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Learn about solar?

Someone once asked me. “I was wondering if you know anything about Sunstreet solar panels? I’m building a home and they are the ones putting them on, I guess.” I replied with the words, “Good Question!” Believe me, there is a mountain of knowledge to ask before even considering a company to install your new solar system. If you are considering getting a new solar system, here is what you need to know.


How big of a solar system do I need?

How does Solar work?

Types of Inverters

Lease or Own your system?

Qualifying Roofs and roof conditions

Solar Arrays

Solar and Batteries

Should I Add Critter Guard to my system

Solar Inspection and panel washing


How big of a solar system do I need?

The Amount of solar you might need for a system depends on your usage. You can’t just add a ton of solar panels and be like here I am. The power company does not want home owners being energy providers. In order to get a system you will need to know how much power you have used for one year in kilowatt-hours (KWH). Having the actual numbers we can build a system. If your roof is a good candidate with a south, southwest, west, or east roof your install company should be able to get your power offset to the total percentage allowed by your utility of your total usage. Always try to get your offset as close to 100% or more if it is possible, otherwise you might just be supplementing you power usage instead of eliminating it.

Start by Calling your utility company or getting 12 months of electrical usage.

your bill laid out with all the months


When you have an idea of how big a solar system make sure you add 120% is typically allowed for most utility company’s. Don’t sell yourself short by keeping your offset at 100%. 120% or whatever the allowed offset is. You want more than 100% for the cloudy days and times so you can build a bank through times.

How does solar work?

The solar panel will turn sunlight into direct current electricity that is known as (DC) electricity. Solar Panels create Direct Current or D.C. which is always on. Compared to Alternate Current or A.C. which has a frequency of 60hz (America) and cycles from positive voltage and negative voltage. Since AC was the deciding factor due to the cost of DC products and the size and requirements A solar inverter (see inverters) is connected to your solar panels and then sends the power back to the grid or to a storage device or battery. Which type of inverter or solar panel you need depends on your roof variables and location.

Photovoltaic means Capable of producing a voltage when exposed to radiant energy voltaic, especially light Photo.

roughly there are three spectrum of light; ultraviolet light, visible light and infrared light.

Ultraviolet light is not visible and breaks down atoms, its the destructive kind of light the sun produces. It is damaging to PV modules and also to humans skin.

Visible light is the usable kind of energy that causes the electrons to react In the photovoltaic modules.

Infrared light is heat that comes in with the light from the sun and is the lower form of energy used for other properties like solar thermal.

The spectrum of light is important because there a thing is cell degradation which is caused by UV and eventually breaks down the solar cells.

Edmond Becquerel, was a French physicist who studied the solar spectrum, magnetism, electricity and optics. He is credited with the discovery of the photovoltaic effect, the operating principle of the solar cell, in 1839.

how do solar panels work.

Types of power and inverters

Any solar energy you don’t use excess generation goes onto the electrical grid or is stored in a battery for future use. The inverter handles the transfer to the grid or to the house. Sometimes if you produce enough the Power company may buy your solar energy.

You will “ALWAYS” use an inverter for solar. Three Types of inverters are String, Optimizers systems and Micro-inverters.

Types of Inverters

String inverters transform the power of DC Direct current to AC alternating current to homes for their use. They need to be replaced every 3-15 years or so. If you have a solar panel system that’s at least five years old, you may want to think about swapping your existing inverter for an all-in-one option like ones either set up for future expansion and adding a battery or generator. Or maybe you have a solar system and thinking about adding something to it. Some batteries have built-in inverters (Island Battery-based inverters). They are becoming very reliant on the internet to diagnose faults. They can also be stacked to add for expansion or to fit. Fronius Primo

Fronius Primo

Micro-inverters turn the power at the module into usable AC power and are attached to each solar panel, they are also smart technology and are tied to the internet for energy production reporting. They turn each panel into their own system in case something happens to one of the solar panels, shade, truck damage, hail damage. They must be mapped in order for them to work using the QR codes attached to them. The drawback is you must have an app or be logged into a system to view the panels’ production and are also still a little bit more costly but the prices have come down.

Optimizers do almost similar things as micro-inverters except they still have a string inverter. The only difference is the one inverter. they can be internet-based and app based for monitoring the solar system as well. They must also be mapped in order for them to work using the QR codes attached to them. If you are a home owner make sure you get the Solar Edge Monitoring App. Do NOT USE A THIRD PARTY APP (Tesla, Sun Run unless you have batteries that are different brands than Solar Edge), as they typically do not have an array map with them showing your entire system and each panels production.

Solar Edge optimizer technology
Solar Edge Monitoring Array Map It shows each individuals production. As shown above this solar system has a problem on the lower left panel which is creating a problem for this string (group) of panels.

To Lease or Own your solar system?

    Leasing isn’t always the better option but there are good things about it. One good thing is that if the company is still in existence they can maintain the system for you in case of damaged panels, bird nests or squirrel damage, inverter failure, etc. Though they might sub-contract this work it’ll get done.  Their main focus is on new installs. We have even had Sun Run customers call us and the homeowner has to spend money on some of these repairs rather than have them call us. It’s quite frustrating knowing we are here them not taking care of a leased system.

Also, if your power generated is lacking as per terms of your contract you might be stuck with paying for the panels and still have a power bill. so you’ll have two extra bills until the life of the contract expires. Make sure you are getting the maximum power offset if you lease. If you do not you will hate solar and have created two bills.

Owning might be better a better option and you can add the value to the home when you sell it. According to this source. With Owning a solar system your responsibility for all maintenance, upkeep and even new roofs (solar system removal and reinstall for newly redone roofs). It is like owning anything else and sometimes it requires some maintenance. Producing all your immediate power is a value to the home!

Roof durability and qualifying roofs.

Some roofs may not qualify for solar installation.  Wood shingle roofs are an example of roofs that might not qualify. Some types of roofing tiles may not qualify for solar installation due to tiles getting damaged.

One thing to keep in mind is the time it takes for the solar company to install the solar system. The more people are physically walking on your roof and the amount of time they are up there working the more damage gets done to the roof. Each mounting system and system design is different so the time it takes can vary. The Whole installation ranges to hours, half a day, up to three days, depending on; the installation size (panels and watts), The Solar System Design, your installers, and electricians. You want the installation to be flawless and take no more than a day because at that point the roof is going to be stressed and possibly needing some new shingles depending on what quality they are as well.

Damaged roofs

If your roof does get damaged badly by hail or wind. go up and check your roof first for damage before you get sucked in by that roof salesmen whose looking to make some quick money. Typically they will go up and make little markings on the roof and make it a chore to get your insurance to pay for a new roof when your roof is probably fine. Hire someone or talk to someone qualified to get up and look at the roof. Typically it is not that damaged. Trust me I know. don’t be like owner in the video they are costing us our insurance premiums!

if your roof does get damaged badly by hail or wind. go up and check your roof first for damage before you get sucked in by that roof salesmen whose looking to make some quick money. Hire someone or talk to someone qualified to get up and look at the roof. Typically it is not that damaged. Trust me I know. don’t be like owner in the video they are costing us our insurance premiums! once you get the roof replaced your insurance or someones will go up for the for profit industry. Here is a video of us removing a system on a perfectly good roof.

If your roof is thrashed, they will have to remove the system and come back reinstall. The stress and age of the roof itself. The best time to get a new installation is when you just get a new roof typically if you can.

What warranties do the install company offers? Also? if they will be around in the future to provide those warranties because sometimes the little companies go out of business. If they do you will have to find a Company to support your solar system. Once you have considered that ask yourself, “How long do they say they guarantee high ticket items Like the panels and the inverter.” Make sure the warranties cover a good portion of the time so they replace panels if they are broken or squirrel damage. make sure you get it in writing in the contract or you may have to pay for some of that out of pocket. you might be able to get an insurance claim if necessary but then you have a claim as well. Typically warranties can replace hail-damaged panels. The key is and the major question is what warranties do the solar system has attached to the contract. The more items they guarantee the better.

Always contact three companies if possible and get three quotes and three contracts to find out what they are offering. The reason being is that you get an idea of what each company is willing to give you and what the true costs are. To get an idea of where they are going to put in things like inverters and access to the inverters, the overall system design, and ascetics can be everything to some people and mean nothing to other people. why!? because they care what their house looks like. For some people, it matters a ton because they don’t like seeing solar on their roofs. Personally, when I see solar I think, SMART PERSON! they have their act together.

Solar Array designs

The design might actually matter and not every designer is going to create a system that is best for you. Companies are not always on your side. The thing to consider with the design is how many panels are on the azimuth facing south, or southwest facing roof preferred. The Other thing to now consider as more and more companies have moved their operations to our homes. So we are no working from home more and using more power.

Typically, roofs have lots of roof space and what you want is a southern-facing roof or a western southern-facing roof. You want most of the system on the south azimuth as much of it as can be exposed to light for as long as possible. The main reason is that typically people are home and using energy in the afternoon and evening time the most.

Something most home-owners don’t know anything about is how the panels are connected. We call a group of panels that are connected together an array. Since they are connected together from one panel to the next Panel, one term you might hear is how many strings in an array. The array could be a group of ten panels but have two strings of 5 panels each. Each Solar panel has two wires a negative and positive. They connect in series (typically to boost power production) and they all connect to each other to maximize voltage, there are other ways to hook up a system but we want max power to be created. In a typical string inverter, if one thing happens to one panel it could affect another panel. The reason that is important for the design is because if the designers attach a couple of panels to another array on another azimuth and there is shading, or some of the string is getting light but the other is not getting as much because it’s on another roof or azimuth that will affect the power production. sometimes we can combat these tricky designers by installing optimizers on each panel and does the company offer them or do you need them with the system design? Optimizers allow each panel to act independently while operating in a string. Now, remember I said what happens to one panel may affect the whole string. With optimizers the string and the system to still function regardless of what happens to one or two panels allowing each panel to act independently in case of shade or hail damage.

If the designers are tricky and do move some of the string onto another azimuth have them fix it and certainly have them show you the string. The string should look like the one below!

Back to the design, I say that because what is the solar company guaranteeing you as far as the upfront cost(total costs) and total production. If you learn nothing else after today “MAKE SURE IT COVER THE ENTIRE COST OF YOUR POWER AND GAS. ” if it doesn’t then you just spent money in the $1,000’s and for what!? so it can cover just some of your costs or lower your bill. NO!!!!! That’s not good enough! We are trying to get in the business of ELIMINATING BILLS(energy companies are not your friend) and if you can’t generate enough power to cover your house’s utility needs it’s a bad deal. The truth is you want to produce enough power to cover your costs and get that tax write off or check from the power company. One Customer told us that they had to call 4 companies before they offered them enough production to cover their gas and power bill. That was a smart move on their part.

The panels that are being sold are far superior than the panels made 5 years ago and they keep getting better. In the past, the panels that were made were 250ish watts. Then they had a breakthrough at 280 watts. Now the standard is around 380+. This is important because with the extra wattage every 3-4 panels installed eliminates one of the old panels and adds a little extra power. Lets do the math 75+75+75+75= 300 watts thus eliminating the need for more panels. or we could look at it as 325w+325w+325w+325w= 1500watts opposed to 250+250+250+250= 1000watts so four of the newer panels eliminates two panels off the roof and saves you money. the better and more production you have the better off you are. Not only that but you have to buy less panels from the install company. The costs are coming down so its a very good time to buy them. Anyways now that is over why is it important?

The power the panels produce are important because Power Companies like Xcel are slowly moving towards using more renewable energy but they still want to limit what goes back onto the grid, because in the past the transmission lines were only suppose to bring power in. One of the biggest problems the power companies are dealing with now is grid saturation. Meaning the Grid was originally used as a transmission grid not a really capable of true storage capacity. so Power companies are always going to limit that and they are only going to allow you to get some many panels on your house. to find your true usage use The pv watts website will allow you come up with a plan to find out how many panels you need or what type is affordable. Some times using more lower producing panels might be cheaper than top of the line. Once you know your total usage wattage make sure you bump up the system size a little bit to make sure your always in the green with the power you do use. As always turn lights off and other vampire sources of power that you do not need! Consider installing smart thermostats as well because typically the heating and AC are your biggest contribution to power

Considering your options is good are you leasing or buying the solar system. Leasing you may not have any control over the system, the company takes care of the system maintenance and they own the system. you might break even on your bills or you might not but you don’t have to pay for any damages that happen to the panels or the inverter.

Owning the solar system gives you the option of taking it with you or selling it with the house you own when you decide to sell the house. I am an owning my own stuff kind of guy because throwing solar into a house sale adds value to the investment. The downside is most often you are responsible for if anything happens to the panels or the inverter.

The Tax credit that was extended to 2020 is disappearing, unfortunately. you can always tell your senator to extend the tax credit. Oil and Gas get plenty of tax incentives solar should too. Help Defend Solar Energy: Extend The Solar Tax Credit. The other thing you should know is that Trump added a 30% tariff to imported solar. this has affected the industry and this was one of the very first things Trump actually did when coming into office. Its effects are yet to be determined because people generally are interested in saving money if not the planet.

Solar and Batteries

Always consider getting a battery of some type for your home solar system. if it is a good “smart” battery it will save you even more money. It will operate during peak times for energy rates and put the energy back on the grade during slow times. Also, management informed everyone during a safety meeting that typically people with a battery were almost entirely off-grid and the only time they were on the grid was when the system needed maintenance.

Should I Add Critter Guard to my system

This is very difficult decision to decide. Some houses have to have it and some houses never need it. This option is sometime not added to the solar system and some times it is offered. Factors that may influence the decision is food and water sources for pigeons. Bird feeders and sprinklers allow for animals to thrive. There isn’t a way to really tell if a solar system is going to need it. The animals do what they do. we do install this and if you would like to have some installed here is the link.

Solar Inspection and panel washing

We recommend having a solar system inspected after the first two years at least every 2 years and panels washed as necessary in the spring or fall times. In the spring as we are about to get all of that sun and in fall when there is about to be less sun. we do solar inspections and panel washing as well. If you would like to have this service here is the link.

Another list of power companies you might have to deal with in Colorado include, Xcel Energy, Colorado Springs Utilities, United Power, IREA.

Distributors you might buy from Solaris Technology Industry, Inc., Civic Solar, QED, CED, AEE Solar

Some solar schools that you might be interested in taking classes from are, Solairgen Inc , Solar Energy International.

General search terms

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Jonathan Clyburn
Owner Of Raven Solar Services