Solar Electric Basics
Solar panels, or solar modules, can be installed on the roof or ground mounting system in your backyard (as space permits). Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells, which convert sunlight into direct current (DC) power, even on cloudy days!
The direct current (DC) power is sent to the inverter, which converts it into alternating current (AC), used by the utility grid and your household appliances.
AC power travels from the inverter to the electric panel, and is ready to use for your home -- to power your computer, make your coffee and wash your clothes! In most cases, your solar power system is compatible with your existing electric panel. All we need to do is to hook it up right. If your electric panel is not up to date, we can offer you an upgrade, too.
You will upgrade to a Net Energy Meter to measure the energy generated from your solar system and energy consumed. The utility company will do it for you free of charge, and we will take care of the application for you. Any excess power generated by your system goes to the grid, and you receive credit for this electricity that you can use at night.
Your home remains connected to the utility grid, which provides electricity when your solar system is not producing. Note that in case of power outage or power grid shutdown (e.g. wind storm), the inverter will automatically shutdown for safety reason. This means that your solar system will not be able to power your home (DC power will not be able to convert to AC to power). You can consider an offgrid power-storage unit, if this is your concern.
You can monitor your solar power system production online through website or mobile phone app. If your system production level drops below normal levels, Altadena Energy & Solar will alert you and help you fix it.
What to look for when comparing bids for solar electric systems?
Maximum generating capacity of the system (measured in watts or kilowatts)
Estimate of the amount of energy that the system will produce on an annual basis
Quality and efficiency of solar panels and inverter
Quality of workmanship (roofers, electricians, etc.)
Solar energy system is a 20+ year investment, you should find a contractor that you trust and feel comfortable working with for long term.
Does the bid include shade analysis, energy efficiency audit, rebate and permit application processes?
Is the company properly licenced, insured and bonded?
What are the warranty terms? How long is the warranty for workmanship (roofing, etc.) and for the equipment?
Where is the company located? Can they provide local responsive services?
Is the lowest price the “best deal”?
It might not be, according to the consumer's guide published by the US Department of Energy. "You generally get what you pay for, and it's possible that a low price could be a sign of inexperience. Companies that plan to stay in business must charge enough for their products and services to cover their costs, plus a fair profit margin. Therefore, price should not be the only consideration, and quality should probably rank high on the list." (A Consumer's Guide: Get your Power from the Sun)