FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions Summary

You may find many articles and posts addressing Frequently Asked Questions here on our Knowledgebase and Blog but we wanted to put together a summary of the key ones for you. Here are some common questions we have heard.

Should I clean my Solar Panels?

Yes, you should. Although panels that are mounted at an angle (which, most are) don’t need too much due to rain washing off most of the dirt, we do live in a dry and dusty climate.  With that said, before you climb on your roof, watch these helpful videos.

Key Points to Remember

Safety first! Make sure to use a long enough ladder and if possible, strap in.   Always have a buddy on hand to hold and steady the ladder.   Avoid the latter parts of the day. It will be hot and the panels will be even hotter. Pick the coolest part of the day to clean your panels.   Regardless of overzealous sales claims, try to avoid leaning on or standing on your panels.   They can crack.

Avoid Abrasive or Harsh Chemical Cleaners. Using a mild solution of vinegar and water or mild soap and water.   Those usually work pretty well won’t harm your shingles or roof top.

Use a soft towel and a squeegee. Remove any excess grit and dirt.  After you squeegee the panels make sure to remove any excess streaks and soil from the glass and the lower edge of the panels with a soft micro-fiber towel.   Dirt that collects at the lower edge of the panels may cause hotspots in the solar panels which, could shorten their life and performance.

How do I monitor my system?

​Monitoring comes on two types–production and consumption.   Most panel installers will provide production monitoring.  We provide both.  Production monitoring will track how much energy your system produces from one day to the next.   Consumption monitoring will track the power you are using in your house or business.  This can be very helpful when you are trying to pinpoint why you are still using a lot of energy after going solar.  It’s also very helpful for gauging how your system is doing compared to how you are using energy.

Information from most monitoring systems can be viewed in realtime via an app on your phone or on the web.   Systems may use Wifi or Cellular connection to maintain a seamless link to your monitoring hardware.  The image below is from the Solaredge Monitoring which, is one of the methods we use.

Most of this data is handled and viewed via Wifi connection.    Wifi is for the most part pretty reliable but sometimes the signals could be interrupted for various reasons.   The most common is when you change your internet provider and they swap out your router.   In these case, the remedy is pretty straight forward.  We have a post that addresses this very thing.  You can read the help file by visiting our Wifi Connection Instructions.  If you monitoring is still not working after following these instructions please call our office at 915-400-2995, ext 2.  That will connect you to our service department.

How do I read my meters?

You probably see all the equipment on the side of the house and are wondering how to read the meters.  “What do they tell me?”

Here in the Borderland, El Paso Electric installs two meters.  One replaces the original meter with one that is called a Net Meter.  It tracks the flow of energy going into your home or office and out back into the electric grid.  The second one, called a REC meter, tracks the total kilowatts produced by your system since the meter was installed.  This is a great one because it gives you an idea of all that power you did not have to buy from the utility.

The reading displayed on the NET meter goes up and down based on which direction the energy is flowing.  If it is flowing out of the house and into the electric grid, it counts backwards.  If energy is flowing back into your house (eg. at night when the sun is not shining), it counts forward.   This meter will ultimately help the utility know how much energy to charge you for since it displays the “Net” amount (what you use subtracted from what you over-produce).  If that number is positive, you buy the difference from the utility.  If it is negative, they give you a credit for that power.

When do I get my rebate?

This is the most common question asked.  The important thing to clarify first is that IT IS NOT A REBATE.  Many other solar sales people out there (thankfully, not one of ours), especially from the less reputable lot, will tell you about a rebate.  In reality it is a Tax Credit.   A rebate is something you get for buying something.   A tax credit is a credit against the income taxes you have paid.

If you have not paid taxes or are self-employed and only pay self-employment taxes, you will not qualify for the Federal Investment Tax Credit.  Remember that the rules differ based on income levels and whether you are filing for a residential or commercial installation.  Consult your tax advisor for more details about how this works and to find out if you would qualify and for how much.

Source:  SEIA

Now, back the question about when you would get it (should you qualify).   Usually, you will file for your taxes in the Spring of the year following the date your solar energy system is installed and turned on.  That filing season will be when you will list the system you purchased.  You will likely need to provide your tax advisor some info about how much the system cost (less any rebates or special offers you received) and other details usually found on your solar agreement.   Ask your solar advisor for a copy if you misplaced it.  You may also call the company you purchased the system from.

Around the time you would get your tax refund is when you would receive whatever balance you get from your tax credit if the number is greater than what you paid in taxes.  Again, consult your tax professional for more information.  Just remember that since it is a tax credit, that amount is not guaranteed.

How many inspections need to be done?

Inspections are big part of the process of getting your solar system installed and turned on.   Usually on two are needed.  The first is done by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).   This is most often the city or county inspector.   Under rare cases, you could be under two separate jurisdictions.  Although rare, in these cases you would need one from the county and one from the city.  These inspections are done to make sure the system was installed per the proper building codes.

The second inspection is done by the utility.  In our case in both Las Cruces and El Paso and everything in between, it would be El Paso Electric.  EPE comes out to make sure everything was installed per the original plan-set that was submitted to them as part of the Interconnection process.  Once you pass this last stage, EPE will install you new meters and your solar power will turned on.

When is my first loan payment due?

This is generally about 60 days after your system is installed.   Our primary lender will call you to verify that your system is installed properly and turned on before they start the billing process.   There are rare occasions where the process of installing your system and turning it on could be delayed due to unforeseeable circumstances with the AHJ or utility or something else.  We will do our best to help hold off your first billing so you are not paying for a system that is not working yet.

Why is my electric bill still high in the summer?

Is my system too small?  Do I need more panels?  I thought my salesperson said my bill will only be $30.   These are all concerns we hear after a person has had their system for 6 months to a year.

We are sensitive to the fact that you were exposed to a lot of information during your solar consultation.  We do our very best to size your system to meet your energy needs and fit in your budget.  It is not an exact science and changes can happen in how you use energy can happen.

In many cases, you do not need to add any more panels.  The added cost for 2 or 3 more panels may not justify the slight bump in production they can provide.  If the shortage is dramatic due to changes in your household, that could be a different situation and may require more panels.  Perhaps you installed a pool, have more family members in your household, you bought an electric car or something else.  Whatever the case, we are happy to review your current bills and look at your original design proposal to see what has changed and what we can help with.

The $30 Bill Comment we hear a lot.  Because you had lots of information thrown at you during your initial consultation, we cannot expect all of it to have stuck.  EPE has a minimum $30 bill that they give us when we go solar.  It is a minimum bill and not a charge.  It only applies when we don’t purchase any energy from them in a given month (usually because we produced more than we used) or we have a really small bill.  In the months where are having to buy energy (such as during the summer) there is no minimum bill.  During those months, you just pay for the electricity you used above what your system produced.

Remember this!

Just remember that if you should have any trouble with your solar system or any of the other energy efficiency products we offer, feel free to call us at the office at (915) 400-2995.  We are happy to help.  We are very glad to have you as a customer.

About the author
Alan Morgan

Alan is a solar and sustainable energy advocate. He has served the renewables industry for over 5 years for companies such as Solar City and Tesla and now acts as the Director of Business and Market Development for Solar Smart Living.