FAQs

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Texas Solar Outfitters offers the widest range of solar system components, and design options. If a solar company offers you a ‘choice’ of one panel and one inverter – they’re selling, not designing – don’t buy it. If you have question about solar energy that’s not listed, please contact us.

What is solar energy?

Solar energy uses the sun’s rays to create heat or electricity. It is an unlimited, renewable resource, valued for its ability to generate energy in a quiet, clean, and reliable manner.

What is the difference between solar panels and building- integrated photovoltaic products?

Solar panels are flat panels of photovoltaic arrays mounted on a roof or a pole to capture sunlight. Building- integrated photovoltaic materials are PV arrays that are integrated into the building material itself, such as windows, roof tiles, or walls. Solar panels work well for retrofits or remodels, while BIPV are appropriate for new construction or a major renovation.

How much does a solar electric power system cost?

A 5kW solar electric system will cost approximately $20,000. That total includes the cost for all components – solar panels, panel mounts, and inverter – and labor associated with installation. Be sure to keep in mind all the money you’ll save in lower electric bills and tax credits.

How much will I really save on my utility bills from a home electric solar power system?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on how much electricity you use and how efficient the appliances are that you operate. In general, expect to generate excess electricity in the summer (when days are long), which can offset the energy you use from the grid in the winter. The good news is that a combination of energy -efficient appliances and light bulbs can help reduce your energy bill by over two-thirds.

What’s the difference between solar photovoltaic and solar hot water systems?

Both types of systems capture solar energy, but solar photovoltaic systems use photovoltaic panels to produce electricity. Solar hot water, or thermal, systems capture sunlight to heat water for domestic use, like for a swimming pool.

What are solar hot water systems?

Solar hot water systems, also called solar thermal systems, use the sun’s energy to heat water. Solar hot water systems can be used to heat a hot water tank or to warm a home’s radiant heating system. Swimming pools and hot tubs use a modified solar hot water system for heating water.

How do pool heating systems work?

Pool heating systems use a modified solar hot water system to capture the sun’s rays to heat your pool or hot tub.

Can I use solar power to heat my home?

Yes! Radiant heating applies solar thermal technology. Transferring solar energy through pipes into an under- floor radiant heating system is a wonderful way to stay warm. Radiant floor systems are typically 40 percent more efficient than their forced air counterpart, and can be zoned to match thermal comfort to each room.

How much maintenance do solar energy panels require?

Solar photovoltaic panels require little maintenance – no need to wash or dust. It is, however, important to place panels where they’ll remain clear of shade and debris. Thus, you’ll have to wipe them off if too many leaves fall on them. Solar hot water collection arrays don’t need much attention, either. It does help to periodically use a window wash brush, biodegradable soap, and water to clean the tubes.

 

Can I use a financing system?

Yes, and we can help. For information on financing, click here.

Do I need special insurance requirements?

Standard homeowner’s insurance policies typically meet electric utility requirements. Electric utilities usually require that homeowners who take advantage of net metering sign an interconnection agreement.

Will I need a building permit to install a solar energy system in my home?

Yes. You’ll need to obtain building permits to install a solar photovoltaic or solar hot water system. Similarly, building, electrical, and plumbing codes also apply. That said, residential solar power systems don’t use “”radical”” building techniques, and most jurisdictions have building codes that fully embrace solar energy technology. Solar professionals roll the price for permits into their cost estimate. You’ll also need to check with your Homeowner’s Association to see whether there are any restrictions on solar panels in your neighborhood.

When should I seek a solar professional?

The earlier the better. Solar installation professionals, like us, can help you determine the type and size of system that best suits your needs.

Why is it important to get multiple bids?

As with any major investment, seeking information from multiple professionals can provide constructive advice, set realistic expectations, and helpfine-tune the design that will work best for your home.

How can I calculate the cost and payback time from a solar power installation?

To estimate how much a solar electric or solar hot water system may cost, determine your current energy needs and costs, and compare against your future anticipated use. Once you have a sense of how much energy you use, you can evaluate the cost of purchasing and installing one or both of the technologies. Fortunately, in today’’s market you can take advantage of multiple federal, state, and local tax credits, plus rebates and other financial incentives that create attractive and competitive prices for solar PV and hot water systems.

How long will it take to install a solar power system in my home?

Planning, configuring, and doing any custom ordering for your solar energy system can take up to a few weeks. However, the installation process itself can typically be completed in only a few days’ time.

What components do I need to install a grid-tied solar electric system?

You’ll need a photovoltaic array to capture the sun’’s energy, an inverter to convert the direct current (DC) produced from the photovoltaic cells into alternating current (AC) used by your home, and a house utility meter – called a “net meter” – that can record both the electricity produced from your home’’s power system as well as any power you may use off the grid. These three system components are then connected through a series of wiring. The photovoltaic panels are secured to your roof with panel mounts, or are installed on poles that can be adjusted for sun angle.

What is a net meter?

Net meters look very much like other outdoor meters, with one notable exception – they spin both forward and backward, recording both the power produced and power used.

Do I need battery backup for my solar panels?

Whether or not to install a battery backup depends on your goals for your solar power system. Battery backups do add cost and can lower your system’s efficiency; however, there are benefits, too. Discuss the pros and cons of battery backup with your solar power professional.

How much space do I need for a solar photovoltaic system?

In bright sunlight, a square foot of a conventional photovoltaic panel will yield 10 watts of power. That’s a helpful rule of thumb for calculating a rough estimate of how much area you might need. For example, a 1,000-watt system may need 100- – 200 square feet of area, depending on the type of PV module used.

How many solar panels do I need for an electric solar power system?

The size of the photovoltaic system is dependent on your energy-use needs, available space for a system, and overall costs. We can help determine the best size for your system.

How much shade is too much for solar photovoltaic panels?

Shading a photovoltaic system dramatically decreases its output. Shade on just the bottom row of wafers can result in an 80% reduction in efficiency.

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

Take a look at the position of your home on its lot – and particularly your roof. Ask the following questions:

  1.  Is there good southern exposure? Orienting solar panels to the south maximizes the effectiveness of energy collection.
  2.  Is the exposure free of trees or buildings that could shade the panels or drop debris on them? Shading photovoltaic panels dramatically reduces their effectiveness.
  3. What is the pitch of your roof? Most roofs, from flat to 60-degrees, can accommodate photovoltaic panels.

Do I need to have south- facing exposure to have a solar energy system?

Although southern exposure increases the effectiveness of a residential solar power system, even without it your home may still be suitable for solar power. We can assess the orientation of your home and let you know if it’s a good candidate for solar power.

What if my questions were not answered here?

No problem. Simply contact us and we’ll be happy to answer all of your questions.

How do solar photovoltaic cells work?

Photovoltaic (PV) cells are made of a semiconductor material, such as silicon. In addition to the silicon, the elements phosphorous and boron create conductivity within the cell and activate the movement of electrons. When stimulated by sunlight, the electrons move across the cell into the electrical circuit hooked up to the solar panel.

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