grade panels are fully tested to operate year-round, and withstand extreme weather conditions. For instance, snowfall should not damage solar panels because they are tested to endure freezing temperatures and bear the weight of heavy amounts of snow or debris.
If mounted correctly and installed by certified technicians, solar panels are designed to handle snow, rain, and hail. Your solar panels should resist corrosion, impact, and extreme shifts in the weather. Considering that people drive on solar panels, the weight of the snow will not be an issue!
While most solar panels are installed at an angle, it will take time for snow to slide off. When solar panels gather snow, it’s best to let the snow melt or slide off the panels naturally. We recommend you move cars, patio furniture, and other items that may get damaged away from your roof. The snow may slide off in large sheets, and it’s important to be very careful.
Sunnova’s Production Monitoring and 25-Year Warranty
When investing in a solar system, it’s important for homeowners to understand their home solar warranty and maintenance agreement terms. Sunnova offers a best-in-class, comprehensive protection plan that covers repairs, maintenance and a production guarantee* for your solar system. Homeowners benefit from a production guarantee because it ensures that your panels will produce the promised amount of energy outlined in the 25-year service agreement, or Sunnova will credit you the difference.
If you live in a part of the country like New York or New Jersey that contends with snow storms and/or extreme weather conditions during winter months, having a full-service warranty comes in handy. Having the peace of mind that your solar system performance is being monitored 24/7 to detect insufficient solar generation, helps makes sure that your solar panels will perform, rain or shine.
*In the state of Florida, Sunnova does not offer production guarantee or 24/7 system monitoring. Restrictions apply. Refer to your service agreement for complete terms and limitations.
Why a Home Solar Warranty is Important
If you're one of those people who shop for top-notch deals, research highly-rated products and pursue the best warranty protection, we encourage you to keep reading. It pays to perform due diligence and gain the best return on any investment, especially when it comes to protecting your home.
According to the Texas Tribune, Texas homeowners are getting added energy efficiency and sustainable benefits of comfort, convenience, and affordability with home solar. And since solar energy is the most abundant energy source on earth, let’s take a deeper dive and learn why a home solar warranty is important.
Research your solar provider
Whether you choose to buy or lease your solar system, a great warranty is important for ensuring you get the energy expected over the life of the system. It is critical that you understand which home solar warranties are optimal to protect your investment. A quality solar system will help control your home’s energy costs for multiple decades, so it’s important to know what your warranty covers and what it doesn’t.
Find out if the solar provider has a good reputation, offers quality solar panels, and has reputable, experienced technicians available for installation and service. Before you sign on the dotted line, ask for testimonies from other customers and determine if the solar installation company will be around during the next 25 years to help service your system. If you have any doubts about their longevity, keep shopping.
Home solar warranty comparison
Installation warranty - If the solar provider you have chosen only offers an installation warranty, you should reconsider your solar provider. An installation warranty is important, but your home solar warranty should cover installation, parts, and equipment. The installer should also be responsible for fixing any damage they cause to your home or property during the installation process. If your home solar warranty doesn’t cover parts and equipment, you may be liable for any damages or defects down the road.
Product warranty - a product warranty covers the structural integrity of the solar equipment including the solar panel modules and inverter, but many times a solar provider will only offer coverage for ten years, which sounds like a decent time period, but not when compared to other providers who offer 25-year product warranties. Whether you decide to choose a product warranty for a decade or more is a personal decision, but since quality solar panels are built to last more than a decade, you may want to opt for longer home solar warranty coverage. Check that your product warranty covers fair wear and tear, damage due to improper installation and incorrect solar panel configuration.
Manufacturer warranty – With a manufacturer’s warranty, you still need to pay someone to service the home solar system to take advantage of the warranty. If that’s not quite what you want, choose a solar provider that will handle everything for you – from servicing the equipment to working directly with the manufacturer to replace any parts and perform repairs.
Power output warranty - A guarantee for energy production or sometimes called, a power output warranty, guarantees that the system will produce the energy based on the terms of the agreement. Some solar providers will even credit you the difference if your output doesn’t measure up.
Extra benefits for a home solar warranty
In addition to a strong home solar warranty, look for added benefits to help improve your purchase power. Inquire about 24/7 system monitoring to track your solar production and help gauge your system’s output when weather conditions change. Round the clock monitoring can help detect if your solar system isn’t producing the amount of energy expected. Find out if your service provider will monitor your system for you and proactively send service technicians to help identify and resolve any issues over the life of your system. If your home solar system isn’t performing the way it should, make sure your provider guarantees the repairs. In addition to a solid home solar warranty, other perks can include zero-down financing and solar leasing versus buying options.
Which home solar warranty is right for you?
Read the entire purchase agreement to fully understand the type of home solar warranty offered with your purchase. The best choice for a home solar warranty is a comprehensive warranty, that covers the major components of the solar system for 20-plus years, and protects all of the parts and equipment. An all-inclusive home solar warranty should offer full repair or replacement coverage for panels, inverter, all wiring, and connections. Read the fine print and ask questions when you don’t understand something. A qualified solar provider specialist should be able to walk you through a home solar warranty and explain it in detail.
Consider Sunnova Protect1, a 25-year, best-in-class, comprehensive solar system warranty that assures your home solar equipment, installation and production are protected. With nearly a decade of solar installation experience, Sunnova services solar systems across the United States, Caribbean, and Pacific Islands. As a leading residential solar provider, Sunnova is transforming the energy industry by offering affordable, reliable solar power one homeowner at a time.
1 Refer to the Limited Warranty in your agreement for complete warranty terms and limitations. Your solar system production will vary based on weather and other factors. Solar system’s cumulative production will be evaluated to validate annual production guarantee. Refer to your agreement for details. Insurance coverage may vary. Restrictions and limitations apply. Service agreement can be transferred to the new homeowner. Sunnova’s approval required. Some restrictions apply.
Intelligent Control and Peace of Mind, All Under One Roof
On most days, at any given time, various homeowners across California will experience a power outage due to any number of issues, such as high winds, downed power lines, heat and sometimes even squirrels. While unpredictable in duration and level of disruption, power outages have unfortunately become a frequent part of our day-to-day lives. But that doesn’t have to be the case. With Sunnova’s SunSafe™ solar + battery storage technology as a part of your energy future, power outages in your home can become a thing of the past.
Planned and unplanned power outages are happening all the time throughout the state of California and Sunnova SunSafe™ is here to keep the power flowing in your home. Sunnova SunSafe™ is a customized solar + battery storage technology system designed to meet your home energy needs in a smarter way. Sunnova SunSafe™ uses intelligent control technology aka “the smarts,” to manage how the energy produced from the sun flows to your home, to the battery or back to the electric grid to offset the highest energy costs. During time of use peak periods when rates are highest, or if the electric grid goes down, your home will draw energy from Sunnova SunSafe™ to power the home’s most critical needs, protecting you from outages or high electricity rates to help maximize savings.
Peace of Mind…
Sunnova SunSafe™ will continue producing and storing energy when the electric grid is down, unlike solar-only systems. In case of a utility power outage, your most important appliances will be powered for around 10 hours, depending on your energy usage. This means you can keep the lights on, your refrigerator cold, use the internet or charge your phone. SunSafe gives you the control to power your life.
…All Under One Roof
When it comes to making a decision about your solar energy provider, you have a choice, so make the one that gives you the most control and protection. Sunnova also protects your solar + battery storage system for a full 25 years with our best-in-class comprehensive warranty. From repairs to maintenance, our end-to-end warranty has you covered. We guarantee that the system will produce the amount of energy we say it will, in your agreement, for 25 years or we’ll credit you the difference. And, we insure the system for theft or damage, so you don’t have to.
In fact, we are proud to announce that Sunnova SunSafe™ is now the only residential solar service provider to offer a 25-year solar + battery storage lease with a comprehensive warranty and performance guarantee.
Check out Sunnova SunSafe™ Today
For more information on our Sunnova SunSafe™ solar + battery storage technology, visit: www.sunnova.com/SunSafe.
Solar and the Holidays
The holiday season is quickly approaching, and Sunnova would like to remind you to keep in mind what we call around here the “seasonal spike.” Just what exactly is seasonal spike? It’s pretty simple—it’s a temporary spike associated with your household consumption around the holidays.
There are a number of reasons why electricity usage spikes during the holidays. You have unexpected guests staying at your house. You’re cooking the traditional Thanksgiving meal. You’re decorating for the holidays. You might be thinking “what in the world do all of these things have to do with electricity?” Well, a lot.
Adding more people to your home increases the use of every resource in your home, from hot water to food preparation. Electric appliances like hot water heaters and electric ovens consume a ton of electricity, and are typically in overdrive during the holiday season.
Simply changing some of your energy consumption habits during the holidays can make a difference. First, shift as much electricity use to the daytime as possible. That includes everything from charging your laptops and mobile devices to doing the laundry and preparing meals before nighttime.
Keep nighttime energy usage as low as you can
Simply knowing where energy is used in the home will help you better manage it. It’s as simple as turning off lights in unoccupied rooms and setting thermostats to moderate temperatures when you go to bed.
Educate your temporary houseguests
Adding more people to your household will inevitably increase the usage in your home, but educating your houseguests about how your solar system works can go a long way toward curbing energy usage. Remind your houseguests that taking showers, washing clothes and cooking during the daytime can greatly decrease your usage. Think about asking them to charge their laptops, cell phones, Kindles and iPads during the day when it’s sunny, and to unplug their chargers from the walls at night.
Maximize your appliance energy
Try using your toaster oven or your microwave for smaller cooking tasks. Save your oven for your biggest cooking tasks, and make the most of your oven’s energy by baking or cooking several dishes at once. Keep in mind that it takes the same amount of energy to heat a full oven as it does a nearly empty one.
The same goes for the washer and dryer. It takes the same amount of energy to run a partial load of laundry as it takes to run a full load, so consider doing laundry only once or twice a week, fill your loads to capacity and select low heat for drying.
Also, fill your dishwater to its full capacity before you run it, and pick a wash cycle that uses low or no heat.
Holiday lights: Just the facts
Did you know that switching holiday lights to LED can save a huge amount of energy? It’s true. According to U.S. Department of Energy, LED holiday lights use roughly 75 percent less energy, and can last 25 times as long as incandescent bulbs. They also don't require a ton of maintenance and they never burn out (they’ll just get dimmer over time).
So before you start your holiday decorating, invest in LED lights. You’ll save yourself a lot of energy!
Just keep in mind that a little planning goes a long way. And on behalf of Sunnova, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season.
6 Fast Facts About the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
There are many scientists who say a total solar eclipse is among the most spectacular sights you can see in the sky. On Monday, August 21, a solar eclipse will cut across the entire United States. And wherever you are, you will be able to see it. Even though the totality – the area where the sun is completely blocked out by the moon – is only 70 miles while, the whole country (even Alaska and Hawaii) will experience a partial eclipse.
Here at Sunnova, we’ve already started the countdown to this rare celestial event. It is a great excuse to step outside in the summer and see a glimpse of the stars in the middle of the day. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind to get yourself prepared for this spectacular event.
What is a total solar eclipse?
A total solar eclipse is when the moon moves between the sun and Earth and lasting for up to three hours from the beginning to end. The lunar shadow darkens the sky, temperatures drop and stars will appear during a time that’s normally broad daylight. During the August eclipse, the longest period when the moon obscures the sun's entire surface from any given location along its path will last about two minutes and 40 seconds.
What's the big deal about a solar eclipse?
We all know, at least in the back of our minds, that we're living on a giant ball that revolves around a hot ball of gas, and we're somehow floating in space. But when you see a total solar eclipse, where everything lines up, and suddenly there's instant nighttime. Planets pop up, and sometimes you can see Mercury and Venus, maybe even Mars and Jupiter. It’s like the pictures from your middle school textbooks. So, it moves the concept from just an idea in your head to a total experience, and you may just have a better appreciation of where you are in the solar system.
What makes it so special?
The August eclipse is especially extraordinary because it's the first time the path of totality exclusively crosses the continental United States from coast to coast since June 8, 1918. That’s nearly 100 years!
Who can see it?
NASA estimates more than 300 million people in the United States could potentially directly view the total solar eclipse. The relatively thin path of totality will sweep across portions of 14 U.S. states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. However, the August solar eclipse will be visible to the entire North American continent. Keep in mind that weather may impact visibility in some locations.
How can you view it?
You never want to look directly at the sun with your naked eyes except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse when the moon entirely covers the sun's beaming face. But there are plenty of ways to safely view an eclipse of the sun, including special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers.
Ordinary sunglasses—even very dark ones—should not be used as a replacement for eclipse viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers. Be careful!
How will the solar eclipse impact my solar system?
According to grid experts you shouldn’t expect this event to create reliability issues despite the considerable amount of solar activity near the path of the solar eclipse. You can plan for the solar eclipse in the same way you’d plan for an extremely overcast day. Additionally, the amount of time of the eclipse will be small, so Sunnova does not expect any issues with the solar system.
Data released by U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that while there may be an impact on generation, the expectation is that the eclipse will not affect reliability of the electric systems.
States like California have spent months steadily ramping up resources to make up for the fall in solar output and subsequent return once the eclipse passes. Also, the North American Reliability Council has publicly stated that it does not expect significant issues in the bulk power system overall nationwide. stated that it does not expect significant issues in the bulk power system nationwide.
For more information about the solar eclipse, visit nasa.gov/eclipse.
Sunnova’s Guide to Diagnosing High Summer Utility Bills
Your utility power bill, unlike a credit card bill, can sometimes feel like a huge mystery. It’s just a couple of numbers—the amount of power you’ve used in the prior 30 days and a price per kilowatt hour—so why exactly does it seem like it gets so high, and what can you do about it? Here are a few things to know about your utility bill.
Look Closely: Your Utility Bill Might Actually Answer Your Questions!
In order to figure out why your electric bill seems high, the first thing you need to do is figure out what's normal. If your bill has spiked recently, just look at your old bills and see how much your usage has gone up.
Look only at the amount of electricity you used in kilowatt hours (kWh). Have you consumed a lot more electricity over the past several months? If your kWh usage is similar but the cost is now higher, then the answer as to why your bill seems higher is right there on your bill. It’s possible that the price of electricity went up, which will account for the change in your bill. Your utility company also might have demand charges if you have a very large home or small business, or perhaps you're being charged for other city services besides electricity.
Remember, you will continue getting two bills—one for your solar usage and one from your utility.
During the Summer, Consumption Jumps Up!
Did you know that a home’s air conditioning unit can account for up to 48 percent of your monthly energy consumption? That percentage jumps even higher during the summer months!
Sunny summer days will give you a boost in your production. After all, that’s what solar is all about! Remember you’re still getting savings through your solar system, and this may offset part of your energy consumption, but homeowners often consume much more energy during the summer months because we need to stay cooler; that coolness comes during hours of lower production, like on those warm summer nights.
If there’s a noticeable difference in how many kWh you’re using in the summer months, running your air conditioning unit more often might be the cause of your higher electricity bill.
Is Balanced or “Budget” Billing a Good Idea?Are you on a balanced billing or budget billing program with your utility company? If the answer is plan. Balanced billing is generally promoted as a good service. But remember, balanced billing is based on your home’s prior year’s entire energy consumption including energy your solar system now provides.
Things You Can Do Around the House
Energy Vamps Are Bleeding Your Dry!
Just a couple of decades ago, everything that used electricity had an on/off button. That meant "off" really meant off, but today, it’s a lot more complicated. Devices are in a constantly ready-to-use mode. We call that “standby.” Almost 10 percent of your home’s electricity is used to power standby mode, and though these energy vampires might make some of your daily tasks a couple seconds faster every day, it's likely costing you major cash along the way.
Anything with a clock, such as microwave ovens and coffee makers need power to keep time while turned off. What’s the solution? Start saving yourself some energy today by connecting these devices to power strips and turning off the power strips when you’re not using them. That way, off REALLY means off as you’ve effectively disconnected the device from the power source.
Dinosaur Appliances Cost Your Greens
Does your appliance look awfully retro? We know not everyone can go out and buy new appliances. But the fact is that dinosaur appliances use so more energy than new energy-efficient models. For some perspective, Energy Star didn’t begin rating those appliances until after 1997.
What’s the solution? This one’s easy. Upgrade your appliances with new energy-efficient models. A new energy-efficient refrigerator, for example, uses about four times less electricity than an older model.
Run Through a Home Inventory
Stop and ask yourself. How frequently do you use your inkjet printer? Once a month? Once a year? Practically never? Remember that little red light on top is a reminder that it’s sipping down pricey power every second of every minute of every day. So what else can you unplug?
You can find more resources on energy efficiency from the Department of Energy. Additionally, check our other summer tips on the Watts Up blog. Follow us on Twitter Instagram and Facebook for more information about solar!
Sizzling Summer Energy Conservation Tips
Summer is the season for lots of sunshine and longer days. Of course, we’re big fans of the sun here at Sunnova. But when those sunbeams are heating up your home, you’ll probably need extra air conditioning to cool off. And cooling that air uses a lot more energy than you would think. As things continue to heat up, here are some smart summer tips to keep you cooler for the summer in part two of our four-part Energy Efficiency series.
Around the home
Seal up air leaks. Sealing air leaks can result in up to 30% energy savings, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Unplug your battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not in use. Many chargers draw power continuously, even when the device is not plugged into the charger.
Ceiling fans are great investment you can make, particularly for rooms you use a lot, like bedrooms and your family room. Ceiling fans can make you more comfortable after you set your thermostat higher. But remember to turn them off when no one’s in the room.
Consider adding window screens, shades, blinds or window tinting to reduce the amount of sun coming into your home.
Gently wipe or vacuum your refrigerator and freezer coils (they’re usually located in the back of your refrigerator). Also, make certain there’s nothing obstructing the coils. Coils need air space to work properly.
Above your head
Keep your light bulbs clean. Dust reduces light output by as much as 25 percent.
Turn off incandescent lights when you are not in the room. Incandescent bulbs only use about 10-15% of their energy for light and the rest is given off as heat.
Replace a few of your most-used light fixtures and/or bulbs with LED lights. LED lights can be up to 80% more efficient than traditional lighting such as fluorescent and incandescent lights. In fact, LEDs convert 95% of the energy, and only 5% is wasted as heat. LED also draws far much less power than traditional lighting. For example, a typical 84 watt fluorescent can be replaced by a 36 watt LED to give the same level of light.
In the kitchen
When you preheat your oven, don't let it sit empty for longer than necessary. Don't open the door to check on food. Every time you do that, you lose 25% of the heat and it has to work to heat back up.
Also, avoid using the conventional oven when you’re trying to heat up or cook leftovers. Use microwaves and toaster ovens instead.
Let your food cool down before putting it in the refrigerator. Not only does it ensure your food tastes okay, it also means your refrigerator will use less energy to cool it down.
Pack your freezer. A full freezer is more efficient than an empty freezer. Fill up space with plastic containers of water if you have a lot of empty space.
Use glass or ceramic pans in ovens; they tend to heat much faster than metal pans.
Between the sheets
Wash and dry full loads, and don't over-dry clothes.
Avoid adding wet garments to a dryer load that has already been started. It’s a similar concept to not opening your oven before it’s through cooking your food.
Keep your dryer lint trap clean. Keeping those traps clean—the dryer lint filter clean after every load of laundry.
Consider washing your clothes with cold water. Most laundry detergents made these days work just as well in cold water.
Check back next week for part three of more tips for how to stay cool. Can’t wait for more tips. We recommend you visit www.energy.gov for more information.
How Cool Are You?
Summertime is upon us, so whether you've recently installed a solar system on your home or are considering adding one, now is the perfect time to think about energy efficiency. Beginning this week, we’re kicking off a series of home cooling tips. Here are just a few fast and easy ways to help offset more of your energy bills. We’ll be sharing more as the dog days of summer press on, so follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more information about solar!
Power: Reduce Menacing Phantom Loads
You’ve dropped the shades. You’ve cranked up the thermostat. And still, your energy bill is running higher than you expected. It might just be what’s called a “phantom load”. What in the world is a phantom load? Well, it’s a clever phrase used to identify just about everything in your home that has a switch and a power cord, and anything that has a power cord and plugs into a wall keeps using power even when it’s turned off. In fact, many items draw close to full power in standby or sleep mode — 24 hours a day. Here’s a quick tip to remember how to manage those phantoms in your home — if it’s plugged in, it’s drawing power.
Don’t have time to unplug every appliance in your house? Here’s a solution! Plug your TVs, espresso machines, gaming consoles and small appliances into a power strip, and turn the power strip off when you aren’t using these items.
Water: Drop It Like It’s Hot
Did you know that washing your clothes in cold water and running full loads when using your dishwasher, washer and dryer can make a huge difference in lowering power bills? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 90 percent of the energy associated with washing clothes is actually related to heating the water.
Here’s another tip: run your dishwasher using cold water, and air dry your dishes.
Air Conditioners: It’s Getting Hot in Here (No Seriously, It’s…Hot)
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air conditioners use nearly six percent of all electricity produced in the United States. This costs homeowners nearly $29 billion annually!
What can you do to make your air conditioner run more efficiently? First, replace your air conditioning filters every month. If your air conditioning unit is on the ground, keep the area around it clean and free of debris or obstructions that might decrease airflow. Set your thermostat at 78 or higher, especially when you’re not home, and use floor and ceiling fans whenever possible. And finally, have your air conditioning unit serviced at least once a year. Ask your air conditioning specialist to install a smart thermostat. They’re inexpensive, and you’ll be surprised at how this simple piece of technology can help you stay cool for the summer!
We’ll be sharing more tips until it gets cooler which we all hope is soon!
Sunnova Supports Protecting Consumers
The residential solar industry is booming. In 2016, the industry grew almost 20% compared to 2015 and 2,500 MW of rooftop solar was installed. This demand stems from a clear desire on behalf of consumers to save money and have more control over their energy production and costs.
Homeowners now have a number of contract options for solar power service that include leases, power purchase agreements (PPAs), loans, property assessed clean energy (PACE) and outright purchase with no contract. At Sunnova, we offer leases, PPAs and loans and we always cover the system’s operations and maintenance needs. When deciding to sign up for solar power, it is important that consumers ensure that they are working with a reputable company that will be around in the long term to save the customer and repair the system when something goes wrong. The Solar Energy Industries Association has guidelines for consumers to follow if they are interested.
Solar companies are not fully regulated by any one entity. Sunnova believes that solar companies would benefit from more clear guidance on consumer protection issues. Because solar companies sell energy, it would make sense for them to be regulated by state Public Utility Commissions (PUCs). These state PUCs could ensure that best practices are implemented that companies must follow in order to do business.
One of the most basic but critical components of ensuring that consumers who sign up for solar power are protected is requiring companies to provide for operations and maintenance services for solar systems over the life of the system. Solar power companies should be required to provide for the continued functioning of those systems so that consumers are not saddled with a substantial investment that no longer works. At the same time, the companies providing operations and maintenance should be backed by a credit-worthy entity so that regardless of what happens to the contractor who did the original installation, the system will be monitored and maintained for the long-term.
A number of state legislatures have passed or are considering consumer protection legislation for solar customers. The U.S. Congress is also looking into this issue. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) recently introduced a bill that would require PACE lenders to disclose to homeowners that PACE imposes a lien on homes. This bill is a common-sense measure that will protect consumers without harming the industry. Sunnova fully supports this legislation and other, similar legislation that ensures companies are good actors who are honestly serving their customers.
It harms both consumers and the entire solar industry if there are no commonsense rules protecting our customers. We encourage PUCs to consider regulating solar companies as energy companies, we support common-sense legislation to benefit homeowners, and we are supportive of Senator Cotton’s bill to impose rules on PACE lenders that require reasonable efforts to protect customers. We encourage others in our industry to support these regulations to ensure that solar customers get the best deal at the best price from reputable companies who are straightforward with them—just like Sunnova is.
What is Net Metering?
Net-metering (also referred to as “Net Energy Metering” or “NEM”) is a system of accounting and billing for solar energy usage and generation at a home. Utility companies are often required by the state in which they operate to implement NEM to credit a homeowner for excess solar generation not used onsite and sent, or “exported,” to the electrical grid from a home. This process allows residential solar power systems to feed unused electricity onto the grid and receive a credit for the supply of the energy.
The credits for that exported solar energy accrue over the course of a utility customer’s billing cycle. Credit for that accrual is established based on a predetermined value and usually applies to a future billing cycle. Without assigning a fair value for the exported energy from a home, excess solar energy would be delivered to the electrical grid at no cost to the utility which would effectively mean that they were getting something (energy) for nothing which would hurt homeowners. It would also diminish the expected energy savings associated with the installation of a solar system because the excess energy produced in a home would have no value.
Net-metering regulation occurs at the state level either through legislation or through the Public Utilities Commission, if the utility is an investor owned utility. Policies and implementation vary widely across the country. Ultimately, the point of net metering is to provide a standard accounting method for exported energy that reflects the value and service of the energy delivered to the utility grid. This value should account for the reduced need of traditional electricity generation as well as gains in system efficiency across the greater electricity grid infrastructure.
How Does Net-Metering Work?
Solar energy generation feeds directly into a home and powers household electrical loads like lights, power outlets and appliances. However, throughout the day, the energy needs of a home do not always align perfectly with a solar system’s output. At any given moment, a home’s energy needs can be below or above the energy output of the solar system. This means that energy going to and from a home is in a constant ebb and flow.
- When a solar system’s generation exceeds the power needs of a home, solar energy flows TO the grid.
- When a home’s electricity needs are higher than its solar generation, energy flows FROM the grid.
An electrical meter at the home records all of the delivered and exported energy flow; measured in kilowatt-hours. The utility charges a homeowner for the energy that is sent to a home at the retail electricity rate
per kilowatt-hour. Conversely, a utility gives credits for the energy exported from the home at the NEM rate per kilowatt-hour. These two rates, retail and NEM, may or may not be the same depending on local rules and guidelines.
At the end of a billing cycle, the TO and FROM values are calculated at the predetermined kilowatt-hour rates and the difference between the values is reflected in the bill to the homeowner. Hence the term “net” metering - the value for the difference between the delivered and received energy at a home. For some utilities, this cycle occurs monthly. For other utilities, net energy is accounted for on an annual basis with a single true up at the end of the billing year.
Utilities Are Trying to Block Your Right to Choose
Electric utilities have operated for a century without any competition. It was a bargain made long ago on behalf of the American people: Utilities can operate as monopolies as long as their prices are fair and they provide electric service to anyone that wants it. To make this construct work, utilities are overseen by regulators and guaranteed a profit.
As a society, we’ve been largely ok with that bargain. It was just a fact of life that if we wanted lights, refrigerators and air conditioners, we had to pay whatever the utility asked. In fact, about the only times we think about the utility is when the lights don’t turn on or when our bill is higher than usual.
You have a choice
Well, now it’s 2017 and people are starting to realize they have options. In many places across the country, solar is more affordable, more reliable and cleaner than utility power. Solar adoption is growing and not just where you’d expect it to. Yes, California is a popular solar state, but even in Texas, where utility prices are some of the lowest in the country, solar is gaining ground.
And the utilities are fighting this shift to energy choice because they’re scared.
First, they fought net metering, a paradigm that credits solar homeowners for solar power they send to the grid. Then, utilities started building giant solar farms themselves. Why? Because they know it’s a good way for them to save money (but don’t expect to see your utility rates fall any time soon). Now, they’re proposing exorbitant fees and charges to penalize solar customers and to make sure that they are the only ones that can produce and sell electricity. Their goal is to stop people from having a choice in how, where and at what cost their energy is generated.
If electricity were an open market like most other markets, utilities would simply lower their prices to compete with solar. But it’s not an open market. It’s a monopoly and so you have to pay whatever they ask. Instead of lowering their energy prices to compete, rent-seeking utilities are trying to make solar more expensive for people who just want to save some money. You should be angry because these anti-competitive practices affect your bottom line.
Paying for something you don’t use
Last Friday (March 17), Oncor, a utility based in Dallas, filed their rate case with the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT). The PUCT oversees regulated utilities in the state and part of that oversight is deciding on rate increases as part of rate cases.
Here’s a transcript of Oncor’s full testimony (.pdf).
Basically, Oncor is proposing to charge solar customers for electricity they are not consuming. Think about that and imagine being charged for gas you didn’t pump into your car or a meal you didn’t order or eat at a restaurant. Oncor wants to charge solar customers an exorbitant minimum bill to make sure that they continue to make a profit. However, they don’t care about your bottom line.
Now consider that in states that embrace rooftop solar, the utilities are actually saved money by not having to undertake expensive upgrades or building power plants. Ultimately, that saves consumers money.
If you live in a state where the utilities are using their monopoly status to block your right to choose how you power your home, contact your public utility commission and let them know how you feel. You may not be ready to have solar panels on your home, and that’s ok. You still have a vested interest in a competitive and fair market, because competition drives prices down and innovation up, and everyone wins.
The Top 5 Reasons Your Electricity Usage Might Increase
Solar power, unlike coal or oil, is a renewable resource. Every day, the sun rises and keeps the Earth a livable temperature and nourishes plants and animals. To make electricity, some homes have a solar power system that converts sunlight into electricity to power modern life. It’s pretty magical.
Because it seems magical, it’s easy to forget that renewable doesn’t mean unlimited. But the fact is that no matter the number of panels a particular solar system has, there is a limit to how much power it can produce.
Depending on the amount of annual sunshine, the location and number of panels, every solar system is designed to produce a certain amount of power to meet your electricity needs. To really see savings with solar, it’s important not to increase your electricity use dramatically.
Increasing electricity use after going solar will make it seem like you aren’t saving money. But really, your solar system, no matter the size, will provide power and reduce the amount of electricity you consume from the grid.
The most popular reasons electricity use increases
There are a number of reasons why electricity usage spikes. The top reasons we see at Sunnova are:
- Hot Weather: You may be really good at keeping tabs on your thermostat, but a long run of really hot days will make your air conditioner work harder and more often.
- Visiting Family: Adding more people to your home increases the use of every resource in your home, from hot water to food, and even electricity.
- An Electric Vehicle: A lot of solar customers want to reduce their carbon footprint everywhere they can, so they buy an electric car. It’s a great idea, but recognize that you may be outstripping the production of your solar system.
- The Holidays: Between Christmas lights and family get-togethers, your electricity use is far from your normal amount during the other 11 months of the year.
- A Failing Appliance: When an air conditioner or refrigerator are on their last days, they become horribly inefficient. With fridges especially, it’s common to keep your old one after you buy a newer, more efficient model — adding to the amount of electricity you use.
How to keep your usage in check
The first step to making sure you see savings from solar is simply to track your usage. After you understand your home’s electricity use, you’ll want to find ways to shift use to the day time. Solar systems produce electricity during the day and whatever power you don’t use gets sent to the grid. Running your dishwasher or doing laundry during the day instead of at night, when you use power from the grid, will help reduce your utility bill.
You can also make your home more energy efficient. Switching to LED lights, buying energy efficient appliances and insulating your home will help reduce your overall energy consumption and help you save money.
If you haven’t gone solar yet, schedule an appointment with a Sunnova partner to find out how much solar can save you.
Understanding Your Household Energy Consumption
Whether you're preparing your home for a residential solar power system, or you simply want to learn more about how much electricity you use, the first step involves understanding your household energy consumption. Only by understanding your consumption can you ultimately cut down on your energy costs.
Amps, watts, volts, lumens - there's a lot of different terminology used to describe and measure electricity. Due to the large number of terms employed, understanding your home's energy consumption begins with knowing what these words mean and how they're impacted by your electricity usage.
For instance, the typical U.S. household consumed an average of 901 kilowatt-hours a month in 2015, or about 10,812 kWh for the year, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. However, the amount varies greatly from one state to the next. Louisiana topped the list of most electricity used with 1,291 kWh per month, while residents of Hawaii only needed 506 kWh a month.
But unless you know what a kilowatt-hour is, these numbers won't make much sense, and it'll be tougher to cut your energy usage accordingly.
As its name states, a kilowatt-hour is the measure of the amount of kilowatts used during one hour of time. A kilowatt is a unit of power used to determine the rate at which energy is generated or used.
Think about a single 100-watt lightbulb in a lamp. If you leave this lightbulb switched on for 10 hours, it will consume 1,000 watt-hours, or 1 kWh. Similarly, 10 100-watt bulbs burning for only 1 hour will use the same amount of electricity. However, from a demand perspective, the utility will need to provide 10 times the amount of electricity to supply energy for the second scenario compared to the first one.
Armed with this knowledge, you'll have a much better sense of how much energy your home consumes, as well as how much it costs to run the appliances and devices that use this electricity.
How much energy do typical appliances require?
Not all appliances and devices use the same amount of electricity to operate.
There is no single overarching formula to determine how to calculate the total energy of every individual appliance. This means you'll have to figure out how much each appliance is using.
Many items will have the wattage used stamped on the bottom or the back. However, it should be noted that there are some appliances and electronics that will continue draining energy even when they're not turned on or are in standby mode. These are sometimes referred to as “energy vampires”.
Certain items, though, will stand out as being the most energy hungry. Heating and cooling your home, for instance, typically account for nearly half of all residential energy costs, with heating consuming roughly 30 percent and cooling about 20 percent, noted Mass Save, an energy efficiency company. Regular maintenance and annual checkups for your heating, vacuum and air conditioning system can help keep your HVAC system working at its most efficient.
A water heater is another big energy consumer since you use this to run a dishwasher, shower or bathe, and clean clothing. This can eat up as much as 15 percent of your home's energy, with the washer and dryer consuming another 13 percent on average, the source noted.
With a greater understanding of your electricity usage, you can better control your overall consumption. A more energy-efficient home coupled with a rooftop solar PV system can drastically reduce your utility bills.
Click here for more information on how a residential solar installation can save you even more on your monthly electric bill.
Our Solar Service Plans are 25 Years Long. Here's Why.
Each of our solar service plans is designed around a 25-year agreement term. That number wasn’t chosen at random; it was chosen to maximize customer savings and ensure every Sunnova solar power system is warrantied for a very long time.
Think about it like a mortgage. Houses are pretty expensive to buy outright. But, when you spread the cost of a home out over 30 years of monthly payments, it becomes as affordable as an apartment. It’s the same premise with solar.
Making solar affordable
Depending on where you live, an average-sized system can cost anywhere from $18,000 to $30,000. It’s not as expensive as a few years ago, but still more expensive than most people can afford outright. By spreading the cost of a system over 25 years of monthly payments, a solar system isn’t just affordable, it actually saves you money. That’s because every kilowatt-hour that system produces is less expensive than what your utility charges.
In fact, before you sign up for solar with Sunnova, we run the numbers. If we don’t think solar will save you money, we don’t sign you up.
We know 25 years seems like a long time. But you’ll always need electricity and without solar, your electricity prices will always be whatever the utility says they are — and they almost always go up. With solar from Sunnova, you know exactly how much you’ll pay for every kilowatt-hour, for 25 years.
With a comprehensive warranty
And we know your system will last that long for two reasons: 1. The major components of a solar system are really robust, with an average lifespan of 20+ years. 2. We cover every piece of the system, from the panels and inverters to the wiring, with a comprehensive warranty for 25 years. If any issue pops up with a Sunnova system, we’ll send someone out to fix it and replace any needed parts at no additional cost to you.
With low monthly payments and a warranty that ensures your system keeps humming along for decades, we really believe in saving you money.
To Enjoy Solar Savings, Keep an Eye on Energy Consumption
If you're a homeowner preparing to purchase rooftop solar PV systems, or if you've just initiated this process, it's important that you have a solid sense of your energy usage. Without understanding your household energy consumption and taking steps to improve its efficiency, there's no metric for knowing how much you're ultimately saving. Worse, not paying attention to your household energy consumption can potentially lead to higher bills than you're expecting.
With electricity prices in a constant state of fluctuation, many homeowners are looking for more cost-effective solutions to rising energy prices. One such solution is a rooftop solar PV system.
There are several advantages to installing residential solar panels. First, it immediately offers you significant savings on your utility bill. Second, unlike electricity from the grid that's subject to price spikes, the cost of solar energy remains the same. Third, this power source relies on clean, renewable energy.
However, when you set off to take advantage of the benefits of solar power, you should set realistic expectations for your solar system to ensure it's delivering the anticipated savings based on your energy usage levels.
Rising energy consumption
Despite more individuals being conscious of the need to reduce energy consumption, several factors have actually pushed electricity usage higher in some areas.
As noted by Scientific American, rising incomes, coupled with increased home sizes and relocations to warmer climates have all led to a rise in energy consumption. The first of these trends has led to more indifference from homeowners about their utility bills. The second element has created the need for higher energy demand, and people living in hotter environments has boosted air conditioning usage and swimming pool-related energy use. Combined, these three conditions have all contributed to less energy efficiency.
Lowering energy consumption is simply smart
A common misconception among some homeowners is that installing a rooftop solar PV system means they have access to an unlimited source of energy. While solar power is renewable, each system is designed to produce a certain amount of energy in a single day. Due to this misunderstanding, some users increase their energy consumption to such a degree that they don't enjoy the savings they expected.
This means it's more important than ever to keep an eye on your energy consumption before, during and after the installers set up your solar panels. By tracking how much electricity you're using, you can more easily pinpoint problem areas and implement an improvement plan.
Remaining conscious of your consumption
Thankfully, there are several simple and effective ways to track your energy consumption and easily reduce the amount of electricity used in your household. Consider these tips for improving the energy efficiency of your home:
Fight energy vampires
No, it's not the plot of the latest blockbuster film. Energy vampires are appliances and other electronic devices, like TVs and computers, that continue to suck energy even when they're turned off and not in use. It might not seem like a lot, but unplugging these machines after you turn them off can go a long way to reducing your energy consumption and lowering your electric bill.
Use the IoT and smart devices
The internet has revolutionized nearly every aspect of society, and household energy consumption is no exception. The Internet of Things and the related smart devices have given homeowners the ability to accurately track their electricity usage. A study conducted by Parks Associates, a market research and consulting company, revealed that 70 percent of U.S. households indicated they were able to reduce their energy consumption and save money by using smart energy devices.
Devices like CURB, a home energy monitoring system, deliver granular data on your energy usage straight to your mobile device or personal computer.
With this information in hand, you can make smarter decisions on your home energy consumption, identify irregularities and inconsistent patterns in electricity usage, allowing you to uncover inefficient appliances or potential problems. It also provides you with the ability to better estimate your utility bill.
In addition to using the IoT and smart devices, eco-friendly products can also help make your home more energy efficient. For example, switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs such as light-emitting diodes, commonly referred to as LEDs, can save your household on electricity costs. Replacing an old 60-watt incandescent bulb with an LED reduces energy consumption to only 10 watts needed to produce the same amount of light, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council.
Further, windows, doors and major appliances all have energy-efficient versions of their normal counterparts. Although the energy-efficient versions can be a bit pricier than their typical counterparts, they can all contribute to reducing your energy consumption and utility bills.
With a little extra attention and a few proactive decisions, you can improve your home's energy efficiency and get even more savings after you install a rooftop solar PV system.
5 Mind-Blowing Facts About Solar Energy
With the growing popularity of solar power, you might scratch your head and wonder what's going on with solar energy.
While you may be familiar with the the many benefits of solar power - reduced electricity bills, lack of pollution, ease of installation and low maintenance requirements - you may not know the details that make these benefits possible.
Consider these five mind-blowing facts about solar power
1. The Earth receives enough sunlight in one hour to power the world for one year
The upper atmosphere receives 174 petawatts of incoming solar radiation, Conserve Energy Future reported. Of this, 70 percent gets absorbed by clouds, oceans, and land masses, with the remaining 30 percent reflected into outer space.
This means that on any given day, the world receives enough sunlight in one hour to provide enough energy to fully power the entire world for an entire year. For now, we don't yet have the capabilities to fully harness this much insolation, but the potential for capturing more sunlight and converting it into clean, renewable energy is massive.
2. Rooftop solar can potentially save you $20,000 - or more!
Since every household has varying energy demands, it's tough to pinpoint an average amount of savings from solar. Federal and state tax credits and other local rebates, such as net metering, will impact the final price tag for a solar system. In addition, the amount of sunlight your region receives creates a wide spectrum of cost savings between different states.
However, according to Understand Solar, the average savings after 20 years comes in at around $20,000. The low-end of savings rests at $8,500 in states with few incentives and low insolation, like Kansas and North Dakota. The high end can reach into the $30,000 range in states like California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Florida, where sunlight is bountiful. One outlier exists in Hawaii, where the high insolation and increasing energy costs put the savings at $64,769 over the course of two decades.
Since most solar panels are guaranteed with 25- to 30-year lifetime warranties, there's a chance for even more savings in the long run. Further, your ultimate savings comes down to your home's energy efficiency and demands. The more energy efficient your home and the lower your energy demands, then the faster you'll obtain ROI on the system and begin generating free electricity.
3. A residential PV system can cut 100 tons of CO2
A residential PV system is a durable investment with benefits that increase over time. This applies to both the cost savings and the reduction in harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Over the projected 28-year lifetime of the average rooftop solar system that generates half of a household's electricity demand, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that it would offset the production of:
- One-third ton of nitrogen oxides.
- Half a ton of sulfur dioxide.
- 100 tons of carbon dioxide.
Keep in mind, these are the numbers for a single household with a 2-year energy payback, or the length of time it takes for a PV system to recoup the energy and associated emissions generated during the manufacturing of the panels and balance of system.
4. The weight of solar panels is minuscule
While solar panels do add a few extra pounds to your roof, the system is designed to be lightweight and durable. All of the equipment, including the PV modules, mounting rack and additional balance of system, only weigh between two and four pound per square foot, Sunmetric reported. This typically falls into most roofs' acceptable stress limits. In fact, a solar system can actually protect your roof from weathering and aging, since it adds another layer to block the shingles from the elements.
However, you might want to check with your roofing company to see how a solar panel may affect the roof's warranty.
5. Solar panels can boost home values
A rooftop PV system can actually boost your home's value. A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that when looking at the repeat sales data for homes in San Diego and Sacramento County, solar panels provided an average $20,194 premium to the final price. Unlike a kitchen remodeling or adding a spare room to your home, solar panels reduce your energy bills and continue generating value. Forbes found that, on average, homeowners who installed rooftop solar systems recovered approximately 97 percent of the initial investment before the savings from lowered electricity costs or net metering energy buybacks are factored in. In comparison, remodeling a luxury kitchen only nets about 60 percent of its investment costs.
Click here to learn more facts about how solar power can save you money and contribute to a cleaner environment.
Why Service Matters: The Importance of Your Solar Service Provider
Installing solar panels on your home can be a long process that requires a fair amount of research and a thorough understanding of all the issues surrounding this clean, renewable energy source. Thankfully, solar providers can streamline the entire process while ensuring you receive the best solar service possible. Here are just a few of the biggest reasons why service matters when you go solar:
Making solar panel installations easier
The first steps in the solar panel installation process are all about research. Installing solar panels requires more than simply tossing a few modules on your rooftop and calling it a day. You need to figure out which module type works best for your particular situation, both financially and technically. You should ask yourself:
- How can I most effectively align the panels for maximum insolation capture?
- How do I operate and maintain the balance of a system that includes the wiring, switches, mounting gear, etc.?
- How much should I be spending on solar panel installation?
These are just a few of the factors to consider before, during and after installing the solar system. As you can see, there's a lot to learn.
Here's the good news: Solar services providers can answer a lot of these questions for you, right up front. As noted by SolarNation, full-service solar providers handle the project management of the entire installation with their own highly trained and experienced team of certified installers. This reduces, and sometimes even eliminates, the bulk of the issues facing homeowners who want to install solar panels. Instead of having to go through the time-consuming process of learning the ins and outs of the solar power conversion process, a solar service provider does the work for you and makes solar panel installations easy.
Reducing solar panel costs
Saving money on your electricity bill is no doubt one of, if not THE, main reason for installing solar panels. So reducing the costs associated with a solar panel installation goes hand in hand with this goal. Fortunately, there are numerous federal, state and local-level incentives available for homeowners looking to install solar panels.
However, navigating through the forms and information related to all of these deals and tax exemptions can be exhausting and overwhelming for homeowners. Once again, this is where solar service providers step in. These companies deftly maneuver this bureaucratic labyrinth, ensuring you obtain the best deals possible to reduce the cost of your solar panel installation.
Long-term benefits of solar service providers
A solar service provider offers many benefits that do not come with traditional solar system ownership. Although solar companies manufacture panels to be highly durable and reliable to withstand exposure to the elements for several decades, this equipment will occasionally need repairs and/or maintenance. Outright solar panel ownership requires consumers to handle any repairs and maintenance, which comes right out of their own pocket.
Solar service providers, on the other hand, will usually pay for any repairs and maintenance or send out their own technicians to handle these issues. According to Solar Industry Magazine, the service providers have the health of the PV industry in their best interest as they also want to ensure your panels are optimizing their solar energy generation.
Click here to learn more about how solar service providers can help make your PV installment easier and more cost-effective.
Comparing Solar Energy Advantages and Disadvantages
You've probably seen solar panels installed on houses and businesses in your neighborhood, and you've no doubt come across a neighbor or friend extolling the virtues of a rooftop solar power system. And along with every piece of positive news, someone might have mentioned a bit of negative feedback on solar power. While there are both pros and cons to solar power, the advantages far outweigh the negatives.
Consider these solar energy advantages and disadvantages when weighing the benefits of what this renewable power source has to offer:
Advantages of solar power
Cost savings from solar
So what's great about solar? The biggest advantage of using solar energy is the potential savings you’ll receive. A rooftop solar system soaks up the sun's rays and converts this energy into usable electric power. This supplements energy pulled from the grid, thereby lowering your utility bill. When the energy the system produces exceeds your consumption demands, you can also feed this extra power back into the grid for additional credit toward your utility bills. This process, known as net metering, not only saves you more money in the long run, but studies have shown that these programs are positive for all ratepayers.
An unlimited source of renewable power
Another major advantage of solar energy is that it's ultimately a free power source once the system has been paid off. Better yet, not only is solar power free, it's an indefinitely renewable resource that doesn't require any drilling, mining or other dangerous extraction methods that can cause production problems and lead to energy cost fluctuations.
Compared to the volatility of natural gas prices, solar power provides a more stable and consistent source of energy for homeowners. Even utility-scale providers are jumping on the solar-energy bandwagon because of more enticing cost considerations. By 2021, power delivered from utility-scale solar plants will be less expensive than electricity produced by natural gas, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Boost property value
Not only do solar panels lower your utility bills, but they can also potentially increase your property value. A recent study by a member of the Appraisal Institute and released by the LBNL compared the sale of 43 houses across six different states and found that homes with solar systems sold at a higher premium than those without solar systems.
Out of sight, out of mind
Another solid advantage of solar power is that once you install the system on your roof, you can sit back and watch the savings roll in with very little maintenance. Solar panels are designed to be durable enough to withstand long-term exposure to the elements and continue generating energy for decades.
Further, there's a direct relationship between the size of your home, the amount of electricity you use and the number of solar panels that can fit on your roof. Smaller houses have lower energy needs so they don't need a big solar system. While larger homes, on the other hand, consume more energy, but they can also hold more panels on their roofs to generate more power.
Disadvantages of solar panels
The only real disadvantage of a rooftop solar system is that when diminished sunlight reaches your panels, such as at night or during significant cloud cover, you'll generate less energy. Additionally, snowfall, dust and other types of shading can potentially reduce the amount of sunlight hitting your modules, which can limit the amount of energy the system produces.
Thankfully, most people are typically sleeping when the sun is down, which reduces their energy needs. And most of the debris that may block the solar panel is relatively tiny and easy to clear off, making the overall impact minuscule.
Avoiding a common misconception
While the negatives of solar power might be few, there are a few common misconceptions that some end users might mistake as a disadvantage. For instance, there's an assumption that once a residential solar system is installed on a house, homeowners are free to use as much electricity as they want. However, this can actually lead to a higher utility bill!
It's important to maintain and even boost your home's energy efficiency to make sure you're maximizing the energy output from your rooftop solar system. This can include adding additional insulation, installing a smart home energy monitoring system or replacing old windows with energy-efficient ones.
Click here to learn about the advantages of solar energy.
The Cost of Solar Continues to Drop
Across the country, people are adopting solar energy faster than ever before. Although there are many reasons why, one of the biggest motivators has been the steadily declining cost of solar energy. A solar energy system helps save money on electricity bills, so any drop in the cost will ultimately result in lower overall energy costs.
Global signs of declining solar costs
Around the world, developers are installing different types of solar panels and arrays highlighting just how far the cost of solar has dropped. In a span of only five months, two new installations illustrated how the cost of solar declined about 25 percent – reaching an all-time low in the cost per kilowatt-hour.
One of the reasons for this aggressive price drop is that solar manufacturers are learning how to use better technology to cut the costs of equipment. As a result, places like the northeastern U.S. saw the price of solar panel deliveries drop by 25-30% between the first and third quarters of 2016.
Frank Wouter, the former director of renewable-energy investment company Masdar Clean Energy, said, "There's no reason why the cost of solar will ever increase again."
In his keynote address at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance annual conference in April, BNEF Chairman Michael Liebreich explained how long-term deployment programs in the solar industry have created such an optimal price environment.
"We've seen the costs come down by a factor of 150 since 1975," Liebreich said. "We've seen volume up by 115,000."
The declining cost of solar around the world suggests where the overall industry is heading. For instance, analysts project a new 100MW solar array in Nevada to deliver electricity at $0.04/kWh. This is a major drop from the current average cost.
Low costs make solar more accessible
Falling solar energy costs will continue to provide a greater incentive for homeowners to install rooftop solar systems. It’s tempting to keep waiting for prices to keep dropping, but the longer you wait the longer you’ll be paying more for your electricity than you need to.
With $0 down and low monthly payments, a solar system from Sunnova can save you money the moment it’s turned on. Plus, every Sunnova system is backed by a 25-year, panel-to-panel warranty that covers every piece of the system and the labor to replace it, if necessary.
We do this because the best way to save you money is to ensure your system is producing clean, affordable energy. To find out more about solar and to find a plan that fits your needs, click here.
Driving Halfway Around the World in a Solar Power Car
Even though solar energy is becoming more popular than ever, many people around the world are still unaware of the revolutionary power of the sun. To raise awareness about the immense capabilities of solar power, an engineer recently outfitted his vehicle with solar panels and drove it from India to England using nothing but energy from the sun.
A solar-powered trek
In a journey that lasted seven months and covered more than 6,000 miles, Naveen Rabelli drove from India to Britain in a solar-powered tuk-tuk - a vehicle that is essentially an automotive rickshaw with three wheels. The expedition took him through Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and France before he crossed the English Channel from Calais, India Times reported.
"The highlights have been the way people have helped me out along the way and supported me,” Naveen told The Guardian. "People love the tuk-tuk, particularly in Iran and many other countries. They come forward and take selfies. And the moment I tell them it doesn't require petrol, their minds are blown."
Naveen outfitted the tuk-tuk with a bed, a seat for a co-passenger, a cupboard for food and a solar-powered cooker.
This journey halfway around the world resulted in zero carbon emissions produced by his solar power vehicle and highlights the revolutionary potential to power automobiles with nothing more than sunlight.
The spread of sun-fueled cars
Although the solar-powered tuk-tuk Naveen drove halfway around the world was a prototype he mostly designed and built himself, several auto manufacturers are jumping on the solar-powered bandwagon.
Hanergy Holding Group, a Chinese solar panel manufacturer, recently released four different models of solar power cars. Constructed of lightweight material and covered in thin-film solar cells, a five to six-hour charge of sunlight will generate eight to 10 kilowatt-hours of energy for the cars. This translates to a conversion rate of 31.6 percent and a 50-mile range.
In addition, Sono Motors, a German startup, recently raised more than $200,000 in a crowdfunding effort to produce prototypes of an electric car powered by solar energy through integrated solar panels.
While Hanergy and Sono Motors are just two auto manufacturer leading the way in delivering solar power cars to the mass market, university students from the around continue to tinker with new ways to combine this clean, renewable energy source with the traditional driving experience that's familiar to everyone. For instance, in Nigeria, an engineering student added solar panels and a wind turbine to a classic Volkswagen Beetle for just $6,000, using mostly scrap parts. Not only do the solar panels provide free energy to power the car during the day time, but the turbine also allows air to flow through the grill, which is then used to charge the vehicle's battery, overcoming some of the limitations of driving at night that a purely solar-powered automobile might face.
With so many people and companies around the world working diligently to perfect a car that runs on sunlight, it should only be a matter of time before solar power cars become the new reality.
3-D Printing Solar Could Revolutionize Renewable Energy
Scientists and engineers continue to find creative ways to generate cheaper options for solar power. One promising new technique is 3-D printing solar cells. The 3-D printing process has the potential to pave the way for a revolution in solar power generation, reducing costs, improving efficiency and removing barriers to the adoption of residential PV systems.
3-D printing solar changing the game
As noted by Greener Ideal, solar panel efficiency and cost are two of the biggest obstacles to bringing this clean, renewable energy source to the mass market. While expenses have dropped in the past few years as efficiency has risen, the upfront cost for installing a residential solar system may still make some homeowners skeptical, despite the long-term savings gained from lowered electricity bills after installing a solar system.
Thankfully, scientists have developed a way to boost efficiency while lowering the cost of solar panels. The development, advancement and adoption of 3-D printing technology has opened the door for using this process to print solar cells. This technique involves a large industrial printer creating a long film or roll of solar cells that is flexible and easily shippable. While this method is largely confined to companies with industrial 3-D printing capacity, it's not a stretch to see how these low-cost and high-efficiency factors could quickly make this technology more easily available to the average homeowner.
From cars to homes to manufacturing components and everything in between, 3-D printing technology is bringing the production of nearly everything to the masses, and the solar industry is taking note. Ohio University listed both 3-D printing and alternative energy as two of the six industries primed for significant growth in the near future. This suggests the point where these two sectors overlap should see tremendous investment and innovation.
The many benefits of 3-D printing solar
The 3-D solar cell-printing process a less expensive method for creating solar panels. By bringing down the cost, this makes the technology easier to produce. Some estimates project a drop in price of 50 percent after eliminating the costs of expensive materials such as glass and polysilicon, and eliminating pricey overhead for shipping such fragile products.
3-D printed solar panels are also much more efficient than traditional modules. According to 3Dprint.com, British scientists at the National Physical Laboratory recently 3-D printed solar cells that actually perform better during cloudy conditions.
Another benefit 3-D printing solar panels may offer people is the ability to create customizable solar panels from the comforts of their own home. While the technology for individual production is still somewhat limited, the potential for 3-D printing solar could provide a way for just about anyone to become a self-sufficient energy producer.
Even though solar manufacturers continue to push the boundaries on solar panels through innovative 3-D printing techniques, there's still no reason for homeowners or commercial end users to wait on installing a solar panel on their houses or businesses. No matter how much the technology evolves, the sooner someone installs a solar PV system - no matter the process by which the panel is constructed - the quicker they'll start saving money on their utility bills.
Do Changes to Net Metering Policy Mean the End of Residential Solar?
The widening adoption of residential solar is upending the hundred-year-old utility business model. Helped along by laws that find a balance between consumers’ and utilities’ needs, some utilities are embracing this change. But, some aren’t.
For those utilities fighting against residential solar, their argument focuses on something called net metering. Solar systems produce energy whenever sunlight hits the panels. Sometimes that energy is produced and it can’t all be used in the home. When this happens, the energy is sent onto the electrical grid to help power other homes and businesses. Net metering is when you, as a person with a solar system on your roof, are credited for the energy you send onto the grid. Essentially, net metering means that residential solar systems are miniature power plants providing clean, safe energy for others to use.
The argument made against net metering is that it lowers bills for solar-powered homes, shifting power infrastructure costs to non-solar customers. In Nevada, this argument was effective in changing the rules around net metering for a period of time and solar growth essentially stopped in the state. This led some analysts to believe that the end of net metering will mean the end of residential solar.
But it’s not clear that net metering is ending.
The overall benefits of net metering
Despite the grim picture some utilities paint of net metering, many studies have found that it’s not just homeowners with solar systems seeing benefits from net metering programs, but everyone using the grid in that region. Consider, for example, the following:
- A recent study conducted in California, the state that generates the most solar power in the U.S., found that the current net metering program generates benefits for all residents in the state and did not create any additional costs for ratepayers who did not have solar systems.
- Researchers in Missouri conducted a cost-benefit study of net metering and discovered the program benefits every customer, regardless of whether they have their own solar systems. Although the study's authors did not quantify the net effect of net metering, they concluded that it is positive.
- The Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center conducted a review of 11 recent analyses of net metering in the state. The Center found that these programs deliver greater benefits to the grid and society through avoided energy costs and investments, reduced financial risks and electricity prices, increased grid resiliency, a decrease in harmful pollution and a boost in the local economy through more jobs.
Importantly, Nevada, which ended its net metering program in January 2016, is reversing course. The public utility commission grandfathered more than 30,000 solar customers who had solar before the change to net metering. And, the governor’s Energy Task Force has recommended that the state bring back net metering to all solar customers, present and future.
The Brookings Institution notes that regulators in at least 10 states have conducted reviews of their net metering programs and found that net metering benefits all utility customers. As studies continue to show the benefits of net metering, we believe this program will only continue to grow in popularity.
Top 5 Facts About Solar Energy for Homeowners
Curious homeowners seeking ways to reduce their energy bills should spend time educating themselves on the exciting and cost-effective ways solar power can help. Although solar power might seem a bit confusing at first, the fact is that it's relatively simple to enjoy the benefits of this clean, renewable energy source. Just consider these five facts about solar energy:
1. The price of solar continues to drop
You might be under the impression that installing photovoltaic (PV) panels or using solar power is expensive. However, taking advantage of solar power has never been more affordable. In 1975, when solar power first started to become more mainstream, the price of solar was roughly 227 times more expensive than what it is today, Clean Technica reported. In fact, the price of a solar panel has dropped about 70% and is roughly 30% of what it was in 2010. And, because of the many solar plan options now available, you have the option to forego a hefty initial down payment making solar more affordable than ever before.
2. It saves big on a utility bill
While the cost of traditional sources of electricity continue to fluctuate, solar power allows you to cut your utility bill, and the sooner you start the installation process, the quicker you start saving money. While the amount of actual savings depends on a number of factors, from how much sunlight your home receives per year to the available rebates and incentives available in your state, in general over the course of a usual 25-year warranty period, you could potentially save between $10,000 and $70,000, according to UnderstandSolar.
3. You don't need the most efficient panels
A common refrain from homeowners that are reluctant to use solar power is that they're waiting on better efficiency levels before making the purchase. However, residential solar cells - the thin slivers of silicone used to convert sunlight into energy - are about as efficient as they're going to get for the foreseeable future. As noted by SRoeCo, an independent solar information website, the most efficient panels aren't necessary for homeowners to realize savings and don’t really need to worry about this.
4. It's immensely popular
While solar power is contagious, it's not just a trendy fad destined to go the way of MySpace or flip phones. Solar power is going to be around for a while because it just makes sense to cut utility bills and help you conserve your overall energy usage. In fact, according to a 2015 national survey conducted by Gallup, 79% of respondents wanted the country to put even more of an emphasis on solar power as an energy source, beating out other energy sources such as wind, natural gas and oil. With so many Americans backing solar power, it will only continue to grow in popularity more people realize its benefits.
5. It helps to conserve energy
One of the main facts about solar power is that people are using this energy source to save money. However, simply installing a PV module is only one step in the process. Along with the solar panel installation, it's important to go through and make sure you're trimming energy usage and managing electricity consumption throughout your entire residence, even after your solar panels are working to ensure even greater savings.
Want to learn more about how solar energy can help you? Just click here to get started.
Rooftop Solar Adoption is Growing So Quickly, It's Contagious
All across the country, solar panels are popping up faster than ever. In the past forty years, more than 1 million solar photovoltaic systems have been installed, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, and another million are expected in just the next two years. In fact, this year the U.S. is expected to add nearly double the amount of solar added in 2015.
What’s driving this surge in demand for solar? The growing popularity of solar power can be traced to two converging factors: the increased ease of owning or leasing a solar PV system combined with the added financial value homeowners gain from installing one. In addition, once neighbors and friends see the savings from a rooftop solar system, they’re more likely to install a solar system too.
The Contagion Effect
Studies show that once one person installs a solar system, their neighbors and friends are quick to jump on the solar bandwagon. A study on rooftop PV systems in Connecticut discovered that when one person installed a solar system, installations within a half-mile radius increased, on average.
Similar studies on homes in California also imply a sort of “contagion effect” on neighbors and friends of people who have already installed solar systems.
The continued rise in installations will only become more contagious as solar power’s many benefits become more apparent. Already, as reported by Vox, analysts estimate that homeowners in the U.S. install a new rooftop solar system every four minutes. And there’s good reasons for this so-called “contagion effect”, too.
”People all across the country are reaping the benefits of going solar.”
People all across the country are reaping the benefits of going solar. Even in places not known for abundant sunshine, people are embracing solar power and saving money.
While you’d probably expect California to be the state with the most solar in it (it is), you wouldn’t necessarily expect New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York to be ranked second, third and fifth, respectively. But they are. That’s because the most compelling reason to go solar is the savings. And savings are contagious.
Solar has never been more accessible
With a variety of no money down solar as a service plans to choose, from lease to power purchase agreements to ownership, going solar is accessible to more homeowners than ever before. Some of the most common options are:
- A lease with fixed monthly payments and no option to own the solar system.
- A power purchase agreement (PPA) with fixed rates and an option to own the system after a predetermined amount of time.
- A PPA that has fixed payments over 12 months with annual adjustments based on product and an option to own after a predetermined amount of time.
- A fixed monthly payment plan with the homeowner owning the system.
Long-term, locked-in energy rate
Not only is solar one of the most abundant sources of power available, it’s also one of the more affordable. Unlike the rising costs of electricity from traditional utility companies, most solar service agreements lock-in a low rate throughout the life of the agreement.
This can potentially save homeowners a significant amount of money on their electricity bills. With additional performance guarantees and operation and maintenance coverage for the duration of the agreement, it means the buyer gets all the benefits from the solar system and none of the risks.
Hundreds of thousands of homeowners throughout the country are saving money by generating their own power through solar. Solar isn’t contagious simply because it’s the right thing to do by the environment, it’s contagious because people see the difference in their energy costs. Find out how much solar can save you by clicking here.
Solar is Changing the World and These States are On Board
Electricity has been produced and sent to your home in almost exactly the same way for over a century. For the most part, electricity is produced at a power plant by burning coal or natural gas, then sent over wires to your home. Altogether, the system of power plants, wires and homes and businesses is called a “grid” and right now it’s a pretty inefficient system that produces a lot of waste and quite a bit of pollution.
But that’s changing.
Electricity grids are complex systems managed by regional system operators and public utility commissions. Historically, they’ve been one-way systems: power is produced at power plants and sent through transmission wires to homes and businesses. The main goal is to make sure that enough electricity is available across the entire grid to meet fluctuating demand.
Increasingly, grids are becoming two-way systems, where electricity is produced not only at power plants, but at homes and businesses as well. Driving this change to a two-way system is what’s called distributed energy resources (DERs), like rooftop solar, batteries and smart appliances. The goal is still to meet electricity demand, but to do it efficiently using new technologies.
After all, it doesn’t make sense to get your power from a plant that may be 100 miles away, when your neighbor’s solar system is 100 feet away and produces more power than they need at any given moment.
And it’s not just rooftop solar driving this change. Smart thermostats, appliances, energy monitoring and batteries are making it possible to control and understand energy consumption like never before.
To keep up with and take advantage of the technological changes, a handful of states are changing how they utilize the grid. Here are some of the more exciting initiatives taking place in the U.S.
New York: REVing Up
New York is rethinking their energy system through an initiative called Reforming the Energy Vision (REV). REV’s goals are to save customers money, improve grid reliability, promote local power generation, and bring new products and services to customers.
One way REV is accomplishing its goals is by changing the incentives for utilities. Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new projects, utilities are encouraged and paid to lower customer energy use, promote on-site energy production (like rooftop solar) and employ grid management technology. In just one example of REV at work, a large utility was able to save $1 billion on building an energy substation, while still meeting energy demand. Ultimately, that’s $1 billion customers across New York won’t have to pay.
California: Solar Nixes 13 Expensive Projects
It’s no surprise that California is the top-ranking state when it comes to solar power. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses are using solar panels to produce their own clean, renewable power. But, solar doesn’t just provide environmental benefits. Thirteen planned projects for building or improving transmission lines (that is, wires) have been cancelled because solar is now meeting electricity demand in the areas where the projects would have gone. The savings to customers? $192 million.
Minnesota: e21 and the Modern Grid
You probably expect New York and California to be leading the way on adopting new technologies. But, Minnesota’s not sitting by either. With an initiative called e21, the state is looking at modernizing its grid to adapt to the change in how we power our homes. The goal of e21 is to make utilities more customer-centric. That’s a fancy way of saying that the grid is becoming a two-way system and customers (like you) should be treated fairly. e21 is a realization that the future of energy production and consumption will include DERs, like solar, and customers will become more active participants on the grid.
You Don’t Need to Wait for Change
Exciting changes are underway as states increasingly recognize the need to modernize how we treat energy production. Our grids need to be smarter and our resources need to be managed more effectively. Change can be challenging. But as New York and California have already seen, change can be rewarding, too.
Luckily for you, you don’t need to wait for your state to realize change is coming. You can start being a part of the energy future, today. By signing up for solar as a service you can save money and take more control over electric costs. It’s time to start having a say in how your home’s power is produced.
Four Energy-Saving Tips for the Summer
Whether you've recently installed a solar system on your home or are considering adding one, it's important to give some thought to your energy efficiency. An energy-efficient home will be less demanding in its electricity use, which means you can help offset more of your utility bill with solar.
However, summer can be one of the most challenging seasons for homeowners who want to limit their energy use. According to the U.S. Energy Department, air conditioners alone account for 5% of all the electricity consumed in the U.S., costing homeowners an average of $11 billion and generating roughly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.
For much of the U.S., the summer months are the hottest of the year, increasing the burden on the home's electrical system. Luckily, following these four tips will help to make your home more energy efficient and save electricity.
1). Take advantage of natural ventilation
If you live in a climate where temperatures cool down at night and you enjoy regular breezes, you can use your windows for home cooling. Once the temperature drops, open your windows and turn on any ceiling or portable fans. This will help the cooler outside air circulate through the house and push warmer air out.
You can make natural ventilation more effective by controlling heat buildup during the day. Window coverings can block direct sunlight from entering the home and insulated shades will reduce the conduction of heat through the windows.
2). Upgrade or maintain your cooling system
If you're running an older air conditioner in your home, you may want to consider upgrading to an energy-efficient model. The Energy Department estimates high-efficiency air conditioners can lower your home cooling costs by 20-50%.
Regular air conditioner maintenance is also important. Change your filters at least every three months. A clogged filter can disrupt the airflow of your unit and make it pull more electricity. Replacing a clogged filter alone can reduce your air conditioner's energy consumption by 5 to 15%. You should also keep the coils and coil fins clear of debris, as this can also impede airflow and make your air conditioner less efficient.
3). Eliminate air leaks
In addition to operating your cooling system efficiently, you need to ensure cooled air isn't escaping your home while hot air creeps in from outside. EnergyStar estimates that homeowners can reduce their heating and cooling costs by as much as 15% simply by air sealing their homes and adding insulation to attics and crawl spaces. Beyond increasing the insulation in your home, you can also add caulk or weather stripping around leaky doors and windows to prevent air from escaping.
4). Avoid adding heat to your house
Many of the large appliances in the typical American home add to its heat load and make the air conditioner work harder. These include your dishwasher, stove and dryer. Take advantage of the sun and warm air of summer to hang your clothes on an outside line as often as possible. You can also try letting your dishes air dry or cook on an outside grill instead of using your stove.
Your home's lighting can also make your rooms warmer if you're using incandescent bulbs. These lightbulbs use 10-15% of their energy to generate light and give the rest off as heat. Using cooler LED bulbs will reduce the heat generated in the home and require less energy to provide light.
Following these steps will make your home more energy efficient – reducing your energy costs and helping contribute more clean energy to the electrical grid when you have a solar system.
Solar Loans – a growing choice in the solar industry
People looking to go solar have more options than ever before. While leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) are the most popular options for homeowners, many are choosing to finance the purchase of a system through a solar loan. The popularity of solar loans is in part due to the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which gives the owner a tax credit of up to 30% of the cost of a solar power system. To meet this popularity, a number of new loans are available with terms from seven to 25 years and interest rates from 2.99% to 9.99%.
Because of the wide range of solar loans on the market, it is important to know your options before buying a solar system. You’ll want to make sure you understand what your loan entails, how the payments are structured and whether or not your system is covered by a performance warranty. Also, you’ll want to make sure that you’re eligible to take full advantage of the federal investment tax credit.
How most loans work
Most solar loans assume the customer will apply their 30% tax credit to the loan. The loans offer low initial monthly payments for 12 to 18 months, with the possibility of keeping the payments low once the tax credit is applied to the loan. If you choose not to apply the ITC to their loan, your initial monthly payment will increase significantly. And, in the case of some loans, the interest rate will also increase from a low initial rate to a high, almost credit card-like rate.
You should know that while you may initially save money on your energy costs, if you don’t apply the tax credit to the loan, you’ll likely pay much more to power your home.
It’s not just about the tax credit
Compared to leases and PPAs, the appeal of solar loans is that you can claim the federal tax credit.
While the promise of a 30% tax credit is appealing, when considering a solar loan you should be aware that not everyone can claim the full tax credit in the first year. If you sign a solar loan but cannot claim the full tax credit in the first year, the prepayment will still be due — potentially leaving you without the money to pay it.
Another consideration to keep in mind when taking a solar loan is that a warranty on the performance of the system may not be included. Without a warranty on system performance, you can’t be sure that your system is producing the power you need. And, potentially costly repairs to keep your system producing are your responsibility. Don’t expect your loan provider to take care of anything. They’ll probably point you to the initial installer, who may or may not be available to make any repairs years from now.
While most loans will allow you to pay off the loan early without penalty, many loans do not allow you to transfer the loan. So if you decide to sell your home, you should plan to payoff that solar loan. In fact, not paying off the loan could make it impossible for you to sell your home. Most loans include a security interest giving the creditor the ability to prevent the sale of your home while the loan is still in effect. An early payoff in order to sell your home means that you end up paying more for the power your system produced, and the next owner of the home will reap the benefits of the power you paid for.
So what should you do?
The most important thing you can do to ensure a solar system will work for you is to understand your options. Read every contract you’re presented and ask questions. Make sure you understand how the payments work, whether or not the system performance is warrantied and what happens if you decide to sell your home.
With tens of thousands of systems on homes everywhere from Hawaii to Massachusetts, Sunnova is one of the largest solar providers in the U.S. One of the things that we have learned is that while solar systems are extremely robust, they require monitoring and maintenance to ensure homeowners are getting the most out of their systems. That’s why, whether it’s a loan or a lease, we include a comprehensive performance warranty on our solar power systems.
When considering adding solar to your home, be sure to ask yourself what is important to you. If you are looking to lower your power bill and want as little involvement in the process as possible, a lease or PPA is probably the right choice for you. If you want to take advantage of the ITC and own the system, a loan is probably a great choice for you, just make sure you know what is in, or not in your loan agreement.
For more information on the solar options available to you, visit our Solar Plans page.
The Solar Investment Tax Credit Sounds Great, But Is It Really?
Some things to consider before you purchase a solar power system
Late last year, the U.S. Congress passed an extension to the renewable investment tax credit (ITC). The ITC gives homeowners the potential to receive up to 30% of a purchased solar system’s cost back on their taxes. It sounds like a great idea: make the right choice and get some money back. But it doesn’t always work out that way.
For starters, not everyone is eligible for the tax credit. Only people who file a tax return and pay federal income tax qualify and that’s not as many people as you might think. According to the Tax Policy Center, a little over 45% of Americans either did not file a tax return or pay income tax in 2015 and that’s not just the unemployed and underemployed, it also includes people whose deductions, like child and mortgage interest tax credits, outweigh their income tax.
Even if you do pay income tax, you may not get the full 30% of the ITC at one time. As a tax credit, the ITC is non-refundable, meaning that if the tax credit is more than what you owe in taxes, the difference will need to be carried over to the next year. So if you owe $2,000 in taxes and your tax credit is $7,500, you won’t get a check for $5,500. Instead, you’ll need to wait another year and file for the balance of your ITC. If that’s the case, it’s recommended you enlist the help of a tax professional to ensure you take full advantage of the tax credit.
Furthermore, as with anything tax-related, timing is important. The ITC can only be claimed once your solar system starts producing electricity. So, even if you start paying to have a system installed in late 2016, but it does not produce electricity until 2017, then you’ll need to wait until 2018 to claim it on your taxes.
Finally, it’s important to know all of your options when it comes to solar. You may think that, in order to take advantage of the ITC, you need to buy a solar energy system outright. But that’s not the case. Sunnova’s EZ Own plan allows you to own the system with no upfront cost and an equipment warranty to ensure your system is producing for many, many years. If you’re looking to take advantage of the ITC, but aren’t ready to invest in a solar energy system, EZ Own may be ideal. To learn more about Sunnova’s EZ Own plan, simply click here or give us a call at 855.277.6379
In a future blog post, we’ll cover the importance of having a warranty on your solar energy system. So stay tuned.
* Sunnova does not provide tax advice. Contact your personal tax advisor for information regarding the federal investment tax credit eligibility.
The World’s Brightest Lights
According to National Geographic, more power from the sun reaches the Earth in a single hour than can be used in an entire year.
Clearly, the star at the center of our solar system is also a star at the center of our solar power systems.
Solar energy is potentially a worldwide endeavor -- and some countries are on fire when it comes to harnessing that power.
Below, the top 4 countries currently in the game … and one to watch.
China is currently the world leader in renewable energy, and as of 2015 is the largest producer of solar panels.1 Most panels are installed in remote locations as part of huge solar farms that sell solar power to local utilities. China is currently building the world’s largest solar plant2 in the Gobi Desert. It is expected to produce enough solar energy for up to 1 million households. China currently has 43 GW cumulative installed PV capacity and plans to add another 15 GW in 2016.3 To put this into perspective, 1 GW provides enough energy for approximately 750,000 homes.
Germany is not exactly known for an abundance of sunny days, yet is still one of the world’s top solar installers. In fact, it was in first place until China took over in 2015. In June 2014, Germany broke three national solar records4 in two weeks, most notably meeting more than 50% of electricity demand for the first time. Germany currently has 40 GW of installed PV capacity.5
2015 was a notable year for solar power in the United States, with residential installations increasing each quarter. Check this out -- the first quarter of 2015 increased 76%6 from the first quarter of 2014, despite crazy weather that included one of the worst winters ever recorded in the northeast. Overall, the U.S. market grew by 56% in 2015,7 adding an additional 9.8 GW.
After the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011, Japan embraced solar energy and is now a major market for solar cells. Japan has been imaginative in the creation of solar plants --abandoned golf courses are now photovoltaic fields, and, as an island nation, Japan has also created floating solar islands8 with water-resistant panels.
One to watch: India
With an estimated 300 sunny days a year, India is embracing solar energy more than ever with the goal of producing 25% of energy from solar sources by 2030. Another goal is to raise solar capacity to 100 GW by 2022,9 which is 20 times its current production.
1 China is Utterly and Totally Dominating Solar Panels
By Katie Fehrenbacher, Fortune
2 China Builds Huge Solar Power Station Which Could Power a Million Homes
By Alexandra Sims, Independent
3 China to Increase Wind, Solar Power Capacity by 21% in 2016
By Feifei Shen, Bloomberg
4 Germany Breaks 3 Solar Power Records in 2 Weeks
By Zachary Shahan, Tree Hugger
6 U.S. Residential Solar Market Grew 76% in First Quarter
By Joshua S. Hill, CleanTechnica
8 Giant Floating Solar Power Stations are Japan’s Newest Power Source
By Joseph Erbentraut, Huffington Post
9 The Future Looks Bright for Solar Power in India
By Nimisha Jaiswal, USA Today
Put it Where the Sun Shines: What You Need to Know about HOA Rules
When the White House went solar, did President Barack Obama have to argue with a homeowner’s association or maneuver through restricted covenants? Probably not, but plenty of homeowners do.
Here’s what you need to know about residential solar system restrictions.
Solar access rights
Despite several attempts to pass a bill through the House of Representatives and the Senate, a federal solar access law does not yet exist. However, some 25 states have enacted legislation to protect the rights of residents wanting to operate a solar energy system on their property. While these laws supersede denial of solar installation at the local level, HOAs can still place restrictions. And there are additional considerations – in Texas, for example, solar systems can be denied in an area where a housing development is currently under construction.
What restrictive covenants can and can’t do
HOAs cannot delay or deny installation of solar panels, but they can dictate the where and how.
- Location: Angle and position are among the most important factors in maximizing solar power production, yet HOAs can deny arrays on which the top line of the panels extends beyond the roofline – or in the case of ground-mounted systems, the surrounding fence line.
- Aesthetics: Some neighbors just don’t want to see your solar panels from the street. Obviously this may be a problem for homeowners, as panels are installed for maximum solar power production, not looks. On the other hand, nobody wants a neighbor with a solar system that looks like the International Space Station’s (more than an acre of solar arrays!) Solar panels are typically black or blue, because these colors optimize the capturing of solar energy. However, some manufacturers are experimenting with tinted photovoltaics in various colors.
Sell your HOA on solar
HOAs exist to preserve property values, which is why there are rules about the color of your front door and the types of trees you have in your front yard. Discreet or not, solar arrays just may not fit with the look of your hood. What to do? Initiate an educated conversation with your HOA. Remind them:
- Solar panels are environmentally friendly
- Solar power may increase home value
- Solar savings can be passed on to future homeowners
Bonus tip: Rally the neighbors. If 75% of property owners in your community agree with your position, you may have the power to modify HOA bylaws.
Sun Fun: 10 Fast Facts by the Numbers
It’s feisty, fiery, mysterious, misunderstood, worshipped and feared. It’s the stuff of legend, folklore, gods and goddesses.
Mythology and deities aside, there’s a lot of science behind the sun. NASA has been studying the sun in some shape, form or fashion for decades and there’s still a lot to learn. Here’s what we know for sure about Earth’s hottest commodity:
8 minutes – Time it takes for light from the sun to reach Earth
60 minutes – Time it takes for enough solar energy to strike Earth and fulfill energy needs for one year
50 percent – Energy from the sun that reaches Earth’s surface
9,941 degrees – Sun’s surface temperature in degrees Fahrenheit (5,500 Celsius)
1 million – Number of Earths that could fit inside the sun
27 million – Sun’s core temperature in degrees Fahrenheit (15 million Celsius)
93 million – Miles between Earth and the sun
4.6 billion – Years ago the sun was ‘born’
5 billion – Estimated years left for the sun to maintain its current nuclear fuel properties
100 billion – Dynamite in tons that would need to explode every second to match the energy produced by the sun
Out of the Shadows: 5 Top Solar Myths Revealed
You already know solar power is good for the environment and your pocketbook. So what’s holding you back? Perhaps it’s a matter of the rumor mill. Below, we shine some light on the most common myths.
Solar doesn’t work unless you live in the sunny south or along the coast
We’re told to slather on sunscreen even when it’s shady because UV rays blast through cloud cover.
The same concept applies to solar energy.
Solar panels absorb all available solar radiation including UV rays. That means the same UV rays that penetrate our skin on cloudy days also penetrate solar panels on cloudy days. Case in point: Germany, generally recognized as a rather rainy region, is a top leader in residential solar.
While a south-facing roof is optimal, it’s not necessary. Today’s photovoltaic solar panels can be positioned to capture solar energy from other directions. Even landlocked states benefit from solar power -- Sunnova has customers in Colorado, Missouri and Indiana.
I can go off-grid if I go solar
This is still a work in progress, although the idea is definitely picking up steam as several companies are on a quest to develop the perfect off-grid solar storage system. The Department of Energy recently announced $18 million in funding for six new projects across the United States to help develop cost-effective solar technologies that utilize energy storage. Solar batteries are on the forefront as net-metering policies across the country are being re-evaluated. In fact, Sunnova is currently piloting battery storage in Saipan. Although most of you will still be connected to the grid for now, battery storage independent of the grid is just around the corner.
The panels will damage my roof. And they’re ugly
A racking system mounts solar panels to the roof, and any gaps resulting from installation will be sealed. Coverings (such as flashing) may be required. If so, you’ll instantly have additional barriers to protect your roof from the elements. Total bonus! Read more about residential solar systems here.
As for solar panels being an eyesore, discreet options are now available. This is an aesthetically-pleasing win-win-win for you, your neighbors and your HOA.
Solar panels vs. Mother Nature
Mother Nature herself gives us the source to go solar, but she tends to have a wrathful side in the form of hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards. Don’t worry. Today’s solar panels are designed to withstand hurricane-force winds, high-speed hail and heavy-duty snow.
I can’t afford it
In the old days, folks had to pony up thousands of dollars in advance to install solar systems. Not anymore. All you need to do is sign a Sunnova solar service agreement and you should begin saving money today, as well as throughout the lifetime of your agreement.
Turned On by the Sun: 5 Steps to Solar Service
The sun rises, the sun sets. What more do you need?
When it comes to harnessing solar power, a little bit more. But you don’t have to go it alone. These 5 factors should be second nature to your solar provider.
Step 1: Comprehensive calculations
There are three elements to consider before choosing solar power.
Tilt is the angle of your roof. While it’s important to understand how the tilt of your roof impacts solar production, keep in mind solar panels accommodate a wide range of tilt.
Azimuth is a fancy word that basically means the direction your roof is facing. For the scientifically curious, Merriam-Webster defines azimuth as “an arc of the horizon measured between a fixed point (as true north) and the vertical circle passing through the center of an object, usually - in astronomy and navigation - clockwise from the north point through 360 degrees.”
Suffice it to say azimuth pinpoints the necessary degree for optimal solar production.
Shading determines how various objects may affect solar production. Some you can control by relocating trees or trimming shrubs. Some you can’t control, such as telephone poles and mountain ranges.
Step 2: Theory to reality
Now it’s time to customize your solar system. This includes the number of panels and where the array will be positioned. Engineers review and approve the design, while electrical and building permits are obtained and the interconnection application is filed with your local utility.
Step 3: On the roof
There will be drilling. There will be bolts. There will be racking, sealants and coverings. Solar modules are not very heavy. The integrity of your roof will be as preserved against the elements as it was before installation -- and in some cases, even better.
Step 4: On the ground
Rooftop solar systems require ground work too.
Because of AC/DC, you need an inverter. This is a Thomas Edison thing, not a rock band thing.
Photovoltaic panels produce direct current but your home runs on alternating current. An inverter converts all of that awesome sunshine into what you need to watch your big-screen TV.
A utility net meter keeps track of how much power your solar system is generating as well as how much electricity you’re consuming from the grid. The difference is your net energy. This handy little device can be loads of fun. If you look on sunny days, you just might see it spinning backward.
Step 5: Turning you on
Final inspections are on the radar. This is when everything is verified as up to code and your utility company has approved Permission to Operate (PTO). It’s time to flip the switch and begin saving money. Congratulations! You have been turned on by solar.
Alphabet Soup: Top Solar Terms and Acronyms
Welcome to the world of solar power, a place that can sometimes be foreign to newcomers. There’s new lingo to learn, but we’ve got you covered with the basics.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “array” as an impressive display or range of a particular type of thing.
This couldn’t be more true when it comes to solar panels – an impressive sight if ever there was one. A photovoltaic array is a system of interconnected modules assembled as a discrete structure that has a single function – to produce solar power. The size of an array varies, from just one module or panel to dozens.
A grid is a network of lines that crisscross or run parallel. In the solar world, grid refers to the “electric” or “utility” grid – a system of power providers and consumers interconnected by transmission and distribution lines. Then there’s “grid tied” which means your photovoltaic system produces energy for home consumption and feeds excess energy to the electric grid.
The connection of a solar system to the electric grid that enables bidirectional transmission of power.
Solar panels produce Direct Current (DC) but most homes run on Alternating Current (AC) thus the need for an inverter, which is a piece of equipment that converts DC to AC.
Photo means light. Voltaic means electricity produced by a chemical action. Put it all together, and you get photovoltaic, which means converting light into electricity.
A photovoltaic array is an interconnected system of modules that gets the job of converting solar power to electricity done. A photovoltaic system is the array plus all of the nuts and bolts necessary to install a system on your roof.
We live in a world of TLA. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Three Letter Acronyms are sometimes four, five or more. ROFL, anyone? Acronyms apply to the solar world too. Try this on for size: “My PV system converts DC to AC, and thanks to my SSA, my PPA explains what to expect in kWh. I can’t wait for PTO!”
Let’s break it down.
Alternating Current (AC) and DC Direct Current (DC)
An electric current that reverses direction within the circuit 60 times per second and is easier to transfer over long distances. AC is the primary current used in residences and offices across North America.
A watt measures a unit of power; a kilowatt (kW) is a thousand watts. A kilowatt hour (kWh) is a thousand watt hours. Most electricity bills are measured in kWh.
Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)
An agreement between two parties, one that generates electricity and one that purchases electricity. Payment specifics and the amount of electricity that will be provided to the purchaser are often included in the PPA, but ultimately the needs of both parties and the structure of the local market will dictate the terms of the PPA.
Permission to Operate (PTO)
A letter or other official document issued by utility companies granting authority for a solar system to operate and generate power.
Solar Service Agreement (SSA)
The agreement between a homeowner and solar service provider that defines the terms and conditions for solar service.
Inside Your Solar System: Top 3 Components
The solar system consists of all the planets that orbit the sun, not to mention moons, asteroids, comets, dust, etc. etc. etc. It’s quite complex, which is why you studied it for hours back in elementary school science class and why NASA still studies it today.
Good news -- residential solar systems are simpler! Three main components are required to turn your home into a solar powerhouse.
A typical solar panel contains metal conductor strips, antireflective coating, silicon layers, metal backing and up to 72 solar cells.
Solar cells convert light into electrical energy. For this to happen, electrons within solar cells have to get fired up enough to transform into an electrical current when the sun hits. That’s why solar cells require materials with semiconducting properties.
The majority of solar cells are made of crystalline silicon, which is currently the most efficient and effective way to generate solar power.
This combination of panels and cells is sometimes referred to as a photovoltaic system. Photovoltaics is a simple term for the complex process of converting solar energy into electricity.
While solar panels generate power from the sun, it’s still not enough to turn your home into a solar powerhouse. That’s because panels produce direct current power (DC), but almost everything in your house runs on AC, or alternating current.
Enter the inverter, a device that converts DC to AC.
The two most common types of inverters are string and micro. String, or standard, inverters are standalone boxes usually installed next to the panel box to convert your system’s production from DC to AC. Micro-inverters, smaller in size than string inverters, are individual units positioned under each solar panel on your roof. Each panel discretely converts production from DC to AC.
Both types of inverters may be used for grid-tied solar systems. Micro-inverters typically cost more upfront but they optimize panel performance and minimize the impact of any single panel on the entire array’s production. In other words, if one panel is malfunctioning, the rest of your system is working just fine.
The mounting component that attaches solar panels to your roof is called racking. It provides structural support, prevents system failures and ensures the longevity of the installation.
Racking materials are lightweight and made of corrosion-resistant metals rails and hardware. Footings and stand-offs secure the racking assembly to the roof or ground surface. There are a variety of racking materials to accommodate your home’s location, needs and roof surface.
Racking systems are designed to sustain wind and snow loads on your home for many years.
Pulling it all together
Panels, inverters and racking make up the main body of a home solar system. Think of it this way:
- Panels are the eyes of the system, taking in as much light as possible
- Inverters are the heart of the system, necessary to establish electric pathways that are functional
- Racking is the bones of the system, structurally supporting the system on your roof
Surprisingly Solar: On the Move, In your Closet and On the Horizon
Solar energy is as old as sin, dating back to when cavemen utilized the sun’s rays to make fires and burn ants. Today, we have astronauts living 200 miles above Earth in the solar-powered International Space Station – and cutting-edge uses continue to blaze new paths.
Planes, trains, automobiles … and boats
- Solar Impulse completed a record-breaking 7,200 km (4,400 miles) 5-day, 5-night flight from Japan to Hawaii – without a drop of fuel. Reaching an altitude of more than 28,000 feet, the solar-powered aircraft has a wingspan larger than a Boeing 747. Solar Impulse is currently in Hawaii undergoing a battery overhaul. Pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg will resume the round-the-world solar flight in April.
- Indian Railways, said to be the world’s fourth largest railway system, recently installed solar panels on the roofs of passenger trains and is now eyeing solar panels on rooftops of railway stations.
- Stella Lux, a four-passenger solar-powered sedan, took first place in the 2015 World Solar Challenge Cruiser Class. Forty teams from 20 countries traveled 3,000 km (1,800 miles) through Australia. Stella Lux is the progeny of Stella, the world’s first solar-powered family car. Stella also won the World Solar Challenge Cruiser Class in 2013 and subsequently hit the road on a global tour of four continents.
- PlanetSolar, the largest solar boat ever built, has sailed more than 20,000 km (12,000 miles) around the world. It is now in the hands of Race for Water, shining a light on plastic pollution in the oceans.
A flare for fashion
Tommy Hilfiger jackets. Pauline van Dongen shirts. Tzukuri sunglasses. Project Solaire backpacks.
Photovoltaic has never been so sexy.
Designers are riding the wave of wearable solar garments and accessories as a way to keep our gadgets charged – or, in the case of the sunglasses, from being left behind.
You might be surprised at the various ways solar panels have been incorporated into design aesthetics. These items are chic and, in some cases, washable. Check it out here.
- Farming: The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $63 million infusion into clean energy for the farming industry. Some $16,000 of that is going to a Georgia-based company to install solar arrays on the roofs of its poultry houses, and a fruit farm in Ohio will receive $18,000 for solar panels.
- Medicine: The industry has been leveraging solar energy to sterilize medical and dental equipment, refrigerate medications, and deliver lighting and power for mobile and medical devices in areas without consistent electricity. The medical science behind solar continues to evolve, including a recent breakthrough that may restore sight to the blind, and utlitizing solar cells as a testing method for certain cancers.
- Internet: Electronics superstar Samsung has opened Solar Powered Internet Schools across 15 African countries, and Google and Facebook are exploring solar-powered drones and huge balloons in a quest to provide internet access around the world.
25 Years of Savings and Support is a Good Thing
A Q&A with CEO William J. (John) Berger about Sunnova’s 25-Year Solar Service Agreement
If you’re a homeowner who wants to save money on power, and make a smaller impact on the environment, then solar from Sunnova is perfect for you and your family.
Join the thousands of customers who are choosing Solar as a Service from Sunnova and enjoy the simplicity! All you do is pay a low rate for power and Sunnova works with local installation partners to take care of the equipment installation that powers your Sunnova service.
Our 25-Year Agreement and Guarantee
At Sunnova, we offer a 25-year Solar Service Agreement (SSA) because we think it’s the best way to save our customers money. Here are some Q&As with Sunnova CEO, William J. (John) Berger, about the 25-year agreement:
Q: Why does Sunnova offer a 25-year agreement? Seems like a long time.
A: 25 years may sound like a long time but we are committed to taking care of our customers and saving them money for the long term. Should you decide to move at any time, you can easily transfer the agreement to the new homeowner when you sell your home. Remember, your current power supplier has an even longer term – forever! Sunnova gives you the ability to lock-in a lower electric rate for 25 years. So, while the utility rates increase, your rate with Sunnova stays the same. Also, remember, while some components of a solar power system may have long manufacturer warranties, others do not. It takes only a small component to fail for a system to go down. With Sunnova, you have peace of mind knowing we will cover maintenance for any component failure to keep your solar power service on and keep the savings rolling in. We want to be your power partner for 25 years and when we say partner, we mean it. Any problems, any concerns, call us. You never have to worry.
Q: With Sunnova, will I pay less for power over 25 years than I would with a traditional utility company contract?
A: Since utility companies typically increase rates on average by 3%1 annually, you will continue to save with a rate lower than the utility rate. Over the 25-year agreement with Sunnova, you’ll continue to accumulate savings over time.
Q: What happens if the solar panels fail, even after 20 years?
A: You’re covered at no cost to you. The biggest myth by far, is that solar power systems are going to take care of themselves for the next 25 years with no maintenance and insurance expense. This is simply not true. No piece of equipment will maintain itself for 25 years. With the Sunnova SSA, you receive a comprehensive warranty package that provides you with worry-free electricity service for the life of the agreement. Maintaining the average solar power system can cost thousands over the years if you own the solar power system yourself. Also, Sunnova brings the scale of thousands of customers to a repair that an individual cannot match. Let us take care of everything — you just enjoy the clean, low-cost power.
Q: What happens if I move?
A: Your SSA is 100% transferable to the new owner similarly to how your current utility transfers its service to a new homeowner. We know a lot can change over 25 years and your solar power service should be the least of your worries when you move. We’ve designed our SSAs to be flexible and it’s simple to transfer your SSA to the new homeowner. And whoever moves in will like paying less for electricity, too.
Q: Which is the best option – paying cash for a solar power system or solar as a service?
A: There are four very important factors to consider when deciding whether to purchase versus using solar as a service.
- Being financially savvy – The economic returns of purchasing a solar system are only valid if you value your money at 0% and you receive all of the power the system produces over the life of the system. A better return on your money would be to invest what you would have paid for the system in stocks, bonds or real estate. Your returns would be greater and your money is not tied up in equipment. With solar as a service, you can easily transfer the agreement to the new homeowner so that you are only paying for the electricity you need when you need it versus paying a large sum up front.
- Selling your home – If you purchase your solar power system, you are relying on the fact that the new homeowner will pay enough more for your home to compensate for your solar investment especially if you plan to move in under 10 years. Unfortunately, that is most likely not the case. Even though there is one study3 indicating homeowners may pay a little more, that study doesn’t indicate a homeowner would be able recoup their total investment including maintenance. It’s a similar scenario to building a pool. Homebuyers just don’t pay more. In contrast, with solar as a service you save immediately and are able to easily transfer the service to the new homeowner.
- Maintenance costs – It’s important to factor in maintenance costs when purchasing a solar power system. As mentioned above maintenance can be costly unless you choose solar as a service.
- System Performance Monitoring – If you purchase the solar power system, how do you know if it’s performing optimally? With solar as a service, we monitor performance to ensure it’s producing electricity as it should.
Q: Can I take my solar power system to my new home?
A: One of the three transfer options is to move the solar power system to your new home within a 20-mile radius. However, depending on the difference in size and energy requirements between your old and new home, the simplest way to bring solar to your new home is to execute a new contract with a solar power system that is sized for your electricity needs in order to maximize your savings.
Q: What happens if I am still in a contract with Sunnova and something were to happen to me?
A: It’s good to ask the tough questions. When it’s time to pass your home ownership to your heirs, your SSA is fully transferable to them. They’ll reap the benefits of your decision to partner with Sunnova and you’ll pass electricity savings down for generations. A legacy of savings.
Q: How do I know that my solar power system is performing at its best?
A: As a Sunnova customer, all you have to do is pay your low monthly rate. We offer a Monitoring and Performance Guarantee, which means we regularly monitor solar power system production so you don’t have to. You can also go online anytime to see your system production numbers and how much you are saving. Let us be the power service experts while you reap the rewards and peace of mind.
If you have any other questions about our Solar Service Agreement or just want more information about solar power from Sunnova, don’t hesitate to call your customer service team at 1-855-277-6379 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for considering Sunnova. We look forward to being your power partner and making sure you have clean, worry-free electricity for years to come.
William J. (John) Berger
CEO I Sunnova
1 A 50-year average according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration:
The Solar Choice: What is the Better Investment?
The decision to choose solar power is an easy one; there is no debate that paying less for electricity is a great idea. What is often misrepresented to homeowners is information advising how homeowners should be getting access to residential solar power. The two main options are either through a solar service contract or product purchase.
In Solar as a Service, the homeowner can achieve the goal of lower electricity payments through a power or energy company, who owns and maintains the solar systems, without the obligation of any upfront costs. In a product sale, the homeowner pays a lump sum upfront, but subsequently becomes the owner of the equipment and the one responsible for all repairs and maintenance. So which option should you choose? Let’s look at which route provides homeowners with the greatest value and allows them to experience the most time saving and financial benefits throughout the life of the system.
Operation & Maintenance
One of the most notable considerations homeowners should take into account is the additional costs property owners incur. Personal property always needs to be maintained—by the owner. As an individual, you do not have access to economies of scale; a large company has the scale, or number of customers and systems, necessary to provide lower repair and maintenance costs to their customers. Not to mention, a large company is able to withstand the failure of or occasional major repairs to a system. Consequently, the individual will most likely pay more than a large company would for the same repairs. To appropriately prepare for maintenance costs on solar panels, an individual should factor in at least 1.5% per year in costs. For a $25,000 system over 25 years, that works out to be $9,375. If you plan to purchase a solar panel system, you as an individual need to know all about solar and what makes for a good installation. If you do not have an engineer check your install, then you are taking a risk. Furthermore, dealing with these issues is not a great use of one’s time and energy.
If the homeowner signs a service agreement, the aforementioned additional costs are no longer the responsibility of the homeowner; instead, the cost to insure the system, provide metering or monitoring, and provide all maintenance and cleanings for the life of the system are completely taken care of by your solar service provider. Large scale service providers have the advanced IT systems, experienced teams, cultivated relationships, purchasing power, and the knowledge of the industry that all create a distinct value for the customer.
Another factor homeowners should consider with getting access to solar is if they have long-term plans to stay in their home. Some might think owning a solar system will result in an increase in home value; or justify the homeowner in adding the price they paid to purchase the solar system to the listing price. However, the reality is a vast majority of homeowners who have owned solar systems, sell for the price the home buyer could afford, and nothing more. Homes are still bought on a price of home basis, rather than a price of home and the cost of the solar system. The idea that you will own your home long enough to get your dollars invested out of the solar system is not near as likely as many say. The home buyer will appreciate paying less for electricity, but the home buyer does not care how much you paid for your investment, so you’re not very likely to get your money out of it, let alone make a profit.
The solar service agreement represents a flexible option for the homeowner in the event of a change in home ownership. So, telling the home buyer that they can pay for power the way they have always paid for power, but pay less through a solar service agreement, is a practical proposal. Again, the home buyer is locking in a lower cost of power; which means that the new homeowner is going to have a lower electric bill, and that is attractive to buyers.
The representation of possible savings often becomes the determining factor for homeowners in the product sale. Unfortunately, the savings presented during the product sale are often inaccurate. When calculating true electricity savings, homeowners need to consider both the opportunity; or hard, cost of their money and the sum of all burdened costs that accompany the purchase of a solar system.
Opportunity cost plays a big role in personal finance; and when weighed appropriately, should dictate what we spend our money on. However, what’s often ignored are the indirect costs; or opportunities lost by choosing one alternative over another. For example, homeowners must consider how much money they could have earned if the sum of money they would have spent on a solar system was invested in a bond or stock fund. In that case, the homeowner would still retain access to their money while achieving much if not all of the listed solar “savings.” This cost is usually around 7 to 8% per year.
The homeowner must also deduct the amount of money that remains after all maintenance and insurance expenses have been met. As mentioned above, maintenance expenses will add up to a considerable amount over the years. Once one considers the appropriate personal cost of the upfront money spent and the projected maintenance expenses, the amount of money that is left is the true savings generated by the solar system.
Considering the additional responsibilities that come with system ownership, performing the correct analysis to calculate true electricity savings is the key to making sure that you are making the right decision as to how to get cheaper power from solar.
Choose the Best Option to Save Money with Solar Power
No Long-Term Plans? Choose the Best Option to Save Money with Solar Power
Concern on what happens on the sale or other transfer in home ownership when buying solar as a product or signing a solar service agreement is a common focus among homeowners. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each type of transaction; product purchase and a solar service agreement, when considering the possibility of moving in less than 10 years.
Product purchase – there are many studies that suggest having a solar system on your home attracts buyers when listing your home for sale. These studies provide some interesting antidotal data points that suggest owning the solar panels on your home will result in an increase in home value; or justify the homeowner in adding the price they paid to purchase the solar system to the listing price. However, the unfortunate reality has been quite a bit different. The vast majority of homeowners, who have owned solar systems, sell for the price the home buyer could afford, and nothing more. So, homes are still bought on a price of home basis, rather than a price of home and the cost of the solar system.
Given the established behavior of the large home building industry, it is increasingly clear that this dynamic is not bound to change anytime soon. So why is this important? Because the idea that you will own your home long enough to get your dollars invested out of the solar system is not near as likely as many say. In fact, “investing” in a solar system is not too much different than “investing” in that pool in your backyard. It might add some value to your home, but the home buyer does not care how much you paid for your “investment;” so you are not very likely to get your money out of it, let alone make a profit. Once you put your money into a piece of equipment for your home, that money is stuck and you can’t necessarily get it back, even if you move.
Service sign up – Everyone, including a home buyer, understands that a home needs power and that a power bill comes every month. And everyone understands that paying less for a commodity, such as power or gasoline, makes sense. So telling the home buyer that they can either pay the utility more for power every month or pay the solar power provider less for the same power if the buyer assumes the solar service agreement, is a practical proposal. Thus far for the solar service industry, the vast majority has experienced quick success in transferring solar service agreements.
In most cases, the home buyer will also benefit from a performance guarantee through the service agreement. The performance guarantee ensures that the solar power provider managing the system will guarantee that the system produces a certain amount of energy; and if it doesn’t, your solar provider will reimburse the difference. Additionally, the homeowner is much less likely to lose money in the transaction compared to a product purchase because they have not spent money out of pocket insuring the system and tending to costly system repairs over the years.
As far as ease of transfer, having the system with no loan attached to it and no service agreement will almost always be the easiest way to go. However, the transfer of a solar service agreement is fairly straight forward and requires a simple release of the UCC filing by the solar service company. These transfers are happening more frequently every day and are becoming pretty common place. Again, the home buyer is locking in a lower cost of power; which means that the new homeowner is going to have a lower electric bill, and that is attractive to buyers. A loan will always have to be paid off; as loans do not transfer to the home buyer. So having a loan against a solar system will most likely always be the most difficult way to transfer your solar power in the sale of home process.
All of these pros and cons pertain not just to moving, but also to any transfer of home ownership. So, any issues of not staying in the house for the full 20 to 25 years or given age, not expecting to live that long, result in the same questions to ask and answer. Concern about advanced age or moving does not hinder the homeowner because no matter what, solar power; or reduced electricity bills will always provide a benefit to the next home buyer or owner. With much better economics, lower risk of loss of money, and easy transfer, the solar service agreement is likely to be the best way to go for you.
Product Purchase vs. Service Purchase
Should you be your own electric provider when it comes to Maintenance and Insurance Burdens?
Many people around the country are experiencing the low-cost, clean energy benefits of residential solar power. Homeowners wanting to save money on electricity with solar then have to make a decision: purchase and maintain the solar system themselves or sign up for solar as a service with a company who owns and maintains the system on your roof.
Let’s first cover the differences between solar as a service vs. as a product purchase. In solar as a service, the homeowner signs a contract with a third-party company who owns and maintains the solar system on your roof, providing low cost power in a worry-free manner. So, just like your current utility service, solar service providers sell you power and worry about how to get the power to you. You stay out of the power business and go about life.
Embedded into a solar service payment is the cost to insure the system, provide metering or monitoring, and provide all maintenance and cleanings for the life of the system. Also embedded into some solar service companies cost structures are the sought-after Investment Tax Credits. With this structure, homeowners still receive the ITCs; because they are built in as savings across the solar contract term.
Considering the lifetime comprehensive service structure solar companies are able to provide, you can think of your solar service provider as your solar valet. When your solar panels need maintenance, you do not have to bother searching for a reputable and qualified repairman; you do not even have to worry about paying for the maintenance performed. You just pick up the phone and call your service provider.
Large scale service providers have the advanced IT systems, experienced teams, cultivated relationships, purchasing power, and the knowledge of the industry that all create a distinct value for the customer. As an individual homeowner, who is going to get a response first when your system needs maintenance or has a warranty claim? – you as a single homeowner, or a company that has purchased, and continues to purchase, millions of dollars of product from the manufacturers and installers? The service that solar companies sell; low cost power, is something that is easily quantifiable and is the only thing people care about at the end of day. Besides, making monthly payments is the way people have been buying power for decades.
If a homeowner concludes that they will be able to make use of the tax credit and decides to purchase a solar system, the homeowner can write a check usually ranging from $15,000 – $40,000 with most averaging $25,000. It is easy to understand the attractive nature of never having a power bill again if you could spend $25,000 upfront. However, the idea that your electricity is now ‘free’ because you paid a lump sum upfront isn’t quite that simple.
The common adage, “There is no such thing as a free lunch” holds quite true here. In order to live without an electricity payment for 25 years, the homeowner has to pay $25,000 and forgo the comprehensive system protection plans a solar company would have provided for the life of the system. To appropriately prepare for maintenance costs on solar panels, an individual should factor in at least 1.5% per year in costs. For a $25,000 system over 25 years, that works out to be $9,375. When the homeowner is still putting money into the solar system, it’s not truly paying for itself. For example, if a homeowner has paid off their house and no longer makes a monthly payment to occupy their home, it does not mean living at the residence won’t cost the homeowner anything; the homeowner still has to pay to properly maintain and insure the house.
If you plan to purchase a solar panel system, you as an individual need to know all about solar and what makes for a good solar installation. If you do not have an engineer check your install, then you are taking a risk. In addition, you have to monitor the system in order to know if you have a problem, locate the right person to fix the problem when one arises, negotiate a good rate with the repair person, track down the equipment company for their warranty if necessary, and manage that entire process during your busy days. As an individual you do not have access to economies of scale and therefore will most likely paying more than a large company would for the same repairs. In addition, the single homeowner is quite possibly doing something that they will never need to do again. Not a great use of someone’s time and energy.
Insurance for the solar system against major accidents is not free either. Some will say to just add the solar system to your current home insurance policy and that the coverage will be “free”. Insurance companies are in business to make money so they never cover anything for free. In addition, such a policy on an individual basis is most likely to be more expensive than a large scale solar service provider is be able to negotiate given that the service provider is covering thousands of systems at a time.
The idea that the solar panels are going to take care of themselves for the next 25 years with no maintenance and insurance expense is just not true; no piece of equipment will maintain itself for 25 years. Bottom line is that owning a solar system is a large responsibility that will come with unforeseen maintenance expenses, as all equipment does. When a problem arises with a solar system on your home, would you rather have the time and financial burden to fix the problem yourself or be able to call on your solar service provider to handle it all?