Why is this a good time to invest in solar PV? Today, the prices of solar panels are over 80% lower than they were 6 years ago. So, a solar panel that cost $812 in 2008 now costs $145. On the flip side, we’ve seen an increase on our electricity bills. Utility rates are much higher than they were 6 years ago, rising on average over 5% each year. In addition, weekday utility rates are scheduled to increase substantially during peak daylight hours in the summer of 2015. So there’s really no better time to invest in solar PV—and lock in low rates.
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What technologies are available now that were not available in the recent past?
Solar technology has advanced over the years. A Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) charge controller is an exciting development. Much like a car’s transmission, it controls the power of the system, ensuring you get the most power from your solar panels, no matter the amount of sun that shines on them. That means solar panels lose very little power, even when mounted on an east and west facing roof.
What should a buyer look for in a quality system?
A quality solar PV system will include the following: 1) parts backed by substantial warranties; and 2) quality workmanship.
Reputable firms use high quality products, including components with excellent warranties (e.g., 25 years for solar panels; up to 25 years for inverters), and are interested in the details, such as aesthetics, but are also careful to maintain the structural integrity of homes and buildings, adhere to local, state, national codes and best practices, and provide long-term system support and maintenance.
What kinds of dealer support are important?
Since your solar PV system will last for 25 years or longer, you need to know support is available when you need it—from start to finish. Look for experience, a track record, and the skills needed to customize a system for your unique needs.
Contractors with a long positive service history may have systems in place that were put into operation decades ago, and that are still producing power.
Questions to ask:
Does the contractor repair and modernize older solar systems, or just install new ones?
Does the contractor offer a monitoring system to allow you to see your solar panels in action?
What kind of follow-up is provided customers to ensure the systems continue to meet, or exceed, expectations?
Also ask about incentive options to make the most of your investment.
Why does a buyer benefit from buying from a local source as opposed to a big box retailer – online or otherwise?
A local source can offer customized solutions to meet unique needs, whereas a big box retailer simply offers ‘one size fits all’ options. For example, a solar professional will survey your property, discuss your specific wants and needs, and walk you through the entire process.
The right company may start by recommending energy saving strategies, such as installing a solar hot water system, using LED lighting, etc.
Some providers suggest you start small, and allow for expansion at a later date.
Qualified solar sales and installation firms offer full service solutions that save both energy and money, backed by experience, and often have one or more electrical engineers on staff experienced in the design, installation and repair of solar systems.
Look for an installation and design team made up of seasoned professionals in grid-tied solar power systems (the simplest and most popular system); grid-tied systems with battery backup, as well as off-grid systems.
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