So You Have Solar, Now What?
Most focus on the process of choosing a solar array. It is also important, however, to know what you should expect after solar is installed.
Monitoring System Production
One of the first things that you will want to become familiar with is how to use your solar monitoring. What you need to do is dependent on the inverter and the monitoring system you have chosen. For those that have an SMA inverter, the Sunny Portal is the monitoring system used.
How Monitoring Works: Sunny Portal One of Many
There are two main functions used in the Sunny Portal. These include daily and monthly production monitoring.
Daily production allows you to see how your system is performing that day. Relying solely on the daily production, however, isn’t realistic of your average production. You have to take into account the weather and if the panels are currently covered by snow or debris.
One of the main concerns with solar monitoring is connecting it to the inverter. Although your solar array doesn’t need an internet connection your monitoring system does. If you change your WiFi provider or the password you will need to set your monitoring system up again.
The best way to determine if your array is still functioning is to look at your inverter. If you have an SMA Sunny Boy the green light on the far left will pulse to indicate that it is still functioning. If the middle light is on, this means that there is some sort of issue with your system or you are expiencing a power outage. The blue light on the right indicates whether your array is connected to the monitoring system.
Difference in Monitoring and Utility Solar Production Numbers
It is frustrating when your power bill is different then what you were expecting. Understanding the difference between the power bill and the monitoring system is vital.
Your monitoring system records all of the power that your system is producing. This is great, but it isn’t tracking how much energy you are using.
Your utility company is also only getting half of the puzzle. They only get information about how much energy you have taken off and put on the grid. They don’t have data on how much your solar array is producing and what percentage of your home power it is covering.
It is for this reason that the numbers on your bill and monitoring device will be different. You can, however, use both of these sets of data to make sure your bill is accurate.
Solar Array Maintenance
One of the best parts about getting a solar array is that there aren’t any moving parts. This means that there is little required to make sure your panels are performing.
Replacing Solar Array Components
Over time all electronics degrade. Solar panels, however, deteriorate at a surprisingly low rate. Most solar panels have 25-year production warranties while inverters typically have 10-year warranties. There are inverters, however, that have extended warranty options that match solar panels.
Warranties ensure that issues with the integrity of the product don’t come out of your pocket. Another way you can cover possible problems is your homeowner’s insurance. Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover arrays at no extra cost.
Cleaning Solar Panels
Making sure your panels are clean is one of the best things you can do to achieve optimum production. Panels are naturally cleaned by rainstorms. If you, however, want to make sure you have clean panels you have a couple options.
The cheapest solution is to rinse off your panels yourself. Just get out your hose and spray them off from the ground. If this is too much effort for you there are also several panel cleaning services out there.
Panel Performance in the Winter
Winter can also be a time of year when you may need to put in some elbow grease. Although most of the time snow will melt off your panels sometimes snow dumps down on us. If you have a large amount of snow on your panels it will block them from the sun.
The best way to increase your solar production in the winter is to invest in a roof rake. This will allow you to pull the snow off your panels from the ground. If you want to make sure that you are not harming the panels you can attach a cloth to the edge of the roof rake.
Obtaining your Solar Tax Credits
After your solar array is running you will want to make sure you obtain the available solar tax credits. Knowing what is available will help you know a good deal when you see one.
Federal Tax Credit
Getting the necessary federal tax credit forms may take a while. The 5695 form for the current year is normally released February of the following year. However, with the 2019 government shutdown, it will likely take even longer this year.
Although you don’t need to send in the 5695 form to file for your tax credits it will help you accurately file. Make sure you have the 5695 form for the year your system was installed and your TC40 state and federal award letters on file. These documents prove that you actually did get solar if you were to get audited.
Because Go Solar Group is a full-service solar company they send the 5695 form to their customers as soon as it is available. They also help you obtain all other needed documentation.
State Solar Incentives
Each state has a different policy in place. This being said, there are some states that have more benefits than others. It will be of benefit to you to take a look at what solar incentives your state has to offer.
If looking through renewable policy for your state isn’t in the stars for you that’s ok. Full-service companies that service your area have done their homework; they can help you find and apply for your state incentives.
MACRS Solar Tax Depreciation for Businesses and Farmers
If you’re a business owner acquiring solar there is another way for you to save money. The MACRS calculates how much your solar array would depreciate over five years. You are then compensated for the depreciation of the system.
If you also claim the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) your MACRS claim will decrease by half the ITC you received. With both of these claims, you could be receiving 85 percent of your system back in tax credits.
You might also qualify for bonus depreciation. Qualified equipment placed in service after September 27, 2017, can receive 100 percent bonus depreciation.