How do solar panels work?
Photovoltaic (PV) cells in the solar panels (usually 60 cells) convert light energy from the sun into direct current (DC) electricity. Inverters then convert this DC electricity generated by the panels into alternating current (AC) that is used for your home.
What is the life expectancy of the systems?
The life expectancy of a quality PV solar panel is about 30 years. Most solar panels come with a warranty for panel production for 25 years. This performance number ranges from 80% to 88% depending on the panel.
How am I credited for the electricity my system produces?
The technology of “net-metering” and “grid-tie system” is supported now by all utility companies in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC. The technology allows you to offset your energy consumption with your energy production. When your solar panel is producing more electricity that you are using, your electric meter will run backwards (reverse). When you use more electricity than your system is generating, then it runs forward (pull). Your monthly electric bill reflects your total usage minus the electricity your solar panels produced and sent out to your utility company.
Is a battery required? What happens if I don’t have one?
No – you do not need a storage battery in order to go solar with a grid-tie system. Over 95% of our PV solar installations are without battery. A battery is only needed if the homeowner would like to have electricity at time of a power grid failure, or to be totally “off-the-grid”.
With a PV solar grid-tie system, if I have a power failure with my electric company, do I still have power?
No; unless you have battery backup. This is because the power company does not want you potentially sending power out onto the grid during times that they may be repairing the power lines.
What are the operations and maintenance needs for PV solar?
PV solar systems have no moving parts, so they will not need much maintenance. You will not really need to clean your panels as they are cleaned by rainfall. In the event of snow, since the panels are dark, they will absorb heat, melting the snow from your roof first when compared to other roof sections without solar panels.
When installing, what do you do to ensure rain/moisture does not penetrate into the attic, create conditions for mold?
CAVU Solar uses high quality flashing, elevated attachment points, stainless steel lag bolts and high quality sealant to eliminate attic moisture penetration. Correct installation of the “L” feet that comprise the mounting for the rail system is key. When done correctly, the homeowner can be assured of moisture-free performance for years beyond the 30 year production expectations for today’s solar panel installations. CAVU Solar’s key to attaining this is use of high quality corrosion-resistant flashing, with an elevated platform for the actual penetration location to divert water. The water sealing surface is the critical barrier against rainwater getting under the flashing and into a penetration. There are basically three moisture barriers installed with our installation.
Regardless of the roof slope, elevating the water seal has major advantages. First, it slows down the deterioration of the rubber seal as it reduces water exposure, and the seal dries out faster, preventing deterioration from biological growth. Additionally, ice formation can wear out the seal through successive freeze-thaw cycles. An elevated seal reduces or eliminates ice contacting the seal. Elevating this critical barrier is one of the key elements to reliable, long-term waterproofing.
What kind of insurance/bonding does your company have?
We have a comprehensive $1M commercial liability insurance policy coverage for each home. This policy covers both on-site installation as well as post install claims involving our 10 year workmanship warranty for every installation as well as coverage for our employees working at your home or business.
Monitoring – How can I be assured that my system is operating up to expectations?
We set up each site for Internet Cloud-based comprehensive monitoring through SolarEdge for 25 years. This is a full featured application that allows us to remotely view real time system operation and see the performance of each panel in the system. In the rare event that panels or components appear to be operating below optimum production, they are identified and the homeowner is contacted to arrange for a no-charge inspection and service/warranty replacement, if needed.
Production and Performance Assurance – How can I be assured I’ll save as much as you say?
As with buying any technology-based solution, there is risk. With PV solar many want to be assured that the estimates being provided are indeed accurate. CAVU Solar makes a significant investment in using state-of-art software tools to accurately estimate your systems production. We are confident in the accuracy to provide a written production guarantee for the designed system. Our production guarantee is unique in the solar industry in that it commits us to provide actual payment back to the customer, based on the customer’s current utility company rates, if the CAVU Solar system does not produce 90% of its estimated electricity averaged every two years for a 20 year term. We are not aware of any other installer that provides such a guarantee.
Panel Replacement and Compatibility – What if I have to replace panels?
Solar panel types, sizes and outputs have definitely changed over the past 10-15 years. While current technology has stabilized and panel output and styles are stable, there will without doubt be some changes in panel output over the next 10 years. CAVU Solar addresses this concern, through use of the SolarEdge inverters and panel optimizers which allow different manufacturer panels and power outputs to be intermixed on the same array and string.
Roof Loading – What assurance do you provide that solar panels would not affect the integrity of my roof?
CAVU Solar designs our installations to keep well within the strict permitting requirements for your County. If our designer’s see a situation that is borderline, then we recommend upgrades. Most of Virginia falls under the following roof loading guidelines:
Dead load: 15 psi (inc solar panels)
Live load: 20 psi
Snow load: 30 psi
Total: 45 psi
(Note: psi = Pounds per square inch)
If hail were to damage the panels, what would happen? (In year 1 or year 11?)
With ownership systems, the homeowner is responsible for damages or theft to the system that is outside the range of the product warranty. Most homeowners request to add the solar system to their coverage on their homeowners insurance. There is sometimes only a minimal charge for this coverage.
In many cases there is no damage from hail as our panels are engineered to withstand 25mm (1 in) size hail hitting the panels at 52 mph. If, however, panels are indeed damaged by hail, CAVU Solar would inspect and assist the homeowner in a warranty claim for the panel(s) if it looks like the hail size and speed is less than what is noted above. Otherwise, if the damage is the result of very large hail hitting the panel at very high speed, then replacement would fall under the homeowners insurance (insurance ryder recommended for solar system coverage)
If a Snowstorm were to damage the panels, what would happen (ie. covered under warranty or not?)
CAVU Solar has not encountered any instances of snowstorm damage to panels in our regional Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC area. This is mainly because the panels are engineered to withstand rather significant snow loading. The panels are warranted for 25 years to withstand 112 lbs per square ft of snow load. Structural permits in most Virginia counties call for roof design to handle snow loads of 30 lbs per square foot. We therefore believe the greater concern to be the roof integrity and not the solar panels.
If, however, panels are indeed damaged by snow loads of less than 112 lbs per square ft, CAVU Solar would inspect and assist the homeowner in a warranty claim for the panel(s).
If a storm ripped off panels -- also damaging the roof, where does the liability fall?
To answer this question we have to discuss the permitting and inspection requirements in your area (Virginia). CAVU Solar designs and installations exceed the structural and electrical permitting requirements for your County. Solar panel wind loading requirements are Category C for Virginia which is 115 mph with 90mph as the Allowable System Design (ASD) specification. These are rather high numbers. The general answer is that CAVU Solar provides a 10 year workmanship warranty on your installation to cover the liability for wind conditions up to Category C. Damages resulting from winds above the Category C level would fall under the homeowners insurance coverage ryder for solar system coverage (recommended). CAVU Solar also recommends and is available to inspect your system after a significant storm to check system integrity and address any concerns.
If our house has a fire, caused by the PV system -- how does the warranty address this?
This requires a little discussion. The basic answer is that if CAVU Solar workmanship was at fault, under our 10 year workmanship warranty, we would be liable and our $1M insurance policy per home, would cover the homeowner claim.
CAVU Solar has not encountered any instances of system arcing or fire caused by the PV solar system on our installations using SolarEdge optimizers and inverters. While more costly to implement, there are many high value features of the SolarEdge technology, to include optimizing panel power, and thus, full system production optimization. The SolarEdge technology not only detects ground fault arcs and automatically shuts down the main inverters, but also communicates directly with the SolarEdge optimizer on each solar panel to essentially cut each panel’s output down to just 1 volt, a harmless output, until a technician can investigate and reset the system. More information on this important topic can be found at this link:
Additional best practices for fire mitigation also include preserving at least a 2 and ½ inch height above the roof for panel installation without edge barriers (skirts). This allows for uninhibited airflow and ability to easily see if bird or squirrel nesting in ongoing for quick removal.
Detailed references provided on request and, of course, via free consultation.