Peter's Hints for a Smoother PV Installation
We have recently installed Solar PV on our Tower Road home. We are pleased with its performance and look forward to many years of reducing or eliminating our cost of electricity.
First the good news. I was not aware that the system generated electricity even when it is solidly cloudy. Our system has been working well and most of our issues are around communication with the installer which by making others aware of, can be largely avoided.
There are a few things we wished we had known before and during the process of choosing and installation.
It makes sense to investigate 6 or 7 different installers and get them to make preliminary system designs. That way you can see a variety of designs and be able to ask more informed questions.
If you have a marginal or tricky roof it is worth asking that the actual people who will do the physical installation visit and have input into the design. Otherwise the system design is all done with mapping software which is more than adequate for a clear cut site.
What is the Installers relationship with the equipment supplier?
Does the installer cobble together the racks, panels, controllers and grid interface equipment or do they use an already integrated one supplier system?
Solar systems that are homeowner purchased are expensive and so you want a lawyer or someone experienced in reviewing such contracts to look at it and advise you. It would be ideal if the Green Committee could arrange to do this.
Most contracts involve a substantial up-front deposit. What commitment does the installer make at that time? ie will they purchase the physical components?
Final payments are tricky as the utility company has the final say on when the system is actually turned on and your installer probably wants their money before that uncertain date. We had a problem when the installer failed to get the Town’s building permit signoff to the utility. To hold the installer accountable the final payment should be made only after the utility acknowledges receipt of all completed documents.
What kind of software is provided for analyzing the performance of your system. We were given “mySunPower” software which is excellent and allows us to see daily, monthly, yearly solar generation figures. Having a way to see what is happening in real time is fun.
The 30% refund of the project cost is only good as a reduction of your federal taxes starting in the year the physical installation is completed (not the actual turn on with the utility). That means that if you start the process in the fall make certain that the installation is completed by December 31 to be able to get the refund for that tax year.
Massachusetts allows a $1000 tax refund on installations.