People often ask us how solar works, and what they can expect when going through the solar buying journey. We wanted to shed a little light on what happens once you decide to get solar for your home. For the sweetened condensed version Mitch made a lovely video of it. For something a little meatier, the article goes into some more depth on those 7 steps of going solar.
Have you been to a good tailor?
The best of them do a really thorough job of taking your measurements. Let’s say you’re getting some pants, they don’t just get your waist and leg length.
They might also check your thigh and calf measurement, double-check where the pant falls compared to your shoes, and ask for your preference on how much slack there is.
The more measurements they get, the better!
This is basically what the site survey is. Luckily we’re not going to measure your thighs, not even if you ask nicely!
In this first step of going solar, we’ll measure the surface area of your roof, its orientation to true north, your latitude and longitude, and the slope of your roof. We also take down how much electricity you’ve used over the past 12 months, how much electricity you are likely to use, and the peak sun hours in your area.
Solar can be done with a one-size-fits-all approach, and you can also technically buy clothes without checking the size first.
In the tailor example, the person getting fitted gets the perfect pair of pants. You might say,
“Well, I’ll just go to Old Navy, I already know my size. I don’t need to go to a tailor!”
To that we would say “You’re right!” But that same attitude won’t work with solar.
Homes are very complex. Your roof is subjected to all kinds of weather, and it’s your protection from the outside world.
Your electrical needs will fluctuate throughout the year, and your system must be compatible with your home’s current circuitry. Add to that that panels are supposed to last on that roof for 25 years!
We can’t afford to skimp on this part of the process, and we won’t.
In this chart, green represents the energy produced in different parts of the year, and gray represents the energy consumed in a residential home throughout the year.
As you can see, there’s a bit of a gap between the two.
In this part of the solar process we need to design the system to make enough energy to cover those gap periods.
This is where solar credits come in. They let you save up power credits from the electric company, kind of like storing up nuts for the winter.
Increasingly the solar dream starts to materialize. In the plans and design part of the solar process, we take the measurements from earlier and blend them with your preferences and needs.
For instance, you might have a smaller roof, and the section that makes the most sense for solar is visible from the street.
What that means is that you’ll want panels that are more efficient than most, and maybe a bit better looking than panels that you might put out on your shed hidden in the backyard.
Curb appeal is a strict, and demanding master. We know we’ve got to respect it.
You might have a huge roof space. This means that it might be a better deal for you to have less efficient panels, but to have more of them to make the most of that space.
This is just a sliver of situations in which solar system customization can make a huge difference.
Our design team will plan out reliable circuitry, assemble the best components, and create a detailed diagram of the system that will eventually be on your home.
Remember, even if you have the perfect measurements you need to have something that you like, and that fits your needs.
It’s not just about looks and preferences though, the system needs to take into account the lows and highs of energy production and energy consumption.
In the permitting phase we take all our pretty plans and designs and submit them to relevant authorities. We can’t just put it in. It has to be up to code, so that it lasts as long as possible.
Depending on where you live, your plans may go out to the city, the county, or the state for approval.
This part tends to be pretty quick, but just as with anything government related, there might be some unseen snag in their system that holds it up a bit.
This part is our favorite!
We send out our awesome installers. These guys are the real pros! Our install teams are NABCEP certified. (That’s the highest certifying authority in solar)
The solar dream we talked about earlier becomes real in this step.
The solar industry has many codes and regulations that work to ensure there’s a certain quality level in installations. It’s like the FDA making sure our food isn’t going to hurt us.
After all, solar panels are an important project for your home. They involve your roof, and your electrical system, as well as connecting to your local power company.
Sometimes there can be a bit of a wait for the inspection, but it’s a crucial step in the solar journey. As frustrating as it is to wait, this process is what ensures your solar system will last a long time!
Tired of waiting yet?
Here’s where your electric company comes in. It’s time to change your power meter. Your regular meter is only capable of measuring how much electricity you use. It only allows power to go into your house.
The power company comes to install a different meter that can not just receive power from the power company, but also give power back!
This is where credits come in. Not tax credits, but energy credits. Many power companies will allow you to earn credits for the extra power you produce. This is where solar really becomes exciting!
Because of this step, you don’t just have power in the summer when the sun is beating down all day long, but you can have access to power for no extra cost in the winter. Even if it’s been cloudy for a few days.
As far as the timeline goes, this part of the process is up to the electric company. We handle communicating with them, but we do have to wait for them to come out.
This is the real party step!
This is when you get to turn your system on and start turning the sun’s sweet nectar into energy savings.
Your system is up and running by this point. It’s all getting configured. There might be a bit of an adjustment time as you’re getting solar all figured out.
Don’t hesitate to call our customer support team.
We also offer an app for this phase of the process. Our app is pretty slick and even lets you track your energy usage live!
This is how Big Dog Solar operates. However, this process may not be the same at every company.
The important thing to note is that there are safeguards throughout the process in solar. We do our work, and then inspectors ALWAYS double-check it. We do all of this to offer long-lasting warranties that help make solar such a good deal.
It’s not too complicated, and where it does get complicated we’re here to do all the heavy lifting. If you want to get the specifics of your case, contact us at any time.
You may be more well suited than you think. Get your solar readiness score.