Important questions to ask a solar contractor:
Top Question No 1: Is the installer a licensed electrical contractor and exclusively focused on solar PV?
LightWave Solar holds an unlimited electrical contractors license in the states of TN, MS, AR and AL. We are 100% focused on turn-key solar PV design and installation with over 30 full‐time employees.
Top Question No. 2: What is included in the contract amount?
LightWave Solar provides turn‐key design and installation. This includes:
- Site evaluation to verify system design requirements
- Electrical drawings and site plans by in‐house engineers
- Completion of interconnection application and all other paperwork required by local utility
- Equipment procurement (panels, inverters, disconnects, meter, conduit, wire, etc. – everything needed for fully functional system)
- Installation and inspections
- Grid‐interconnection/commissioning with local utility
- One‐year workmanship warranty
The questions we get asked the most about solar:
How does a solar electric system work?
Sunlight excites electrons in solar panels, and electricity flows to the inverter where it is converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). Most systems are connected to the grid through the local utility.
What size system do I need?
How much does solar cost?
The cost depends on the amount of suitable space for the panels, the system size, and the amount of money you want to invest in solar. A typical residential system costs $20,000-$30,000. This includes everything required to provide a fully installed, grid-tied system. Additional costs would be required for ground-mount systems, long distance ground work, concrete work, extended travel, AC modules or battery backup systems.
What are the financing options?
Commercial solar projects
Our customers have obtained commercial solar loans through BB&T, First Farmers & Merchants, Pinnacle Financial Partners, Pathway Lending and more. In fact, BB&T partnered with LightWave Solar to provide customized financing options for commercial solar installations, including an attractive equipment loan with interest rates as low as 6% for qualified customers. Contact LightWave Solar to discuss your project and goals.
Residential solar projects
If you want to obtain a solar loan, we recommend you contact your mortgage lender to ask about a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). A HELOC can provide an affordable way to finance your solar project.
What are the available incentives?
- The 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is available for solar systems placed in service by 12/31/19. The credit amount is uncapped and equal to 30% of total system cost.
- For businesses: Accelerated Depreciation, known as Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS), is a method of depreciation in which a business’s investments in solar property can be recovered through tax deductions. Under the 2018 tax plan, MACRS benefits can be taken all in the 1st year.
- For eligible rural businesses, USDA offers a 25% grant for solar systems. LightWave Solar has grant writers on staff, and our grant approval track record is 97%.
What steps should I take to decide if solar is right for me?
- Gather your last 12 electric bills to determine your annual use (or we can request your bills from your electric company).
Think about how much how much money you want to invest in solar.
- Consider what site might be the best location. Solar performs best on south-facing roofs. East/west roofs with low pitch are also suitable. There should be little or no shading from trees, chimneys, and dormers. If the roof is not suitable, we can install panels on another structure or on the ground. We have shade analyzing tools that help determine the best location for solar panels.
- Contact us to request a free preliminary estimate and see a sketch of the project on your property.
What happens during power outages?
A grid-tied solar system must shut down until utility power returns so that it doesn’t back-feed the grid. When grid power goes out, the inverter will automatically shut off. When the grid power is re-established, the inverter will automatically turn back on after it has synchronized with the utility grid.
Will my system work on cloudy days?
Usually, yes, but it will be less productive. Production is proportionate to the thickness of cloud cover.
How will I know if my system is producing what it should?
The inverter’s faceplate shows production data. You can compare your actual production to our estimates to ensure your system is on track. Production monitoring that can be accessed on-line is available at an additional cost.
How long does it take to install the system?
For a typical residential system, it takes about three days to install the PV panels and equipment. Then, the system must pass a final State electrical inspection which normally takes one business day to schedule and pass. It can take another 7-10 business days for the utility to install the separate solar meter. The local utility and LightWave Solar will turn on the system once the utility company has installed the solar meter.
What are the panel and inverter warranties?
The solar panels we install have a product warranty for 10 years and a limited power performance warranty for 25 years. The limited power performance warranty means that by the end of year 25, the panels’ actual power output will be no less than 80% of the labeled power output. Most of the inverters we install are warrantied for 10 years. Some brands offer an extended warranty.
Can the solar panels withstand high winds and hail?
The panels are supported by high quality stainless steel and aluminum racking systems designed and mounted based on American Society of Civil Engineer (ASCE) wind load provisions. All solar panels are tested to UL-1703 standards and are capable of withstanding one inch (2.5cm) hailstones at 50MPH. They are covered with tempered glass, akin to a car windshield. Additionally, the panels can be covered by homeowners insurance.
What do I need to know about solar system installation?
We mount solar panels on your roof and run wires through conduit to a solar meter. From there, we also run wires through conduit to your breaker panel. In the same vicinity as your utility meter, we mount an inverter, AC disconnect, and the solar meter. This equipment can be mounted either inside or outside and takes up about 15 square feet (3′ x 5′ area).
What if I need a new roof or I am building a new house?
You want your roof to be in the best condition possible because the average working life span of a solar system is around 30 to 40 years. Thus, we don’t recommend installation on composition shingle roofs over 10-years-old. If you are building a new house, click here for guidance on building a solar-ready home.
Can a solar system increase the value of my home?
Do I need approval from my homeowners association?
Which is for me - grid-tied, battery backup, or off-grid?
Let’s review three types of solar systems: grid-tied, battery backup and off-grid. Which is for you?
This is by far the most common, requires the least maintenance, and is the least expensive. It also receives the TVA Green Power Providers solar buyback rate for 100% of the solar generation. However, grid-tied systems are required to disconnect from the grid in the event of a power outage. This means you won’t have power either.
Batteries provide backup power in grid outages. Solar plus battery systems are more expensive than grid tied solar systems because of the batteries, other equipment and additional wiring. Backup systems are of 2 basic types: AC Coupled and DC Coupled. This refers to the coupling between the solar PV and the batteries, whether they connect to the system on the AC side or the DC side. Based on your power needs, site considerations and budget, we will help determine the best option, whether DC or AC coupled.
To see a project spotlight on one of our customers with solar + battery system, click here!
Off-grid homes have no connection to the grid at all. This requires a lifestyle that most people in the U.S. aren’t used to, living without unlimited power on tap 24/7. Still, thousands of people live this way because they make the right choices for it to be a viable lifestyle. The biggest factor might be deciding if you want to understand and manage electrical energy every day, which is vital to a successful off-grid solar system.
The solar power is stored in batteries and inverted with a special inverter that can also charge the batteries. Because more power is needed around the winter solstice, in December of each year, and this is also the period with the shortest days, most people use a generator during this period to assist the solar generation. Because the days are shorter, more light is needed. Because of wet and cold weather, people are inside more and using kitchen appliances, lighting, fans moving heat around, etc.
Myth: Off grid is cheaper than the electric company.
Sometimes people want to go off grid because its cheaper than the electric company. That is usually not the case. If you want cheap, stay with the electric company. There are situations where the electric company wants say $50,000 to bring power lines to your remote location, and this can be a factor. If you have other reasons to get off the grid, plow ahead. Remember, you will be the plant operator and have full responsibility for your system, how much power you use and how you maintain it.
Off grid is easier with vacation homes, get away retreats, hunting cabins, etc. because they are not occupied 24/7 so you can save up power during the week for use on the weekend. The battery pack can be over sized relative to the PV to store electricity during the week for the weekends.
Most of our installations are grid-tied. Next is battery backup, and last is the occasional off-grid system. Having trouble deciding? Our job is to help you pick the right type system for you. Contact us so we can help you get a system up and generating and join the rapidly growing group of fuel free solar power generators.