Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What should I expect after my solar is installed?

A: Your solar system produces energy that is used to directly power the electrical loads in your home at the time of production. If you have a storage system, any excess energy is used to charge your batteries. Once the batteries are full, or if you don’t have a storage system, excess energy is sent to the grid and you get a credit from the utility for every kWh. The value of that credit is based on your NEM agreement with the utility.

Q: What is net energy metering (NEM)?

A: As you produce electricity over and above your self consumption, your meter will spin backwards and you’ll get a credit for every kWh you send back to the grid. The utility then sells that electricity to others nearby and your credits are used to offset the electricity you pull from the grid. California is now on a Net Billing Tariff, otherwise known as NEM3. NEM1 began in 1996 and ended on Dec 15, 2016. NEM2 began Dec 16, 2016 and ended April 15, 2023. You are grandfathered in to your NEM agreement for 20 years. Once it expires, you will be moved to NEM3/NBT.

Q: What is the process for switching to solar?

1. We’ll examine your monthly energy usage and determine the a system size. The best financial return on investment is to cover 70-80% of your usage.
2. A custom quote will be delivered to you via email within a day or two in most cases and then we’ll chat about the details and options on the phone.
3. From here, we will set up a site survey to measure your roof and make sure the solar energy system will work with your current electrical system.
4. We then send you a contract to sign .
5. Once the contract is signed, we draw up the plan, pull a permit from the city/county, and submit your pre-NEM application.
6. As your installation schedule approaches, we’ll reach out to you and confirm the dates that we’ll be onsite at your home.
7. We call the city/county and schedule the inspection.
8. Once we pass inspection, we will submit the signed permit to PG&E and complete the interconnection application and await approval.
9. Connection is approved by PG&E in about 1-3 weeks and they submit a Permission to Operate letter – you’re ready to press GO!

Q: How do I know what size solar energy system I need?

A: Under NBT/NEM3, it is recommended to cover between 70-80% of your electrical usage but you can choose to cover whatever amount is comfortable for you. In most cases you will still have an electricity bill that is either paid monthly or at the end of your yearly cycle that starts on your date of interconnection with the utility.

Q: Do you offer storage solutions?

A: Under NBT/NEM3, storage systems are more cost effective as it allows you to store and use excess energy from your solar system. Storage systems typically charge during the day and discharge in the evening so you pull less electricity from the grid when rates are high. Storage systems are also designed to provide limited backup power when the power grid is down. When installed, the batteries are usually tied to critical loads such as your refrigerator, internet router and some lights and receptacles. It’s not recommended to connect larger loads like your air conditioner, heat pump or range.

Q: What financing options do you offer?

A: Earth Electric does not offer direct financing options as we have not found an option that is both convenient and cost effective. Instead we reached out to a local credit union that offers a HELOC loan with great options. It’s a bit more work but we think it’s a better deal for you long term. For more information, click here to see the Commonweath Credit Union special HELOC option. Other credit unions offer loan programs as well including StarOne and TechCU.

Q: Do solar panels work on foggy or cloudy days?

A: Solar panels are very efficient in cooler temperatures and fog can actually enhance morning light to produce more energy! A solar panel finds its happy place at around 77 degrees with direct sunlight and clear air but will generally convert any sunshine that it can get it’s face on.

Q: How does solar energy work?

A: Solar panels consist of photovoltaic (PV) cells, which convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. The inverter is what then converts the DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity that powers your home.

Q: What are the current government rebates or credits?

A: Unfortunately the California Solar Incentive ran its course several years ago and is no longer available. However, the Federal Tax Credit (ITC) is still very much available and was recently updated with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The ITC provides a 30% credit for your federal taxes which is expected to remain in place until 2032. This is a credit, not a rebate, so always check with your tax professional to confirm you’ll be able to take advantage of it. If you’re buying storage as well, the SGIP rebate can still help offset some of the cost. Be aware that the process is long and tedious and rebate calculations could change between the time you purchase your system and apply for the credit. Definitely take advantage of it but it’s best to count on it only when you have the rebate check in your hand.

Q: Will my solar energy system have a warranty?

A: California State law says contractors must offer a 10 year warranty. We offer a 25 year warranty that includes 5 years of labor and a 10 year roof warranty.

Q: What are the differences between micro inverters and string inverters?

A: Microinverter – A small inverter installed under each solar module. Converts the DC power generated by the solar panel into AC power at panel level. The most popular and established company in this space is Enphase Energy.
String Inverter – Also called a central inverter. Older technology would force each string of modules to operate as a unit and at the lowest point of production. Newer technology pairs the inverter with a DC optimizer which allows each panel to produce at its highest capability. The most popular and established company in this space is SolarEdge Technologies.
Solar and storage inverter – Tesla introduced the Powerwall 3 in 2024 that combines a solar inverter with battery energy management. The system offers cost savings over both microinverters and typical string inverters. This system is most appropriate for roofs with little to no shading and large roof planes. The system does not offer panel level monitoring.

Q: What solar brands do you work with and/or recommend?

A: We are brand neutral and have no exclusive agreement with any manufacturer, which means you get the best product for your budget. Our top seller is REC and is our most recommended due to price point and efficiency.

Q: Is it better to lease or purchase a solar energy system?

A: With lease and PPA contract options, you can end up trading your monthly electric bill for payments to third-party financing companies. When you purchase or finance your own system, you’ll experience immediate savings and your system will end up being cheaper in the long run. Owning the system increases your property value and allows the system to be covered under homeowner’s insurances.

Contact us today

for a free custom energy analysis, rooftop survey, and estimate.