Frequently Asked Questions
Answering the frequently asked questions about solar power
We’ve separated our Solar FAQ into three categories for your convenience. The sections are;
Learn more about how solar works, your local incentives are, and solar financing by reading our solar FAQ. Can’t find an answer, send us a message and we’d be happy to help.
Solar Power FAQ
How does solar panels work?
Whether it’s a new solar panel installation on your neighbor’s roof or the growing number of solar-powered businesses solar energy is talked about a lot these days. It’s an exciting time for solar energy.
Unlike energy created from a wind turbine or even a traditional power plant, solar does not have any moving parts. So how exactly is energy being created?
Solar panels are made of silicon and other conductive materials. When the sunlight, or photons, hit the conductive materials it shakes an electron free. This electron is direct current (DC) and will need to be converted to alternating current (AC) through an energy converter before your home or business may use this energy.
Use this animated visual and take some of the mystery out of solar panels, so you may feel a little more confident the next time someone brings up solar in the conversation!
How efficient are solar panels?
At Sunbridge Solar we only use American-made solar panels which are known for their higher quality and power production compared to their international counterparts. The American manufacturers we source our panels from are Sunpower and SolarWorld. Sunpower solar panels convert 21% of sunlight into DC energy while SolarWorld panels convert sunlight to energy at a rate of 17%.
Please keep in mind that when selecting your solar panel with the highest efficiency isn’t always the winner. Depending on your solar system size and the amount of available space for the installation it may be more cost-effective to go with a cheaper solar panel.
Want to know which is the best for you? Send us a message!
How long do solar panels last?
Solar panels installed bySunbridge Solar are manufacturer warrantied for a full 25 or more years. For manufacturers, 25 years is a time frame they feel comfortable standing behind even if the panels are installed in extreme weather conditions that will affect the longevity of an installation. This is an important point. 25 years is the time period that SolarWorld selected for its warranty, assuming the absolute worst in treatment and installation, not the average. 25 years of solid performance is a “worst case scenario” in their view.
However, a warranty is only as reliable as the company that stands behind it. At Sunbridge, on top of the 25-year manufacture warranty, we offer a 10 year, full-service craftsman warranty and only use top of the line, made-in-America solar equipment that has undergone rigorous reliability testing.
Do solar panels produce energy at night?
Solar panels work best during the daylight hours. When sunlight is shining directly onto them, the sunlight (or photons) are converted into electricity. Panel efficiency drops at night because there is no sunlight to convert to energy. Solar panels are unable to generate power in the darkness.
We are able to design your solar system so you may go net-zero, even when you are drawing energy from your utility at night. Your solar panels will generate a lot of power during a sunny day that any excess power you don’t use immediately is sent to the utility grid. The surplus power you generate during the day will then be used to offset your energy use at night. Pretty cool, right?
What is Net Energy Metering ?
Net energy metering, or more commonly known as NET metering is a utility rate plan for their solar customers. When you install solar on your home or business you will enter into an agreement with your electric provider. This agreement will allow you to bank credits whenever you are producing more energy than you are using.
In the summer months, you will build up a bank of energy credits because your solar system is most productive at this time. During the winter months, you will then draw those credits that you built up over the summer. This keeps your electric bill low, all year round.
Do my energy credits reset?
There is a NET metering fiscal year that runs different depending on hat state you live in. In Oregon, the fiscal year runs from April to March. At the end of March, any credits left remaining will be forfeited and go towards assisting your utility’s low-income support program. Oregon systems tend to be sized to reduce 100% of your annual electric bill or less, therefore, having extra credits is rare.
Washington state runs on a different schedule. The fiscal year starts on May 1st and ends on April 31st coinciding with the long summer days in the Pacific Northwest.
How long will it take to install solar?
Installation of solar panels is a streamlined process. Depending on the size and installation complexity (i.e., solar plus batteries), a typical system will take between one to three days.
The longest wait of installing solar is the local and utility inspections. After installation in complete expect 1-3 weeks until every inspection is finalized.
Does solar work in the cloudy Pacific Northwest?
Though we don’t get as much sun as Arizona or Southern California, our cooler climate and long summer days make solar an excellent option. Like any technology, the hotter it gets the less efficient it becomes and in turn the less power the panel will produce. Our lovely Pacific Northwest rain is actually a benefit to solar! Your solar panels will be cleaned each time it rains enabling it to produce power at it’s fullest potential.
In addition, the generous mix of financial incentives offered by the state, utility companies and the federal government can make the investment especially attractive. For more details on exactly why this is true visit one of these articles: Does solar energy work in the Pacific Northwest?
Will my system cause glare for my neighbors?
Solar panels incorporate anti-reflective glass that is rated to be used at airport installations where glare can be a serious issue for pilots. Plus, the goal of a solar panel is to absorb as much sunlight as possible, not reflect.
Do I need to obtain permits or an structural analysis?
Not at all. Sunbridge Solar does all the permitting and engineering in-house, as well as all the state incentive paperwork.
Can my HOA ban my solar panel system?
No. It is the state law in both Oregon and Washington to prevent homeowner associations from banning you from installing solar panels on your home as long as the system meets all safety, health, and performance standards required by the state or local jurisdictions.
While HOAs are not permitted to ban your solar installation, they are allowed to set neighborhood guidelines, such as using all black solar panels instead of the standard blue and silver frame.
Throughout assisting dozens of homeowners belonging to an HOA, we’ve found that our solar quotes provide enough information to bring comfort to any possible HOA concern.
Solar panel costs and incentives FAQ
How much does solar panels cost?
A typical price for home solar panels starts at $12,000 before incentives and tax breaks. System sizes for business owners tend to be larger systems, therefore, the typical starting price for a commercial solar electric system is $15,000.
The location of your array, the size of your roof or ground-mounted system, the age of your electrical panel, the type of roof you have and the distance between your electrical panel and the solar installation all play a role in the final cost of going solar. As a result, an exact price is only possible with a free site evaluation.
What are the financial incentives are available?
Does solar add value to my home?
According to this 2011 REALTOR® Magazine, researchers were able to correlate significant increases in home resale value with the installation of solar panels on homes in California. This is exciting news, but how does the non-professional make sense of this number? How much is a solar investment worth to the resale value of your home
The National Association of Realtors suggests that a solar installation can add an average of $5.50 per Watt in resale value. To put this in dollar terms, a fully-owned, 4,200 watt (4 kW) solar installation could add an average of $23,100 in value to your home instantly.
Learn more by reading our blog, How much will solar panels increase my home value?
What is a production incentive?
A production incentive is a state of Washington program that allows you to earn money (not a credit) for every kilowatt-hour that you produce. You will receive a cash payment for the gross amount of solar kilowatts you generate, not only the ones you use.
The program pays the solar system owners up to $0.54 per kilowatt-hour of energy produced by your solar panels The rate begins at $0.15/kWh and increases depending on whether if you used Washington made solar equipment or not. For solar modules made in Washington, you earn $.36/kWh. If your system uses both modules and inverters made in Washington, the rate jumps to $.54/kWh The incentive is capped at $5,000 per household per year making the payback for a new solar system within several years.
The current incentive program expires in 2020. Currently, our state legislators are drafting a replacement bill (HB1048) that will replace and extend the current solar incentives.
Is financing available?
Yes. Home solar is now more affordable than ever. Because solar is now considered a proven technology, there is competition in the market among lenders, bringing rates down. This allows for a strong return on investment even with little –or zero– cost upfront.
Financing is an excellent way to cover the upfront costs of going solar. Modern financing plans can cost as little as $0 down and feature attractive financing rates.
We can help you locate financing options, or we can work with your bank to establish a financing plan. Many banks and credit unions will happily finance a solar energy installation, even if they do not advertise this option to their customers.
According to SolarOregon, current state and federal tax credits and incentives pay for 70 to 85 percent of installing and owning residential solar energy systems, meaning a $20,000 system could cost homeowners as little as $3,000 after tax credits and incentive are applied.
Want to speak with someone right away? Call 503-407-6820.
Are there grants available for solar panels?
Yes! But you must be a “small” business located outside of an urban metro area in order to participate unless your business produces agricultural products. Please note that “small” is pre-defined by the Small Business Association (SBA) and may appear quite large, depending on your industry.
Visit one of our Financial Incentives pages for more details and to qualify your location.
Pre-Installation Solar FAQs
What happens when I request a free site evaluation/quote?
When you request an evaluation we will send you a welcome email introducing you to the solar estimator that we believe will best assist you. This email will have information tailored to your request and your estimator’s contact information.
After the welcome email, your estimator will call you within 1-3 business day, depending on his schedule. You may also call our site estimator to pencil in a date and time at your convenience.
You and the site estimator will then meet and go over solar design, sun access, and answer any of your questions. We will then provide you with a proposal for you to review.
You may also call us directly. Our main office number is 503-407-6820.
What if I only have questions?
We love questions! We love educating the community about the benefits of solar.
You can contact us with any solar question or concern. We have also provided you with updated, relevant information on the ins-and-outs of investing in solar power right here at the website.
We believe that informed consumers make good choices and we work to empower you with whatever information you need to make the right choice for your home or business.
What makes Sunbridge Solar unique?
The name itself suggests the meaning we wish to convey: We’re building solar bridges in the communities in which we live and thrive. Whether that bridge is an easier and more environmentally conscious way to get power to a home here in the Northwest or to help bring a hospital in rural Nepal into the 21st century so they can better help the more than 30,000 people that walk through their doors, Sunbridge Solar will be ready to help.
The name Sunbridge Solar helps keep our mission of bringing ecologically and monetarily affordable energy to people, in both big ways and small, in mind every day. We are quite involved with our local and global communities. We believe solar is so much more than just panels on the roof and energy savings. We also believe that sharing our success includes those among us that don’t have the same advantages we do. In that spirit, we select worthy humanitarian solar projects that we can support on at least an annual basis.