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Understanding Net Energy Metering

Net energy metering (NEM) is a program that credits a solar customer’s electric bill for surplus energy they send back to the grid. It’s available to all solar customers of California’s three major utilities – Pacific Gas and Electric Co., San Diego Gas & Electric Co., and Southern California Edison. 

Today, NEM is on its second iteration, called NEM 2.0. Right now, the Utilities are pushing for another set of changes, which would launch a third iteration – NEM 3.0. These changes are unfortunately expected to reduce the savings potential for new systems installed after it goes into effect. 

What is net energy metering?

If you’ve been looking into solar energy, you’ve probably heard the phrase “spin the meter backward”. Net metering is exactly what that refers to – pushing surplus power back to the grid for credit that lowers the amount you ultimately pay on your energy bill.   

Here’s how it works: 

How Net Energy Metering Works

You send surplus energy to the grid 

Utility sells it to other customers + credits your bill for the amount you sent 

You pay only the ‘net’ amount after applying your credit 

Net Energy Metering 2.0 vs. NEM 3.0

Rooftop solar installed today benefits from NEM 2.0 terms and will continue to for 20 years, even if new program changes are introduced. New solar systems installed after NEM 3.0 goes into effect and will operate under those terms. 

As of now, the proposed changes for NEM 3.0 aren’t final, but the intentions are clear – compensate solar customers with less credit + charge hefty monthly fees

NEM 2.0 Terms (current) 

  • No extra monthly charges
  • Buy & sell electricity at the best rate with Time of Use Billing
  • Get solar credit that matches the retail rate
  • Build up solar credits for times you need more

NEM 3.0 Terms1 (expected) 

  • Get 77% less credit for surplus energy sent back to the grid
  • Pay an extra $100/mo. just to have solar energy*
  • Solar credits won’t carry over month-to-month (so you can’t use them when you need them most)
  • Peak summer electricity rate increases as high as 10%
    Note: Information based on publications to date.
    Final outcome may be different.

What’s the deadline to beat NEM 3.0?

The Utilities want NEM 3.0 to happen as soon as possible next year. The CPUC is expected to decide final terms in mid-January, including a time frame for the changes to take effect. 

Here’s the current recommendation: 

The CPUC advises that customers who install solar under NEM 2.0 will not be subject to NEM 3.0 terms for the first 20 years of the system operation2

  • The CPUC advises that customers who install solar under NEM 2.0 will not be subject to NEM 3.0 terms for the first 20 years of the system operation2. 
  • To do this, you’ll need to have submitted an initial interconnection application before NEM 3.0 is in effect. Keep in mind, this is one of the last steps in solar installation. 

So what does that mean? Start now. Our professionals can help you schedule your complete installation before the end of the year.   

How long does it take to install a solar energy system? 

As a general rule, we recommend planning for about 16 weeks from start to finish. 

Sixteen weeks? Yes. The process involves everyone from your HOA to city inspectors, to your utility, and more. It could take even longer for someone who’s not an expert, so working with a trusted provider with established relationships is vital. 

Want to learn more about going solar? We’ve got everything you need to know here.

What will happen if I wait to go solar? 

You’ll likely pay more for solar energy over the next 20 years. 

Take a look at this example: 

Average size solar system installed under NEM 2.0

  • May save around $200/mo.
  • Expect system to pay back its cost in about 5 years.

Same system installed under NEM 3.0

  • May save only $70/mo.
  • System payback time would likely more than double, to about 15 years

How can Baker Electric Home Energy help me?

Our goal is to help you free yourself from the nation’s highest energy costs – especially before they get even higher. Call us today and our qualified specialists will help you: 

  1. Explore special financing offers 
  2. Complete your installation in time to lock in NEM 2.0 terms 
  3. Apply for the 26% Federal Tax Credit 
  4. Optimize your production for maximum long-term savings 

*All NEM 3.0 information based on proposals published to date. Monthly fee calculations based on an average SDGE customer with a 7-kW system. Fees are expected to start at $56/month and increase based on system size. 

1         Solar Rights Alliance: Fact Sheet

2         Save California Solar: Consumer Info

SCE customers will pay more for electricity as of October 1st. Again. If you feel stuck with your utility bill – don’t! Read on to see how Baker Electric Home Energy can help.

SCE Rate Increase starts October 2021

It’s a tired game, the one of rising utility rates. But it’s one California homeowners have been losing for years and will keep losing for the foreseeable future.  

So goes the latest defeat for Southern California Edison (SCE) customers – now set to pay about 9% more for service, or an average of $12.41 more per month. That’s not good news for anyone, especially if you’re a customer who was already facing unusually high bills.

Why are rates increasing ?

While this Southern California Edison rate increase for 2021 is the latest, it’s far from the only. This one comes on the heels of a 7% rate hike last Spring and grants less than half the annual revenue requirement increase they requested.

SCE says this increase and the next planned ones will help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires related to infrastructure issues. They’ll also help cover system improvements like distribution and transmission updates, energy storage, replacement of electric poles and more general grid modernization.  

But as the rate hikes pour in, many Californians are scrutinizing the rationality. Rightly so, because SCE is an investor-owned utility (IOU), which means their goals include driving ROI for their shareholders. Translation: with rates that were already about 45% higher than the national average, Californians wonder if they are footing a big bill for more profitability, not safety.

Switch to solar and pay less for energy

You don’t have to read between the lines to see that the future of your energy bill doesn’t look great. It’s going to keep rising unless you cut your dependence on the grid.  

Installing rooftop solar lets you produce your own energy, thanks to the sun. Many California homeowners are able to produce enough power for most or all of their energy needs, reducing their bills by 30 % or more.  

Right now, NEM 2.0 (net metering) also helps you build up credit that you can use to offset your electric bill. This helps pay for the electricity you do draw from the grid at night or when the sun isn’t shining. This advantage may also change soon, but if you install your system now, you’ll lock in these benefits for 20 years.

Combine home battery with your solar panels and now you’re talking real energy freedom. Your battery can store the extra energy your solar panels produce during the day so you can use that energy at night. This means you no longer have to pay the Utility to draw electricity when it’s most expensive (or ever). Bonus: your backup battery will also keep your home running during power outages.

Get your free estimate today 

Don’t pay another rate increase – put your money toward owning your energy instead. We’ve helped 15,000 San Diegans go solar and break free from their rising utility bills. We’ll help you do that too. 

 

Quite a bit goes into making HVAC systems work. But it doesn’t have to be confusing. Let’s see what’s inside.

How do HVAC systems work?

In What is an HVAC system? we explored different types of systems. But how do they actually control your home’s temperature? Let’s talk about it. 

First, a quick refresher on one law of thermodynamics at the heart of HVAC operation:

Heat naturally flows from objects at higher temps (hot) to objects at lower temps (cold).

How does a central HVAC system work?

Central HVAC systems use ductwork to distribute air throughout your home. Split HVAC systems are very common, with the condenser unit sitting outside, next to your home. This is probably what you think of when you picture an air conditioner. Part two of your system sits inside your home and connects to your heating system. 

How central cooling works

When your thermostat triggers your system to cool your home, your AC goes to work removing heat from inside your home and transferring it outside.

  • From your outdoor condenser unit, a compressor pumps refrigerant to your indoor evaporator coil, where a metering device lowers the pressure and temperature of the refrigerant. This cool refrigerant flows through your evaporator coil.
  • As this happens, your air handler begins circulating air throughout the house. Room-temperature air is pulled in through the return duct, passes through a filter, and is blown across the evaporator coil (which contains that cool refrigerant).

Now, remember our law on heat transfer? Because the warm air is hotter than the cool refrigerant, the coils absorb heat energy from the air, then transfer that heat energy into the refrigerant.

This drops the temperature of the air going past the coil, which is blown into your home through your ductwork. Voilà, cool air!

  • Okay, let’s follow our refrigerant that absorbed all that heat. It now travels back outside to your condenser unit, where it first goes through the compressor. Here, it gets pressurized to increase its temperature (so it’s hotter than the outside air), then runs through the condenser coil.
  • There’s a fan on top of your condenser unit that draws air up and out of the unit. As it does this, that air first runs across the condenser coil, where our hot refrigerant is.

The law of heat transfer acts again here as the hot refrigerant in the coil transfers its heat to the cooler air. This warmed air is what gets sucked up and blown out by the fan. Goodbye, warm air!

  • Back to our refrigerant again. Having released that heat energy, it’s now ready to pump back inside and repeat the cycle above until your thermostat says the temperature is right.

Main components of a cooling system:

  1. Condenser unit — sits outside; houses the condenser coil and compressor
  2. Compressor — in the condenser unit; pumps refrigerant
  3. Metering device — reduces temp and pressure of refrigerant 
  4. Evaporator coil — carries refrigerant inside; absorbs heat from indoor air
  5. Air handler — connects to your ductwork; blows air across the evaporator coil
  6. Condenser coil — in the condenser unit; carries refrigerant outside; releases heat outside

How central heating works

In a split HVAC system, you’ll have a furnace located inside your home, typically in your basement, garage or attic. Heating systems can run on gas or oil, or as hybrid systems.

When the temperature in your home drops below the thermostat setting, your furnace is triggered to start combustion.

  •  A draft inducer fan, located inside your furnace, pulls fresh air into the burner (before it lights) and clears out any old combustion air from previous cycles. This helps to make sure gas will burn cleanly and efficiently.
  • Then, an igniter will glow or spark to ignite the gas that starts flowing. Hot air is drawn from the ignited flames into the heat exchanger to warm it. The heating process will continue as long as this flame burns.
  • As the heat exchanger gets hot, the blower fan is ready to go to work. It pushes air over the heat exchanger, which warms the air. That warm air then circulates into your home via your ducts. And now you have heat!
  • But that’s not all. When burning natural gas, we need to know where the fumes and carbon monoxide go, right? The heat exchanger connects to exhaust vents that send all exhaust fumes safely outside your home.
  • Now, let’s check back inside. The blower fan continues to draw air that is still cool (or has cooled off) from your home into the return duct, passes it through a filter and across your warm heat exchanger. This now freshly warmed air circulates into your home.
  • This cycle repeats until your thermostat registers that the air in your home has reached the desired temperature. Then the gas shuts off and combustion stops. The blower motor will continue to run a bit longer, as the furnace cools down.  

Main components of a heating system:

  1. Draft inducer fan — pulls fresh air into the burner
  2. Burner — burns fuel (e.g. natural gas) to warm the heat exchanger
  3. Heat Exchanger — a shield between the combustion chamber and the blower; air is heated when blown across it
  4. Blower fan — pushes air over the heat exchanger and circulates it around your home
  5. Exhaust vent— releases carbon monoxide and exhaust fumes outside

How does a mini-split AC system work?

With a mini-split AC system, air temperature is handled individually per room instead of through ductwork. Mini-split systems do still have an indoor component and an outdoor component connected by refrigerant lines. Air is cooled on its way to the outdoor compressor and then returned to the indoor unit. The difference here is that the cooled air is distributed into the room through a fan from within the indoor unit.

Takeaway

Understanding how your HVAC system works can help you take better care of it and feel more comfortable with regular service and repairs, but you don’t have to be a pro.

That’s why we’re here. When you need help with your HVAC care, always turn to certified professionals, like Baker Electric Home Energy. With 83 years of experience, we’re SoCal’s trusted experts for building, installing and maintaining HVAC systems.

There are multiple paths to going solar, leading to many different customer experiences – this guide will ensure that you’re on the path to a great experience.

Top 9 Tips for a Hassle-Free Solar Buying Experience

If you’ve been thinking about buying a solar system for a while now, but you’ve been wondering Is solar right for me?, then these tips are for you. No matter where you are in the process of going solar, it’s a good idea to read through these tips to make sure you’re on the right track so you can get the best solar system for years to come.

Do Your Research About Solar Panels & Programs

Before buying a solar system, it’s important that you research solar panels and programs. There are a lot of different solar panels on the market, many of which are not worth the investment. When you research solar panels, it’s important to pay attention to solar panel efficiency and to the warranties provided by the manufacturer. You want to look for panels that have high efficiency ratings because efficiency reflects the percentage of sunlight the panels convert into electrical output. Not all solar panels are created equal – some of them are pretty inefficient. The more inefficient a panel is, the more you have to buy of them to offset your electric bill.

For example, SunPower panels are high in efficiency. Eighteen of their solar panels can produce the same amount of power as twenty-five conventional panels. And their industry-leading product and power warranties guarantee your panels will work as they should for 25 years. Because of their efficiency, quality and warranties, SunPower solar panels will end up saving you more money over time.

When doing your research about solar panels, it’s also important to research solar programs. Solar net energy metering, which is the billing mechanism used by utilities for solar customers, is expected to change in Q1 of next year and the changes will likely take away some of the financial benefits for solar homeowners.

READ: CONFUSED ABOUT SOLAR?

Is Solar Right for Me? Consider Your Specific Needs

Before you begin the process of buying a solar system, it’s important to ask yourself Is solar right for me?

Some important things to consider are: Do you own your home? Is it a single-family home (not a multi-family, townhouse or condo)? Have you been in the home for at least 1 year? Do you have shade on your roof at any point of the day from trees or other homes? What is your average electric bill ($100+/month)? While not all of these are deal breakers, they are important elements our Solar Energy Consultants use to determine if solar is the right choice for you.

At Baker Electric Solar, we care about your family’s specific needs. If solar won’t benefit you, we’ll tell you. We want to make sure it’s a good investment for you before make the switch. If you have any question about whether or not solar is right for you, call us at (877) 543-8765.

Compare Solar Companies – Find the Right Partner in Going Solar

A necessary step in buying a solar system starts when you compare solar companies. It’s important that the solar company you choose offers superior products and solutions due to the fact that solar power technology is evolving so quickly. Because of this, we only carry top-name solar panels from SunPowerLG and Q CELLS.

Another important thing to consider when you compare solar companies is how long they’ve been in business. This is so important because you want the peace of mind that comes from knowing the company who installed your solar will be around to guarantee your warranties. Baker Electric Solar is built on Baker Electric’s 75+ years of electrical contracting experience, so you can trust we’ll be around for the life of your system.

You also want to pay attention to workmanship warranties when you compare solar companies. If you’re looking at solar installers who don’t offer some sort of workmanship warranty, look for a different company. Workmanship warranties are different than the product warranties which come from the panel manufacturer so every installer’s warranty on workmanship will vary. We offer a 25-year warranty on our workmanship because we’re so confident in the industry-leading components, designs and installation practices we use. Other solar installers may offer the same workmanship warranty, but you have to ask yourself if they’ll still be around to honor it in 25 years.

READ: THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE

Understand Cost Benefit Scenarios – Make Sure the Numbers Work

The biggest advantage of buying a solar system to most homeowners is saving money. If you’re considering buying a solar system, it’s important that you not only research solar panels, but financing options as well. At Baker we have a number of different options including cash purchase, financing and leasing. Solar installers that don’t work to match you with the option that best fits your family’s budget needs aren’t worth your time.

READ: 3 FACTORS OF SOLAR PANEL COST

Getting Permission from Your Town – DIY vs. Getting Professional Help

Great solar installers take the hassle out of the permitting process, but if you choose to install a DIY solar panel kit that hassle is all yours to deal with. Getting permission from your town to install your solar system is a complicated and time consuming process when you’re buying a solar system. Good solar installers are experts in this area so they’re a huge help to have on your side.

What to Know About Solar Roof Mounts

If you’ve been thinking about buying a solar system, and you’ve wondered Is solar for me?, have you also thought about how the panels will be attached to your roof? This is another area to consider when you compare solar companies. Some solar installers really don’t have your best interest in mind when it comes to their solar roof mounts in terms of their products and installation methods. It’s imperative that you don’t just research solar panels when you look into solar installers, but that you also research the solar roof mounts they use.

READ: ROOF MOUNT PRODUCT COMPARISON FOR RESIDENTIAL SOLAR

What to Know About Your Installation Team

When you compare solar companies, you want to make sure all of their solar installers are licensed electricians. Our parent company, Baker Electric, has been an electrical contractor for over 75 years, so it’s important for us to send licensed electricians to complete your solar panel installation. Our solar installers are members of local union IBEW 569. We never subcontract out. Be wary of solar companies that do, as subcontracting solar installers can cause problems for a solar provider and for you.

Our team of solar installers even shows up to your house with their own portable toilet, so they won’t have to be using yours during the installation. This isn’t something people normally think about when buying a solar system, but it does save you a lot of hassle.

Getting Final Approval From Your Utility Company

While there are plenty of steps to buying a solar system you want to be involved in – you want to research solar panels and compare solar companies for yourself – getting final approval from your utility is a process we want to take care of for you. In order to maneuver this complicated process you need to be able to understand the detailed and highly technical language of your electric company. That’s not a headache we want you to have to deal with. If you’re thinking about installing your solar yourself, we’d recommended you research solar installers instead to ensure this process goes as smoothly and quickly as possible.

Getting Proper Training on the Use and Maintenance of Your Solar System

Some solar installers slap a system on your roof and call it a day. But that’s not how we operate. When you compare solar companies, look for ones that also train you on the use and maintenance of your solar system. Because we’ve installed thousands of systems, we have some pretty good advice on how to get the most out of your solar investment. Understanding the ins and outs of monitoring your solar panel output is important, so only compare solar companies that also teach you how to use, monitor and maintain your system.

Thinking about buying a solar system? Request pricing from us today and see how much solar can save you! Or if you’ve been wondering, Is solar right for me?, call us at (877) 543-8765.

In this blog post, I’m first going to briefly explain how solar panels work and how solar panels are made. Then I’m going compare solar to other forms of energy so we can see which energy source truly is the cleanest and most efficient. So join me as we go behind the scenes of the energy industry to uncover the truth of where we should be getting our electricity from.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

The technology behind how solar panels work to create electricity from sunlight hasn’t changed much over the decades. Solar panels are made out of photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells use a special semiconducting material, such as silicon, to capture sunlight. This causes electrons to be freed and they then flow into a current.

This direct current (DC) is drawn out by metal contacts at the top and bottom of the PV panels. Once this has taken place, the current is sent to an inverter which takes the DC electricity and converts it to alternating current (AC). The AC power is sent from your inverter into your electrical panel in order to be used to meet the electrical needs of your home.

How do solar panels work? Semiconducting material captures light, light is converted into electricity, electricity is used to power your home or business. 

How Are Solar Panels Made?

Crystalline silicon is used to make solar panels. There are two different types of panels – monocrystalline and polycrystalline – and each is made differently.

Monocrystalline panels are the ones we use because they’re the most efficient panels on the market since they’re made out of the highest-grade silicon. They’re made by cutting the four sides off of cylindrical silicon ingots to make silicon wafers. The Czochralski process, which is the method used to produce the single-crystal silicon, is used to make monocrystalline panels. These panels have a consistent color and rounded edges.

Polycrystalline solar panels are made out of mutli-crystal silicon, so the Czochralski process isn’t used to make them. Instead, raw silicon is melted and poured into a square mold, which is then cooled and cut into perfectly square wafers. These panels have a speckled blue color and can be distinguished from monocrystalline panels because they don’t have rounded edges.

SunPower Corp asked themselves how are solar panels made, and then improved on the traditional design and function. SunPower solar panels are made better than any other solar panel in the industry. Their Maxeon® cell technology is stronger and produces more energy than conventional solar panels. Their solar panels are made with a unique light-trapping surface, a solid copper foundation that ensures maximum strength and with ultra-pure silicon that delivers optimal power conversion.

Comparing the Cleanliness of Solar Panels to Other Energy Sources

The sun certainly offers the most abundant supply of energy on earth, but are we able to harvest solar energy as efficiently as other sources? According to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), “solar energy is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available, and the U.S. has some of the richest solar resources.”

Let’s now take a look into how solar panels work better and more cleanly than any other source of energy.

Solar vs Nuclear

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which develops innovative and practical solutions to some of the planet’s most pressing problems, explains that “while the probability of a nuclear power accident may be small, the human and environmental consequences of a radiation release can be catastrophic.”

Across the country, nuclear power plants are being closed. Five nuclear power plants have been retired in the last four years in the U.S, with more closures on the horizon. This is partially due to the high price of maintaining the plants and of the energy they produce in comparison to the cost of other forms of energy generation.

Nuclear energy also presents another challenge: where do you store all of the spent fuel that remains radioactive for thousands of years? The question of where and how to safely store nuclear waste has continued to be a huge challenge for policymakers.

But back to the main discussion here: solar vs nuclear – why is solar cleaner? Nuclear power plants create electricity by turning water into steam in order to drive turbine generators. Water is a non-renewable resource, and nuclear power plants use a lot of water to create power. Conversely, the solar system on your roof takes no water to create the electricity that powers your home, making it a cleaner way to produce energy.

Solar vs Oil

It’s no secret that solar is the cleaner choice in the solar vs oil debate. Oil continues to decline in popularity as an electricity fuel, but in some places in the country it’s still burned to create electricity in power plants. Burning oil produces dangerous air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, methane, heavy metals such as mercury, and volatile organic compounds.

Oil is responsible for about 30% of the U.S.’s global warming pollution. On top of that, it releases smog-forming particles that cause asthma and other health problems. Most oil is extracted from the ground by a process called fracking. You’ve probably heard about fracking because of its effects on the environment, which include dangerous air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Oil spills are more common than the oil industry would like to admit and they have long-lasting impacts on habitats and wildlife.

Solar vs Coal

Possibly the hottest topic in energy production is solar vs coal. Coal plants provide about 40% of the US’s electricity and are responsible for more than a quarter of the U.S.’s total global warming emissions, including 80% of all those from power plants. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. household was 10,932 kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2014, which gives you the COemissions of 8,097 pounds of coal!

Where does all that coal come from? Mines. Coal mining has an extremely harmful impact on the environment. According to the UCS, “coal mining degrades surrounding landscapes, burning coal releases toxins into the atmosphere, and coal generated electricity places heavy demands on water resources. It all adds up to a huge, and costly, impact.”

Is Solar Power the Cleanest and Most Efficient Energy Resource?

The UCS says of solar energy that “the sun provides a tremendous resource for generating clean and sustainable electricity without toxic pollution or global warming emissions.”   Solar really is the best choice for the environment, and for saving money.

 

Interested in learning more about how this clean and abundant resource can help you save on your electric bill? Get a free quote with us today!

The huge growth of the solar industry in recent years might lead some to believe solar technology is a relatively new invention – when, in fact, it’s been around for a while. Join me as we go back in time to glimpse into the surprising history of solar energy to see how people have used the sun for power through the ages.

Early Innovation

Humans began using the sun as a source of energy as early as the 7th century BCE with magnifying glasses to start fires by the sun’s rays.

In 1767, the world’s first solar energy collector was invented by the Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure, which was basically a “solar oven” that could be used to cook food.

French scientist Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect in 1839, which is the physical process of converting sunlight into energy. He made this discovery when he was only 19 years old while experimenting with an electrolytic cell made up of two metal electrodes placed in an electricity-conducting solution. He found electricity generation increased with the addition of light.

The next advancement in solar energy technology came in the 1860s. This is when French mathematician Augustin Mouchot first proposed the idea of powering steam engines with the sun. He and his assistant, Abel Pifre, made the first solar-powered steam engines in the following two decades. Mouchot was a true pioneer in solar energy technology. In 1880, he had the foresight to say “eventually industry will no longer find in Europe the resources to satisfy its prodigious expansion… Coal will undoubtedly be used up. What will industry do then?” after a demonstration of his solar thermal technology. This mirrors industry’s current dependence on oil and other non-renewable resources that have a negative impact on the environment – negative impacts that can be mitigated with solar panels and other forms of clean energy.

In 1883, the American inventor Charles Fritts made the first working selenium cells, which are photoelectric devices used to generate electric current. Eight years later, in 1891, a Baltimore inventor named Clarence Kemp patented the first commercial solar water heater.

Albert Einstein even played a role in the advancement of solar energy. In 1905, he published his first paper on the photoelectric effect along with his paper on the theory of relativity, which he later won the Nobel Prize for in 1921.

In 1908, soon after Einstein published his paper, William J. Baily of the Carnegie Steel Company invented a solar collector with copper coils and an insulated box, which is roughly the present design of today’s solar panels.

Commercial Development

In 1954, photovoltaic (PV) technology was born in the United States. Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson developed the silicon photovoltaic cell at Bell Labs. It was the first solar energy cell which could convert enough of the sun’s energy into power to run everyday electrical equipment.

In the mid-1950s, Architect Frank Bridgers led the way in solar design by conceiving the world’s first commercial office building using solar water heating and passive design. This solar system is still operating, and the Bridgers-Paxton Building is now in the National Historic Register as the world’s first solar heated office building. Another important advancement in the 1950s for solar was its widespread use in powering satellites.

The world’s first laboratory dedicated to PV research and development, The Institute of Energy Conversion, was established at the University of Delaware in 1972. A year later they built “Solar One,” the world’s first house to directly convert sunlight into both heat and electricity for domestic use.

SunPower, which holds the record for the most efficient solar panels in the world, was co-founded by Dr. Richard Swanson, an electrical engineering professor at Stanford, in the 1970s. Dr. Swanson’s goal was to create a technology which would help us deal with the oil crisis and would be cost-effective. Since then, SunPower has led the industry through its creativity and record-breaking solar technology.

Solar-Powered Cars & Aircraft

The next big advancement in solar power came in 1981 when Paul MacCready built the first solar-powered aircraft called the “Solar Challenger.” He flew it across the English Channel from France to England. The aircraft had over 16,000 solar cells on its wings and it produced 3,000 watts of power.

A year later, in 1982, Australian Hans Tholstrup drove the first solar-powered car, the “Quiet Achiever,” about 2,800 miles between Sydney and Perth in 20 days. Tholstrup is also the founder of the “World Solar Challenge” that takes places in Australia and is the world championship of solar car racing.

In 2015, Andre Borschberg broke the world record for the longest non-stop solo flight in history in a completely solar-powered plane called Solar Impulse 2. The record was broken during the plane’s round-the-world journey on its stretch from Nanjing, China to Kalaeloa, Hawaii after it flew non-stop for five days. The creators of the project are seeking to reach new heights by “writing the next page in aviation history with solar energy, and voyaging around the world without fuel or pollution.” The goal of their project is to inspire in a way that only cutting-edge solar technology can. They say “Solar Impulse’s  ambition is for the world of exploration and innovation to contribute to the cause of renewable energies, to demonstrate the importance of clean technologies for sustainable development; and to place dreams and emotions back at the heart of scientific adventure.”

The Future of Solar

In a recent report led by the MIT Energy Initiative, The Future of Solar Energy, MIT’s researchers state current crystalline silicon PV technology is capable of generating multi-terawatt-scale power by 2050. A terawatt is 1,000,000 megawatts, so that’s a lot of power. The report claims “solar electricity is one of the very few low-carbon energy technologies with the potential to grow to very large scale,” which means the future is very bright for solar technology!

Impressed by solar’s history and interested in leaving your own green legacy? Get a free quote with us today! 

Power your home and help you save money? Solar can do that. Create new jobs and boost the economy? Solar can do that, too!

In fact, we here at Baker have been growing a lot over the last year and a half thanks to the energy we’ve been helping people harness from the sun. Back in January of 2014 we had a total of 48 employees. That number is up to 147 today and we’re only continuing to grow!

The solar industry has experienced a ton of growth nationwide as well. 2014 served as another record breaking year in the industry, with 34% growth from 2013. By the end of 2014, the U.S. had reached an installed solar electric capacity of over 20,000 megawatts. That’s enough electricity to power more than 4 million homes across America completely from the sun!

Want to hear some more good news? According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the cost to install solar has dropped by more than 73% since the 2006 implementation of the Solar Investment Tax Credit. And in more recent years, the residential cost of installing solar has dropped by more than 45% since 2012. That’s a huge decrease in cost, making solar energy more affordable now than ever!

Solar Growth Across the Nation

All of this means that the industry is growing – and quickly. The long-term research of The Solar Foundation shows solar industry employment has grown by 86% in the past five years. All this growth resulted in nearly 80,000 new domestic living-wage jobs between 2010 and 2014.

Nothing is quite as good for the economy as new jobs. The Solar Foundation’s 2014 National Solar Jobs Census found that the industry continues to exceed growth expectations, and adds workers at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy. This growth accounted for 1.3% of all jobs created in the U.S. in 2014.

At the end of last year, the solar industry provided job opportunities for nearly 174,000 solar workers in all 50 states, and 2014 marked the second year in a row that the industry’s employment growth was near or above 20%. It was also the second time that growth exceeded the previous year’s projections.

A Solar Revolution

You might be thinking all this growth has to stop at some point, right? But the solar industry is actually expected to continue growing! In 2014, the installed solar capacity was at just over 6,000 direct current megawatts throughout the nation, but that number is forecasted to shoot up to between 10,000 and 12,000 MWs in 2016. That’s a huge increase and we’re excited to see more homeowners, businesses and utilities make the switch to solar to save money and mitigate some of their impact on the environment.

Interested in going solar The Baker Way? Make the switch to solar before the end of next year to receive the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which provides a 30% federal tax credit to home solar buyers, and will be no more on January 1, 2017.

Maybe you’re kicking around the idea of going solar in San Diego and are also thinking about how else you can lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Where can you get some great advice? Look no further than your favorite San Diego solar company. Here at Baker Electric Solar, we’ve put together a list of ways you can kick-start sustainability in all aspects of your life.

How to Be Sustainable at Home

Reduce your household energy use. Before your solar system is installed, think about other ways you can conserve energy. A few ways to do this includes turning off your appliances and lights when you’re not using them, line drying your clothes instead of using your dryer, and replacing your incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs.

Recycle. This is the most obvious of the sustainable lifestyle tips and still very necessary. This process is fairly simple and we’re sure you are familiar with it. So buy an extra garbage bin and fill it up with all your recyclables or find creative ways to recycle items for the home or for gifts.

Cleaning products. Get rid of paper towels and start using washable cloths. This will save you money and is much better for the environment. Think about the cleaning products you are using. Ditch those harmful chemically filled products and start making your own products with solutions like vinegar.

For Work

Print less. Think before you decide to print out that 40-page report. Do you really need it printed? Can you view it on your computer or tablet all the same?

Power down. Don’t just put your desktop or laptop to sleep. Consider powering down all of your electronics at the end of the day. This will save your company some money and avoids wasting electricity.

Commute together or take public transportation. Try commuting to work with a colleague so you can minimize the amount of fossil fuels used on the road. If you work close to home try biking. You’ll stay fit and be helping the environment at the same time.

For Your Health

Eat locally. This is one of the most important ways to live a more sustainable life. Think about where all the food you’re eating throughout the day comes from. Foods in supermarkets consume huge amounts of fossil fuel energy to get to where they are when you see them. So next time you grocery shop, consider visiting a farmers market or another local market.

Drink from the tap. And while you’re at it, buy a reusable water bottle. U.S. tap water is safe and fresh but if you still hate the idea of it, consider buying a filtration system or even something smaller like water filtered pitchers or water filtered bottles. It’s a good way of getting your 8 glasses a day and supporting a sustainable lifestyle.

Continued education. There are always new ways to continue to live sustainably. Keep reading what’s out there and expand your mind. While this isn’t directly related to just your health, it can help you in all aspects of your new sustainable life.

Believe it or not, this is only a small snippet on how to be more sustainable. California has some great initiatives and alliances so feel free to read more from great websites like California Sustainability Alliance or the California Center for Sustainable Energy. And of course, installing solar for your home is always a great start!

If you want to learn more about how your solar system is helping your sustainability goals, contact us today!

The Baker Solar Installation Process – Step 1 Contract Signing

From signing your solar contract to the day your meter starts running backwards, we understand that the solar installation process can seem daunting. Many even believe that having solar power installed is as daunting and invasive as a kitchen or living room remodel. I’m here to assure you it’s not!

This is part one of a series of posts that will assist you in your solar installation process. First on the list: solar contract signing.

After doing research on going solar and settling on a company to do your installation, you are at the stage of solar contract signing. At the beginning of your solar installation process, you want to make sure you are not only ready to sign the contract but that the contract is everything you agreed upon. Here are a few reminders on what to do when signing your solar installation contract.

Read through your entire contract

This may seem obvious, but I’m including it because of its importance. You want to read through your entire contract and make sure you are getting what you asked for. Take that extra time to carefully read everything, including the fine print, so you know what you are signing. If you want an extra set of eyes, don’t hesitate to hire a lawyer to make sure you are getting covered. Review included warranties and make sure they match what the solar company said. Product warranties will not likely be in the contract since those are fulfilled by the manufacturers, but any sort of workmanship or roofing warranties should be included in the contract.

Make sure you know how much you’ll be paying

The contract should clearly state what you are paying. In the case of a monthly lease option, a good solar company will be able to give you the exact amount your monthly bill will be. If purchasing or doing a prepaid lease option, a good solar company will clearly detail what the payments will be and when they are due. If you read through your contract and still have no clue as to what you will be paying, it’s time to start talking to other solar companies.

Are you getting what you agreed on?

Next check to make sure you are getting what you agreed on. Is everything you discussed in the contract? What is the production guarantee of the system? Where are the solar panels going exactly? Where will the conduit be placed?

Remember, if it’s not in the contract, it’s not part of the deal

Verbal agreements are not the same as written. Make sure everything you discussed with your solar company is also included in the contract.

Don’t sign unless you know for sure

Do not sign that contract unless you are sure you want to go ahead. If the solar company is pressuring you, it may be best to walk away and find another. If you are still confused about what it is you are actually getting, maybe wait to sign that contract. You want to be 100% sure that you are ready to go solar and that you know exactly what you are buying before you commit to anything.

There you have it – some easy reminders for signing your solar contract. Stay tuned for part two of this series on site surveys.

If you’re considering going solar and are thinking about using DIY solar panel kits, read this first. Here’s our side-by-side comparison of buying solar panel kits and working with reputable solar companies.

What You Get In Solar Panel Kits

Many DIY solar panel kits don’t actually include all the parts you’ll need to correctly install your solar system. They lack wire, conduit, fittings, breakers, AC/DC disconnects, junction boxes and a sub panel. These aren’t included in the solar panel kits, so you’ll have to find and purchase them on your own. Not only that, but the parts that are included in solar panel kits are far less efficient and produce much less power than the equipment that comes from reputable solar companies. Most DIY solar panels are from manufacturers in China and offer very low efficiency. Solar panel efficiency is extremely important when it comes to offsetting your electric bill, so be wary of the parts included in DIY solar panel kits. You may find that you do not have enough roof space to fit all the low efficiency solar panels needed. When you work with a solar company, they design a system that fits your home and your electricity needs.

Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar panel efficiency is typically conveyed as a percentage. This number is the amount of sunlight the solar panel is able to capture and convert to electricity. Solar panel efficiency is closely tied to total output of the panel, which is typically conveyed as total DC output in watts. The higher the solar panel efficiency, the higher output of watts. Take for example the DIY solar panels available at Costco, Grape Solar. The Grape Solar panels available at Costco only have an efficiency of around 15% and output of 235 watts. This is extremely low by today’s solar panel efficiency standards. It takes 22 of these polycrystalline solar panels to make a 5kW solar array. By comparison, SunPower, makers of the world’s most efficient solar panel available to homeowners, has a 21% efficiency rated panel with an output of 345 watts. You would only need 15 of these SunPower solar panels to create the same size system as the 22 panel Grape solar array.

As traditional solar panels age, they corrode. Solar panel efficiency is affected by this corrosion and it causes a loss in power output. The panels found in DIY solar panel kits have neither high efficiency nor a long life expectancy. SunPower solar panels feature a unique copper foundation that gives them strength and durability against corrosion. DIY solar panels use metal paste that offers no strength and causes the cells to crack and lose power when exposed to changes in temperature. SunPower actually guarantees a maximum output efficiency for the 25 year life of the panel that no other manufacturer can touch:

“…the power output of the PV Modules will be at least 95% of the Minimum Peak Power rating for the first 5 years, and declining by no more than 0.4% per year for the following 20 years, so the power output at the end of the final year of the 25 year warranty period will be at least 87% of the Minimum Peak Power rating.”

Do SunPower solar panels cost more than traditional DIY solar panels? Yes, and for good reason.

Upfront Solar Panels Cost vs. Lifetime Value

Now consider cost versus value. Between buying solar panel kits and hiring someone to help you install them, you could hire a solar provider and receive a turnkey solution with a much better product, warranty, and assurance for nearly the same price.

Not only will you likely have the added cost of hiring someone to install your DIY solar panels, as stated above, you’ll also need to buy a higher number of panels if you do decide to use solar panel kits. These are two factors that have an overall effect on how much solar panels cost if you use DIY solar panel kits that you won’t even have to worry about with solar companies. Despite how much DIY solar panels cost, and how good of a deal solar panel kits seem, purchasing, installing and maintaining them won’t save you enough to be worth missing out on all the benefits you receive from working with a trained solar provider. Professional solar companies can provide you with the most efficient panels on the market so you won’t need as many to do the job right.

Planning on selling your home in the future? While I don’t have any substantiated evidence to back this up, I’d have to imagine most potential buyers would not like to hear that the solar on the roof was a DIY project. Again, consider the cost versus the value. Purchased solar has been shown to increase home value in California, but a smart homebuyer will want to know who did the installation and warranties the work.

READ: BERKLEY STUDY SHOWS THAT SOLAR INCREASES HOME VALUE

Solar Panel Installation Mistakes and Liability

Installing your own DIY solar panels can be extremely dangerous. Besides the obvious dangers of climbing onto your roof while holding a 40-lb, 65″x40″ piece of equipment, there are the dangers of working with electricity. Solar panels create DC electricity. The moment the panel is in the sun, it’s creating power. All you’d have to do is touch both leads to get shocked. Safety is a huge issue when installing solar. When working with live electrical lines, mistakes can be lethal!

At Baker Electric Solar, all of our installers are insured union electricians. This means you can rest easy and know that your roof and solar panels are getting the best care in the industry.

The DIY Solar Permitting Process

Before you can install your solar system to power your home, you first need to go through a complicated permitting process. The first step of permitting is drafting the plans. This requires detailed measurements of your planned system that you must get approved by your city. The criteria for getting plans approved depend upon the jurisdiction you live in. Every city has different requirements for the approval process. Some cities require complicated structural engineering reports, and some require you to submit a stamped letter of approval from your HOA before they will begin the permitting process. Depending on where you live, this process can take two to three weeks.

The hassle of permitting is yours to deal with when you install your own DIY solar panels, but that headache can be avoided when working with a solar provider. Reputable solar companies will handle permitting for you.

READ: SOLAR ROOF MOUNT COMPARISON

Getting the Utility to Approve Your System to Be Turned On

When you choose to install your own DIY solar panels, another thing you have to consider is all the work that goes into getting permission to operate your system from the utility. The first step in getting permission to operate is filling out a long Net Energy Metering application. During this process, utilities like SDG&E ask for a lot of detailed information, which is another reason solar companies are so helpful because they know how to speak the utility’s language and how to answer all of their highly technical questions.

Before you can operate your solar system, an inspection from the city is required. Once this is complete, the inspector informs the utility and they review it for approval. If your system is approved, your utility will then issue permission to operate and you can finally begin using your solar system to generate power for your home.

Comparing DIY Solar Kit Warranties to the SunPower Warranty

What happens when that DIY panel stops working? Who honors the warranty, the company you purchased the panels from or the manufacturer?

Unlike many DIY solar panel kits, SunPower has a 25-year warranty that guarantees your panels will be free from defects as well as an efficiency warranty that ensures your panels are producing the amount of power they should be for decades to come. It’s hard to even find the efficiency of DIY solar panels stated outright, so compare that to the fact the SunPower actually guarantees your panels will perform as they should, and that just goes to show you how SunPower solar panels are the best choice when it comes to solar panel efficiency and warranty coverage.

READ: SOLAR NET METERING IS CHANGING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Push the Easy Button and Go Solar With a Full-Service Solar Provider

While solar panel kits might seem appealing at first, the small amount they may save you in upfront cost isn’t worth missing out on the lasting benefits that come from trusted solar companies. Avoid the headache of permitting, installing and maintaining your DIY solar panels on your own and get a free quote with us today! Baker Electric Solar is one of San Diego’s most trusted solar companies and a SunPower Elite Dealer. We can get you the solar panel efficiency you deserve by designing and installing a customer solar solution using SunPower solar panels.

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