Browse F.A.Q. Topics
Will I be able to cover my entire electrical bill with solar?This depends upon your electrical usage, available roofspace and your budget, but we typically attempt to offset as close to 100% of your electrical bill as possible.
Can you install solar panels on my mobile home?Due to weight limitations of the roof on a standard mobile home, roof installations are not generally possible. A ground mount system may be possible if there is a sufficient site adjacent to the mobile home and the property and mobile home are owned by the person installing the system. Systems can be installed on manufactured homes if they were designed for a 30 lb/sqft snow load. Please refer to your manufactured home specifications, listed on the metal placard on the side of the home, to verify the snow load specifications prior to contacting a solar representative for a site visit.
How do I find out if my house is good for solar?Think about the roof space you are considering for a solar installation. Is this roof space open to the sun from 9 am to 4 pm, with minimal shade from trees or surrounding objects? If so, the next step to finding out whether your house will be a great solar production location is to have a solar contractor come out and complete a solar site assessment. During a site assessment, a Western Solar representative will take a solar pathfinder reading at the exact proposed location for your solar array. Additional data is also taken, including roof and structural measurements and annual usage from your electric bills. Back at the office, the data can be compiled and combined with decades of local weather data to create a personalized, highly accurate solar site analysis. To get started, send us a note to request your free site assessment.
How much is a site visit and assessment?Western Solar offers a complimentary, no-cost site assessment, to help you determine if solar is right for your site and your budget. To get started, send us a note to request your free site assessment.
How Solar Works
Does solar still work when the power goes out?Most residential grid-tied solar systems are not designed to remain functional when the grid goes down. The National Electric Code requires that the system shut down automatically when there is a power outage. This is required both for the safety of the homeowner and the power company employees, who could be injured if the system continued to feed power into the utility grid while they are working on the lines and attempting to bring the power back online. If you live in an area with frequent power outages, or you are concerned about long-term power outages due to natural disasters, Western Solar can install a system with battery back-up.
Does solar work in Washington?Absolutely! Western Washington receives 70% as much solar per year as Southern California and 20% more than Germany, the world leader in solar installations. While Seattle is known for its overcast skies and grey days in the winter, our long, sunny summer days make for great solar energy production. Check out the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's solar resource map, which compares Seattle's available solar resource with other major US cities and Germany.
How do I get started in the solar industry?Solar is a fast-growing, exciting industry and opportunities to get involved are also growing. If you have an electrical license you can quickly move into any solar company as a project manager or lead installer. If you're interested in becoming a field installer and do not have a previous electrical license, we recommend either pursuing your electrical license through a local trade school or attending a class at Solar Energy International. If your interest is in solar sales or design, most companies are looking for previous solar experience with a college degree in various related fields.
Do you install locally-sourced equipment?Western Solar prides itself on using Washington made solar equipment whenever possible. During a typical year 95% of the solar panels that we install are locally made Itek Energy panels, combined with their locally made inverter system. This keeps 80-90% of the money spent on your solar system in the Washington economy.
How many panels are included in a typical system?All of our solar electric systems are custom-designed for the specific installation site; however, an average installed system size is around 20 panels which, with itek Energy’s 280-watt panels, makes for a 5.6 kW system.
How much maintenance is required?One of the nice things about modern solar systems is that they actually require very little maintenance and attention. Once your system is installed, you have two basic responsibilities. The first is to review either the system's onsite LED display or the its web-based monitoring system to make sure there are no error codes or issues being communicated. If problems occur, your next step is to contact Western Solar - most issues are handled free of charge under our 10 year warranty. The second is to keep the panels clean. We recommend spraying the panels off once a year in the springtime to eliminate and dirt or debris that may have piled up over the winter. Depending upon your site, this may be required more than once a year. For instance, if your home is surrounded by trees that produce high amounts of pollen, you may need to clean your panels more often. The process is very quick and requires no special cleaning solutions beyond a bucket of warm water with some dish soap and vinegar.
Does the meter really spin backwards?Yes! Well, technically since most meters are digital, they don't really 'spin' anymore, but if they did, you would get to see them spinning backwards. When you are producing more solar energy than your home or business is consuming at that moment, for instance during those long summer days, the excess power generated is fed back out onto the power grid. This causes your utility net meter to count, or 'spin,' in reverse.
Do you sell solar panels for boats and RVs?Western Solar does not stock small specialty systems due to their widespread availability online and directly at boat and RV stores.
How long do the solar panels last?Western Solar primarily installs itek Energy solar panels. These panels come with a 25-year warranty, which guarantees that at Year 25, the panels should be producing at least 80% of their Day 1 capacity. As of the end of 2014, itek had produced 17,000 modules. Only 19 have ever been returned for warranty repairs, and all were repairable. For more information about itek Energy’s solar panels, check out their Certified Built-in-Washington products.
How expensive is it to go solar?The cost of your system will depend on your energy usage and the size of the system necessary to cover your costs. Most of the residential systems we install fall between $12,000 and $40,000. This price is the up front cost, before any incentives. There are low interest, no money down solar financing options available to assist in lowering or eliminating this up front cost.
What additional costs are not covered by the contract?The cost of a Solar Production Meter will be billed to the customer by their serving utility on the first bill after the solar production meter has been installed by the utility, at a cost of $120 (Seattle City Light) to $83.00 (PSE) for standard grid-tied or $425 (PSE) for grid-tied/battery back-up systems. The cost for Snohomish PUD customers is included in their Western Solar contract.
What is the payback for a typical system?Both Washington State and many local utilities offer numerous incentives, including tax breaks, net metering, and production credits, to help residents and businesses take advantage of renewable energy resources. With these incentives, most customers see a 4-6 year break even point for typical residential and commercial systems with a good solar resource. Read the full details of available solar incentives.