Solar FAQ

Frequently Asked Solar Questions

General Questions

What are all the main components of the solar system?

A metal racking system with helical piles, solar panels, and inverters located at the solar array. The system is typically located 75-300 feet away from the home.

An underground trench approximately 30 inches deep runs from the solar system to the house, with PVC conduit and electrical wires inside.

On the side of the home next to the utility meter:  a disconnect switch next to the utility meter for shutting off the solar array, and a 30-inch by 30-inch tap box underneath the utility meter, which is where the solar connection is made to the home’s electrical system.

What is the warranty for the equipment?

Solar Panels:  Minimum 25-year manufacturer performance warranty

Inverters:  Standard 10-year manufacturer warranty, extensions available up to 20 years.

Does the system require maintenance?

The short answer is no.  Ground mount systems require significantly less risk and long-term maintenance cost vs a roof-mounted system.  All the components are serviceable from the ground by a single person (and no roof leaks!).  We are not in this game to sell you expensive maintenance plans you do not need. The panels will occasionally accumulate dust or pollen but will be washed away with rain. The inverters (most systems have 1-2 inverters) have a filter that needs to be cleaned no more than once every couple of years unless you’re in a very dirty environment.  The systems are designed to be simple, and virtually maintenance-free.

How can I tell if my system is performing properly?

Each system comes with a web-based monitoring platform, accessed via your computer, or an app that can be downloaded on your phone.  Due to most inverters being installed at the solar array, often far from the house, we include a cell card with a data plan that reports from the inverter remotely.  We can also run internet wire underground, to your house, to make a direct connection to your router, if you prefer (additional fee).

Financial Questions

What is net-metering?

Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits you for the solar electricity that you add to the grid. When your solar system is producing power, that power is being used in the home first. If you are producing more power than you are using, the power will go back to the grid, and you will get a kWh to kWh credit on your bill, which can be used to offset future usage.

How does the electricity get credited?

The solar electricity produced by the solar system enters the customer side of the utility meter.  At that point, it supplies power to the house, before drawing any additional power needed from the utility. If the solar is producing more power than the home requires, the excess energy will be sent back out the utility grid, and credit your utility meter.

How will my utility bill change?

Your new utility bill will have a “kWh bank”, which stores the energy you sent back to the grid.  When you produce more energy than you use in a given month, the extra kWhs will be stored in the bank (think rollover minutes on old phone plans).  When you have a month that you use more energy than your solar system produces, the utility will draw down from the kWh bank to offset the difference.

At what $ amount does the utility credit for the solar produced?

The utility credits you through a process called “Net metering”.  This means they credit in kWhs, and every kWh you produce will equally offset kWhs charged by the utility.  The energy pulled from the utility grid at night can be totally offset by solar produced during the day, as if it never existed.  There is a fixed charge on the bill that cannot be directly offset by solar.  This customer charge is roughly $15.  All other charges can disappear if you produce enough solar.  Once a year, at the end of May, the utility will send you a check for the number of kWhs in your kWh bank.  This is basically the utility clearing financial liability for their accounting.  The excess paid in the check will be slightly lower and will be paid at the rate to compare.  This is slightly less than during the rest of the year, when trading kWh solar and kWh utility means that you can offset the full retail rates, including generation & distribution charges.

What is the solar federal tax credit?

The solar investment tax credit is a federal tax credit equal to 26% of the total cost of a residential solar system.  For example, if the cost of your solar system is $30,000, the tax credit would be $7,800 and the net cost of the system (before other incentives) would be $22,200. The solar system owner is responsible for claiming the tax credit on their income tax return for the year the system was installed.

What is an SREC?

An SREC is a solar renewable energy credit (or certificate) that is equal to 1,000 kWh of solar production.  For example, if you produce 10,000 kWh in one year, you will have 10 SRECs. Each SREC can be sold on the open market.  In 2021, the going price for 1 SREC in Pennsylvania is $25.

Construction Questions

How do you install a ground-mounted solar system?

We start by mapping out the best, south-facing area on your property. We then install helical piles into the ground and install posts on top of the helical piles. Once the piles and posts are installed, we mount metal racking across the posts and then mount solar panels on top of the racking. The system is completed by mounting inverters next to the solar array, running the wires through a conduit in a trench to the house, and interconnected the system to the electric meter or panel.

Why helical piles?

Helical piles are stronger than concrete, are faster to install, require no excavation/digging, and do not require perfect weather conditions.

How does a helical pile work?

A helical pile is a steel post with a screw-like flat plate at the bottom. The helical pile is spun/screwed into the ground to a depth of 4-6 feet, with minimal soil disturbance. The plate at the bottom of the pile uses the several feet of soil above it, to withstand the tension and lift caused by high winds, etc. In simple terms, in order for the pile to come loose, the wind would need to dislodge feet of dirt. This makes it able to withstand higher forces than standard, concrete posts.

What happens if you hit a rock?

We review soil reports prior to installation. Minor rock will not pose a problem. If large rocks are encountered (boulders), we have a rock drill to easily modify the installation of the pier. Using the rock drill is an additional cost, but we will give you a price before we continue the installation. In the areas where we operate, we do not encounter major issues with a rock.

What is the solar racking made of?

The racking system above ground is comprised of galvanized steel and anodized aluminum.  They are designed to last 30+ years. We produce custom designs and drawings that are stamped by a professional engineer to meet or exceed the specific weather conditions of each location and installation. Our standard systems are engineered to withstand wind in excess of 120 mph. In addition, the depth and type of the helical piles are customized for each site and soil type.

What kind of solar panels do you use?

Our parent company, US Solar Development, Inc., installs large commercial/industrial solar panel systems all across the Mid-Atlantic region. Thanks to their high volume, we are able to buy directly from the largest and best manufacturers in the world, at wholesale prices. This allows us to pass on savings to our customers, and offer you better products. There are several manufacturers that we offer, including Q-Cells and Trina. Some panels are still made in US factories, while many come from overseas. These are manufacturers that we trust, and we put thousands of their panels on commercial installations every year.

What kind of Inverters do you use?

The purpose of an inverter is to take the DC electricity produced by the solar panels and convert it to AC, at the same voltage as your house operates. We use string inverters, which are ideal for large, residential ground-mounted systems – instead of microinverters – to reduce the potential points of failure. We use inverters from some of the most established and reputable manufacturers in the industry. These inverter manufacturers include the European companies Fronius and SMA, which include a standard 10-year warranty, and can be extended to 15 or 20 years at an additional cost.


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