The A-Z of solar and home battery terms
There’s a lot of jargon in the solar industry and it can be confusing for homeowners. This guide to solar vocabulary explains it all.
A homeowner’s A-Z of solar and home battery terms
At Baker Electric Home Energy, we want you to be informed so you can choose the right solar installer to design and install your home power generation system.
To assist you, we’ve put together this list of solar terms. Use it to get a stronger understanding of the solar process so you’ll know what to ask when shopping for your solar partner.
An electrical box separate from the Main Service Panel that allows the disconnection of power to your home.
A term you might see on your SDG&E bill related to credits your solar system has created and sold back to SDG&E for that month or in a previous month. Prior to being applied, these are called Remaining Credits.
This term just refers to the collection of solar panels, as a whole, for either your rooftop solar or ground-mount solar system. Your solar array might include all the panels together in one plane if your rooftop design and orientation n allow, or your system may be comprised of several smaller solar arrays ( if your roof isn’t ideal for solar or faces a direction that’s not best for sunlight exposure).
A mounting system in which panel mounts are connected to a weighted-down base rather than a rooftop or a ground-mount array frame. This is not a common method of solar panel rooftop mounting but can be the right option for some unique rooftop mounting challenges and might be the best option if your roof can’t take solar panels in a more cost-efficient way.
A billing term for San Diego residents participating in Tiered Rate Billing. Baseline allowance is determined by the location of your house, the types of appliances you use and various other factors to determine your amount of ‘cheap electricity’ or lowest cost electricity you’ll see on your bill before the billing rate increases with the next tier.
Battery or Home Battery
See: Home Energy Storage
The amount of energy storage your single home battery or home energy storage solution (multiple batteries) can store. In most cases, a single home battery stores enough electrical power to operate just a few key circuits in the case of a power outage or to use your stored solar energy at night.
California Climate Credit
This is a credit that California residents see on their electric bill twice a year and on their gas bill once a year. This is part of California’s fight against climate change. It stems from a program that requires electricity and gas providers to reduce greenhouse gasses through carbon credits, resulting in a credit to California ratepayers which lowers their bills.
California Solar Consumer Protection Guide or CPUC Guide
A helpful guide created by the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) to make solar customers aware of what goes into the process of selecting the best solar installer for them, rights they have, and what to expect when planning a home solar system. On September 30, 2019 it became a requirement for any homeowner going solar to sign and initial this agreement in various places within the guide. The solar provider is required to submit this signed guide to the IOU (Independently Owned Utility) such as Southern California Gas & Electric or Southern California Edison before the system will be granted a Permission to Operate letter (the CPUC has the right to audit this).
The guide is a great addition to the process — it helps customers evaluate solar installers as well as making them aware of other options and resources. At Baker we’re in favor of this new step and encourage all homeowners considering solar in San Diego, Riverside and Orange Counties to read this guide as early as possible in your search for a great solar installer.
When you sign the guide, you are not under any obligation to purchase solar – don’t let any solar installer tell you otherwise. Your signing only verifies you’ve read and understood the contract. Although the guide is 23 pages long, the material is very digestible. We also recommend checking customer reviews of all the solar companies you’re considering.
Follow this link to the CPUC Guide.
California Alternative Rates for Energy (CARE)
The California Alternative Rates for Energy Program provides discounts (30-35%) on electricity and gas bills for low-income customers who qualify and are registered in the program.
Cell,or Solar Cell or Photovoltaic Cell
This is one ‘square’ of one PV solar panel. It’s the piece that turns sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic process. Several cells mounted and linked together make up a solar panel. These solar panels are also called modules or solar modules.
Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA)
A coalition of clean energy groups coordinating efforts and helping to boost clean energy development and use throughout the US.
An option to use renewable solar energy to power a home or apartment that you don’t own. Through community solar, 50% to 100% of the electricity you buy from your provider can be solar generated green power. This can make your electrical costs change in either direction: your electrical bill could increase or decrease. Community solar is a good option for renters looking for clean energy in Southern California. Contact your energy provider for options they may offer.
Community Solar Green Tariff Program
A program for disadvantaged community households to lower their electric bill (20% discount) by subscribing to solar farms located within 5 miles of their neighborhood.
The solar power company you buy your home solar from, which may be the same company that installs your rooftop solar panels (some companies subcontract this to installation-specific partners). San Diego solar power companies need to have a current Contractor’s License (see Contractor’s License).
There are many San Diego solar power companies — some are local solar businesses, some are just local offices for national solar companies. It’s a good idea to research solar energy companies that have both the correct contractor’s license and are truly local. You want a solar company with a history of business in San Diego, a local brick and mortar facility, and a full team with great customer service.
The best solar power company for you is one that will still be in business years down the road. It’s also important that you can get in touch with a real person (not pre-recorded messages) through a visit or a phone call). Your home solar system should quickly work off your initial investment and give you decades of essentially free electricity for many years after your solar panels pay for themselves. Solar power systems that benefit from the ITC tax incentives will pay for themselves sooner. But know that these incentives are dropping: 30% tax credit in 2019, 26% tax credit in 2020 and 22% tax credit in 2021 for residential solar systems. Commercial systems have a 10% tax incentive that will last beyond this time.
Your residential solar installer must have a C-46 (Solar Contractor), C-10 (Electrical Contractor) or B (General Building Contractor) contractor’s license and you have the right to know their license number. Baker holds residential and commercial licenses including a C-46, C-10, as well as C-39 (Roofer) and C-20 (HVAC). Our parent company Baker Electric, Inc. holds a B (General Building Contractor) license. Baker Electric Home Energy’s contractor’s license number is 858088. If you find yourself working with or considering any San Diego, Orange County or Riverside solar power companies wihtout a proper contractor’s license, you can report this to the Contractors State License Board at 800-321-CSLB.
California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)
The California Public Utilities Commission regulates privately owned utilities, including the electric utilities. In September 2019, CPUC created and implemented the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide. It’s a great resource to help anyone looking for home solar solutions to learn more about what to expect in terms of solar costs, getting solar quotes, and overall solar energy solutions. It’s also a good resource for finding the best reviewed solar company and top solar experts in your area, as well as some ways to best determine which is the best solar power company for you.
A type of energy that does not cause pollution to the atmosphere when used. A home solar system creates clean energy, which is also called green energy. In addition to major cost savings on electricity, the use of clean energy is a big motivator for many homeowners to learn about home solar.
Contractors State License Board (CSLB)
This is the organization that licenses and monitors contractors’ licenses. Its website is a resource you can use to confirm if a Solar Installer isa licensed contractor. The CSLB website is http://www.cslb.ca.gov/
Disadvantaged Community (DAC)
This stands for Disadvantaged Community. In terms of home solar power discussions, it describes neighborhoods in areas that suffer from multiple sources of pollution.
DAC-Green Tariff Program
A program that allows households to have all of their electricity offset by solar generation and also receive a discount on their energy bill (20%). This program is for households in a Disadvantaged Community. Solar panels are not necessarily installed on the home; the solar power can be produced off the property.
Disadvantaged Communities – Single-family Solar Homes (DAC-SASH)
DAC-SASH is a program modeled after California’s SASH program and is focused on families living in disadvantaged communities (specifically the top 25% most disadvantaged communities). Like the SASH program, the DAC-SASH also creates job opportunities in the solar industry.
Electric Grid or The Grid
This is the electricity infrastructure and delivery system. People often use this to refer to system they are trying to live independently of, i.e. “going off the grid”. For a solar powered home to go off the grid it would need some sort of energy storage system, like a home battery.
Your Utility. For most homeowners in San Diego this will be San Diego Gas & Power (SDG&E). In other areas of Southern California it might be Southern California Edison (SCE).
Energy Efficient Home
This refers to a home’s insulation, its appliance energy draw, and the occupant’s habits in terms of maximizing energy usage. It does not relate to how the electricity is produced or stored. With solar, it is one component of energy needs – if a home can first be made more efficient, the size of the solar system (i.e. the number of solar panels needed) could be reduced. This would make your project less expensive, saving you money up front with your solar investment and creating energy savings into the future..
You can learn about your home’s HVAC system and its energy efficiency options here.
This relates to a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement), which is an option to get solar with no money down. Escalator is the set amount the monthly payments will increase each year over the course of an agreement. In a PPA, the homeowner (or property owners) does not own the solar system attached to their house.
Stands for Electric Vehicle, which means a pure-electric car, truck or motorcycle (not a hybrid). EVs require a charging station to recharge their battery. Most drivers who have adopted an EV are concerned for the environment, want to consume less fossil fuels and use more clean energy for their transportation. A home with solar energy and an EV charging station is the next level of clean energy use because a car charged from a home solar system bypasses any dirty energy created from utility power plants.
EV Charging Station
With reference to home EV charging, this is a dedicated EV car charging station at your house that can charge your car in the most efficient way. Charging your car at night lets you wait until your electricity rates drop. Charging your car during the day at home with solar optimizes your energy savings by sending the electricity your home produces into your car’s battery before selling it back to the Utility.
Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA)
The Family Electric Rate Assistance Program is a discount program to help eligible customers pay their energy bills It is similar to the CARE program and assists households that don’t quite qualify for that program. It gives an electricity discount of 12% to families who qualify.
The term Free Solar is often used as a sales pitch, typically for a leased system. With this offer, a solar system may be installed with no money down, so the customer receives solar panels at no cost (up front). The customer will be responsible for paying electricity bills and making payments for the solar system per the lease agreement, and they will not own the solar system or the electricity it produces.
Free solar may also be used as a term to describe solar power once a system has paid off its investment (through energy cost savings). Properly designed solar systems will typically achieve this within 5-7 years. It’s very common for families to fully enjoy their free, renewable, natural energy by using more electricity to power the things they really want, like running the air conditioner more.
This is a popular expression for reducing your carbon footprint by using more natural energy (from renewable resources) and less non-renewable energy (produced by burning fossil fuels)to lower greenhouse gas emissions. There are various levels and approaches to going green. A home solar system is not only a very impactful way to use natural energy but green solar also saves money (another good kind of green) on energy costs in the long run.
So while some lifestyle changes an environmentally conscious person chooses to make may cost more, solar energy is a change that will save you thousands of dollars while also lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Green energy is natural energy produced in sustainable ways. It’s considered clean and friendly for the environment compared to “dirty” energy generated by burning fossil fuels, which increases greenhouse gas emissions. Green energy is also renewable energy.
The utilities’ infrastructure of electricity delivery. Homeowners who are not connected to receive power from or sell power to the Utility are considered “off the grid.” For homeowners looking for energy independence or just preventing energy bills so they are not victim to rising electricity rates, off-the-grid solar energy solutions, especially as home batteries improve, is becoming less of a fringe concept for property owners. Homeowners interested in going off the grid also may be interested in cutting edge smart home solutions to increase a home’s efficiency as well as improve their lifestyle. See our Home Energy Solutions for more about home energy technology.
A non-profit solar installer providing discounted rooftop solar for qualified households based on income and neighborhood data parameters. GRID Alternatives works through the SASH and DAC-SASH programs. In addition to helping with low cost solar system installation, this group provides on-the-job training through government-backed programs.
A method of mounting solar panels into their solar array that is not on a home rooftop. The panels are mounted on a frame designed at the optimal angle and orientation to the sun. This is an option if your home has enough acreage, or acreage that is not useful to you otherwise. This is a much less common mounting method than rooftop solar, and shading issues should be considered since ground mounts are lower than a roof.
Home Energy Storage (or Energy Storage, or Home Battery, or Battery or Battery Storage)
These terms can be used interchangeably with the incorporation of a home battery, which is often paired with a solar system to store electricity. With a home battery, your rooftop solar charges the home battery by storing electricity there instead of sending it back to the Utility
Some homes install a home battery that is not charged by a solar system, though those batteries do not qualify for the ITC Tax Credit.
Incorporating a home battery also allows your solar panels to produce independently of the grid. This means when the utility grid shuts down (from planned power outages or unpredictable blackouts), your solar panels can still produce power for your home to use. If that energy isn’t consumed, it could also be stored as backup power in your battery storage for use after the sun has gone down. You can read more about home batteries here.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is a labor union representing nearly 750,000 workers and retirees in the electrical industry. The local San Diego chapter is Local 569. Not all solar systems installations are done by union contractors (or even full time employees since some companies in San Diego subcontract solar installation work to various solar installers), so it is a good idea to research the qualifications of the installation crew when considering San Diego solar power companies. [Note: Baker uses IBEW Local 569 electricians for all solar systems installation work within Local 569’s territory (San Diego city and area). These are full time employees and solar experts and we are proud to have the best trained and most knowledgeable solar electric employees in the city].
This is the group that performs the rooftop solar installation. It’s important to understand this group may be a part of your solar provider, or a group that is sub-contracted by your solar provider. When selecting your solar provider, be sure to ask if they use regular, full-time employees solar panel installations.
Inverter or String-Inverter or Solar Inverter
A component of any solar system that provides electricity to a home. Solar systems may have one or multiple inverters. Inverters turn DC (direct current) generated from solar panels into AC (alternating current) that your home can use. Your solar contractor will know the best brand and type of inverters to use with your rooftop solar panels.
Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)
This is a group that works state-by-state to make sure homeowners and renters of all income levels get the best solar power options.
Investment Tax Credit (ITC) or Solar Tax Credit
This federal tax credit is scheduled to end soon (and is decreasing in the meantime — it was 30% in 2019!). As of June 2021, here is the current schedule from the U.S. Department of Energy:
- 26% tax credit for residential solar systems installed in 2020-2022
- 22% tax credit for residential solar systems installed in 2023
- The tax credit for residential solar systems expires starting in 2024 unless Congress renews it.
We advise consulting your tax professional about credit rollover rules if you don’t think you’ll be able to take full advantage of the tax credit for the year of your system installation.
Kilowatt Hours (kWh)
Like it sounds, this is a measurement of power that is the amount of 1000 watts for one hour. The typical output for a San Diego home solar system is7.5 to 8 kWh.
Main Breaker or Main Disconnect
This is the overall power breaker switch/disconnect inside your house’s Main Service Panel (AKA Breaker Box).
Main Service Panel or Breaker Box or MSP or Load Center
A home’s ‘power box’ with access to the breaker switches for your Main Breaker and breakers for the various power circuits in your house. Your home will have a main service panel whether you have solar power or not. In some cases, the main service panel will need an upgrade with the addition of solar to your home.
These are the companies that make the individual items for a solar system, such as solar panels, inverters and home batteries. Solar Providers may exclusively carry a preferred manufacturer’s products for certain components or provide options for each component.- For example, your solar provider may provide options from different solar panel manufacturers based on their benefits.
Manufacturers are not involved in installation, meaning the assembling or mounting their components to your house. This is important because manufacturers provide the equipment warranty and usually their own customer service. This is important in the event of hardware warranty issues. It makes all the difference when you have a good manufacturer’s warranty with live customer service, plus a trusted solar provider who will work with you.
Micro-Inverter or Microinverter
Like the name suggests, this is a small inverter. In most San Diego home solar systems, an array of solar panels feeds direct ccurrent to one inverter (sometimes multiple inverters handle electricity from various arrays). With this standard arrangement, about 20 to 30 solar panels could feed their electricity into one inverter. While this is a cost-conscious way to design a home solar system, it is susceptible to poor electrical output of an entire array should any solar panels become shaded or fail.
An alternative method attaches micro-inverters to each solar panel so every panel can remain productive independently. This means if one solar panel has an issue, your solar sycan still operate from the panels not affected. This method may add to the per solar panel cost of a solar system since you’ll purchase micro-inverters for each panel. But it will increase your system’s solar capacity, which means greater overall output from your solar panels.
Said another way, micro-inverters aren’t meant to increase singular solar panel efficiency. They increase the efficiency of the solar array. And an efficient solar panel can’t be effective if it’s limited by a shaded solar panel that drops the power efficiency of the whole array. Also learn about the Optimizer here, which performs a similar function.
Minimum Charge Adjustment
This is a billing term that San Diego residents see electricity bills from their utility companies. The current (as of publish date) minimum charge from SDG&E is $.33 per day. For participants in CARE, FERA, or Medical the minimum charge is $.164 per day.
Module or Solar Panel
Module is another term for a solar panel. It is not a layman’s term,so you’re most likely to only hear it when discussing solar system design or solar installation with a solar professional. Solar company and solar panel manufacturer communications may use it too.
North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners certifies installers. [Note: Baker has NABCEP certified personnel and been invited to present at a number of their training conferences].
Net Metering or Net Energy Metering or NEM
This is the agreement solar customers have with their Utility where a home with a solar system sells back excess energy to the Utility for retail rate plus fees.Your home can carry excess energy forward until the True-Up or Settlement Bill, which usually occurs every 12 months. At this point, excess energy beyond what your home used will sell back to the Utility at a wholesale rate rather than retail rate. . This big drop in the electric rate is a major reason you don’t want an oversized solar system.
NEM Charges or Net Metering Charges or Net Energy Metering Charges
For homeowners with SDG&E as their power company, this is the amount of kWh charged, not including any NEM Credits, under their net metering billing.
NEM Credits or Net Metering Credits or Net Energy Metering Credits
These are the credits your San Diego home solar system generates that have been applied to your utility account/utility bill.
Net Energy Metering Non-Bypassable Charges
These are charges that cannot be overcome with excess electricity production from your solar array. These are charges such as: Nuclear Decommissioning, Public Purpose Programs, DWR Charges and Competition Transition Charges.
In the context of solar energy, offset refers to excess electricity your system is designed to produce and sell to your Utility during the day. The purpose of this is to offset the electricity you’ll late purchase to use during non-producing solar hours (like nighttime).
A solar optimizer can be used to achieve similar functionality to a microinverter solar panel arrangement at a lower cost than a typical microinverter set up. To do this, a solar optimizer is connected to each solar panel and allows independent energy production from each solar panel. This keepsr solar production from being limited by the lowest-producing solar panel in the solar array.
Another benefit is the ability to monitor the electrical output of each solar panel. This is also possible with a microinverter system, but not a standard inverter system. Any top solar panel company in the industry will be able to determine if your photovoltaic solar panels would increase their power output with the incorporation of an optimizer.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE)
This stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. This is a financing program similar to a solar loan but with lower up-front costs. It also includes more restrictions in the future, such as a possible first-priority lien on your home. PACE assessments are attached to the property vs the homeowner, so electric bill payment is made at the same time property taxes are paid or through the house’s mortgage payment.
Panel or Solar Panel
This is the sheet of solar cells that make up one module. For the purposes of home solar in San Diego, this refers to the photovoltaic (PV) panels that are approximately five and a half feet long, three and a quarter feet wide, and about an inch thick. The production output of solar panels increased rapidly about a decade ago. And while development continues to improve, efficiency and production are not growing as rapidly current rooftop panels are quite sufficient.
Peaker plants are large power plants that provide electricity to a city during times of rapidly increasing power demands . The advantage of Peaker Plants is that they can ‘accelerate’ rapidly in their ability to create energy. They are not known for clean or affordable energy though;the average cost of electricity they produce is higher for the utility companies, which is ultimately passed to your utility bills. Peaker Plants are built to fill ‘holes’ in spiking energy demands that the traditional power plants can’t meet.
Power Purchase Agreement or PPA
A Power Purchase Agreement is a way for a homeowner to consume renewable energy without paying upfront costs to purchase a solar system. In a PPA, the homeowner agrees to buy all the power a system produces, usually at a rate below that of the Utility. The solar power is generated through a solar system on the house that is owned by the solar provider. The price paid for electricity in this arrangement increases (usually annually). This is a low cost way to use green energy without spending a lot of money up front, though there are considerations, especially in the event of a home sale before the PPA has expired. For example, the PPA may specify whether the agreement can transfer to the new homeowner or must be bought out by the home seller. You can read more about PPA vs a lease here.
This is a type of guarantee/warranty from the solar provider. It promises that a solar system will deliver a set amount of electricity over specific time periods.This performance warranty may be backed by financial compensation if the system under-produces or the addition of more solar panels (at the discretion of the solar provider).
This Production Guarantee/performance warranty is different from a solar panel warranty from the solar panel manufacturers.It’s a guarantee on the design and size of the solar power system as conceived by the solar panel company. Top solar power companies using quality solar manufacturers will offer production guarantees, so be sure to ask about them. Also know that energy output of a system’s photovoltaic cells affects energy bill savings but isn’t a guarantee of a lower electric bill since usage is a big factor as well.
This is your solar power company or the solar contractors you hire. They may or may not be the same in-house company that installs your solar panels and home solar system.
This is an abbreviation for photovoltaic and refers to solar photovoltaic panels, which are used for standard home solar systems. Most residential and commercial solar systems today refer to solar photovoltaic systems.
An example of a solar system that is not a solar photovoltaic system is a pool heating system that uses conduction. This system heats pool water “directly” by pumping it through solar collectors (often mounted on a roof) to expose more of the pool water to the sun’s heat.
The energy of the sun as light. This is the energy the photovoltaic cells in your solar panels use to convert sunlight into electricity.
This electronic device essentially performs the opposite operation of an inverter. A rectifier converts alternating current into direct current. When PV solar panels convert sunlight into energy, they produce direct current and nearly every home solar system converts that electricity into alternating current.
Reduce Your Use Day Reward
This is a term SDG&E uses for San Diego homeowners on a billing plan that provides rewards based on energy use. It is designed to help limit electricity during peak hours and provides a discount to participating customers.
Remaining credits on your SDG&E bill represent excess Kilowatt Hours produced by your solar system but not yet applied to your outstanding charges. Once applied, they are called Applied Credits.
This is green energy or clean energy produced in a way that doesn’t deplete natural resources of the earth and ideally operates with zero greenhouse emissions. Solar and wind are the two most common home renewable energy sources. Other sources of renewable energy include rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.
Renewable Energy Certificate or RECs
These are certificates that home solar system owners are eligible to receive. RECs allow you to make the claim that you are producing clean energy and avoiding the byproduct of greenhouse gasses in the production of that energy. These certificates are for making environmental claims; unless you have a known need to receive RECs, they likely won’t benefit you.
Roof mounts attach solar panels to your roof. Different mounts are designed to work specifically with the type of roof you have. Whether you have a composite shingle roof, tile roof, concrete roof, or even a flat roof, there is a dedicated roof mount system to work best.
This is the most common home solar system, and it naturally includes solar panels mounted on your roof. A less common option is a ground-mount in which solar panels are mounted on their own frame separate from the house.
Single-Family Affordable Solar Home program (SASH)
The Single-family Affordable Solar Home program is a California effort to make solar energy more accessible to neighborhoods that have been left out of the option to create their own renewable energy, provide education on the benefits of solar and help families enroll in programs to save on solar in California. The program also supports job training for the solar industry.
Southern California Edison (SCE)
SCE is a major local Utility providing electricity to Southern California homes. SDG&E is the Utility for most homes in the San Diego region.SCE generally covers areas north of the SDG&E territory.
San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E)
SDG&E is a major local Utility providing electricity to San Diego and the San Diego region.
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)
SEIA is a solar trade association for the U.S. solar industry. They provide a homeowner guide for purchasing solar systems.
Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP)
SGIP is a government rebate program that helps lower the cost of home energy storage . The program offers rebates for installing energy storage technology(like home battery energy storage). However, its design presents challenges for even the best solar power companies to ensure customers will receive any rebates before funding for these incentives has been depleted.
If a solar electric company guarantees SGIP rebates with the purchase of an energy storage solution, be cautious. Ask them how they guarantee that you will receive the funds from these rebates.
The breaker inside the Main Service Panel for the Solar System (different from a separate AC Disconnect).
Solar Energy System Disclosure Document
A one-page form created by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), to be filled out by your solar contractor. Its purpose is to disclose all the costs of your home solar system. Baker’s policy is to provide this to our customers as the first page of any solar contract.
See: Solar Lender
Solar Guide or Solar Consumer Guide
A term often used to refer to the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide. This is a document that provides potential home solar buyers with valuable information. As of September 30, 2019, all buyers are required to read and sign this guide. See California Solar Consumer Protection Guide for more detail.
This is the group that performs the actual solar installation. Sometimes this is a department of the Solar Provider’s company.
Solar leases allow homeowners to rent/lease solar power systems from solar providers. In this agreement, the solar provider funds, owns and maintains the solar energy system.The homeowner pays the solar provider monthly for the electricity the solar energy system produces (this monthly payment usually increases a set percentage each year). These agreements are usually 20+ years in length. Rules apply for selling or leasing the house during this agreement period. Learn about lease vs. a PPA here.
Solar Lender orSolar Loan Company
A financing company that specializes in loans and financing options for home solar systems. Other financing options which might provide a better loan with a lower interest rate include banks or credit unions. It’s good to investigate all the options and rank the various lending options and loan offers before making your final decision. Solar companies will have solar lenders they partner with but you can also pick your own.
Solar Water Heater
These are not photovoltaic solar systems; they are more simplistic solar systems that heat your home’s water directly or indirectly. They don’t produce electricity and can be built without electrical expertise. These solar systems do not produce renewable electricity, but they do help you go green by requiring less electricity since they heat your home’s water via the sun. And with southern California’s great weather, freezes aren’t common, making solar water heater systems a great choice for this area.
A string is a set of one or more solar arrays in a solar power system. Most home solar systems will have a string of arrays built onto your home’s roof.
Three Day Cancellation Period or Right to Rescind
You have at least three business days to cancel a solar contract if you change your mind. At Baker we won’t require a customer to move forward if they’ve changed their mind, so we’ll work with you beyond the three day requirement if needed. If you find yourself with a solar provider who will not honor this 3 Day Cancellation Period requirement, you can contact the Contractors State Licensing Board at 800-321-CSLB.
Tiered Rate Billing
In this electricity billing plan, your electricity cost increases when you reach levels, or tiers, of use for each billing period. The initial rate is relatively low, but most homeowners will use more electricity than this tier allows before electric rates increase within that billing period. From there, overuse will kick the cost of energy into a higher rate. Rates are independent of when during the day or week that electricity is consumed by the house. In San Diego with SDG&E, Tiered Rate Billing is currently not an option for solar . In the past, customers were allowed to stay on this rate plan even with the adoption of solar power systems for a set period of time.
TOU Billing or Time-Of-Use Billing
This is the current billing plan for San Diego County homes with solar power systems. This plan varies the cost of electricity with different electric rates for different periods of the day. The purpose of this billing plan is to incentivize San Diego homeowners to use less electricity during on-peak hours (generally from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, though it varies). On-peak hours coincide with the time of day people are generally home and simultaneously needing energy for things like cooking dinner, running the dishwasher, washing clothes etc. The goal of a higher electricity rate is to encourage people to schedule these activities at different hours and lessen energy demand during this time.
There are many plans within TOU billing at SDG&E, and the best solar power companies in San Diego can help you find the plan that’s right for you to lower your energy bills.
At Baker we use a proprietary app to find the billing rate plan that will provide you with the lowest energy bills for your solar energy system and projected usage. For more information, see this page.
True Up or True-Up Bill or Settlement Bill
This is the annual bill from your electricity Utility that balances your home energy use with your home energy production to determine what your overall bill will be. At this point, solar credits are not carried forward any longer, so excess credits are converted to the electricity wholesale rate(which is a much cheaper price for electricity). Unfortunately, in this case that cheap electricity rate works against you since you’re selling it back to the Utility at that wholesale rate.This is why you want to be sure your solar company has expertise is sizing your system to your estimated energy usage (a system that is too large means a lot of excess energy to sell back at wholesale). Solar power system size is part science and part art as there are many factors to consider for both energy use today and in the future.
This is the power company (San Diego Gas & Electric in most cases for residential San Diego homes) that provides electricity to your house. In many areas there is only a single choice for an electricity provider but with community power providers, there may be more options.
Utility Wholesale Rate
For solar energy producing homeowners, this is significant because it is the rate at which you sell your excess energy back if you’ve carried it until your True-Up or Settlement Bill.
Excess electricity sold back to utility companies prior to this True-Up or Settlement bill is sold through net metering at a rate nearly equal to the value of that electricity when it was produced. In short, you get the ‘market value’ of any electricity your solar produces (less some fees) during a ‘regular’ month. However, once your energy consumption vs. your energy use is tabulated over a 12-month period, the excess solar energy your system produced is bought by the Utility at this much lower utility wholesale rate.
Whole House Fan
This is a house venting system designed to circulate air. It is a strong fan, not an air conditioning system. It can be useful to push hot air out of a home prior to turning on the home air conditioning system. This is not a solar product, but some solar companies also have HVAC expertise and can incorporate this installation as a part of your energy efficiency plans.
This is any warranty offered by the solar provider/solar installer that covers their work separate from the hardware warranties of the component manufacturers. Baker provides a 10-year Workmanship Warranty backed by excellent customer service.