Welcome to the SolSurvivor web site!
Thank you for taking a moment to read about how we want to help you.
This little writeup is intended to give you some insight as to what to expect and how to proceed. Sorry it’s not brief, but we hope it helps to get you on your way to integrating solar on your home. We want to take the fear of the unknown out of solar energy so you can take advantage of the lowest prices ever and the easy-to-obtain incentive money that is available to you. If you prefer to skim through now, you can look for the key point indicators in bold.
In a nutshell, here is what we want to do for you:
- Assess your energy consumption, thus determining your solar needs.
- Forecast site-specific solar energy production forecast for your area.
- Help you select the system that is right for you and your needs.
- Take your money for aforementioned “system.”
- Save you tens of thousands of dollars. (See the math.)
- Build you a preliminary site plan and array layout.
- Create a one-line electrical diagram that will be used for permitting, HOA and utility submittal and guidance for you or your installation professionals.
- Assist you with your HOA submittal.
- Assist you with an electrical equipment layout and electrical tie-in design based on pictures from you of your current electrical service.
- Assemble and ship to you a system kit that contains almost everything you will need to complete your project.
- Be there for you with a limited amount of phone support to keep you comfortable with what you are doing.
- Be there to talk you off the ledge every time you try to over-complicate the matter.
- Equip you with what you need to obtain your IRS tax credit (30% of your total cost).
Along the way you will have to work with us: send us photos, your HOA forms, your electric bills, etc. We need these only so we can help you do the job well and avoid some real headaches. Our desire is not to steal your identity, sell your information, or put photos of your electrical system on some provocative site on the web. We just want to help, make you happy and hope you will refer us to your friends and family.
Even though solar technology is essentially over a century old, it has only gained real traction in the last decade or so and is still a very unfamiliar and intimidating prospect to the general population. In the sense of getting your project from concept to connection, it can be complicated because of the lack of familiarity with the modern technology and methods of design. We are here to simplify that process and help you from start to finish as painlessly as possible and save you a lot of money in process.
Sounds great, right? But we still don’t know exactly what that means, so let’s dig in a little. From a simplistic standpoint, you have solar panels (modules) on the roof which produce D/C power. These modules are then connected with wires which go to an inverter which converts the D/C power to A/C power so that it may be used in your home. The inverter is normally mounted on the side of your home. The inverter is then wired into your breaker box so that your solar power can be used within your home.
Now if it was really that simple, I would not have a job. The reality is that there are a lot of electrical codes, building codes, fire codes, UL scrutiny, and manufacturer manipulations and safety components with which you must comply. That’s where we come in! Ideally, we walk you through the whole process, help you with the design, help you procure your equipment and BOS (Balance Of System) so that you can get the very best bang for the buck and enjoy decades of free electricity!
You will have to do a little work yourself here. I mean, let’s face it, this is supposed to be a “Do It Yourself” website. We want to help save you money. However, if I do all the work, I must charge you full retail price, and that’s no fun for either one of us (less fun for you than me, actually). Please don’t kid yourself into thinking that we are going to do all the work for you while you get the “Do It Yourself” price.
To do the complete project for you will cost a lot of extra money, and that’s what turnkey providers are for. This is probably a wonderful place to interject our disclaimer about “doing it yourself.” We are not saying that you “can” do the entire project yourself from start to finish. We are not saying that you should even “try” to do it yourself. We are saying that you can save money with us regardless of how much you do yourself and how much you hire out to be done by the professionals. You can buy your system from us, be there when the truck shows up. and farm out the rest and still save a bunch of money!
When dealing with electricity, we absolutely must insist that you not work beyond your capability and hire a licensed electrician to do the heavy lifting on the electrical side. Electricity, both A/C and D/C, can be very dangerous and should be handled by a licensed professional. There are lots of good electricians out there that work for a reasonable fee. Hiring a qualified electrician is worth every penny, way more in fact, if you don’t know what you are doing. When installing a system that is designed to serve you for decades, you want it done right! We will not give you direct advice on how to accomplish an electrical task that should be handled by a licensed professional!
Most cities allow homeowners to do a great deal without getting a permit because it’s your home and basically this is still a free country. Please keep in mind that just because a permit may not be required, not getting a permit is not necessarily a good idea. Codes are there for a reason, and that is for your safety and the safety of others. We continually learn more and more about electrical practices, and each year new codes come out in reaction to bad things that have happened in the past. The benefit of pulling a permit and getting a final inspection is that you will know that your home is compliant and there are no imminent safety hazards.
This can open a can of worms, however. Let me give you a quick example, and if you’re not interested, feel free to skip past what is italicized here. In certain areas, gas meters used to be installed in the same proximity as the electric meter. Currently, they must be 3 feet apart from each other. So, if you pull a permit, install solar, get inspected, and they see this, you are now in code violation. One or the other needs to be moved. It is usually easier to move the gas meter. Guess what? That means another permit from a licensed plumber and another inspection. All of a sudden, your valve on your hot water heater is no longer compliant…meet the can of worms. In this particular case, the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) is reasonable and says if you are only adding a breaker you don’t need to move meters. BUT IF you are rebuilding your electrical, you must bring everything up to code. Every city or AHJ has its own interpretation of the code, pet peeves or idiosyncrasies of some sort with specific input on how solar is to be done. In many cases solar is new to them also, and how they react to it can be a little hard to predict. Sometimes pride gets in the way because the city or AHJ is supposed to be the expert here. In this case, we cannot help, so you have another good argument for hiring a licensed electrician. He should already be familiar with those oddities and can prevent you from learning the hard way.
Just for fun, let’s say that you did all the work yourself except for the inverter installation and the electrical work.
Let me give you some insight as to what you might expect to pay the pros to do it for you. Let’s break it up into chunks and different skillsets:
- Rooftop hardware (racking) installation. These first two in green are somewhat the same process; but if you really want to do this first one yourself, you could separate it and sub out the rest. You should be able to use a tape measure, do basic math, have carpentry skills, and can follow the layout. Separating this process can open some opportunity for mistakes and may not be the best idea.
- Mounting solar modules to the racking and D/C wire management. If you wanted to farm this piece out, most AHJ’s don’t require any type of licensing for this, but some consider it electrical work. You might expect to pay about $0.15 – $0.25 per watt ($0.20 x 6,000 watts (6kw) = $1,200).
- Installing and connecting D/C power to the inverter. The next three items in blue are basically what your electrician would be expected to do. A typical electrician of this sort should cost about $400 – $700 to “do” the electrical for you. There will be a little bit of material here that is specific to your house and WILL cost a little extra. This will be things like the breaker specific to your panel, conduit to run the wires, PV meter, and meter can, if required. These items may add up to a few hundred dollars, but there is no way to order them as part of the kit.
- Installing the electrical from the inverter to the base load connection (usually a breaker in your main panel). As a side note, if you have an older electrical panel or just a rinky-dink setup, this is the opportune time to step back and do it right. A typical “service rebuild” should cost between $1,200 – $2,000. Half of this cost is materials, and the work can be done under the same electrical permit. I’ve heard of electricians “poking people’s eyes out” on this step. Unless your electrical is a real mess, then he is basically swapping out the main breaker panel, and it’s not that big of a deal. This should be on the lower end of this price range.
- Commissioning. This is the grand finale where your system goes live. At the very least, this event is approved by your utility company so that it can document that your little power plant just went online. If you have pulled a permit. then this event would be post inspection. Sometimes the utility company comes out and “commissions” the system, which basically means flipping the switch. If they do come out, they probably want to test “anti-islanding,” which means when the power goes out your solar shuts down. Read from the link below if you want more information on anti-islanding. If your electrician is making an additional trip out for this event, paying him his normal trip charge for the extra visit is a reasonable charge.
- OR, a complete and total turnkey installation including commissioning. $0.45 – $0.70 plus permit cost is reasonable (i.e., $0.50 x 6,000 watts (6kw) = $3,000). Considering you just saved $15k-$20 by acquiring this yourself, that’s not a bad deal.
- We can also help you find an installer in your area, but the final negotiation may be up to you. Click here to see a quick article titled “do the math” to see how we come up with these numbers.
On a similar subject, your utility company takes mini-power plants within their infrastructure very seriously. For example, let’s say the power is out in your area, and some diligent civil servant is down the street trying to fix the problem and you electrocute him. The utility company tends not to see the humor in this, and you will get sued. The utility may try to sue me, too; but I will refer them to this little tidbit where I told you to comply with the utility company, and they will probably move on.
Let’s take this seriously though. Regardless of whether you pull a permit or not, do the project yourself or farm it out, you absolutely must work with your utility company for the solar power integration! There is usually a simple form to fill out. There is no benefit or rational reason to not comply; it’s for everyone’s safety. Your utility company may not like solar, but the company usually does not keep you from integrated solar unless their infrastructure is not up to this millennium’s standards and it cannot handle the bidirectional power. A stand like this would not be aimed at just one house like yours. Such a position would normally be a reaction to an influx in solar integrations in your area for which the utility was unprepared. It’s called disruptive technology, and I must admit my heart has a brief warmness about it every time I hear that phrase.
Let’s move on to “net metering.” Net metering is basically what happens when you have a power generation plant that is sending power back to the grid. The whole premise that grid-tied solar is based on being tied to the grid and does not need batteries. Batteries can be crazy expensive and not necessarily a value proposition when you have the luxury of the grid. So, if you have no batteries, you have two dilemmas: 1) your solar at times will not produce enough power to power the house, and 2) you are over-producing at any given time. Hypothetically let’s say it’s not dark outside. This is where net metering comes in.
Let me give you a quick real-life example without the sarcasm. It’s high noon, not a cloud in the sky. Your system is producing full throttle, and basically not much is going on inside the home to consume energy. Your solar is overproducing! Without batteries, that power has to go somewhere; so it goes back to the utility company (grid), and your meter is going backwards. Now a moment later your air conditioner kicks on, and now your solar is not quite keeping up; so your meter slows down, stops, and then starts turning forward again. You are making up the deficit with grid power and now buying the additional power needed from the utility company. This is a good thing, not a bad thing. Being on the grid is a luxury, and having grid-tied solar is a crazy cheap way to buy long-term electricity. I still get people who are bent up about buying power from the utility – the real “stick-it-to-the-man” mentality. This is fine, write me a check for 6 figures plus, and I will be happy to hook you up. Meanwhile let’s exit my mini-rant and get back to “net metering.”
Net metering is when you have the capability for bi-direction power distribution (buying and selling). Now the net metering policy is where the rattlesnakes lie in wait. For an in-depth overview, full of sarcasm and cynicism on the matter, look at the article on hybrid systems. This will explain the “how comes” on the matter, but for now I must remain focused. Don’t get me wrong, I do love hybrid systems. Where were we? Oh yeah, net metering. Every utility company has a “net metering” policy. I think it’s fair to say that every utility company’s policy is going to be different, but there is much concern about this disruptive technology… (there is that term again).
Let’s just say that the utility companies (aka “the man”) are more than a little confused and concerned about their revenue streams. Sadly, their poor choice in reaction to the matter is only making it worse for them (better for me J). A net metering policy may be as simple as not giving any credit for your solar overproduction. This is not a policy; it’s a slap in the face. If you find this in your provider and you have a choice, you need to switch to somebody who is more solar friendly. Some utilities give you a full dollar-for-dollar credit for your overproduction. This is a wonderful thing but not common. Most of the in between stuff gives you some sort of discounted rate on your overproduction. For example, one company may give you discounted credit for your “net” overproduction at the end of the billing cycle. This is like “rollover” minutes from one day to the next. This practice is fair; the company doesn’t want you in the business of selling power – they just want you to be able to meet your needs. Some will discount the rate any time your meter is going backwards. This sucks, and you may want to consider a hybrid system integration to circumvent this type of policy if you don’t have a choice of energy providers. Every policy is different, and not many of them are super solar friendly; but visiting your utility company prior to buying solar is important. The company’s policy can make a major difference in the payback you can expect from your investment.
LET’S GET BACK TO KEEPING IT SIMPLE. The more information you absorb, the more complicated it may seem; but it really is a simple concept:
1) install solar panels on your roof, 2) wire the panels into your inverter, 3) wire your inverter into your house, 4) turn your system on, 5) enjoy decades of free electricity. The process is sort of like teaching your kid how to change a tire on the side of the road. It’s not really that simple, but if you break it down into pieces you have fundamental objectives, and the process becomes less intimidating. 1) Jack the car up, 2) remove lug nuts, 3) remove flat tire, 4) place spare tire on axle, 5) replace lug nuts and tighten, 6) lower the car and go. Now we all know that changing a tire is not that simple, but you want your children to keep their heads on straight when the time comes and not let be overwhelmed. Basic residential grid-tied solar is the same way, and we want to be here to save you money and keep you from freaking out along the way.
That being said, you’re not installing a router or a hot water heater here; so have some patience and don’t be that guy who thinks he’s going to smack it with a magic wand and it’s just going to appear (I hate that guy). Solar is a big deal; and between design, HOA, utility, permits, physical labor, weather, inspections, commissioning, etc., you should expect around 60 days for completion. This platform is designed to give you the opportunity for an amazing value in a basic grid-tied solar energy system which will serve you for many years to come and pay for itself over and over again. If you must get caught up in the weeds with a complicated system, we are more than happy to help you with that, too. But it’s not the DIY platform and pricing.
Other FUN facts!
Do it yourself and SAVE! (Do the math.)
Numbers don’t lie; (high pressure sales people do)
I want to go off grid! (No, you don’t.)
Why Solar Edge equipment?
Grid-tied, off-grid, hybrid system overview.
30% IRS tax credits and rebates.
Can I also get a rebate?
Net metering; like opinions, everybody’s got one.
Heat is bad for solar!
Why buy solar?
Does SolSurvivor help with commercial projects too? (Yes, we do)
To flash or not to flash!
Everything is by the watt!
All watts are created equal!
Solar is not free. (It can pay for itself, but it’s not free.)
What is anti-islanding?
More is better.
Do you give referral fees? (Yes)
The 5 most frequently asked questions (not covered above).
Is shading really a big deal? (Yes, it is) This is a stupid question; that’s why it’s at the bottom and not mentioned elsewhere.