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FREQUENTLY ASKED SOLAR QUESTIONS

 Whether you’re thinking of switching or already have solar, here’s what you need to know.

How do solar panels and solar energy systems work?

The solar panels mounted on your building or home are comprised of photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. Solar panels allow particles of light called photons to knock electrons free from atoms, which in turn generate a direct current of electricity (“DC” power). These currents flow out of the solar panel and into an inverter, which inverts the DC power into alternating current (“AC” power). AC power is what we use in our homes and businesses in the United States. There are two types of solar called Offgrid and Grid-tied. The vast majority of homes in the Texas choose grid-tied, because you can never run out of power. In most markets throughout Texas you can be grid-tied and effectively use the local utility as your “battery”. Utilities credit you at differing amounts for your over production, which generates a credit or surplus of power. This is called net metering. During the day you charge up that “battery” and at night you pull from the utility company, effectively draining your “battery”. Depending on the utility you can achieve a net zero bill with this net metering approach. Some utilities offer significant rebates and incentives for keeping your solar energy system tied to a utility grid, as they benefit from your overproduction at times of the day when energy costs them more to produce.

Offgrid solar is very rarely used, requires expensive batteries that wear out and need replacement, require routine maintenance and worst of all, if you run out of battery power you have NO power!

Learn more on our How Solar Works page.

How long does it take to install a solar panel system?

For residential solar installations, actually putting the solar power system on your roof is a rapid process handled by our expert installers. Depending on the size of your system, it can take less than a day or up to 2-3 days for very large systems. There are many other factors to keep in mind about having a system installed. Alba provides a complete turn-key solution that includes permitting, HOA approval, ensuring everything is up to code, etc. Alba Energy’s solar power experts happily walk you through the process from start to finish and except for a few signatures and initials, you can be assured we will handle the rest.

Will I be without electricity when it rains or when it’s cloudy?

Because you are getting a grid-tied system, you will virtually never be without power. Solar panels work well in ambient light and will produce a significant amount of energy on cloudy or overcast days. Don’t believe us? San Francisco is one of the most progressive solar energy using cities in the country. Learn more by reading our FAQ article Do Solar Panels Work On Cloudy Days?

Shouldn’t I wait until a newer solar energy system model comes out?

The simple answer is, “No”. Solar panels squeak out a little more power each year, but if you get a system that wipes out part or all of your bill today, it will not be obsoleted by the next generation of solar technology. You are paying a never ending loan that is always increasing from your electric company or you are eliminating all or a large portion of that bill today and in the future. Waiting is just burning cash that could have gone to paying off your solar system. Solar panels have a life span of over 30 years. And no, a newer model won’t replace the functionality of the system you buy this year. We are still using the same solar technology as we did back in the 1960s. It has just continued to get better and better by small increments over time. While marketing and media would have you believe that there will always be a newer system around the corner, no emerging technology can make your solar energy system obsolete.

How do I know if solar panels will work on my house?

It’s simple. Call us and we can remotely look at your roof to confirm whether or not solar is viable at your location. We’ll check it out for you free of charge and show you what it would look like for you to GO SOLAR!

Is switching to a solar energy system really worth it?

Apart from the obvious benefits to the environment and stabilizing/eliminating your electric bills, switching to a solar provides increased equity in your home and a quicker sale. Did you know that a house with solar is appraised at a higher value than the house next door? According to a 2013 survey by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley Laboratory, home buyers are willing to pay more ($4.00 per watt) for homes with solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems and they sell 4 to 5 times faster than homes without solar. An average house with a PV system is valued at almost $20,000 more than those without a solar energy system. Purchasing a solar energy system for your home really is a solid investment that increases as energy rates rise.

Learn more by visiting our page Are Solar Panels Worth It In Texas?

What happens to solar panels in a hailstorm?

With no moving parts, PV solar panels are one of the most durable technologies exposed to the elements. Today’s Tier 1 Solar panels have a protective tempered glass over the PV modules to protect them from adverse weather conditions, including wind, hail or snow. Tempered glass is a very durable substance; in fact, many solar panels designed during ‘70s (the inception of solar technology) are still functioning today. Most solar panels are tested to withstand 1” hailstones (golfball-sized) at a 52 mph terminal velocity. Due to the tilted angles of PV solar roof installations most hailstones glance off of the panels. They also absorb some of the energy, because they are flexible.

For a more detailed analysis you can read Are Solar Panels Hail Proof?

Does my solar energy system need batteries?

Batteries make ZERO sense in Texas at the moment. Texas does not have Time-of-Use, in which utilities charge different prices depending on the time of day and load on the grid. Batteries are an extra expense that yield little to no value, add maintenance to an otherwise maintenance-free solution and add future ongoing costs to replace every 4-10 years. There has been a lot of discussion recently about new battery add-ons for solar energy installations. Most people who switch to solar continue to use the grid as a back up (grid-tied). It is free and never needs replacing! As batteries can be expensive, most solar energy experts do not recommend adding a battery backup system unless the residence is in a remote area or prone to constant and prolonged long-term outages.

For a more detailed analysis you can read Where Do The Batteries Go?

Will my electricity meter run backwards?

It depends on your individual utility company. Some allow straightforward ‘net metering’ where any power produced from solar will offset your bill, regardless of when the power is consumed and often have a meter that spins both ways. Others have a separate PV Meter which tracks 100% of your production, which the utility uses to offset some or all of your usage. Talk to one of our experienced consultants about what owning a solar energy system could mean for you.

For a more detailed analysis you can read Will The Electricity Meter Run Backwards With Solar?

What warranties does my system carry?

Most Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers provide warranties for 25 years. Microinverters come with 25 year warranties out of the box. String and string/power optimizer inverters typically carry 10-12 year warranties that can be extended for up to 25 years. With this in mind, it is important to ensure that you select components from companies that will be around to service your system in the future. It is also important that your system is installed and maintained properly to ensure compliance with warranties.

Alba provides a 10 year workmanship warranty over and above the manufacturer’s warranties. We want you producing power long into the future and sharing the benefits of going solar with all of your friends, neighbors and colleagues.

For a more detailed analysis you can read What’s The Best Solar Panel Warranty?

Will my solar system supply power during a power cut or blackout?
Solar panels continue to generate electricity from sunlight every day. All grid-tied solar systems must have a rapid shutdown capability so that they stop sending power back to the grid and potentially shock workers repairing the problem. If regular outages are a problem in your neighborhood, battery back-up systems can help to mitigate the issue, but are only recommended in extreme circumstances due to the increased cost. A more cost-effective solution is a generator in these instances.
Will my HOA allow me to install a solar energy system?

Under Texas Law, Homeowner’s Associations are not allowed to prohibit or restrict homeowners from installing a solar energy system. Alba will take care of all of the interaction with your HOA and get your system approved with minimal, if any, action required by you. Most HOAs do not have policies against solar systems, but they will want to make sure that the system is designed in keeping with the neighborhood aesthetics. Ensuring that your solar energy system is installed by a certified and professional solar provider will help to prevent any mishaps with HOAs. For a more detailed analysis you can read Can My HOA Prevent Me From Going Solar?

Does my homeowner’s insurance cover my solar energy system?

Most home insurance companies will insure your solar energy system. In many cases, it shouldn’t impact your premium, as it actually protects that portion of your roof from the elements and extends the life of your roof, however some may charge a few extra dollars per month. It is important to contact your insurance company before buying a solar system to make sure they will cover your system.

How will this affect my electricity bill?

In general, an average 6.5kW solar power system will save approximately $1,000 on your annual electric bill, depending on your current cost of energy. The percentage offset of your bill varies by the amount of energy used and the amount of usable roof real-estate available for solar. Additionally, Alba Energy’s solar financing options (with ZERO down) allow you to start seeing savings on Day 1.

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