How Solar Works

Solar Energy Basics

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How a photovoltaic cell converts sunlight into
an electric charge.
Solar Img
1
SOLAR PANEL - Absorbs energy from the sun and turns it into DC power.
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INVERTER - Converts DC power into AC power and controls the electricity and production.
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BREAKER PANEL - Distributes the electricity into your home's circuits.
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UTILITY METER - Any excess solar electricity will flow back to the grid through the meter.
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UTILITY GRID - Supplements electricity when you need more than your solar panels produce.
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More about Solar

A grid-tied system balances the load demand of the property with the array’s generation capacity…essentially ‘spinning’ the meter backwards in the process.

Texas Solar Outfitters designs and installs electricity generating (PV) solar systems for homes as well as commercial and industrial businesses. Solar (PV) panels convert the sun’s light energy into electricity.

Most commonly, a homeowner or business will install a solar PV system to generate some or all of their own electricity, while maintaining the connection to their utility – the grid. A grid-tied system balances the load demand of the property with the array’s generation capacity, drawing from the grid as needed, or putting excess solar-generated power back on… essentially ‘spinning’ the meter backwards in the process.

In most cases, we recommend customers ‘size’ their grid-tied system based on the amount of electricity they use during their average load months, typically March/ April for homes in Texas. This results in a system that usually covers about 60-70% of the property’s annual electricity usage, without generating net excess capacity over the course of the full year. Find out how you can OWN YOU ENERGY®! Call (713) 802-0223, or stop by our office to chat with us in person and see some of the equipment we carry.

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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?
Jane L.
Bellaire, TX

"What is solar energy?"

Read answer

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?
James A.
Humble, TX

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

Read answer

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?
David D.
Friendswood, TX

"How much does a solar electric power system cost?"

Read answer

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?
Brandi J.
Houston,TX

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

Read answer

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 winter (when usage is lower), which can offset the energy you use from the grid in the summer.

Do I need special insurance requirements?
Rhett B.
Pearland, TX

"Do I need special insurance requirements?"

Read answer

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.

How much maintenance do solar energy panels require?
Joseph B.
League City, TX

"How much maintenance do solar energy panels require?"

Read answer

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 to buy a solar system?
Ginger C.
Galveston, TX

"Can I use a financing to buy a solar system?"

Read answer

Yes, and we can help. Many of our brands have payment plan options available.  Please let us know you are interested in a payment plan and we can explain some of the options.  Other options may include a home equity loan from your bank or rolling the cost into your construction loan on a new house.

Why is it important to get multiple bids?
Sunil S.
Sugarland, TX

"Why is it important to get multiple bids?"

Read answer

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.

Will I need a building permit to install a solar energy system on my home?
Carrie O.
Woodlands, TX

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

Read answer

Yes. We will need to obtain building permits to install a solar photovoltaic 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. We will also work with your Homeowner’s Association to ensure that the system is installed in accordance with their restrictions for your neighborhood.

When should I seek a solar professional?
Randall A.
River Oaks, TX

"When should I seek a solar professional?"

Read answer

The earlier the better. Solar installation professionals, like us, can help you determine the type and size of the system that best suits your needs.  If you are building a home, we are always available to discuss some general guidelines with your architect to ensure maximum production.  If your home is already built, we can offer a variety of options to maximize your production and lower your costs.

What components do I need to install a grid-tied solar electric system?
Todd W.
Houston, TX

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

Read answer

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 “smart meter” – that can record both the electricity produced from your home’s solar system as well as any power you may use off the grid. These system components are then connected through a series of wiring. The photovoltaic panels are secured to your roof with aluminum rails.

How can I calculate the cost and payback time from a solar power installation?
Raman P.
Katy, TX

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

Read answer

To estimate how much a solar electric 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, we can help you evaluate the cost and benefits of purchasing solar power. Fortunately, in today’s market you can take advantage of tax credits, rebates, and other financial incentives that create attractive and competitive prices for solar PV systems in the Houston area.

How long will it take to install a solar power system at my home?
Pippa T.
Houston, TX

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

Read answer

Planning, configuring, and ordering materials for your solar energy system can take up to a few weeks.  We also usually must get permits from the city and approval from your Homeowners Association.  Sometimes those steps can take a month (or longer).  The actual installation at your home can typically be completed in just few days once the paperwork is in place.  There are then inspections that happen before we “flip the switch”…so the total project is anywhere between a few weeks and 2-3 months.

What is a net meter?
Gus L.
Bellaire, TX

"What is a net meter?"

Read answer

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.  Within the Houston area, all CenterPoint meters are already capable of measuring power in both directions.  With some of our rural customers on Sam Houston Electric CoOp, Navasota CoOp, Victoria Electric CoOp, and others we coordinate with your electric utility provider to install this newer meter as part of the project.