We get many questions time and again so we've compiled this Frequently Asked Questions in a conversational format to help you get the information you need as easily as possible. Read it all or just skip to the questions that interest you most.
We also change our pholosophy and products as the technology evolves.
Q: How can your kits use 320w panels with Enphase M250's?
A: At first it may seem counterintiative to use 72 cell solar panels that output 320w DC panels in combination with Enphase M250 micro-inverters that can only output 250w AC power. It confused us as well so we had a long conversation with Enphase technical support and it was enlightening. 320w solar panels are well within the recommended range for the new Enphase M250 72 cell micro-inverters.
To explain briefly: Enphase micro-inverters have a conversion efficency of 82%, the highest in the industry. This means that the 320w DC power becomes 262w AC power (320w *.82 = 262.4w). Now, Enphase micro-inverters are able to output 5% more power than rated so 250 * 1.05 = 262.5w. In addition, Enphase says that when more DC power is available than the inverter can handle it safely "clips" the power so keeps it within the limit of the micro-inverter to handle. This is lost power but only during "perfect" conditions so is fairly rare and will reduce the overall power output less than 1%.
Over time panels lose some capacity due to age and dirt accumulating on the glass of the panels so any overproduction is temporary. During the 25 yr warranty of the incro-inverters the input power will settle into the supported power range and provide the most power in the smallest space so is an excellent long term solution.
If you have any doubts, we encourage you to call Enphase tech support at 877-797-4743 because they explain it very simply.
Q: Why is solar power so expensive?
A: Actually we don't think it is. It's never been cheaper and it's actually so profitable when you do it yourself that once you look into it you'll see you can't do without it. Basically you're paying once for all the electricity you'll need for the rest of your life and this gets to the payback point anywhere from the 3rd to 7th year depending on your electric utility rates and how much sun you get where you live.
Investing your money in a CD will yield less than 1% ROI. Investing in solar panels on your house will return from 10-34% ROI.
Q: Why are our kits so reasonably priced?
A: About half the cost of a solar system is the installation cost. Frankly, the companies that install solar are severely overcharging for what can really be a pretty simple installation. They can do this because 1. Homeowners don't understand it and think it's very difficult to do and 2. Because homeowners don't want to go on their roof to install panels or work with electricity or are worried they will damage expensive equipment if they try it themselves. 3. It can be very expensive for a solar contractor to get a customer so that has to be figured in as well. Our system simplifies the installation to the point a handy homeowner can do it themselves or hire a roofer, contractor or electrician to do it at a tenth the labor cost. Because we don't pay for solar "leads" and just rely on our own web site to generate sales you benefit from that cost savings as well.
Q: But your kits aren't the cheapest available
A: You can buy solar "kits" from other companies for less, the problem is you get what you pay for. Our kits are fully engineered to meet all US permitting requirements. Our kits are complete, even including the shipping. Our kits use only tier-1 components that carry a 25yr warranty, not the cheapest components available. All our components are on the California approved list which is the toughest in the nation. Finally, we have engineers that can answer your installation questions and help guide you.
Q: What do you include in your kits?
A: These are complete kits so every solar component is included. This means the panels, micro-inverters, racking system, wiring system, Junction box, AC Combiner(Larger System) and shutoff switch. What is not included is a shorter list: 12-3 wiring from JBOX to AC Combiner to Shutoff to your home electrical panel. The items not included are available at home depot for a modest price and are not included because we do not know the distances you will need or electrical code requirement of your local municipality.
Q: I live outside the US, can you provide a system for me?
A: No. Our systems are designed to work with the US electrical system and is not compatible with systems using different HZ and voltages you find in other countries. Also, we do not currently export systems so please don't ask us to.
Q: How does the 30% Tax Credit work?
A: This is a tax credit offered by the federal government for solar systems installed in the US. 30% of the amount you spend on your solar system is credited on your annual income taxes as if you paid that amount to the government. This is claimed when you file your annual income taxes using Form 5695. In our prices we often show the tax credit and how much it reduces your final cost, this does not mean we take this off the price. You pay for the the system then claim in later on your income tax. If you do not owe this much on your taxes then you can carry the tax credit forward up to 5 years. If you have more complex questions then please speak to your tax accountant. This tax credit was recently extended till the end of 2019.
Q: Shouldn't I wait until solar panels are more efficient?
A: Solar panels have been slowly improving in efficency for the last 40 years. Currently available commercial panels are 16-20% efficient and there's not a lot improvement expected in the next 10 years. Our panels fall in this range. What you should keep in mind is that a 16% efficient 300w panel produces as much electricity as a 18% efficient 300w panel. The only differences are that the 18% panel will take up a little less space and will also cost more more per watt of power produced. So unless you have very limited space our standard efficency panels make the best economic sense today and in the future.
Q: What is Solar PV Power?
A: PV stands for Photo-Voltaic and it uses silicon "cells" to directly convert the sunlight (photons) falling on it into DC electricity. It's physics and it has no moving parts so solar panels pretty much last forever, that's why satellites use them.
Q: DC Electricity, What's That?
A: DC stands for Direct Current which is like the power you get from batteries. Houses and appliances run on AC (Alternating Current) which is very different from DC. To use the DC solar power you need to convert it into AC using an Inverter.
Q: What is an Inverter?
A: An inverter takes in DC power and converts it to alternating current, AC power. Also, the voltage is changed to be compatible with household appliances. We'll talk more about types of inverters later.
Q: So I don't need my utility if I go solar
A: Wrong, there are two types of PV Solar systems, Grid-tied and off-grid. We only sell grid-tied systems so you still need to be connected to the electric utility to use our systems.
Q: I hate my utility, why don't you sell off-grid systems, it seems like a great idea.
A: Because of the cost. Off-grid systems can cost 3-5 times as much as a grid tied system because of the cost of batteries and other controlling electronics needed. Also, batteries don't last that long(10yrs max) so they need regular replacement. We used to try to sell off-grid systems but nobody bought them because of the cost. Now we only sell grid-tied systems because they make the most sense economically. A grid-tied system pays for itself in 3-7 years of its warrantied 25yr lifespan. Off-grid systems never have a payback like that.
Q: If I install solar power and I'm still connected to the utility grid, how does that work?
A: It works completely automatically. The power inverter(s) sense the grid power and adjust their output to match it. The solar power generated goes to supply your electric needs and this slows down the utility electric meter since you are not drawing as much utility power.
Q: What happens if I generate more solar power than I am using?
A: Your electric meter will actually spin backwards when you are generating more power than you use. This is accomplished using a Smart Digital Electric Meter that your utility will provide free of charge when you tell them you are installing solar power.
Q: My meter spins backwards?
A: Yes, this is called "Net Metering" and all utilities are required to provide it as part of the "Energy Policy Act of 2005".
Q: Net Metering?
A: Net Metering means every kilowatt hour of power you generate is credited by the utility company meter running backwards. You later use that "credited power" when the sun isn't providing enough power. Every day your meter will go backward and forward and the bill at the end of the month is based on the "Net" powered used during the month. This is why it is called "Net Metering". Update: Recently Nevada has changed their solar policy in attempt to discourage solar power in Nevada. They have succeeded and all solar companies in the state have closed or left, about 3000 jobs lost. What they are doing is charging a large fee to be connected to the utility if you have solar. In addition, they are paying a smaller amount for each KWH of overgeneration then charging the full retail rate for later use of that power.
Q: Will more states be following Nevada's example?
A: We don't know. Conservative governments get a lot of campaign contributions from Oil and Coal interests so perhaps. On the other hand this decision has had disasterious consequences for the state in lost jobs and the state being boycotted by many environmental and liberal companies. So there is hope that this is not a trend but a final gasp of fossil fuel companies.
Q: Back to the technology; This all sounds pretty technical
A: The theory and electronics are technical but actually putting in your own solar power is very simple with our plug & play solar kits. Our goal is to allow you to put in your own solar power without needing to become an expert in it.
Q: How does the solar system connect to my house?
A: It is wired into your home electrical panel just like any other circuit. Actually it uses a double wide circuit breaker like a large Air Conditioner or other large electric appliances do. This is because the solar system generates a LOT of power and it needs the larger breaker to provide power to your whole electrical panel and therefore your whole house.
Q: So if the utility power goes out, I'll still have power if the sun is shining?
A: We do get this question a lot, unfortunately the answer is No for our grid-tied kits. Grid tied inverters are meant to generate power compatible with the electric grid. If the grid power fails then the inverter(s) shut down as a safety measure. This is because electrical workers could be injured if there was still power flowing from your solar system but they think the power has been shut off. In addition, grid-tied inverters are not designed to be independent of the grid. Making them capable of being independent means going to off-grid systems and all the expense and complexity involved.
Q: Complexity, how hard is it to install your solar kits?
A: We've engineered our kits to be the simplest solar you can install. We accomplish this by using micro-inverters on each solar panel. This means that each solar panel is independent of the others and each produces a small amount of power. Putting multiple panels/inverters in a "string" or "system" together means an almost unlimited amount of power can be produced simply and safely.
Q: I'm not an electrician, how can I install this?
A: Our systems are made up of discrete parts that literally plug together. Each panel plugs into it's own micro-inverter behind the panel and it's impossible to plug them in the wrong way. The plugs are different for the plus and minus sides of the panel. Each micro-inverter plugs into connectors along a parallel "trunk" cable and again, the plugs are designed in a way that makes it impossible to plug in the wrong way. Finally, the trunk cable ends in a Junction Box (JBOX) we provide and at this point you simply match up the wire colors and twist them together using provided wire nuts. The colors are black, red, white and green. You can handle these wires with your bare hands because the micro-inverters will not generate power until you make the final connection in your home electrical panel and turn on the circuit breaker.
Q: Sounds simple, what's the catch?
A: In the end you need to put a new double wide breaker into your home electrical panel and connect the red, black, white and green wires. We provide instructions and videos showing how to do this but if you are at all uncomfortable doing this then this is when you hire an electrician to make the final connection. This is the simplest work for an electrician since it involves familar AC power and not obscure DC power. So he should not charge too much and since you're saving 50% of the cost of using a normal solar company this is a small expense in comparison.
Q: Can I install solar panels on the type of roof I have?
A: Yes, we support most types of roofs found on houses and businesses
Shingle - Yes
Metal - Yes
Corregated - Some
Tiles - Yes but this can be complex to install so a roofing contractor is recommended
Flat - Yes, this is a ballasted system so there are no holes in the roof and it's really simple
Q: What about installing the panels on the roof?
A: To be honest, installing solar panels on your roof isn't completely simple because you can fall off the roof. It involves going on your roof, locating the rafters that hold up your roof then drilling holes through the roof and attaching the solar mounting feet to the rafters with the leakproof flashing. Then the rails that hold the panels are connected to the feet and the micro-inverters / panels are mounted on the rails. This involves precision measurements as well as hauling large 39"x77" 50lb panels onto the roof and you'll need a helper to position them and hold them as you clamp them down. Also, you could fall off your roof if you are not careful, use a safety harness (which we highly recommend). We have instructions and videos on the web site showing each step of this process.
Q: Is there something safer?
A: We also offer ground mounted solar systems and you can't fall off the ground so that's a safer installation. Unfortunately most houses have the best available sunlight on the roof and many don't have the space or want to see the solar panels on the ground when they look out their window.
Remember, you can hire a contractor, usually a roofer or electrician, to install the panels on the roof since they know roofs and they are comfortable at height. Our systems are so simple to install that any roofer is capable of installing it and plugging the parts together.
Q: Why do you sell micro-inverter systems instead of a single large central inverter system?
A: Micro-inverters have a number of advantages over central inverters making them more cost effective than central inverters and ideal for DIY projects.
Micro-inverters have a 25 yr warranty but central inverters only have a 10 yr warranty. Solar panels have a 25 yr warranty so having inverters that match that mean not having to rebuild your system several times during it's lifespan.
Micro-inverters are 15% more efficient than central inverters on average. This means you get more power from the same number of panels and this shortens the payback period.
Micro-inverters are plug and play and therefore simple enough for a homeowner to install and this saves about half the cost of a solar system. Central inverter systems are complex to wire and involve high voltage DC power which is too dangerous for most homeowners to work with.
Q: How is this shipped and how long does it take to get to my house?
A: All components are always in stock so we ship immediately and you can expect it in 2-3 weeks. It is delivered by a truck with a liftgate and pallet jack and the driver will place it where you want it (within reason). You MUST open and examine the shipment to insure the panels and other components were not damaged in shipment BEFORE signing for the shipment. Smaller components may come in a separate UPS or USPS shipment.
Q: I have a 2000 sq foot house, how big a system do I need?
A: The size of your house has little effect on the amount of power you use and therefore the size of system you need. Also, the same system will generate a lot more power in Phoenix, AZ than it will in Portland, OR because of the amount of sunlight you get in those different locations. Collect your last couple electric bills and use our Solar Calculator to determine what size system you need in your location.
Q: What instructions do we provide to guide my solar installation?
A: We have complete installation videos on our home page as well as installation manuals with plenty of pictures. There are available on our web site and you can review them all before buying from us. Check the front page of our web site for the videos and the "DIY" section for the installation manuals.
Q: What about applying for a permit with my town to do this?
A: We recommend you talk to your permitting officer before purchasing a kit. Every municipality seems to want something different for your permit. We provide a wide range of resources, schematics and technical information so you can prepare your permit in the way you need it. This is located under the Permit Materials section under the "DIY" tab on the web site. We can also provide a service to generate your permits for an additional fee.
Q: What will my utility require?
A: Usually just a call to let them know you are going solar, and perhaps a form to fill out. This alerts them that they need to insure you have a "smart meter" (no charge) and to set up their internal computer systems to expect negative power usage at times. If they require any technical information about the system you plan to install, this is found in the "Permit Materials" section of the "DIY" tab on our web site.
Q: What about the new solar fire code requirements?
A: The new NEC 690.12 fire code requires that all solar systems have a rapid shutdown to protect firefighters where solar systems are installed on a roof. Our systems meet or exceed all fire regulations because they produce no AC power when the disconnect is thrown and also provide no live DC voltage like central inverter systems do. Rest assured our systems meet the highest fire safety requirements.
Q: So anyone can install this system?
A: Theoretically yes but frankly DIY isn't for everyone. We've had a 70yr old grandmother install a system successfully but not everyone is comfortable doing it themselves. There is paperwork, permits, planning, self-installation or even hiring and managing contractors to do the work.
Q: What do you recommend if I'm not sure I can do it myself?
A: If you are unsure, then start by watching our videos. Then read the install manuals under the DIY section of the web site. Call us to ask questions AFTER you have read this FAQ. If still unsure you can start with a small system first. All our kits are expandable so you can start with as little as 1kw (4 panels) and grow from there.
Q: I've heard there are government backed financial incentives for going solar
A: Yes. The US government provides an unlimited 30% tax credit that applies to both the equipment you purchase from us and any money you pay to contractors to install it. You can claim it multiple times until it expires on 12/31/2019. At one time there were a number of state and utility incentives but those are mostly gone because they worked successfully and caused enough demand to cause solar to come down in price. This is a rare example of government tax policy working to kick start an industry.
Q: Where are our components made?
A: Primarily China. Our racking is the strongest in the industry and is made in China. Enphase, the leading micro-inverter manufacturer, is California based but manufactured in China. Our default panels are made in China as well but we also offer SolarWorld American made panels at additional expense. We would like to offer all American made products but currently they are either non-existent or prohibitively expensive.
Q: Warranties and quality
A: We use only industry leading tier-1 components in our kits. This costs a little more but our philosophy is that a 25 yr investment is worth the extra expense and our savings is in allowing you to do it yourself. Our panels and micro-inverters have full 25yr warranties backed by industry leading manufacturers so you know they will be around in the future if you need to use the warranty. The racking carries a 10yr warranty but it's aluminum and hi-grade stainless steel so if it lasts 10yrs it will last 50. In fact you can expect the panels and inverters to significantly outlast the 25yr warranty.
Q: Finally, why should I buy from Anapode?
A: There are a number of reasons explained here:
We are committed to solar for environmental reasons but we understand that this is a financial decision for a lot of our customers
We have extensive engineer experience in solar and have developed these plug & play kits to be as simple and safe to install as possible
We choose only Tier-1 components with long warranties backed by large companies in this for the long term
We don't hide anything. You can watch our videos & read our manuals without buying from us. We find that most people appreciate this transparancy.
Our systems are truly complete, including shipping. Other kits may look cheaper but they are usually leaving important things out or selling clearance components for companies that have gone out of business.
Our systems use components on California's approved list which is the most stringent in the nation.
Our kits are expandable
Our kits are customizable
Positive reviews; read our reviews and you'll find satisfied customers
Engineers answer our phones and assist you in the installation process