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2020 started off with a rate change by the southern California utilities. These rates affected electricity costs for most homeowners in San Diego County, Orange County and Riverside County. The two main utility companies in Southern California are San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) – and both announced rate changes in early January that were not planned or expected by most in the industry.

Your electricity in 2020 is likely to cost more. Rate changes like this (there were four from SDG&E in 2019) also frustrate homeowners. Solar panels are one excellent way to take control of your energy; with them you become a producer of renewable energy. Another step towards energy independence would be a home battery, which allows you more control over the management and use of the green energy you are producing.

Whether or not you have the advantage of a solar system and a home battery, you still have the challenge of understanding the complex and changing Time-of-Use billing plans. Each household has unique needs, so the ideal solution is to contact an energy expert with the resources to go over your historical usage and also to look ahead to your anticipated energy needs.

Bernadette Del Chiaro, Executive Director of the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA) recently wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Sacramento Bee. In the article, Bernadette describes the critical energy challenges that most of us Californians are all too aware of.  She believes that solar coupled with an increased adoption of home battery systems — supported by State incentives — is one solution to our growing energy challenge. Our team at Baker is pleased to share this important information with homeowners throughout Southern California.

Graphic of California state shape as a battery charging icon almost emptyThe cost of the energy solution can be seen in terms of dollars today, or in terms of the costs later that encompass the instability of California’s electricity grid, an increase of fire danger, time lost due to power outages, and the missing out on some potential green energy job growth.

The increased adoption of solar panels for homes, businesses and government buildings has given more Californians access to the clean, renewable energy our state needs. Ms. Del Chiaro tells us it’s time to take the next step. As she puts it in her story, “The need of the hour is to empower consumers and communities to build a safer, more resilient local energy supply. We need to re-imagine a creative, brave future where millions of people can keep the lights on with local clean energy.”

A growing storage solution is home battery backup hardware. Many California homeowners and businesses have already discovered the benefits of an energy storage system, but more work needs to be done at the government level to accelerate the adoption of local storage systems. Ms. Del Chiaro states, “California needs to put forward energy solutions that are as big as the problems that need to be solved. Toward that end, Governor Newsom should announce a plan to build a million solar batteries in five years. This will support the creation of more resilient homes, businesses, and communities throughout California.”

Big costs here might better be considered investments. Not only would solar panels coupled with solar battery storage improve the efficiency and enable growth of current businesses, but down the road energy independence of these entities would allow cost savings as well. “…In an energy landscape bolstered by storage, the state would be empowered by a comprehensive solar and storage policy that pays for itself over time. A clear and sustained initiative would give companies the certainty they need to ramp up manufacturing, streamline installations, and lower costs.”

Graphic of California state shape as a battery charging icon with half of a chargePower outages in California have been present for years, but they are becoming more frequent due to the increased fire danger. Our grid infrastructure is currently in need of repair or replacement. Until the long-distance utility power delivery system problems are resolved, local home battery backup and businesses with a lithium-ion battery system or other battery technology storage systems could be the better way to keep our state moving without interruptions. Ms. Del Chiaro wrote in her op-ed about the current roadblocks to quick, widespread adoption of local energy storage, “The blackouts necessitate local energy supplies and provide conditions for them to thrive, but outdated policies and barriers from utilities impede consumers from getting cost-effective, clean and reliable solar and storage technologies. Solar and storage could be powering communities in need, particularly in times of crisis, and saving energy, money, and lives, but the reliance on a broken, unsustainable electric grid endures. California should be doing more.”

The cost of not incentivizing local energy storage and a move toward energy independence is large. Ms. Del Chiaro points out some startling facts, “We lost roughly 200,000 MWh of power in the 2018 and 2019 blackouts. In human terms, that means schools shut down, food goes to waste, businesses shutter, wells stop pumping, traffic slows, and people in critical need of power for medical assistance are stranded… …The writing of sustained fire danger may be on the wall: PG&E’s blackouts are not the economically or socially sustainable answer. There is a better solution.”

And as we experience strong rainfall in the 2019-2020 rainy season, that means stronger plant growth and therefore more fuel for wildfires during the 2020 fire season. This will further exacerbate a problem that has already been getting worse, “Recent PG&E blackouts are the most significant outages in our state’s history, but California has always had the most unreliable power service in the United States—outpacing runner-up Texas by almost double the number of power-cuts in the last ten years.”

Graphic of California state shape as a battery charging icon fully chargedThe solution lies in a government program to help speed and spread the adoption of these electricity storage solutions. It also requires more companies with the capability to design and install these systems. “We need to prioritize and incentivize solar and storage technology for individuals, low-income housing, businesses, and schools in order to lower costs and remove barriers. We need to support a local, clean energy revolution, where communities lead the way in building local energy that is safe and reliable. The time is now.”

It may seem far out of reach, but as has been proven in California’s recent past, the right program can effect rapid change. Bernadette Del Chiaro suggests we, as a state, approach home battery backup systems in a similar way to the successful incentive programs to grow solar pv panel systems. She suggests this bold idea, “What Governor Schwarzenegger did for solar panels in the wake of the 2001 energy crisis – with the Million Solar Roofs Initiative – Governor Newsom can do for energy storage with the Million Solar Batteries Initiative…. …The cost of going solar dropped 80% during Schwarzenegger’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative. We can do the same for energy storage with the help of big, bold leadership.”

In addition to the cost in terms of budgets, dollars, and time lost, increasing the use of home battery backup systems will increase our use of clean, renewable energy (and thereby lowering California’s carbon footprint) by stretching out the hours of each day we’re able to use that solar energy toward our daily energy usage. “We are seeing more businesses, homes and government agencies turn to solar and storage for a reliable energy alternative. Today’s solar battery is not only affordable, it allows us to make the sunshine at night to power our homes, and in the future our electric cars.” And more renewable energy use helps fight environmental concerns that we are intending to conquer. “Solar installations paired with storage improve air quality and address the very real threat of climate change in actionable, accessible ways…”

Graphic of California state shape as a battery charging icon with power lightning bolt iconA great additional benefit to the implementation of a solar battery storage initiative could be the creating of more green jobs in California. As Ms. Del Chiaro puts it, “…In addition to significantly reducing energy costs for all utility customers, local solar and storage technology is also job-intensive: mobilizing the workforce in safe, skilled, and secure working conditions in the communities we live.”

The benefits are many and are great. Solar energy has led the charge to reliable, renewable energy sources, and home battery backup and storage optimizes the management and use of this solar energy. Ms. Del Chiaro gets the final word with, “Local, smart energy resources like solar roofs and garage batteries can transform our energy system into one that puts consumers first, keeps the lights on for everyone, helps prevent more grid-caused disasters, and is one of the most concrete and tangible ways to engage everyone in fighting climate change.”

There needed to be a solution to utility infrastructure-related fire hazards after the tragic Camp fire in 2018 and the 2017 wine country fires, both of which occurred during the fall. So in 2019, with instances of high winds, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) made the decision to cut power to approximately 800,000 customers in mid-October. These high-risk areas were vulnerable due to high temperatures, low humidity and the high winds that could bring down power lines and ignite dry vegetation.

The move was one of great caution, but brought new risks, plenty of inconvenience, and was certainly not a perfect solution.

The move was one of great caution, but brought new risks, plenty of inconvenience, and was certainly not a perfect solution. The challenge for the utility was to prevent fires yet keep the power on for customers, particularly those in rural settings, and most particularly in areas with dense growth surrounding them. Now in late October 2019, San Diego is seeing Santa Ana wind conditions and the “red flag warnings” of possible power outages.

There’s a lot of frustration from utility customers. Some point fingers at improper planning, failed equipment upkeep or outdated technology. Others voice disapproval at what’s considered by many as a third world solution to California’s energy problem — one of the wealthiest, technology savvy and advanced regions on the planet.

A more common frustration for utility customers is the inconvenience – and in some cases danger – of losing power through planned or unplanned power outages. Although an immediate fix at the power company level is being determined, the average California homeowner can take control of their home’s energy production and storage by installing a home solar system and a home solar battery.

Over 200,000 San Diego County homeowners now enjoy the benefits of a home solar system. Home solar power gives homeowners more control over their electricity by turning them into energy producers. As an additional benefit, solar panels produce clean, green, renewable energy. Through net metering, excess power is sold back to the utility grid to offset power purchased through the grid during nighttime hours. But the dream of many homeowners, especially those who have already faced or anticipate facing increasing power outages in the San Diego area, is to produce and store their own electricity. This solution enables energy control and backup power when the grid goes down. The result is a great, green solution to combat San Diego’s increasingly common power outages.

There are several advantages to pairing a home solar battery with a solar system. The most obvious, and most dramatic, is energy independence through the ability to keep and use your own electricity. Rather than being at the mercy of your electricity utility, you can have your own power on tap. Here are some considerations: If you were to price the perishable food in your refrigerator and freezer right now, what number do you think you’d come up with? You might have hundreds of dollars of food that could go to waste in the event of a prolonged power outage. And power outages are affecting the increasing numbers of home-based workers. When your home power is out, your home office is closed for business. And with the use of computers and tablets for schoolwork, the kids are out of luck too. There’s also your cell phone – most people charge their phone each evening to start the next morning with a full charge in that tiny battery’s storage capacity. In the event of a power outage, home solar batteries with lithium ion technology (not lead acid batteries you find under the hood of your car) can allow you to start the next day with your phone battery fully charged, fresh food and the kid’s homework complete.

There’s also the importance of emergency preparation – this is especially pointed when you consider the cause of the current planned increase of power outages is due to the real threat of fire. Possibly the most critical element to keeping you and your family safe in any emergency, including a brush fire in the area, is communications. Any emergency kit contains the basics – water, food, medical supplies… candles and flashlights… batteries and a radio… but imagine if your ‘emergency’ kit contained electricity. The ability to maintain normal household basics is not only a good defense against the inconvenience of a blackout, but also your reduced ability to react to emergencies. It’s a safety issue, and in an emergency you want to have all possible resources available, including power for your TV, radio, and to keep cell phone batteries charged. And adding batteries to create a larger battery bank increases your home’s battery storage capacity – extra energy to discharge when the utility has failed is a comforting concept.

An incidental benefit of adding home solar battery storage to a home solar system is this: home solar is connected to the grid in order to be able to send electricity back to the utility. But when the grid goes down, those solar panels on your roof are no longer feeding their energy through your inverter and into your home’s solar system. The power grid can’t have electricity traveling through it in case crews are repairing a portion of the grid, so solar panels are not able to deliver any of their electricity to the home. With the addition of a home solar battery, the solar cells gain the ability to function like any other off-grid systems – producing DC energy from the sun with solar panels, converting it to AC power through the solar system inverter, and using it directly without being tied to any other energy sources. So not only does a home solar battery store electricity for use during power outages, but it allows the solar panels to continue producing “current” electricity just as you would during a ‘regular’ day on the grid or a typical day for a home with off-grid solar. Your home would then be functioning normally during the day – all because of the independence a home solar battery gives your home power system – and that same battery capability gives you stored energy to use during the evening and night. A single home solar battery provides power to a few critical circuits, but multiple home batteries can be added to boost home battery capacity to high enough levels to keep the entire home at full capacity. The benefit of flexibility in a home solar battery storage system means it can be built with the addition or more lithium-ion batteries as your needs increase.

Here’s an interesting dilemma: as more homeowners have discovered the benefits of solar energy systems, it has totally changed the electricity needs of the area. For example, during a bright, sunny day (like we have almost year-round in San Diego) many households have zero energy needs from the utility company. The solar panels are producing over 100% of their energy demand, and in fact are sending the excess produced energy back to the utility company to distribute (sell) to homes that do not have residential solar panels. But when the sun sets, the excess electricity going to the utility drops, and the homes that were running on the power of their own solar energy systems then need to buy power from the utility. This causes a rapid increase in demand, and one the utilities cannot meet with their standard powerplants. They need a way to ‘ramp up’ their power production, and the solution in many cases are peaker plants. These are power plants designed to ‘spool up’ quickly to meet spiking demands for electricity on a day to day level. The peaker plants do a good job of producing the power, but it is not clean energy or renewable energy. This is dirty energy, often burning natural gas which is a fossil fuel creating emissions and increasing a city’s carbon footprint. Lessening their personal carbon footprint and that of their region is something that many owners of home solar systems are trying to accomplish. Additionally, one reason energy rates are rising is due to increased demand requiring more peaker plant-produced electricity.

With a home battery, a conscientious homeowner could use battery power during the hours of spiking  energy demands (which generally coincide with ‘on-peak’ hours when electricity is at its most expensive) limiting the need for peaker plant generated energy.  This is an environmentally conscious use of a home energy storage system that simultaneously helps you limit or avoid paying the highest utility rates.

Some homes contain generator systems as solutions for back-up power in the case of a blackout out or planned power outage. This is a more common solution in areas of the world where extended winter-time power outages are very common. Home generators bring in some problems, such as cost and noise, in addition to increasing a home’s carbon footprint (in contrast to solar electricity storage systems that are charging green, renewable energy into lithium-ion batteries). For homes in San Diego, particularly those that already have a home solar system, a home solar battery provides benefits a home generator cannot match – including the ability to use it in a daily manner for extra energy not just as an emergency back-up power plan. This means your emergency power can work for you by lowering energy costs daily since solar battery savings can be seen every day to combat the ever-rising cost of electricity.

In addition to all this, there are financial incentive programs that help reduce the cost of a home solar battery system. One of these, the Federal Investment Tax Credit, applies to solar energy systems, including solar battery storage that is charged by a home solar system. This tax credit, usually referred to as the ITC, is scheduled to end in 2022. At its current 30%, the total cost of a solar system and home solar battery can be applied directly to your tax liability (consult your tax expert if you won’t be able to use the full tax benefit for the tax year in which you purchase your system). In terms of today’s cost savings, if the average cost of a solar electric system is thirty thousand dollars, that would be a cost savings, in the form of a direct tax credit, of nine thousand dollars. Starting in 2020, the ITC is reduced to 26%. After that, in 2021, drops to 22%, and in 2022 the tax credit goes to zero. This is for residential solar and home solar battery systems only. The ITC for commercial systems will remain at 10%. The ITC benefit will reduce the payback period that it takes for a solar system and home solar battery to pay for itself.

There are many benefits to owning a solar power system with home solar battery storage. The major benefit is the ability to keep key circuits in your home powered in the event of a planned or unplanned power outage. Many of these outages can last for days, and the inconvenience and cost of being ‘in the dark’ makes the investment in a home solar battery look even more attractive, and in some cases critical. Solar panels + a home solar battery is the best solution for keeping you and your family safe and functioning during the next power outage.

We believe in residential solar as a great way to create renewable energy, take more control over your energy use, and to save money on your electric bill. We also take great pride in the high quality of our solar system designs, our installation work, and the components that we select for each project. Our company philosophy is called The Baker Way, and it ensures we operate with the highest level of integrity and honesty and deliver top quality in everything we provide.

Unfortunately, as in any industry, there are companies that do not operate at the highest levels of ethics or with the proper emphasis on quality. Because of this, we are excited that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has a new safeguard for customers with the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide. Beginning on September 30, 2019, all solar sales in California will require that this document be read, initialed, and signed as part of that sale process.

Why You Should Read The California Solar Consumer Protection Guide Now:

We are excited to promote this solar customer guide because it offers a wealth of good advice and information to anyone looking into going solar. If you’re going to be purchasing home solar after September 29, 2019, you’ll be required to read and sign the CPUC’s Guide before moving forward with the installer you hire. But it’s a great idea to read the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide well before reaching the final steps in purchasing a solar system, because being more informed can help you find the right solar provider.

We think the more you look into solar companies, the more you’ll see what we see – that The Baker Way of conducting business is the right way to do things and that Baker Electric Home Energy is the right choice for anyone looking for a home solar system in the San Diego County/Riverside County/Orange County areas.

We’ve pulled out some helpful tips from the Guide as a quick way to start looking into the best methods to find the right solar provider for you. We also hope these short tips inspire you to carefully read the full Guide before reaching the contract-signing phase; after September 29, 2019 all solar customers in California will be required to read it before purchasing solar, so please read it early to help you through the full process. We want you as informed as possible, because we are sure that the more you know, the more obvious it will become that Baker Electric Home Energy is the best choice. The process may seem daunting, but solar panels on your home provide so many benefits we think and hope you’ll agree it is a very worthwhile endeavor for you and your family.

The CPUC’s new protections, and considering that the solar ITC tax credit decreases after 2019, means 2019 is a great time to be considering solar installation companies as a way to become energy independent.

Visit California Solar Consumer Protection Guide to learn more.

Can you get free solar?

Tip #1 Watch out for the false claim that you can get free solar energy at zero cost. Exceptions to this are income-qualified single-families or families living in a disadvantaged community that qualify for programs sch as SASH, DAC-SASH, DAC-GREEN or the Community Solar Green Tariff Program. (pg. 2 and 6). [Please note: Solar is not free, but even without qualifying for any programs, a home solar system will pay for itself in a short period and reap financial savings for years to come.]

Does solar eliminate electric bills?

Tip #2 Watch out for any solar installer claiming you’ll never pay an electricity bill ever again. Solar will lower your bill, and through the Net Metering program your utility will buy back excess electricity that your system produces, but a system that guarantees zero electricity bill is likely overbuilt and not the ideal financial approach (pg. 2 and 17-18). [Please note: A solar system is not an unlimited power source. If you use more power than you produce, you will see a bill. We take great efforts to size a system to meet your current or expected future needs – we’ll discuss any anticipated changes in consumption with you.]

See the contract terms…

Tip #3 Don’t feel rushed to get solar. Review and understand any contract you sign – California law requires a salesperson to show you the terms of the contract before signing. (pg. 2). [Please note: We want you to make an informed decision so please take your time. We are confident our reputation, installation practices and warranty will set us apart from our competitors.]

…in your langauage

Tip #4 “You have the right… to a copy of a solar contract and financing agreement in the language in which the salesperson spoke to you.” (pg. 3). [Please note: Know your rights and don’t be taken advantage of by a contract that is not in a language that you are comfortable with.]

Get the total cost

Tip #5 By law, if purchasing a home solar system, a salesperson must provide you with a completed Solar Energy System Disclosure Document so you can see the total cost of your system. (pg. 3). [Please note: The front page of our sales contract is the required CSLB (Contractors State License Board) disclosure. You have the right to know the total cost of your solar system and any reputable contractor will comply and provide it.]

Read the full guide

Tip #6 You have the right to read the entire 23-page Guide. [Please note: Your solar system will not be allowed to be turned on if your solar installer does not have a signed and dated copy of the Guide prior to your contract date.]

Three days to cancel

Tip #7 You have three days to cancel a solar system sales contract for any reason. (pg. 3). [Please note: We reiterate this 3-day cancellation right and reiterate that on page 2 of our contract. We respect that and want you to be satisfied, so we’ll work with you even beyond that.]

How do I check a contractor’s license?

Tip #8 Get proof of an installer’s valid Contractors State License Board license; it needs to be a C-46, C-10 or B classification. (pg. 4). [Please note: Baker Electric Home Energy holds all of these licenses under NB Baker Electric Inc. (dba Baker Electric Home Energy); our C-46 and C-10 (as well as C-39 for roofing and C-20 for HVAC) license number is 858088; our parent corporation’s B license number is 161756.].

Getting solar bids

Tip #9 Get multiple bids. The California Solar Consumer Protection Guide recommends getting three bids and advises that the lowest does not mean the best. It also encourages you to ask questions because a qualified company will be happy to answer them all. (pg. 4 and 9). [Please note: Not all systems are created equal. Proper design and installation matters. Be sure you understand what products are being used and how they are being installed. We’re here to answer any questions.]

Home efficiency

Tip #10 Get energy efficient before getting solar. “Making your home energy efficient before going solar can decrease your overall energy use and reduce the size of the solar system you need, potentially saving you thousands of dollars.” (pg. 5). [Please note: To properly design a system, Baker Electric Home Energy likes to have 12 months of electric use information (and permission from you to see your Green Button data from the utility that gives more precise usage time) to properly predict future energy use. We’ll also look into your future needs (growing family, addition of a pool, addition of an electric vehicle, etc.), your future improvements toward energy efficiency, and we factor in that most solar customers end up using slightly more energy after their solar panels are installed because they’re more comfortable enjoying appliances such as their air conditioning, dishwasher, etc.]

Checking on salespeople

Tip #11 Solar salespeople, other than in limited exceptions, must be registered as a Home Improvement Salesperson (HIS); you can check their registration through the Contractors State License Board (pg. 7). [Please note: All of Baker’s solar sales employees are HIS-registered.]

How long does solar installation take?

Tip #12 Be aware how long the process takes. “It typically takes 1 to 3 months after you sign a contract for the solar system to be installed at your home. • After the solar system is installed, it typically takes 2-3 weeks to receive approval from your electricity provider to turn your system on. It could take longer depending on your circumstances.” (pg. 8). [Please note: The time from signing a contract to installation varies with job scope, complexity and permitting requirements. We are here to help and to answer any questions during the entire process.]

How do I find a licensed solar installer?

Tip #13 A resource to search for Solar Providers in your area is cslb.ca.gov. Search for contractors with a C-46 (Solar Contractor), C-10 (Electrical Contractor) or B (General Building Contractor) license. (pg. 9) [Please note: Baker Electric Solar Energy is located in Escondido, CA; contractors are categorized by their office location not each city in which they provide service. Baker Electric Solar Energy installs systems throughout San Diego County and also Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties.]

Can I compare solar installer costs?

Tip #14 A government-funded resource that shows a list of Solar Providers and recent installation costs is www.CaliforniaDGStats.ca.gov. (pg. 9) [Please note: The costs listed on this website are self-reported as part of the permit process and might not reflect the actual project costs. Most contractors do not list their actual sales cost, for obvious competitive reasons. Some contractors severely under-report actual costs to try to attract customers. Don’t be misled by inaccurate information.]

Solar customer reviews

Tip #15 a suggestion to narrow down the list of potential Solar Providers is to check trusted customer review websites online, and notes, “Since some websites may not be neutral, check a few different websites to make sure reviews are consistent.” (pg. 9) [Please note: We encourage you to check customer reviews. We also welcome you to visit us at our offices in Escondido and Murrieta and see that we are a real brick and mortar business, not just a website or a person with a truck. Our offices also ensure you’ll be able to find us if you need us.]

Solar installer certification

Tip #16 for further narrowing down which Solar Provider you should pick, “It’s a good sign if companies employ installers certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), a high standard in the industry.” (pg. 9) [Please note: We have NABCEP certified personnel and have been invited to present at a number of their training conferences.]

Best vs. lowest solar bid?

Tip #17 for getting bids, “Note that the best option for you is not necessarily the cheapest bid. A very low bid may indicate that a Solar Provider is trying to cut corners.” (pg. 9) [Please note: As with most things in life, you typically get what you pay for. We don’t cut corners. If it sounds too good to be true, that should be a red flag.]

Will my solar company farm out the installation?

Tip #18 One of the suggested Company Background questions is “Will you subcontract with another company to install the solar system? If so, what is their CSLB contractor license number?” (pg. 10). [Please note: Baker Electric Home Energy uses only in-house employees, who are all union members of IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 569, for all standard work of our solar installations. The exception to this is that we do use a few qualified specialty subcontractors for earthwork, stucco repair and some roofing.]

Established solar companies

Tip #19 One of the suggested Company Background questions is “How long have you been in business and how many systems have you installed?” (pg. 10) [Please note: Baker Electric Home Energy was formed out of Baker Electric, Inc. in 2006 and was built on over 80 years of electrical contracting experience. Baker Electric Home Energy has installed over 13,000 residential solar systems in Southern California.]

Can my roof take solar panels?

Tip #20 A suggested question for a potential Solar Providers is, “Is my roof a good candidate for solar? Why?” (pg. 10) [Please note: We utilize a specific evaluation software to model your home’s solar access and production.]

New solar on an old roof?

Tip #21 One of the suggested Design & Roof questions is “Does my roof need to be replaced before installing solar panels? If yes, how much will that cost, who will do it, what is their license number, and is there a roof warranty?” (pg. 10) [Please note: Baker Electric Home Energy will evaluate your roof and let you know if we don’t believe there is at least 10 years of remaining life left in your roof.]

Do solar panels have a warranty?

Tip #22 The Guide suggests customers ask, “Are there warranties for the panels and inverters?” (pg. 10). [Please note: Yes, there are warranties. All of the manufacturers we use are vetted and provide warranties; they differ by the manufacturer.]

How is solar production monitored?

Tip #23 One of the suggested Warranties & Performance of Solar System questions is “Will I be able to monitor the performance of the system once it’s installed? If so, how?” (pg. 10) [Please note: Baker Electric Home Energy’s in-house solar service representatives, who work out of our building in Escondido, are able to remotely monitor your system’s performance and help with identifying and resolving any production performance issues. This monitoring is included with all systems.]

Solar production guarantees

Tip #24 One of the suggested Warranties & Performance of Solar System questions is “Does the solar provider offer a minimum energy guarantee (common with leases and power purchase agreements)? If yes, how will I be paid if the system does not produce as much energy as promised in the contract?” (pg. 10) [Please note: Baker Electric Home Energy gives a solar energy production guarantee in writing. The Terms and Conditions are included with our contract (in Exhibit 2) and we’re happy to explain them.]

Solar and insurance

Tip #25 One of the suggested Warranties & Performance of Solar System questions is “Is there an insurance policy that comes with the solar system, or do I need to take out additional homeowner’s insurance? Note that this is especially important if you live in fire-prone areas.” (pg. 11) [Please note: Baker recommends customers discuss any possible impacts on their homeowner’s coverage with their insurance company. A home solar system is generally covered except in cases of a lease or PPA (arrangements in which the homeowner does not own the system on their house), in which case the financier typically would carry the insurance on that system.]

Best billing plan

Tip #26 One of the suggested Electricity Bill Savings Estimates questions is “What electricity rate do you recommend I switch to for solar, and why?” (pg. 11) [Please note: Baker Electric Home Energy has developed our own proprietary program to evaluate which billing plan is the best for each customer and we’re happy to provide our recommendation.]

Selling a home with a solar system

Tip #27 One of the suggested Impacts on Future Sale of Your Home questions is “Will a solar system make it more difficult for me to sell my home or refinance?” (pg. 11) [Please note: For a purchased and financed solar system, a re-fi would add the cost of lifting the UCC-1 filing and refiling it after the refinancing is completed. For leased systems or PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) in the case of a home sale, there is the possibility that the buyer would require the homeowner to buy out the lease prior to the sale of the home.]

Financing home solar

Tip #28 In the Compare Your Financing Options the guide advises, “Many Solar Providers work with lenders that offer solar loans, but you should check with banks and credit unions as well. Compare offers to make sure you are being offered a reasonable interest rate. (pg. 13). [Please note: We have relationships with several finance providers that have differing programs. We’ll be happy to share our insight as to what offers are available at the time, as they do change frequently.]

How much money does solar actually save?

Tip #29 The guide notes, “Electricity bill savings estimates are based on several uncertain factors, such as your future energy use. For example, if your family grows, you buy an electric vehicle, or you decide to turn up your air conditioning in the summer, your energy use will go up along with your electricity bill.” (pg. 16) [Please note: Baker Electric Home Energy gives a solar energy production guarantee in writing. Also, we design system sizes based on previous energy consumption as well as discussions with the homeowners, combined with our experience in these matters, to predict increases in electricity consumption after the installation of a solar system.]

Net Energy Metering

Tip #30 A good explanation of Net Metering is: “There is a special arrangement with your electricity provider that is called Net Energy Metering (NEM). NEM allows you to get a financial credit on your electricity bill when your solar system sends electricity back to the grid after first powering the electricity needs at your house. Usually this credit is approximately equal to the retail rate of energy. This means that you are credited on your bill about the same amount that your electricity provider would have charged you for electricity during that time.” (pg. 17). [Please note: Excess production is carried over each billing period and applied at retail value, however, excess production at the 12 month annual tune-up bill is discounted to the Utility wholesale rate.]

Do I have to switch to TOU?

Tip #31 Under ‘NEM and Your Electricity Bill,’ “PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E solar customers are required to go on a time-of-use (TOU) rate. A TOU rate will charge different prices for electricity depending upon the time of day. Prices are typically higher between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., called “peak” hours, and lower the rest of the day and at night during “off peak” hours.” (pg. 17). [Please note: We have a proprietary program to determine which TOU plan is the best for each of our customer’s needs.]

SDG&E rates

Tip #32 Regarding electricity rates, “Currently, PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E customers are guaranteed NEM (Net Energy Metering) for 20 years from the time their solar system starts operating. Your electricity rate, however, is subject to change. Go to www.cpuc.ca.gov/electricrates for more details on how electricity rates work.” (pg. 18). [Please note: NEM billing is a tremendous benefit to solar customers, but it can be confusing and is subject to California Public Utilities Commission authorized changes.]

Should I get a home battery?

Tip #33 In the ‘Combining Solar with Storage,’ “When you install battery storage with your solar system, you can store excess solar electricity produced by your panels for use in the evening when the sun goes down. The software that comes with battery storage automatically determines whether to store the extra energy or export it to the grid to maximize cost savings. Battery storage can also provide limited back-up power.” (pg. 18) [Please note: In 2019, between 15% and 20% of Baker’s customers are choosing to include a Tesla Powerwall as part of  their PV System as it provides peace of mind in the case of grid outages (an event that’s becoming more common in Southern California as a result of the utilities’ forced outages and those caused by Mother Nature) and will help to mitigate the effect of potential utility tariff changes in future years, whilst taking advantage of the full 30% ITC tax credit in 2019.]

Total cost of a home solar system

Tip #34 In the section ‘The Solar Energy System Disclosure Document,’ “This one-page document from the Contractors State License Board shows you the total costs for the proposed solar energy system. It also has information about your three-day right to cancel a contract. A Solar Provider is required to fill out this document. It may be placed as the cover page to the contract. See a blank version at www.cslb.ca.gov/contractors/SolarSheet.aspx.” (pg. 19). [Please note: we include this disclosure, as required, as part of our contract.]

Requirement of a solar contract

Tip #35 Under the ‘Contract’ section, “By law, any contract for solar installation must include: Contractor information, including business address and license numbers; Description of the project, including equipment installed and materials used; Contract price, plus finance charge and/or down payment if applicable; Approximate start and end date of the contract term; Notice of a 3-day right to cancel the contract (with limited exceptions)” (pg. 19). [Please note: In addition to including all the required information in our contract, we will work with you to resolve any unforeseen issues. We understand that unexpected issues do come up and we want you to have a great experience, so you’ll be happy to refer your family and friends. Our contract is longer than most, but that is to help set appropriate expectations and to provide answers upfront, in writing. We would never force anyone to move forward with an installation simply because we have a contract. We want to be your go to, trusted advisor, for all of your PV solar, energy storage, HVAC, Smart Home, and energy management needs.]

Read the guide thoroughly

Tip #36 In addition to imploring consumers to read the Guide in full, the language in the Guide stressed more than once to read it at your own pace. Do not feel pressured to skim or rush through; the guide is designed to protect you. “Do not feel pressured to read the complete document while the salesperson waits. Ask them to come back at a later date to allow you time to read it.” (pg. 3 and 23). [Please note: We send a link to the CPUC Guide well in advance of a customer’s consultation so you have plenty of time to review it and have all your questions answered. All solar companies in California are required to have a signed copy of the Guide prior to contract. There is no obligation associated with signing the Guide.]

The California Solar Consumer Protection Guide, which goes into effect September 30, 2019, is a great tool to inform solar customers and give them a worksheet to get the right answers from the solar providers they are considering. We encourage you to read and follow the Guide’s suggestions and advice. We are very proud of the quality an integrity we put into each and every step of the solar process, and we are sure that the more you know, the more likely you will be to see the benefits of contracting with Baker Electric Home Energy for all of your home solar needs.

With 2019 past the halfway point, it’s important to realize – for anyone considering the decision to get solar – that time is running out to capitalize on the full 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) benefit. This federal program drops to 26% for home solar systems that are not installed, approved and interconnected with the utility grid before the final day of 2019. It may seem like there is still plenty of time in 2019 to reap the full tax benefit but installing solar panels in San Diego can be an extended process. There is concern that permitting and approvals in some communities will bottleneck as we move toward year end and homeowners realize they’re leaving money on the table if they miss the ITC deadline.

We put together the answers to eight common questions. You’ll get a solid overview of the ITC and learn how you can take 30% of the cost of your solar or solar + battery system off your federal taxes. And we’ll break down why there is less time to take advantage of this very generous credit than you might realize. A solar system is undeniably a long-term financial benefit with positive impact on the environment. Here are the reasons to purchase now!

WHAT’S SO IMPORTANT ABOUT THE FEDERAL INVESTMENT TAX CREDIT?

For those homeowners considering solar or solar + a home battery, it can’t be stressed enough that 2019 is the time to purchase! This is the final year to take advantage of the ITC at 30%. Here’s an example of the significant financial benefit you could experience: The average solar system costs around $30,000 to purchase and install. That means most taxpayers can deduct $9000 from their 2019 federal income tax liability! Every year, homeowners walk away from thousands of dollars because they delay their solar or solar + home battery investment. So, Baker is ensuring we educate as many homeowners as possible about the tax credit and the reasons why it's important to become a solar energy producer this year. Once again — 2019 is the final year to get the full 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit!

HOW IS A TAX CREDIT DIFFERENT FROM A TAX DEDUCTION?

A tax credit is different than a tax deduction or write off. A tax deduction lowers your total taxable income, a credit is applied to the actual taxes you might owe when you file. There are a few limitations but in general, in 2019, 30% of the total you spend on buying and installing a home solar or solar + home battery system goes directly toward paying your tax bill! If you don’t use it all on your 2019 federal tax bill, the excess credit can be rolled over to your federal taxes for the following year, for a limited time (please consult your tax professional on how rollover limitations would affect you).

WHEN DOES THE ITC END?

The ITC will decrease over the next two years and by 2022 the tax incentive for homeowners will end. So, to take advantage of the ITC at 30% requires purchasing solar or solar + a home battery and getting installed by the end of this year. Starting 2020, the ITC steps down to 26% and in 2021 it goes down to 22%. By the start of 2022, the ITC tax incentive ends. Currently there are no plans for an extension ITC so the time to act is now! Here’s why time is of the essence: The actual installation is a one to three-day event, however the entire process including working with your HOA, obtaining permits and getting your utility’s sign-off could take up to 90 days. After installing nearly 14,000 residential solar systems in the San Diego region, Baker is a local solar industry expert. We know how to ensure the engineering, design and installation proceed as smoothly and easily as possible. However, each home and community are unique, so it makes sense to factor in plenty of time. The key is to get your solar panels installed and operating by the end of 2019.  

WHY INSTALL SOLAR NOW IF THE ITC DEADLINE IS IN DECEMBER? 

Here’s what’s going to catch a lot of people off-guard later in the year. To get the full 30% tax, your solar system has to be fully operational, with your “Permission to Operate” from the utility before the end of 2019. Unfortunately, with more homeowners racing to meet the tax credit deadline, this process is likely to grow longer as approvals, permitting and inspections bottleneck at the end of the year. The actual installation time is often one day, sometimes up to three, but it’s the ‘behind the scenes’ process that takes a lot longer than you might think; it can take up to 90 days to survey, approve, permit, design, engineer, install and energize the best system for your home.

WHAT IS THE COST OF A HOME SOLAR SYSTEM?

The cost of a solar system varies because each design is based on your family’s current and future energy needs, available roof space and configuration and possible shading issues. Baker designs our solar systems to offset as much of your home’s electric bill as possible with renewable energy that you produce and own. A purchased solar system is typically designed to pay for itself in 6 – 7 years. After that, it’s money in your pocket. And because utility rates will continue to rise, just consider your total cost savings over twenty years! If you know of any other investments that can come close to that type of return with the same low level of risk (using money you would be spending toward electricity anyway) you surely would have money invested in them! And in addition to energy cost savings, some homeowners sell back their excess energy production to the utility via a billing system called Net Metering.

WHAT IF I PRODUCE MORE ELECTRICITY THAN I NEED?

During the day when your solar system is producing energy, your family uses what it needs and any excess electricity is automatically routed back to, and purchased by, your power utility. The utility reimburses you via Net Metering as a credit on your energy bill. Some homeowners have purchased home batteries like the excellent technology available from Tesla, to store and use their excess energy production. A battery provides not only back-up electricity during a power outage but allows you to use your own (and far cheaper) energy during the expensive Time-of-Use hours of 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Solar customers are increasingly convinced that home batteries provide the control and energy independence they’ve been looking for! 

WHAT ABOUT TODAY'S SOLAR TECHNOLOGY? 

Future technologies are interesting but can’t compete with the power, efficiency and value today’s solar panels offer. For example, solar roofs have gotten a lot of attention but output and cost still make them about 4 to 5 times more expensive than a traditional solar panel system. The return-on-investment is almost non-existent. Solar glass is real and a good fit for high rise buildings with a lot of glass acreage, but not a realistic option for a house. Solar paint has people thinking they’ll re-paint their house, bolt a couple of wires to it and produce electricity but this is – in 2019 – a future concept and not a realistic home option.

IS THERE ANY REASON TO WAIT TO PURCHASE A HOME SOLAR SYSTEM?

There is no reason to wait and every reason to buy your solar system now! The ITC is still at its peak of 30% and solar technology components are at their best. The major improvements in residential systems took place roughly between 2010 to 2014. During that period, solar panel power production increased by about 250 to 300%. Also, renewable energy systems have increased in popularity which has led to large-scale component production and competition is keeping cost to consumers low. So, three factors combine to make this a great time to go solar: technology is nearly as good as it’s going to get for the foreseeable future, component costs are low, and the ITC tax credit is still at 30%. This is the ideal time to call Baker to learn more.

 

Baker Electric Home Energy is a local, family-owned company built on over 80 years of electrical contracting experience and we’ve installed nearly 14,000 residential solar systems. More and more Southern California homeowners realize this might be one of the best investments they ever make (ask your tax professional about that, too!). The Baker Way™ of doing business is based on rock-solid ethics and values. We pride ourselves on delivering expert energy solutions and long-lasting quality. Installing a world-class solar system for you and your family is the smart thing to do, and getting it right now is the smart time to do it. 

Check out this website page if you’d like us to get in touch with you.

Or give us a call at 877.578.8080

And learn about becoming a renewable energy producer and how it can save you big money for many years to come.

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