Getting the Most out of Solar Panels

  • By 7041857947
  • 26 Jul, 2017

Solar panels don't require too much maintenance but it is important to have your panels cleaned and properly oriented to increase their solar energy yield.

When determining the real cost of a solar installation, a homeowner has to take into account more than just the price of the panels and their rated energy output. Other things to take into consideration are the lifespan of the panels as well as their “solar energy yield” -- how much energy the system will produce over a year. The efficiency rating of panels comes from tests conducted in standard laboratory conditions. However, for day to day use, there are a number of variable conditions in which the panels will be installed. It is important to take the following two simple factors into consideration.

Dirt

Since solar panels harness light energy, anything that prevents the passage of light impacts the panels’ ability to produce electricity. The impact on output of dirt, leaves, and other things that can accumulate on top of panels is significant for flat panels, reducing energy output by almost half, but relatively small for tilted panels. Areas with little rain, a dry climate, and/or dust storms may be affected more severely.

It’s advised that homeowners routinely conduct a visual inspection of their solar panels and monitor the output to schedule professional cleanings as needed. Now Energy LLC conducts a free cleaning one year after the installation.

Shade

There is a misconception that solar panels do not produce energy unless they are in direct sunlight. Modern solar panels have been designed to work in poor lighting situations. Understanding how shading influences the ability of your panels to produce electricity can help you decide on the right kind of panels, location, and orientation for your situation.

Individual solar cells do not take kindly to constantly changing lighting environments. If some cells are not working, the other cells in the panel work harder to try to compensate. This can result in the well-lit cells becoming overheated and burning out.

Ensuring that your solar array is installed in a way that reduces their exposure to shade is important. This way, you can get the most from your panels and make sure that they continue to produce the maximum output while minimizing the risk for damage.

Dirt and shade are two simple things to consider before and after installing a solar array. Homeowners should make sure to install their panels in a place with little to no shade and watch for dips in production efficiency to know when the panels may need to be cleaned.

Now Energy, LLC Blog

By 7041857947 06 Oct, 2017

The Site Visit

The site visit entails one of our people coming out and getting on your roof to look at the position of your roof. South and southwest are the best positions to put panels. We go up and measure the roof to make sure everything would fit, we go to where your electric meter is, and we go down to where your main panel and electrical meter are and we find out where other components would fit. We’ll be able to see if we have any areas where things won’t be able to go, due to a gas meter or water pipe fittings as well as where all of the electrical portions of the installation has to go.

Client Approval of Plans

Once we do a design, we want the client’s approval so they can say, “yes I agree with this,” or, “no I don’t like what you did, can we put things over here, can we change things around?” We listen to the client’s input on how the design is going to be positioned on their roof because, aesthetically, they have to look at it from that point on, so we want to make sure that what we’re gonna do is what they would like to see happen.

Homeowner’s Association

The HOA is working with the homeowner’s association and making sure they approve of our plans for the overall aesthetics of the neighborhood. A lot of them don’t want anything on the front, they don’t want anything being seen from the road, they want various things painted so we have to go through them to make sure that everything we’re gonna do is approved by them and if they have any extra details that they want taken care of. HOAs legally can’t refuse solar from being installed in their neighborhoods but they can make requests.

Interconnect Agreement

The interconnect agreement is something that we do for the clients so that they can get the electricity they produce back on the electrical grid. So we and the electrical company have to file the paperwork and they have to approve what we’re doing. They give us a lot of codes to meet so we have to do our paperwork and designs accordingly, in order to meet all of the codes that they require to put power back on the grid whenever the resident is not utilizing it for their own purposes.

Permitting

The permitting is strictly through the city. Every city has different codes that they have to deal with so we go in and we permit accordingly and supply the information that they need so we can meet all of the guidelines that their codes require, as well as all of the fire codes. Some places have a three foot rule. We have to be three feet off the top of the roof so that if there was a fire they would have access to that area. We work very closely with the cities and the fire departments.

Installation Coordination

At this point, basically all of the plans are agreed upon. We have all of the ideas that we need to install. Now the project coordinator will go in and schedule with the client when they want to install, since some people want to be there and others don’t care. We inform them of our plans for the total installation and we let them know when the materials will arrive so that they can find a safe place to put them because some people don’t want them in their driveway, so we have to put them in their yard. We have to know where they want the materials. We have to know if we have gate codes we have to get through. You know it’s the personalization of this whole process, talking with the client and making sure that they’re comfortable with what we’re gonna do for them because we want them to be comfortable.

Panel Installation

We come in and we do the panel installation first; we almost always do the roof first. We go in, lay it all out, mark up the roof, then we lay all of the stuff that prevents the roof from leaking then we put down the rails and the optimizers. We then take the microinverters and finally we put down the panels and hook up all the wiring.

Electrical Installation

Then we go into the electrical installation and do all of the work down on the ground for the new meters, if required by the interconnect company. We do all the electrical installation which connects to the grid and to the roof panels. We adhere to all of standards that the interconnect companies require. Some require an extra meter, some don’t. Some require shut off, some don’t. We have to meet all of their codes so we do all of that work, and make it aesthetically pleasing to the client so that it looks nice on their wall and nice and professionally installed.

Permit Inspection

Once we’re done with that, we call the city to have them come out and inspect what we did. That way we make sure everything we did passes and meets the permits that we acquired earlier. So we come in and we do all of that work, we do the inspections, sometimes we have to be there, sometimes we don’t but it’s the pass so that the client knows that everything that we have done meets the city, county, and fire code and they can be comfortable knowing that everything is correct.

Commissioning

We then call in the final commissioning. Interconnection utility companies come in, they turn on the power, they say that the system is good to go and at that point the homeowner is free to produce energy and put their overages back on the grid. With that, we tell them how long they have to wait to see their money come back to them, sometimes they have to wait a billing cycle.

Rebate Paperwork

If the client has a rebate coming in, then we file the final rebate paperwork. We do all of that for them so that the client doesn’t have to do anything except sign documents. That’s all the client has to do in this entire process is sign documents. The rebate paperwork is done after the final commissioning. Their rebate comes long before they ever file for their taxes unless it’s at the very end of the year. So people right now, we’ll file for their rebate paperwork and they’ll get their checks in 2 to 4 weeks. So their rebate comes right after commissioning, after a couple of weeks they should see their rebate checks.

*Edited for clarification

Photo Credit: Modernize
By 7041857947 19 Aug, 2017

On Monday, August 21st, the sun will briefly disappear across America in a total solar eclipse. This is a rare event you are not going to want to miss. According to NASA, experiencing a total solar eclipse from where you live only happens about once every 375 years. This will be the first time in 99 years that a total solar eclipse travels across the United States from the west coast to the east coast. The first point of contact will be at Lincoln Beach, Oregon at 9:05 a.m. PDT. Over the next few hours it will cross the country diagonally, ending near Charleston, South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EDT. The lunar shadow should leave the United States at 4:09 EDT. The whole country should be able to see at least a partial eclipse but those living in the area shown above will be in the path of totality.

Those in Texas will not be able to see the total solar eclipse but will be able to see roughly 70% of the sun covered by the moon. For those in the Austin area, the partial eclipse will begin at about 11:41 a.m., peak at 1:10 p.m., and end at approximately 2:39 p.m.

This is expected to be the last total solar eclipse seen in the United States until April 8, 2024.  Be sure to use caution when looking at the sun, use special eclipse glasses to protect your eyes. Just in case you are unable to catch this one, the total solar eclipse in 2024 is expected to pass through Central Texas.

Photo credit: NASA

Photo credit: Rick Fienberg/TravelQuest Int'l/Wilderness Travel

By 7041857947 07 Aug, 2017

Across the country, there are now nearly one million solar energy projects in operation. The United State’s solar energy capacity has multiplied by 30 since 2008 causing solar to account for over 30 percent of all new electricity generating capacity. Americans are seeing savings of tens of millions of dollars a year due to solar.

These savings are further sweetened by a thriving industry that is providing thousands of people with jobs in solar. In 2015, the solar workforce grew a rate that was 12 times faster than the overall economy. In fact, one out of every 78 new jobs created in the U.S. was created by the solar industry. Even as unemployment levels reached their highest levels in 2009, the solar industry continued to add jobs. Moreover, ten percent of the solar industry workforce is made up by veterans.

Additionally, solar jobs offer competitive wages. On average, solar installation workers earn a median wage of $21 per hour, while solar designers earn $27 per hours, and marketing and sales professionals earn $29 per hour.

What this information shows us is that the solar industry has the potential to power our daily lives. It allows us to harness energy to power our cars and homes, to reduce the cost of electricity and the amount of carbon emissions in the air, all while creating new jobs right here at home.

By 7041857947 01 Aug, 2017

Austin, Texas is the fastest growing city in the country. It is also one of the sunniest cities in America averaging about 228 sunny days each year.

Austin has had a long standing commitment to sustainable energy use. In 2007 the city adopted Resolution 20070215-023 to become “the leading city in the nation in the effort to reduce the negative impacts of global warming”. And in 2011, Austin became the largest local government in the United States to subscribe to 100% renewable energy to power all city-owned buildings and facilities.

The city has also committed itself to 55% overall renewable energy production by 2025. One way that residents can help the city reach this goal is by generating their own renewable energy through solar power. Doing so reduces the amount of pollution and toxic waste in the city and also helps to grow the local economy by keeping jobs in the city.

Here are some small steps you can take to help the environment:

  • Turn off lights and unplug devices.

  • Keep your tires properly inflated. If your tire pressure is low your car has to work harder and burn more gas.

  • Use public transportation, bike, or walk. The fewer vehicles there are on the road, the less pollution that is generated.

  • Use reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones.

  • Recycle paper, plastic, and glass.

  • Use cold water for laundry and always do it in full loads. This will decrease the amount of water and energy used to wash your clothes.

  • Replace your lightbulbs with LEDs, they use 90% less energy and last 10 to 25 times longer.

  • Replace your air conditioning system if it’s more than 10 years old. Newer models use up to 40% less energy and you can get rebates from Austin Energy to help you save money.

  • Opt for plants native to Texas instead of grass. They require less water since they have already adapted to the local climate.

  • Adjust your thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 67 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Remember to turn your AC or heat when you’re not home.

Encourage your family and friends to take these steps with you. Together, we can do our part to promote sustainable practices in Austin.

´╗┐Photo Credit: copaustin.com

By 7041857947 26 Jul, 2017

When determining the real cost of a solar installation, a homeowner has to take into account more than just the price of the panels and their rated energy output. Other things to take into consideration are the lifespan of the panels as well as their “solar energy yield” -- how much energy the system will produce over a year. The efficiency rating of panels comes from tests conducted in standard laboratory conditions. However, for day to day use, there are a number of variable conditions in which the panels will be installed. It is important to take the following two simple factors into consideration.

Dirt

Since solar panels harness light energy, anything that prevents the passage of light impacts the panels’ ability to produce electricity. The impact on output of dirt, leaves, and other things that can accumulate on top of panels is significant for flat panels, reducing energy output by almost half, but relatively small for tilted panels. Areas with little rain, a dry climate, and/or dust storms may be affected more severely.

It’s advised that homeowners routinely conduct a visual inspection of their solar panels and monitor the output to schedule professional cleanings as needed. Now Energy LLC conducts a free cleaning one year after the installation.

Shade

There is a misconception that solar panels do not produce energy unless they are in direct sunlight. Modern solar panels have been designed to work in poor lighting situations. Understanding how shading influences the ability of your panels to produce electricity can help you decide on the right kind of panels, location, and orientation for your situation.

Individual solar cells do not take kindly to constantly changing lighting environments. If some cells are not working, the other cells in the panel work harder to try to compensate. This can result in the well-lit cells becoming overheated and burning out.

Ensuring that your solar array is installed in a way that reduces their exposure to shade is important. This way, you can get the most from your panels and make sure that they continue to produce the maximum output while minimizing the risk for damage.

Dirt and shade are two simple things to consider before and after installing a solar array. Homeowners should make sure to install their panels in a place with little to no shade and watch for dips in production efficiency to know when the panels may need to be cleaned.

By 7041857947 24 Jul, 2017

Global energy markets are notorious for being unstable and price fluctuations from these markets have a significant impact on the United States’ economy.

One of the most effective ways to decrease our nation’s dependence on foreign oil is by encouraging solar PV installation on a personal and national level. The sun is a nearly infinite source of energy that will allow us to remain unaffected by the rising price of oil while maintaining political flexibility in international relations. An independent energy market is a less volatile energy market.

According to Nadine May, a graduate student at the University of Braunschweig, it would take about 25,000 square miles of solar panels to meet the energy needs of the entire world. This sounds like a lot of space but it is only about the size of West Virginia.

The environmental benefits of solar are appealing too. An average 5 kW system will prevent the release of 73 tons of carbon over a 25 year period. Keep in mind that the average lifespan of a solar PV system is 30 to 40 years. If only five percent of homes in the United States installed solar panels, that would be the same as taking 7.7 million cars of the road or planting 6.9 million trees.

There are so many reasons to go solar! If you are interested in getting solar for your home or simply want some more information, contact Now Energy LLC at 512-614-0498. We install in the Austin and San Antonio areas.

Photo Credit: Solar Energy USA


By 7041857947 19 Jul, 2017

HOAs and Solar

If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association (HOA), you are most likely aware that you need permission for certain alterations and home improvement projects. Luckily, when it comes to solar panels, HOAs no longer have complete autonomy in dictating whether or not you can install solar.

About twenty four states, including Texas, have solar access laws that limit HOAs from banning solar panels. These laws override the HOA contract that restricts you from going solar. There are two types of solar access rights that protect a homeowner’s right to install solar: solar access laws and solar easements. They both protect your right to harness energy from the sun but address different concerns.

Solar Access Laws

These are state-level laws that prohibit or limit restrictions on solar installation. In Texas, an HOA cannot legally prohibit a homeowner from installing solar on their property. While these laws protect a homeowner from being denied their right to install solar, HOAs still have the ability to place restrictions on where and how it is installed.

Texas Property Code 202.010 states that HOAs are not allowed to include or enforce provisions within their regulations, covenants, or by-laws that prohibit or restrict homeowners from installing a solar energy device. While this protects a homeowner’s right to go solar, there are still several caveats that allow HOAs to regulate the installation of solar panels in certain situations. The law also stipulates that the HOA may designate where the panels should be located on the roof. A way around that is for the homeowner to show that the designation hinders the performance of the solar panels.

Under a new law that went into effect on September 1, 2015, residential developments with more than fifty homes are prohibited from banning or restricting homeowners from installing solar panels. This means that residents of continuously growing subdivisions no longer have to wait for the developer to finish construction before installing solar.

Residents in historic districts may also face challenges when it comes to installation restrictions. These restrictions vary by district and property, however they typically include stipulations that protect the structure and aesthetics of the property. In Austin specifically, Austin City Code 25-2-356 allows historic districts to incorporate sustainability measures such as solar technologies and other energy efficiency measures.

While a property owner’s right to install solar cannot be denied, restrictions placed on the placement or aesthetics of the panels can make it difficult, or costly, to go solar.

Solar Easements

In states with solar easements, homeowners can negotiate with their neighbors to protect their property’s access to sunlight and take measures to prevent obstructions like large trees or structures on their neighbor’s yard.

The Benefits of Installing Residential Solar Power in Texas

Texas is the second largest state in the nation with an average of 135 clear days and 2850 hours of sunshine per year offering plenty of sunlight for solar systems to harness energy from. As one of the cheapest states for solar installation, Texas offers a low cost of entry for property owners looking into solar.

In case HOA regulations are what’s stopping you from going solar, just know that, legally, your HOA cannot prohibit you from installing solar panels. They can make recommendations on how they wanted the panels to appear aesthetically and that is something that Now Energy LLC is happy to work around to ensure that you are reducing your carbon footprint and benefiting yourself financially.


By 7041857947 01 Jul, 2017

1. How do solar panels work?

Photovoltaic (PV) systems absorb the sun’s light throughout the day and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. However, since most homes and businesses run on alternating current (AC) electricity, the DC electricity must be passed through an inverter to convert it to AC electricity. Once this happens, your home or business either uses the electricity or it gets sent back to the grid.

2. Can I remove myself from the grid with solar panels?

Normally when you install solar panels, your home will still be connected to the grid. Staying connected allows you to draw energy from the grid during the times your system is not producing enough electricity to meet your needs. It also allows you to send excess electricity back to the grid and have your power company credit you for it. It is possible to completely remove yourself from the grid with a system that includes battery storage, however, you should note that it will cost significantly more and is usually unnecessary for most homeowners.

3. What is maintenance like for solar panels?

Solar panels are made of durable tempered glass and require little to no maintenance over their 25 to 35 year lifespan. Our BenQ panels come with a 25 year manufacturer’s warranty, as well as a 10 year workmanship warranty. We install each panel in your system with its own microinverter. This insures that in the case that one panel stops working, the rest will not be affected.

4. How much does a solar system cost?

The cost of your solar investment varies greatly depending on the size of the system you need, your location, available incentives and rebates. This is why it is best to set up a consultation with your preferred installer to get an accurate estimate of how much your investment will cost. This estimate will be based on the size of your home, your yearly electricity use, as well as the amount of sunlight available to you based on roof coverage, orientation, and space.

5. What sorts of incentives are available for me?

Federal, local, and state governments all offer solar energy tax credits and other incentives to encourage homeowners to go solar. The size of the subsidy varies by program. The federal government allows you to deduct 30% of your solar power system costs off your federal taxes through an investment tax credit. These programs are designed to reward early adopters of solar energy and encourage others to also install soon, for this reason the amount of allotted funds decrease each year. Both Austin Energy and CPS offer great incentives to encourage homeowners to switch to solar.


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