Guide to Residential
Table of Contents
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Residential Solar and URECC Members
Solar energy. The source of power is free, plentiful for thousands of years to come, and it leaves no damaging carbon footprint. The amount of sunlight that strikes the earth's surface in an hour and a half is enough to handle the entire world's energy consumption for a full year. In a modern world of awareness and concern for the future of our planet and society, it is a solution to our environmental goals. What setbacks could there possibly be by turning the world into a solar, off-the-grid oasis? Well…just a couple of things: 1. Installation of expensive equipment, including solar panels, wiring, converters, and more, and 2. The sun doesn’t always shine, which means more expensive equipment to store enough power for use during those times. Joe Biden’s Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution has been in action over the last two years. It calls for major steps to be taken to change our traditional coal-based power generation to future-minded green energy, such as solar and wind. Details of this proposed plan call for the drastic reduction of the use of coal to generate power. This is an admirable plan but should be done in steps over an achievable time frame. Without having the green infrastructure already in place, Americans have felt the financial blow of the reduction of coal generated power, as the costs of producing electricity without it has rocketed. With a look at the typical rising monthly power bill, the average consumer is mesmerized when they see the latest advertisement offering them “a way to drastically reduce, or even eliminate their electric bill completely”. Residential solar panel sales are now at a record high in the U.S. In East Texas you see more and more panels installed on houses daily. It is a new industry that is growing rapidly. Solar can be a great money-saving investment for your home if planned, purchased, and installed correctly. There are many reputable companies right here in East Texas selling and installing solar power systems daily, but unfortunately, any time there is popularity in an industry such as solar has today, less reputable sales companies may surface looking to make easy money by offering substandard products or service. Hopefully this page will be a helpful guide to potential solar consumers.
Some Facts and Myths About Solar
Fact - The IRS offers a tax deduction through 2034 IF you outright own your solar equipment in full.
Myth - The electric company legally MUST BUY your unused power produced at your home.
Fact - Solar panels will still catch sunlight on overcast days.
Myth - Solar panel racking will damage my roof. (Actually, solar panels help protect your roof, acting as a barrier to sunlight
and the elements.)
Fact - Most solar panels will last 25-30 years. 25-30 years, depending on the quality of the panels, severity of the elements
to which it is exposed, and other factors. (Most producers offer a 25 year warranty on their products.)
Myth - Solar panels cause health risks from electric and magnetic fields. (Solar panels do not produce harmful emissions.)
How Much Solar Power Do I Need?
This is a somewhat simple question to determine how many solar panels, how large of an inverter, and how many storage batteries you will need to adequately supply your home. A homeowner should depend on a reputable solar sales company to provide a somewhat accurate answer to this question, but only after the company representative discusses the daily habits of your household’s electricity use with you. It is always best to do your homework BEFORE talking to a representative so you can have a basic understanding of what is being proposed to you. Click on the photo below to watch a YouTube video that will give you some basic equations.
Example of a Typical Solar System Setup
Solar-Plus Storage Systems (Batteries)
Most people rely on electricity from the power grid to supplement their solar-generated power. Residential solar energy systems paired with battery storage—generally called solar-plus-storage systems—provide power regardless of the weather or the time of day, without having to rely on backup power from the grid. Unless you have enough batteries to power your house indefinitely, you will not want to disconnect from the grid of your local electric company or cooperative, but you can cut your electric bill significantly by utilizing the battery supply during peak times of the day when electricity costs the most. (Peak times are when the demand for electricity is at its highest. Example: 5-7pm, when everyone comes home from work, starts cooking dinner, and turns on electronic devices. When demand is high, more power must be produced, costing more to generate that needed power.)
Solar storage batteries are lithium-ion battery systems, much like a very large version of the one in your cell phone. The batteries are charged when your solar panels are producing energy (or when you charge from the grid), then the system for your whole home can be switched to draw from the batteries at your command; peak times, nights, rainy days. According to the energy.gov website, a large “power-wall” type battery can power your home for 3-5 hours,
depending on the demand from your home use. From the same website, a single battery can cost you anywhere from $12,000 to $22,000, needing 4-5 of these just to get through a 24-hour period. An individual can quickly see that total disconnect from the grid for complete independence can be quite a hefty investment.
We Will Never Run Out of Solar Energy
There will be rainy days, but NASA predicts the sun will last another 65 billion years.
Solar Energy is Sustainable
“Sustainable” means to be able to meet present needs without compromising future generations’ needs. The sun is a non-exhaustible resource.
The Sun: Available Everywhere on Earth
Not only is the sun inexhaustible, but it is also an abundant resource, meaning its power can be harnessed from anywhere on the planet. It’s also free.
Solar: Environmentally Friendly
Solar panels have the ability to harness energy while not causing air pollution, which makes them 100% environmentally friendly.
Solar Energy Can Save You Money
Solar power at your home can greatly reduce, or even completely eliminate, your electricity bill pending how many panels you install. With the correct type of battery storage system, you could eliminate your dependency on the electric grid completely.
Solar Energy is Adaptable
their job effortlessly Most often residential solar arrays are installed on roofs, so the system doesn’t take up any additional space. If the rooftop isn’t suitable for solar, the panels can be configured to get optimal sunlight elsewhere on the property.
Solar is Low Maintenance
On average, solar panels will last 30 to 40 years. Solar panels have no moving parts and are completely silent, easy to operate and rarely need maintenance. As long as the panels are free of debris and trees are kept trimmed to minimize shading, the panels will do their job effortlessly.
Solar is an Investment
The main reason people don’t switch to solar is the initial expense of installing a system. Under the right conditions, such as initial cost divided by the months or years you plan to live in the home, solar can actually be an investment in a sustainable energy future for your family.
Purchase/Installation is Expensive
The Center for Sustainable Energy says the average residential 5-kW solar system costs $15,000 -$20,000, plus the price of additional batteries for storage ($12k-$22k each. Necessary to have energy available beyond the typical 3-5 hour supply from an average battery.)
Solar Energy Isn’t Consistent
Night time and extended rainy days (when people really want the lights on) require an alternate source of energy aside from the direct solar array. For this reason, most residential solar arrays are grid-connected and homeowners still rely on other fuels to power their homes when the sun isn’t shining.
Solar Energy Storage is Expensive
Standard batteries can be used to store solar energy produced during the day for use at night, but better and more cost-effective batteries are needed to be practical. These can run well over $10k each, and then they will still only provide an average of 3-5 hours of energy each.
Solar Doesn’t Always Pay for Itself
If you live in an area with cheap electricity, a cloudy or rainy climate (limiting your solar power production), or live in a state where net metering isn’t mandated, such as Texas, there’s a chance that solar panels may not be a smart financial choice for you. Do the calculations carefully. It can take years befor your savings cover your equipment investment.
Panel Efficiency is Weak
The best residential solar photovoltaic cells convert only about 20 percent of the sunlight they absorb into energy. That means that a lot of the sun’s potential is wasted.
Panel Production Emits Greenhouse Gases
While solar energy is renewable and sustainable, the process it takes to make the panels is not. Currently, the production of solar panels emits some harmful greenhouse gases. Also, old solar panels are not yet recyclable, as there isn’t enough demand for it to be economically attractive.
Disrupting Traditional Energy Models
The growth of renewable energy is great news for the environment, economy and domestic energy production, but it does present challenges for the aging U.S. electric grid. Utilities are faced with trying to integrate more renewable energy resources while maintaining grid stability.
What to Know Before
Getting a Quote
With the price of electricity continuing to rise as the country reduces more and more coal generation for power, incorporating solar energy into an energy portfolio is not only a cleaner carbon footprint, but a way to trim down an expensive power bill. As more solar systems are being purchased daily, there’s fierce competition in the booming residential solar industry. Companies employ a variety of sales strategies from in-house sales teams or third-party companies. While there are industry guidelines for consumer protection, tactics from some companies can verge on dishonesty. Going in with a
strong understanding of some key solar topics can help you spot when a sales-person may not have your best interest in mind. It cannot be emphasized enough, USE A REPUTABLE, LOCALLY KNOWN COMPANY, and even then, check them out thoroughly with the Better Business Bureau, or online consumer reviews.
Solar Panel Installation & Service Scams
Solar panel installations and fake products are in the news daily. This year one of the biggest scams around is the Solar
Power System or Solar Panels for Your Home scam. It is part of the home improvement fraud group and is doing its rounds
Scenario 1: Fraud
A sales person lures you into paying a huge deposit to a contractor who doesn’t deliver the system. Some just vanish
with the deposit, others (the majority) will deliver a bogus system that’s not even close to provide what was expected.
Scenario 2: Upgrades and Warranty
Solar panel owners receive telephone cold calls offering to supply upgrades or accessories alongside extended warranty
products. These calls from people claiming to represent solar companies come with misleading claims such as the need for
an inverter replacement, that a component is broken or faulty, or that the performance of the system will be increased.
Scenario 3: Free Health Check and Service Letter
You receive a letter in the mail notifying that “you have not received your free health check and service” and “your warranty
may be due to expire”. As a call-to-action, it asks the recipient to contact the sender to validate the warranty and request a
free health check. Be wary of any unsolicited approach and never agree to services, to having work done, or for someone to
visit your home if approached in this way by so-called solar companies. If you own a solar panel, you should always talk to
your suppliers before allowing any work or maintenance to take place on their panels. A solar panel system does not neces
sarily need servicing, although it may benefit from being cleaned if the panels are dirty.
Red Flags in a Solar Sales Pitch
Solar panel sales are setting records. That means more and more people are buying an
unfamiliar product from an unfamiliar industry. URECC cannot emphasize enough: make sure you are talking with a reputable company that will not mislead you and will stand behind its product.
These are some of the reported untrue statements in sales pitches that will attempt to have you make a rushed decision to buy.
1. “The federal solar tax credit is slated to go away in 2024.” -Incentives with stipulations have been extended to 2034.
2. “These prices are only available for a very limited time.” - This is to pressure you into a quick, unthought-out, unresearched decision.
3. “You only have one choice of equipment.” - Most solar installers have preferred providers, but multiple companies to purchase equipment.
4. “Your utility is going to raise electricity prices X% each year.” - Power rates go up and down monthly. There is no guarantee. This is why URECC has a “PCRF” charge: When the price of power goes down it saves members money by paying less for POWER COST RECOVERY.
5. “You can save 70% on your electric bill.” - This can be a lot of money. Ask how they got those figures, then check them for accuracy.
6. “You will get incentives from the Federal and STATE governments.” - Currently the State of Texas does not have incentives.
7. “Your local co-op or electric company legally has to buy the leftover power you produce and don’t use.” -This is called “NET Metering”. There are no laws demanding power companies buy excess power from residential or commercial solar in many states, including Texas. There are primarily two reasons for this. The first being that it can be an expense to set up systems and metering for Net Metering buybacks, and secondly, a home will probably use all of it’s generated solar power during peak and prime hours of the day. The excess solar you produce will be during the nights and low times. This is when power is the cheapest for the electric company, too. Buying power from net metering may not help the entire membership of the co-op or save money for the investors of investor-owned utilities. If something is not for the good of the general membership (or investors of IOU’s), it is usually passed over.
Will the Electric Company Buy My Excess Solar Power?
One of the most popular myths in the State of Texas is, “The electric company has to buy all my excess power I don’t use.” This is not the truth in Texas, and we’ll explain why. Some electric companies and even some larger cooperatives do purchase excess power from residential owners, but they are not legally bound to do so in Texas because of the expenses in setting up NET METERING, which would be required. Net Metering basically sets up 2-way meter reading: keeping track of power coming into your home and power going out. This requires a special meter designed for such readings. In addition to the expense of the special meters, costs also add up for manpower wages to install meters, and clerical costs of additional record-keeping and balancing of the accounts. *URECC allows net metering on the system, but is not required to buy back any excess power produced, due to the reasons listed above. (It also cannot be combined with a prepaid account meter.)
For cooperatives, not-for-profit organizations, this can be a major investment and additional costs of doing business. When many cooperatives’ members are already struggling with the higher bills due to the cost of electricity lately, added expense for this setup is not a popular option. In addition, all actions of a cooperative must be in the best interest of the majority of its members. The number of members with residential solar is growing, but not a majority yet.
A second note, most of the unused power from residential solar is produced during off-peak times when demand is minimal. At these times, power is already at a much lower cost than when demand is high. If there are no savings for the cooperative to buy the residential excess power at the time, it once again goes back to the cooperative’s “acting in the best interest of its members as a whole”; will the investment of equipment and time/wages involved to buy this power be at a cost to all the members? Yes, and those costs will have to be passed on to the entire membership. Perhaps this will be an option to save members money in the future as residential solar becomes more common, but as for now, most companies simply cannot afford the investment yet.