Most Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ) About Solar


FAQ Table of Contents


Solar Energy System Basics

  1. What is solar energy?

  2. What’s better? Solar or wind power?

  3. What are the different types of solar energy systems?

  4. Do I have to go off the grid when I switch to solar energy?

  5. How does solar energy benefit the environment?

  6. How long will my solar energy system last?

  7. Why should I go solar now? Aren’t innovative new technologies on the way?

  8. Why should I install a solar energy system on my home or business?

  9. I want to go off-grid, would you recommend this?

  10. What are the different types of solar inverters?

About Solar Panels

  1. Will my solar panels withstand extreme weather conditions?

  2. Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline, what’s the difference and which one should I pick?

  3. What is solar panel efficiency and do I need a solar panel with high efficiency?

  4. What are the different types of solar panels?

  5. Do solar panels work in a blackout?

  6. Will I ever need to replace my solar panels?

  7. How do solar panels actually work?

Energy Production

  1. Will solar panels produce the same amount of electricity all year long?

  2. What is net metering?

  3. Will my solar panels generate electricity during cloudy or rainy days? What about at night?

  4. Is solar energy reliable and powerful enough for my home or business?

Financials

  1. Will solar pay for itself?

  2. How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost?

  3. Will solar panels raise my home or business’ property value?

  4. How soon will I notice a difference in my electricity bills after switching to solar energy?

  5. How much will I really save on my electricity bills every month?

  6. How will switching to solar energy help me budget better?

Installation

  1. What is the best option for installing solar panels with my budget?

  2. Will installing solar panels damage my roof?

  3. How long do solar panels take to install? Do you have to rewire my house?

  4. How will I know if my property is a good candidate for solar panels?

  5. What size solar energy system should I get?

  6. Do I need to replace my roof before installing solar?

  7. What happens during the solar installation process?

  8. How much roof space will I need for a solar energy system?

  9. Can I install solar panels on my property myself?

  10. What should I do now if I want to increase my system size later?

Operations and Maintenance

  1. How much will solar panel maintenance cost?

  2. Are solar panels difficult to operate and maintain?

  3. How will I know if a solar energy system is working?

  4. Is a solar energy system noisy?

  5. How do I check my solar energy system’s performance and kW generation?

  6. Is my solar system covered by a warranty?

  7. Do I need to clean my panels?


Solar Energy System Basics


1. What is solar energy?


Solar energy simply refers to the energy from the sun. It is one of the most prominent renewable energy technologies today along with wind energy and has the biggest potential of being the energy of the future. Since the sun shines every day, solar energy is renewable, which means that it will never run out of fuel. It also doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases during its operation, making it a cleaner alternative to traditional fossil fuel energy sources. Lastly, solar energy has become the cheapest energy source today, beating wind, hydroelectric, coal, gas, and nuclear energy.


2. What’s better? Solar or wind power?


Solar and wind energy are actually the 2 cheapest energy sources today, beating hydro, coal, gas and nuclear and are currently looking to be the best replacements for dirty fossil fuels as an energy source. In fact, did you know that it is now very common to have negative electricity prices in Germany because of their abundance of solar and wind energy?

In terms of what is better, it is hard to objectively comment about this since we are a solar company, but what we can say is that solar energy is the only energy source among all others that has the advantage of being modular, which means that it can be implemented as a form of distributed energy generation.


All the other energy sources, including wind, produce energy on large power plants. This is what we call a centralized energy generation. In contrast, solar energy can be installed virtually anywhere and power individual homes, which is what we mean by distributed energy generation. An advantage of distributed energy generation is the potential for individual homeowners to be independent power producers themselves. This can easily be achieved by installing solar panels on your roof.

3. What are the different types of solar energy systems?


There are 2 types of solar energy systems, on-grid and off-grid systems. The on-grid system is the most commonly installed because they don’t have batteries and are therefore cheaper, simpler, easier to operate, and maintain, and more cost-effective. Its disadvantages, however, is that you are still connected to the grid and you will still be affected by power interruptions and brownouts. On-grid systems also require the use of a net meter, which will allow you to sell the excess energy from it to the grid. On the other hand, with an off-grid system, you will then be disconnected from the grid and will just rely on your solar panels and batteries for your electricity supply. During the morning, your solar panels are oversized to produce more energy than your daytime consumption. The excess energy is then used to charge your batteries to be used at night.

We at Andal Solar always recommend our clients to have an on-grid solar energy system instead especially if their house already has an existing utility connection because it is just much, much cheaper. In fact, for the same system size, the cost of off-grid systems can be twice as much. Also, off-grid systems must be able to supply for your total consumption, so you will need a bigger system size (and of course, a bigger investment) of an off-grid system. This is in contrast to on-grid systems, where you can adjust your desired system size based on your budget or the amount of savings that you would want to have.

4. Do I have to go off the grid when I switch to solar energy?


When you already have an existing utility connection on your house, it is always better to have an on-grid system instead of an off-grid one because it is significantly cheaper and simpler. In faraway places that do not have a utility connection yet, sometimes it is even cheaper to pay Meralco or your electric cooperative to put up a line to your house and have an on-grid system instead of an off-grid system. Aside from being more expensive, off-grid systems must also be oversized to compensate for the rainy and low irradiance months. You wouldn’t want to run out of energy from your batteries in the middle of the night because they have not been charged well in the rain. And if this is the case, in the summer, you will then have an excess of energy since your system is oversized for your consumption, which is a waste.

5. How does solar energy benefit the environment?


The number 1 cause of global warming is the Carbon Dioxide that we release in the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels for energy. Solar energy, on the other hand, is clean and does not emit any form of waste into the environment. By using a solar energy system, you reduce your reliance on electricity from the grid, which is mostly generated by burning coal. In your own little way, you will reduce our total Carbon Dioxide emissions and help our planet recover from the damage that was already done.

6. How long will my solar energy system last?


Solar energy systems are rated to last for 25 to 30 years. However, some of the systems that were first installed have been reported to last for even more! This just means that having a solar energy system will really be a long-term investment and you will be able to enjoy savings from your monthly electric bills for many, many years to come.


It is even more amazing because you will be less affected by power hikes and increases in electricity prices due to inflation for the lifetime of the system. Can you compare the amount of your electric bill 25 years ago to what you have now? There is a huge difference, right? Well, 25 years from now, the monthly savings that you will get from a solar energy system would have also increased by roughly the same percentage!


7. Why should I go solar now? Aren’t innovative new technologies on the way?


There is a saying that goes like this: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” Since solar energy is also a long-term investment, with a lifetime of 25-30 years, we can think of the same thing with it. Also, climate change is becoming worse, giving us more and more extreme weather calamities every year. And since climate change works as a positive feedback loop, which means that most of its effects further worsens climate change, every year that we don’t act is very precious.


8. Why should I install a solar energy system on my home or business?


Because of the savings that you can get from your monthly electric grid, you can also view solar energy as a financial investment. Yes, you pay a large amount of money upfront, but you will get it all back in 5 to 7 years. Since the lifetime of a solar energy system is at least 25 years, the savings that you will get from year 6 or 8 up until the 25th year can already be seen as the income for your investment.


The good thing about this type of investment is that it is basically a no-lose investment. Investing in a small business has a danger of the business failing to make a profit, investing in stocks or foreign exchange has a danger of you losing all of your money, but with solar energy, you are sure that the sun will rise the next day and will produce energy. The only danger in investing in a solar energy system is having a substandard system installed by an unprofessional solar company.


9. I want to go off-grid, would you recommend this?


We don’t recommend having an off-grid system because it is much more expensive, complex, and harder to operate and maintain. Aside from this, the system must be oversized to still be able to supply enough energy on rainy and/or cloudy days. This means that you will need to have a larger system size and invest a lot more. Finally, if you really want the best value for your money, an on-grid system is the right way to go because the ROI for this type of system is only 5-7 years while it doubles to 11-13 years for off-grid systems.


10. What are the different types of solar inverters?


There are 2 types of inverters that can be used for residential solar installations: string inverters and microinverters. Among the 2, string inverters were the more commonly used for installations as this is the older technology that has been used ever since the first solar installations. On the other hand, microinverter technology is newer and is just becoming popular with solar companies.


With string inverters, solar panels are connected in series to form strings. These strings of solar panels are then connected to the input of the inverter. The disadvantage of this is that strings of solar panels work together in a way that every solar panel in the string only performs as well as the worst-performing one. This means that if one solar panel is shaded, all of the solar panels in the string will be affected.


Microinverters, as their name suggests, are smaller than the traditional string inverters. They are also installed on the roof under the solar panels while having only 1 or 2 solar panels connected to them. They have the advantage of being more efficient, being able to monitor the energy production of each solar panel and because the solar panels are not anymore connected in a string, they won’t suffer as much due to shading compared to if you use string inverters.


Another difference between the two is that string inverters only have a lifetime of 10-15 years while microinverters’ lifetime is 25 years. Remember that the lifetime of solar panels is also 25 years. This means that string inverters will need to be replaced one or two times over the lifetime of the solar panels.


About Solar Panels

1. Will my solar panels withstand extreme weather conditions?


Extreme temperatures do not necessarily damage solar panels, but they affect the solar panel’s efficiency. When solar panels get hot, they become less efficient, while when they get cold, they become more efficient.


Another type of extreme weather condition that solar panels are designed to withstand is hail. On an average, hailstorms drop hail that is ¼ to ½ inch thick at a speed of 32 kilometers per hour. However, solar panels are even designed to withstand a hail of up to 1 inch thick and a speed of 80 kph.


In terms of heavy wind and typhoons, solar mounting systems can withstand winds of up 250 kph. However, take note that these are mounting systems that are designed specifically for solar panel installations. Some installers, especially here in the Philippines, make their own mounting using L bars and other types of metal parts that can easily be manufactured even in small metal shops. These are dangerous because they are not designed specifically for solar installations, did not undergo any mechanical calculations or studies, and are prone to galvanic corrosion(rusting).


Lastly, it is a common concern for homeowners that their solar panels might be hit by lightning. However, having solar panels almost pose no additional risks in terms of being hit by lightning. The likelihood of something being hit by lightning increases as it gets taller or higher but solar panels are only effectively a few inches higher than your roof. In fact, if you have a TV antenna on your roof, that would still be more likely to be hit by lightning than your solar panels.


2. Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline, what’s the difference and which one should I pick?


Monocrystalline and polycrystalline refers to the material that the solar panel is made of. Theoretically, monocrystalline solar panels are better because monocrystalline Silicon is a more “pure” type of crystalline Silicon, hence, the name mono- or one- crystalline. In solar panels, monocrystalline ones are more efficient and have better temperature characteristics than polycrystalline solar panels. However, these differences are not really very significant when comparing monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels in the market today.


If you want the best type of solar energy system for your home, you can ask your solar company to use monocrystalline solar panels on your installation. Take note, however, that the increase in energy yield and savings that this will bring will not be very significant.


3. What is solar panel efficiency and do I need a solar panel with high efficiency?


As we may all already know, energy can not be created out of nothing, it can only be converted from one form to another. With this, efficiency in any energy generating devices refers to the ratio of output energy, which is electricity, to the input energy, which is the fuel used.


For solar panels, efficiency refers to how much electricity can be produced compared to the solar energy input. However, a better and more practical way to think about it is that a higher efficiency solar panel will produce more power for the same roof area compared to a lower efficiency one. This means that if you have a limited roof space and you want to get the most solar energy out of it, you have to have solar panels with high efficiency. If you have ample roof space, however, you should not be concerned too much about the solar panel’s efficiency.


4. What are the different types of solar panels?


There are 2 main types of solar panels: monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. This refers to the type of silicon material that is used to create solar cells. A quick and easy way to distinguish between the two is with their color. Monocrystalline solar panels are black, while the polycrystalline ones are blue.


Monocrystalline is the superior type of solar panel among the two not only in terms of efficiency and energy production but also in terms of its temperature characteristics, which means that it does not suffer as much reduction in energy production with increases in temperature compared to polycrystalline solar panels.


It is better to take a look at the proposal from your solar company to know beforehand the type of solar panel that will be installed on your roof. If you want a higher-quality system, you can request to have monocrystalline solar panels installed on your roof.


5. Do solar panels work in a blackout?


Off-grid systems are unaffected by blackouts since they are disconnected from the electric grid. On-grid systems, however, will automatically shut down during blackouts as a safety feature, even if it can still produce energy. This is because of 2 reasons. The first is that if your solar energy system keeps on producing energy during a blackout, the energy that it produces will just spread to your neighbor’s houses, leaving a very little amount for yourself. Lastly, electrical linemen or personnel may work on the electric lines near your home during the blackout and not know that the lines are energized. This causes a severe safety issue for them, so on-grid inverters are required to shut itself down in these cases.


6. Will I ever need to replace my solar panels?


Solar panels are made to last for at least 25 years while being exposed to the harsh outside elements. They are even designed to withstand a hail of up to an inch in and size falling at a speed of 50 miles per hour. This means that solar panels can definitely last for a long, long time even without repair and much maintenance.


As a testament to this, solar panel manufacturers even give a 10-year product warranty and a 25-year performance warranty for their products. The product warranty covers problems regarding the quality of the solar panel and its integrity. This includes manufacturing defects, whether physical or electrical and premature wear and tear, among others.


The performance warranty, on the other hand, is a manufacturer’s guarantee that the solar panel will still produce 90% of its rated power at 10 years and 80% at 25 years. After 25 years, it does not mean that the solar panel will stop producing power anymore, it is just not guaranteed anymore how more years it will be able to keep producing power and up to how many more years. This is why the rated lifetimes of solar energy systems are also set to 25 years. It is important to note, however, that the string inverters that are most commonly used by most solar installers can only last from 10-15 years. This means that within your solar energy system’s rated lifetime of 25 years, you will have to replace your inverter at least once and even up to 2 times. Based on our experience, this is something that most solar companies don’t mention to their customer which is not a good practice. We at Andal Solar use microinverters with a lifetime of 25 years, which means that you don’t have to replace it over the lifetime of the whole system.


7. How do solar panels actually work?


Solar energy converts sunlight into electricity through the use of the photovoltaic or PV technology that is used by a solar panel. Solar panels produce DC electricity, which is why they need an inverter to convert this to the same AC electricity that we use in our homes. They are usually connected in series to form strings, while these strings are connected in parallel to form the solar PV array.


Solar panels are made from semiconductors, which are the same class of materials that the electronics inside your mobile phones, laptops, and computers are made of. The most common type of semiconductor used to create solar panels is Silicon, which is the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.


Energy Production


1. Will solar panels produce the same amount of electricity all year long?


The energy production of solar panels depends on the amount of irradiance or sunlight that it receives, which changes from month to month. Because of this, solar energy systems won’t produce the same amount of energy every month. The irradiance(and thus, the energy production) is higher during the summer months and lower during the rainy months.


2. What is net metering?


With the advent of distributed energy generation like solar energy, everyone can now produce energy right on their very roofs. But since solar energy is an intermittent energy source, we can never exactly control the amount of energy that it produces at any given time. Most of the time, it will produce less or more energy than the amount that we need. And when it produces more energy than what we need at that certain time, the excess energy will automatically go back to the grid.


Our electric grid has only been designed for a one-way flow of energy and that direction is from the electric lines to our houses. Our old electric meters, therefore are only capable of reading the amount of energy that is going in this direction. But as we discussed, with solar energy, energy can flow the other way around. This is why with an on-grid solar energy system, we will need to replace our meter with a net meter.


A net meter is a type of digital meter that can also read and record the amount of energy that is exported back to the grid or going out of the house. Having a net meter is important for an on-grid system because you will be paid back for a certain amount for every kWh that you export back to the grid. This may sound really good but the problem is that Meralco will only pay you an amount per kWh of exported energy that is equal to the generation charge, which is only around half of the retail price of electricity that you are paying for. Here in the Philippines, the price of electricity is around 10 pesos per kWh while you will be paid only around 5 pesos per kWh of exported energy.


This is why in the design of solar energy systems here in the Philippines, we tend to avoid having a system size that would export too much energy back to the grid to minimize the ROI. What we do is we analyze your hourly consumption and determine the optimal system size where you export the least amount of energy back to the grid but still save the maximum amount from your monthly electric bills.


Take note that this involves an hourly computation of the solar energy system’s production and your consumption for the whole year, which not all solar companies can do. With Andal Solar, however, we have our own way of doing just that, which means that you are assured that your solar energy system will be just right for your consumption and that you would get the optimum return for your investment.


3. Will my solar panels generate electricity during cloudy or rainy days? What about at night?


Solar panels will still generate electricity during cloudy or rainy days, although to a much lesser degree. For off-grid systems, this may be a problem because it means that you will only have a small amount of energy available throughout the day and your batteries will not be charged enough for your nighttime consumption.


For on-grid systems, again, this is not a problem because you can always get energy from the utility grid whenever it is not producing as much energy and you need more. This is also automatically managed by the inverter and you would not need anymore to press any switch or do anything to the whole system. In short, you should basically not need to worry whether it is sunny, cloudy, or rainy outside because your solar energy system will still produce energy and can operate by itself without any need for intervention.


4. Is solar energy reliable and powerful enough for my home or business?