Photovoltaics Installation, Miner Street
Frequently Asked Questions
I get regular emails from homeowners interested in installing a photovoltaics system, in regards to the system hardware itself and the installation by Sunlight Solar. To address the lion's share of these questions, I've created this FAQ.
If after reading this you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me. Greg, grega at pobox dot com.
Did the installation of the panels create any "visual" eyesores, i.e. poorly installed cables down the side of your house etc?
Nope. On the contrary, the install is very professional and clean. One of the main concerns for my wife was the visual aspect of the install, and she's very pleased with the end result.
Did you realize the savings in your electric bill that you expected?
Yes. When the system was installed mid-January 2008it was rated to output 4600 kWh per year. At the time of this FAQ update (January 2016) the system has generated slightly over 34,000 kWh of AC power, for an average of 4396 kWh per year of running time. not as much as rated, but we have had some trees grow to the point of partially blocking the panels at times.
Have you have any problems with the system?
Only one. In early 2011 the inverter, Sunpower SPR-4000X, was under a recall and I had to shut off the panels. The company worked as fast as they could to resolve it, and did so at no costs to me. Plus, the offered me a $100 gift card for the loss of generation.
Otherwise, the system has been running flawlessly.
How was Sunlight Solar to work with during the installation process?
Very easy to work with. The sales rep was very patient with my numerous inquiries and concerns. The install guys got in there and completed the work very quickly (roughly 5 working days or so?) and my main install contact was very helpful with all the follow-up inspections.
All in all, a completely painless experience.
Did they do what they said they would do when they said they would do it at the quoted cost?
Absolutely, to a "t". No surprises, exactly as expected.
Would you use Sunlight Solar again?
Absolutely. They came recommended to me from a mutual friend, and I'm glad I followed through.
Did you buy or lease?
Purchased. Back in 2007, leasing was not a viable option as it is today. Further, both the State of CT and the Federal government were offering generous rebates for the installation of panels, and I wanted to receive those benefits.
Which way would you go today?
Can't say, as I've not really reviewed the terms on today's lease packages. You would need to review the lease terms, and compare that to installation costs and tax breaks/incentives for purchase and then choose your preferred level of desired risk/reward. But, in general, leasing seems to be mostly free of start-up costs, whereas purchasing required increased investment but higher return. Contact someone financially savvy to help you go over the numbers if you're not sure.
If you could do it over again would you have gone through with the solar panel installation? Why or Why not?
My primary - almost exclusive - reason for installing PV was financial, as a hedge against future rising energy costs. My fixed financial costs/considerations balanced the costs of installation versus the State and Federal rebates (which, back then, recovered about half the installation costs), and my variable costs assumed capture of the Renewable Energy Credits (which were all the rage at the time) and and assumption of approximately 5% annual increase in electricity costs (it had averaged 8-11% for the prior ten years).
Unfortunately, since then RECs have gone out of favor (there's some, but only ~$150 annually) and our electricity costs have actually declined over the last 10 years (thanks to new sources of natural gas via fracking). So the ROI on the panels has not met the initial expectations.
Regardless, the install seems to be a reasonable investment and while my timeline for payback has been extended I'm confident it will at least pay for itself in a reasonable time frame. Other than the costs itself I have absolutely no reason for not wanting to do it again. In fact, I'm really sorry I took so long to actually make it happen!
Anything else you would do differently today?
Today's panels are far more efficient and less costly, so I'd look into higher output systems. In addition, I do wish I had a wifi-enabled inverter where I could read and watch production real-time (I have to manually read the meter and the inverter to see the outputs). Otherwise, it just sits up there quietly making electricity...