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How Solar Works
About Goldin Solar
How Solar Works
What are the basic parts of a solar installation?
A photovoltaic (PV) solar system includes electrical and mechanical components. The electrical components include solar panels, an inverter, a net meter, and various wires, junction boxes, and grounding components. The mechanical components include racking to secure panels to the roof and mounting hardware for the inverter. You can learn more about the components of a solar array on our blog.
Is my roof currently strong enough for a solar system? How will it hold up in a hurricane?
If your roof meets engineering standards (meaning it was built to code and inspected and approved by the local building department), it should be strong enough to support a solar array. While a complete solar array is quite heavy, this weight is distributed evenly across a large area and the overall pressure it exerts is low-- about 2 pounds per square foot. This pressure is easily supported by a roof. Most of our solar installations in Florida are built to the strict Miami-Dade codes and have been designed to withstand hurricane-force winds of 175 mph. In addition, the racking used to secure the solar panels to the roof often effectively functions as cross-bracing to the roof and increases its structural integrity.
How much energy will my system produce?
One of your goals with going solar is likely to make your home net-zero. This means that during an average month, your solar array will produce the same amount of energy that your home consumes. Your home’s monthly energy consumption can be found on the utility bill. This information is used to design a solar system that meets your home’s energy needs.
What tangible environmental benefit will my solar system have?
Installing solar can greatly reduce your carbon footprint by providing carbon-free energy for your home. Once the array is installed, solar produces energy for years without any emissions or toxic byproducts. Since the sun will rise every day, solar is considered a renewable resource. The size of your environmental benefit depends on the carbon footprint of the energy source solar is replacing. The average South Florida energy customer can reduce their carbon footprint by 11,000 pounds per year with solar.
How can I know if my system is working?
Purchasing solar for your home or commercial business is a major investment guaranteed to return due to energy savings. However, it is important to be sure that your system is always working correctly and conforming to expectations. That’s one of the reasons why we exclusively install inverters and power optimizers from SolarEdge, which have industry-leading monitoring software. This software allows you to monitor the production of each individual panel in your solar array in fifteen-minute increments. If something ever goes wrong with a panel or the inverter, you can easily see the problem through the SolarEdge platform and alert us to have the problem resolved immediately.
What maintenance is required?
Understanding the maintenance that is needed with a major purchase of new equipment is crucial. We all know how much maintenance is involved with ownership of a vehicle, air conditioning, and other significant assets. Luckily, the maintenance of rooftop solar in Florida is virtually nonexistent. This is in large part due to the fact that the solar array is completely stationary. Nothing needs to be oiled and parts do not experience significant wear. The only maintenance typically required for a solar PV system is cleaning the panels. We recommend cleaning solar panels once a year to remove dust and pollen that has accumulated. This ensures that the maximum amount of light is able to make it to the solar cells. Cleaning solar panels can be done yourself or by hiring a professional company.
If I get solar panels, can I go off-grid? Will I maintain power during outages?
In Florida, you must remain connected to the utility if there is one available. In most cases, this grid connection is beneficial for you because it means you can receive power from the grid at night or when the sun isn’t shining. However, this connection also means your array will be offline when the grid is down and you will not maintain power unless you also have battery backup. Batteries allow you to safely retain power during a power outage because your excess energy from the day can be stored in the batteries for discharge at night.
Will shading or roof pitch affect solar production?
Yes, shading and roof pitch both affect solar production. Production is highest when the array is not shaded at all. A small amount of shading is tolerated because the SolarEdge DC-optimizers we use prevent shading on one panel from affecting the entire array. The optimum roof pitch for year-round solar production is equal to the latitude of the array, facing south in the northern hemisphere. However, Florida’s proximity to the equator means that many other roof pitches are acceptable, including flat and east or west.
How does solar production change with the seasons or at night?
Solar production is highest when there is the most direct sun. Solar will not produce energy at night. This means that the summer months, with their longer days, can have more production potential than the winter months. However, cloud cover is also a factor. In Florida, summer days also come with rainstorms. To compensate for this variability in the power produced, solar customers take advantage of net metering policies with their utility company. With net metering, extra energy produced when there is more sun (or less energy consumed) is traded back to the utility for a credit that can be used to purchase grid energy when there isn’t as much sun or when your home needs more energy.
Do I need batteries?
Thanks to net metering, batteries are not required for you to maintain power 24/7. However, if there is a grid outage, your inverter turns off and your home will lose power just like everyone else. This is called anti-islanding and it exists to protect downed power lines and utility workers from power surges coming from solar arrays. If you want to maintain power during a grid failure, batteries are required. We install Tesla Powerwalls as our battery backup solution.
How many batteries do I need? What can batteries back up?
With recent improvements in battery technology, we now install batteries that can backup an entire house. Most homeowners can backup their whole house with two Tesla Powerwall batteries. The exact number that is right for your home depends on your energy consumption and the maximum current used. Read our Complete Guide to Powerwall in Florida for a deeper explanation of how we determine how many batteries your home needs.
How much does solar cost?
The price of solar is usually measured in dollars per watt. The price depends on a variety of factors, including your roof type, the size of the array, and the orientation of the panels. The best way to understand the true cost of solar is by comparing it to the cost of energy from the utility. With a financed solar array, your monthly payment should always be equal or lower than the monthly bill you were paying to the utility. With a cash purchase, you should see a payback time of more or less 7 years. Learn more about this cost comparison on the blog. A final cost to consider is the environmental cost of solar compared to grid energy. In a previous FAQ we explain that solar in Florida can reduce your carbon footprint by 11,000 pounds per year, which is a significant environmental cost reduction compared to energy from the utility.
What payment options are available to me? Which is the best?
We offer two payment options: cash and financing. There is no “one size fits all” answer to which payment option is best. We will work with you to help you determine which is the best option for your situation. A cash purchase requires higher investment upfront but is cheaper in the long run because you will not have to pay any interest/fees. A financed system can be installed with $0 down and with monthly payments equal or lower than the electric bills they are replacing. However, due to interest, a financed system will cost more over the life of the loan. Read the Complete Guide to the Economics of Solar in Florida to learn more about payment options and other financial considerations.
How much do batteries cost? Can I finance them?
Powerwalls can be financed along with the rest of your solar installation. If you already have solar, Powerwalls can be added as a retrofit and financed. Your contract’s cost will depend upon the details of your project.
Will I still have a power bill?
If your system performs as expected, producing enough energy to meet your needs, your typical utility bill will be the utility’s interconnection fee, which is about $9 per month.
What are the solar tax credits available to me? How do I claim them?
In Florida, the only solar tax credit available is the federal investment tax credit (ITC), which is 26% in 2020. We are always eager to help our clients in every way we can, and we will be happy to send you the tax form 5695 to use to claim the ITC. However, we are not a tax preparation company. Understanding eligibility for the tax credit before going solar is ultimately your responsibility. In addition, filing the tax credit is up to you and can be done with the help of your tax advisor. Other tax incentives in Florida are solar’s exemption from sales and property tax. However, these are not credits that you can receive back from the state.
How long is the payback time for going solar?
The payback time for going solar is dependent on a variety of factors, including the price of your system, how it was purchased, and the system’s performance. We seek to design our systems so a cash-purchased system will pay itself back in energy savings after around 7 years. A financed system will pay itself back on day one since the monthly loan payment is equal to or lower than the electric bill it is replacing. Learn more about payback time and other economic factors in the Complete Guide to Solar Economics in Florida.
How much is the new electric meter and who installs it?
The exact terms of the utility interconnection will vary from utility to utility. Florida Power & Light (FPL) governs their meters in three tiers based on the system size. Tier I is 0-10 kW (AC), Tier II is 10-100 kW (AC) and Tier 3 is 100-2,000 kW (AC). Most residential solar installations are Tier I systems. For Tier I, there is no fee for the net meter, and there is no insurance requirement. For customers with greater energy needs who connect a Tier II system, there is a one-time fee of $400 for the net meter connection and a requirement to maintain a $1,000,000 general liability insurance policy. The installation of the net meter will be done by the utility once they have accepted all requirements. We recommend that you familiarize yourself with your utility’s requirements for net metering prior to going forward with a solar project.
Are there hidden costs?
We will work hard to ensure that you are aware of every cost you will encounter before committing to a solar project. These include the cost of the solar installation (outlined in our contract), financing costs (outlined in the financing agreement, if applicable) and net metering/insurance costs (if applicable). Rarely, circumstances are encountered during construction that require additional project scope. These unforeseen circumstances are usually due to existing code violations on the property. It’s our policy to require a signed authorization if the scope and price ever need to change.
Can solar cause roof leaks? If so, who will fix them?
The short answer is yes, it is possible for solar to cause your roof to leak. However, the solar industry has evolved over many years to develop best practices concerning waterproofing and sealing roof penetrations. Your best protection against roof leaks when going solar is to choose a reputable contractor with a track record of happy customers going back years. Most solar contractors, including us at Goldin Solar, offer contractor’s warranties which will help ensure that we are liable for any leaks that occur due to poor workmanship. That means we will pay, not you, if your roof should start to leak due to poor workmanship. Learn more about Goldin Solar roof penetrations and how we prevent leaky roofs on the blog.
How big of a system do I need?
Typically, there are three factors that will determine the size of a solar system:
- The amount of energy you currently use– It is not recommended to install a solar PV system that will produce more energy than you currently use annually. If you produce more energy than you use during a given month, you will receive reserve credit for the excess kilowatt-hours on your next month’s balance. If these credits are unspent at the end of the year, the utility will buy them from you. However utilities pay for excess kilowatt-hours at a lower rate (avoided cost) than they sell them to you for. Therefore, we recommend installing a solar system capable of producing as much energy as possible, not to exceed annual consumption.
- The amount of available roof space– Our engineering is meticulous in determining the number of solar panels that your roof can safely and legally fit. During our free on-site consultation, we will determine how many panels can fit on your roof space. Eligible roof space is not northern facing and is clear of shading and obstructions such as vents or air conditioners.
- Your budget for the project – We will work with you to teach you the solar cost structure and how the return on investment with solar works. We have teamed up with multiple financing programs and are proud to offer financing for solar projects which are likely to suit any budget. To customers interested in taking out a solar loan to finance their solar project, we recommend structuring the loan in such a way that the only amount due monthly for the solar loan is roughly equal to the amount of money saved on your monthly power bill after installing a solar PV system. Structuring the loan in this way will make the transition to solar seamless from a monthly budgeting standpoint. The difference is that the source of your energy is now clean and renewable. Additionally, monthly payments towards a solar loan are essentially building equity towards your eventual full ownership of your energy production. On the other hand, purchasing power from the utility in effect, has no return.
Should I wait for solar technology to become cheaper?
This is one of the most common questions and concerns we hear about going solar. We advise that you do not wait for solar technology to become cheaper for two reasons: federal incentives for solar are disappearing and solar already saves money. Incentives for solar In 2020, the federal tax credit for solar is 26% of the contract price. By 2022, the credit will disappear altogether. This means that while solar technology may become cheaper, the effective price of solar may increase in the short term. Cost effectiveness It is probably already possible for you to save money by going solar. Every year spent waiting for technology to evolve is one year that money could have been saved each month. Therefore we suggest you go solar as soon as possible in order to maximize your long-term savings.
How do I get started?
It is important to do your research before making an investment in solar. Explore our blog to learn about how solar technology works and the economics of going solar. Then reach out with your address so our consultants can use satellite imaging to determine your home’s solar potential. If it looks like a good fit, we will contact you for an in-person or virtual appointment in which our consultant will walk you through everything you need to know about the process and help create a proposal to meet your needs.
How do I choose the right solar contractor?
Unfortunately, the solar industry is crowded with fly-by-night contractors. It is critical to do due diligence and vet your contractor before signing the contract. We have compiled a list of eight top tips for choosing a solar contractor, which provides information on how to find licensing and ownership information, installation volume, avoiding subcontractors, and more.
How long will it take for my system to be turned on?
The average time from initial appointment to a finished installation is 3-5 months. This can vary based on current market conditions, specifics of the contract, and other factors. Once the installation is complete, your utility company must install the new net meter and then we are authorized to power on the system. It generally takes the utility 7-14 days to install the net meter and give the green light for the system to be powered on.
Do I need a new roof before going solar?
If your roof is in good condition without leaks, it is generally suitable for a solar installation. However, if you plan on replacing your roof in the next few years, we suggest doing so before or at the same time as the solar installation. It is your responsibility to determine whether or not your roof is in suitable condition prior to installation. We also advise you to ensure that you are aware of potential changes to your roof’s warranty as a result of installing solar on your roof. If you do decide to replace your roof, Goldin Solar holds a roofing license and can include a re-roof in the same contract as a solar installation.
Will you be able to tell me where the panels will be placed?
As part of our design process, we use industry-standard software to create a schematic of your solar array. We will know the precise location of each panel before installation and can share this plan with you. However, there are times when the configuration needs to be adjusted on the job and the homeowner will be notified if this is the case.
My HOA doesn’t allow visible solar panels. What can I do?
By state law, HOAs and other organizations in Florida are prohibited from enforcing rules which would prevent homeowners from installing solar in Florida. This means that if the roof face facing the street is the best location on your house for solar panels, you can install visible panels no matter what rules your HOA may have. This statute is known as the Florida Solar Rights Act.
Who services the warranties if a panel or inverter fails?
Our workmanship warranty will cover the labor for servicing panel or inverter warranties. The length and terms of your warranty will depend on the details of your contract. During your warranty period, if there is an issue with any of your products or with your installation in general, you call us and we’ll fix it. The workmanship warranty has three different areas: roof penetrations, electrical/structural, and faulty equipment. Learn more about these warranties in our Guide to Goldin Solar Warranties. After the workmanship warranty has expired, parts and partial labor may be covered under a manufacturer warranty but not by us. Manufacturer (also called product) warranties are specific to the products used in your installation. Your contract will contain details of the specific warranties for each component. Our panels generally come with a 25-year warranty and our inverters with a 12-year warranty. After the workmanship warranty, we will still work with the manufacturer to complete the RMA process of warrantied equipment. But you may be responsible for labor costs. Additionally, we offer a variety of annual service plans, detailed below.
What service plans are available?
Goldin Solar offers three service plans that you can purchase as subscriptions: Silver, Gold and Platinum. The Silver plan is an extension of our workmanship warranty. The Gold plan is Silver plus active monitoring, in which our maintenance team will check your solar array’s online portal weekly to ensure all panels and the inverter is operating appropriately. The Platinum plan is Gold plus compensation for any time the system is offline. Compensation for downtime in the Platinum plan is equal to the cost of energy the system would have produced if it were operating correctly during the time that it was down.
What documentation can I expect to receive before and after installation?
Solar projects involve structural, roofing and electrical work that must interconnect with a utility. Thus there is a large amount of documentation that needs to be prepared to complete a solar project. Here is a list of documentation you can expect to receive from us:
- Formal proposal - this outlines the proposed system, system price, and lifecycle cost return calculations.
- Product specifications – these show information about the proposed solar panels and other equipment we intend to use. These are available upon request.
- Conceptual design – this is a conceptual layout that shows locations of panels on your building and includes a report with estimated energy production. This is typically submitted with the proposal.
- Installation agreement – this agreement spells out the terms of the project.
- Finance agreement – if you finance your solar system, this is the agreement between the customer and finance company that must be completed and approved by the finance company before the project begins.
- Building permit application and Notice of Commencement – your project coordinator will ensure that you have the right documentation to sign for the building permit. These are both needed for the plans to be submitted into permitting.
- Detailed engineering – this is the set of plans prepared by our electrical and structural Professional Engineers (PEs). They show the location of the panels and other electrical equipment, the type of electrical connections, and structural connections. The detailed engineering will be submitted into permitting to the local building department along with a permit application.
- Building permit – this is issued by the local building department after they have reviewed and approved the detailed engineering. Once a building permit has been issued construction can commence.
- Signed-off building permit – this is the signed building permit from an inspector indicating that the work is complete as originally approved by the local building department.
- Financing close-out statement – if required by your financing company, this is the document that you sign to verify the work has been completed.
- Utility interconnection documentation – this is the paperwork that is completed for the local utility to come out to the property and replace the power meter with a bi-directional net meter. It will also serve as an agreement between the utility and the owner that governs the terms of the interconnection arrangement.
- Product warranties – these are details of the product warranties for the equipment installed.
About Goldin Solar
What technology do we install?
At Goldin Solar, we are very particular about the technology we use. Unlike some other solar contractors, we aren’t hunting for deals from manufacturers or purchasing aftermarket panels. We purchase Hanwha Q CELLS G6 solar panels factory-direct from their production facility in Georgia, Tesla Powerwall, and SolarEdge HD Wave-series inverters. Learn more about the technology we install and why in our solar technology guide.
Do we offer energy storage?
Yes. The energy storage option we offer is Tesla Powerwall. Powerwall is the best technology available for providing backup power in the event of an outage. Powerwall is an easy retrofit for existing solar owners. Learn more about Powerwall.
What areas do we service?
How long have we been in business?
Goldin Solar was established in February 2014. Learn more about our story in this episode of Fridays with Daren on YouTube.
Are we licensed and insured as a solar installer in Florida?
Yes. We hold licenses in roofing, electrical, and solar in the state of Florida. Our license number is CVC56965. Our license allows us to install solar anywhere in the state of Florida. We carry a general liability insurance policy in an amount that exceeds the required minimum.
Do we offer new construction or commercial installation?
Yes, we have experience with new construction and commercial projects. Reach out to Goldin Solar CEO Daren Goldin at [email protected] or 305-469-9790 with questions. You can view some of our custom and commercial projects online, such as the Miami Children’s Museum and the Coconut Grove Residence Inn.
Do we subcontract any part of the installation?
We perform all installation of solar components with our own full-time W-2 employees. All our employees are covered by our workman’s compensation insurance policy, such that there is no risk to the owner in having workers on their property. This is something we feel very strongly about. The reason is that it is our way to maintain quality to make sure that all workers will perform to our workmanship quality and safety standards. It is also how we ensure we can offer our value-driven turn-key installations to you at the most competitive prices. While other companies hire subcontractors to perform various components of the project (or all of the installation), we are the one-stop shop. This is how you know that by going with Goldin Solar, you are getting top notch quality and safety at leanest possible prices. We make exceptions to this policy only if the work is highly specialized or customized, not in a standard rooftop installation. For example, this would include instances when we subcontract concrete or tile work to experts to ensure that the installation meets the highest quality standards.
Do we represent the amount of power in kilowatts (system size) quoted?
The system size (kW) quoted both in the original proposal presented to you and in the contract, is subject to change slightly if one of two things happens:
- The amount of area on your roof is less than anticipated and fewer panels can fit. We use software with satellite images to determine how many panels we can fit on you roof during the proposal process. After a contract is issued, we conduct a more detailed site survey to get exact roof measurements and to locate any roof obstructions such as vents. There is a possibility that a few panels will need to be eliminated from the original design after the site survey or in the permitting process.
- The originally specified panel model has become unavailable. The solar industry is highly dynamic and fast changing. There is a possibility that a panel model will be contracted and then become unavailable. In this case, we will propose an alternative, which will typically be the same manufacturer, just a slightly higher wattage panel.
Do we have a physical office you can visit?
Currently (August 2020) we have two offices, one in Coconut Grove and one in Vero Beach. Due to COVID-19, office visits are limited and by appointment only.