Sunlight Solar Energy is dedicated to educating our customers and
empowering them to make intelligent buying decisions.Dear Solar Enthusiast:
Thank you for your interest in clean, renewable – and best of all – affordable photovoltaic (PV) solar electric systems.
After reading this information, please call us at (203) 878-9123 to get started on your own solar system! We will gladly schedule an appointment for a Systems Designer to come to your home or business and give you a free custom proposal. We do not charge a fee for any preliminary proposals or site surveys.
Sunlight Solar is an innovative and creative company with an industry-leading approach and philosophy to solar energy sales. We are one of the first Clean Energy Finance & Investment Authority-approved installers to offer a 10-year labor warranty and 10-year production guarantee on solar electric systems.
Table of Contents
I. About Sunlight Solar Energy, Inc. II. Financial Incentives
A. Clean Energy Finance & Investment Authority i. PV Rebate Calculation
B. Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) C. Financing Options
D. Cost & Energy Production III. Solar PV Technology
A. How a Grid-tied System Works B. Solar Panel Quality & Warranties C. Solar Panels
D. System Components
IV. System Design and Installation Process A. Site Surveys & Proposals
B. Permitting C. Installation D. Post-Installation V. Installation Considerations A. Orientation B. Roof
i. Age & Weight Load ii. Square Footage iii. Angle
C. Shading D. Aesthetics E. Tilt Mounts F. Metal Roofs VI. Other Considerations
A. Array Maintenance
B. Homeowner’s Associations & Historic Commissions
I. About Sunlight Solar Energy, Inc.
One of the leading solar design and installation companies in the United States
Approved solar contractor in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Washington
Founded in 1988 by Paul Israel in Sacramento, California
One of the original Clean Energy Finance & Investment Authority approved contractors Full-time in-house professional installation teams
Fuel-efficient hybrid company vehicles
Installed more than 650 systems amounting to over 4 megawatts worth of solar in Connecticut
Installed large commercial systems such as Yale University’s 40,000 watt system (pictured below) and the North Haven Health & Racquet Club’s 190,000 watt system
II. Financial Incentives
A. The Clean Energy Finance & Investment Authority (CEFIA)
The Connecticut Legislature created CEFIA to support and encourage the growth of renewable clean energy sources for the benefit of Connecticut’s rate payers. The CEFIA solar PV rebate is financed by a surcharge on your electric bill; these rebates are money collected from CL&P and UI ratepayers. The CEFIA solar PV rebate is currently only available for residential systems.
Though the CEFIA incentive is commonly called a rebate, you do not have to pay the full system cost out of pocket and wait to receive your reimbursement. Instead, Sunlight Solar applies for the CEFIA rebate on your behalf and the rebate amount is deducted from the system cost immediately.
i. PV Rebate Calculation
The CEFIA residential rebate is currently set at $1.75/watt up to 5,000 watts (5 kW) and $0.55/watt from 5,000-10,000 watts (5-10 kW). This amount is de-rated according to the site conditions of the house.
The exact solar PV rebate is based on three specific site conditions: tilt, orientation, and shading.
In Connecticut, the ideal roof slope is around 36-40 degrees.
The ideal orientation of your panels to the sun is true south (which in Connecticut is 194 degrees magnetic).
Losses due to tree shading and other obstacles are taken into consideration. We calculate all the site conditions and show you the projected efficiency of your system. An on-site evaluation is critical in determining your exact rebate amount. In most cases, the rebate covers approximately 25-30% of the total system cost for residential systems.
B. Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC)
When purchasing a solar PV system, you are also credited 30% of your out-of-pocket investment by the Federal Government. For example, a $28,000 PV system may receive a CEFIA rebate of $8,000. Since the CEFIA rebate is deducted from the system cost immediately, the out-of-pocket investment is $20,000. The federal tax credit for this example is 30% of the $20,000 investment, or $6,000. If you do not have enough tax liability to fully utilize the credit, it is possible to carry the credit forward to subsequent years.
C. Financing Options
There are several financing options available for homeowners in Connecticut, offered by CEFIA. The first option is the CT Solar Lease Program, a 20 year lease which is generally no money down. In most cases, the lease payment is less than the electric bill it is displacing, meaning homeowners can save money from day one.
CEFIA also offers a 15 year loan program, the CT Solar Loan. This loan program gives homeowners the opportunity to own a solar electric system with an affordable down payment and reasonable monthly payments. This 15 year loan product is especially unique because it does not require any home equity or a lien on the home.
Lastly, homeowners have the option to utilize the Smart-E Loan Program, a program aimed at helping homeowners attain home energy improvements. The loan term can be 5, 7, 10, or 12 years, and is open to any energy efficiency or renewable energy measures.
D. Cost & Energy Production
United Illuminating (UI) and Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) customers are paying some of the highest electricity costs in the nation. An average residential PV installation in Connecticut is around a 7,000 watt (7 kW) system. At a good site, a 7 kW PV system produces approximately 22 kWh per day. Relative to a utility bill of $130 per month, which is roughly the equivalent of 25 kWh per day, this solar system provides a homeowner with nearly
90% of their electric power per year.
III. Solar PV Technology
A. How a Grid-tied System Works
Solar PV systems work by directly converting sunlight into electricity without noise, moving parts, or pollution. Therefore, the system is
simple, reliable, renewable, fully
automatic, and virtually maintenance-free. Energy from the sun strikes the PV panels (array) and produces direct current (DC) energy.
An inverter, which is tied into your electric circuit breaker panel, changes the DC energy into alternating current (AC). The electricity produced by your solar panels is sent directly into your home or business, to be used by anything at your site that runs off of electricity. If at any time your solar electric system produces more electricity than you use, the system sends the excess electricity back onto the grid.
A 1988 state law allows individuals and businesses that generate excess renewable energy to sell the electricity back to the local utility company through a process called Net Metering. When you install a solar PV system at your home or business, CL&P or UI install a new meter at your site. This meter, called either a bi-directional meter or a net meter, measures both the electricity you use from the grid as well as the electricity that your solar system sends back onto the grid.
As the solar electricity is produced, your electric meter slows down or spins backwards! Your electric bill will be based on the new bi-directional meter reading and will look quite different than your current bill. In a grid-tied system, if utility electric power becomes unstable or is lost your solar PV system automatically turns off and your system does not produce solar electricity. This ensures that you do not send extra electricity onto the grid when people might be working on the power lines. However, every five minutes the inverter tests the utility power for stability and turns back on once power is restored. The system works seamlessly and automatically.
A. Solar Panel Quality & Warranties
Solar panels have no moving parts or chemical reactions and are therefore very low maintenance. They also have a long life expectancy. Solar PV panels typically have a 10 year product warranty and 25 year power warranty. Generally, the power warranty guarantees the panel will produce at least 80% of its rated capacity for the 25 year warranty period. Once installed, experts believe solar panels will produce electricity for 35 years or more but with a degrading output of about 0.5% to 1% per year. Sunlight Solar offers a 10 year labor warranty and 10 year production guarantee on all residential solar PV systems.
B. Solar Panels
One way to judge the efficiency of a solar panel is to compare two tests that all solar panels must undergo: the STC and PTC panel tests. Basically, panels are tested in two different conditions – ideal conditions (STC) and more realistic conditions (PTC). If you look at the drop-off in power of the test results, you get an interesting story about efficiency. All things being equal, you want to purchase panels which have a high PTC/STC ratio. Call us and we can help you compare different manufacturers’ solar panel efficiencies.
C. System Components
Inverters are designed to be installed outdoors, protected from southern or western direct sun, but are more often installed in the basement, garage, or other areas depending on owner preference and site-specific conditions. Translating the solar DC energy into household AC electricity uses a small amount of energy. For this reason, each inverter has a published efficiency rating. Call us and we can help you compare different manufacturers’ inverter efficiencies.
All system components can be installed inside your home or business except the AC Disconnect, which must be installed within three feet of the exterior utility meter. This is a standard requirement of CL&P and UI. All disconnects and components are labeled.
The wiring on your PV system is the conduit within which your solar electricity flows. Sizing the wire properly is a requirement of the National Electric Code (NEC) and allows your system to be most efficient. We oversize your wires, usually exceeding Code, so that your solar panels maximize their efficiency.
Managing the wiring on an installation is very important. All Sunlight Solar installations will have no wires touching the roof and all “strings” of solar panels will be properly fused with outdoor-rated warning labels.
IV. System Design and Installation Process
A. Site Surveys and Proposals
Before a site survey is done, we gather some preliminary information regarding your home or business and any solar system requirements you may have. We also look at a
satellite photo of your house or building to observe the roof orientation and any potential shading issues. With this information, we can determine how viable the site is for solar. At this point, we can also provide you with preliminary estimates for what may be feasible to install at your site.
The next step in the process is to schedule an on-site evaluation, which allows us to attain necessary site details and gives us a chance to have an in-depth discussion with you regarding your current energy usage as well as your future energy goals. Sunlight Solar offers this service free of charge.
During the site survey, our Systems Designer takes several measurements and photographs of your site and analyzes a number of important issues including:
Roof design, shingle age, and condition Orientation, height, and pitch of roof(s) Available roof space for solar panels; roof
vent locations; skylights; etc.
Distance from solar panels to the circuit breaker panel and electric meter
Electric service panel suitability, including extra space for a solar breaker
Tree shading and other factors that will affect system production Proposed location of inverter
Possible ground mount location
Any other factors impacting system price, energy production, etc.
After the site survey, our Systems Designer prepares a final proposal for you to consider, along with a panel layout to show you what the array would look like at your site.
B. Permitting and Interconnection
Sunlight Solar takes care of obtaining an electrical and/or building permit and the utility interconnection approval, which are included in your system price.
Before beginning construction, the Lead Installer does an initial walk-through of the system with you, in order to review the technical details of the project. Average residential PV systems are typically installed in 2-3 days. The timeframe can be longer depending on system size and additional work required, such as electrical or structural upgrades. During the installation process, Sunlight Solar’s Project Manager is frequently on site to ensure quality control.
Once your solar array is installed, we do a “walk through” of your system with you, explaining all the system components. We also send you an Owner’s Manual that has specification sheets, technical schematics,
warranties, etc. Sunlight Solar coordinates both the local inspection and the utility Witness Test for you. You can legally turn your system on after the Witness Test.
V. Installation Considerations
While a southern-facing roof is ideal for a solar array, you may be surprised to learn
that southeast, southwest, and even east and west roof orientations can also work. In some cases, tilting the panels can be a solution to non-ideal roof orientation or pitch.
i.Age & Weight Load
Your present roofing material should have at least fifteen years of life remaining. This ensures the investment of your solar system will not be compromised by a deteriorating roof. If your roof is nearing the end of its useful life, you may wish to consider getting a new roof where the solar panels will be placed.
Local building codes usually allow a maximum two layers of asphalt shingles on your roof. Codes dictate this because the additional weight of a solar array may create structural problems. Occasionally, older roofs may need to be strengthened by adding larger rafters. We work with a structural engineer to be certain that your roof can support the proposed solar array.
Solar panels are designed and installed to withstand severe weather conditions including hurricane-force winds and 50 mph hail storms. We perform wind-load and snow-load calculations to ensure the safety of the system on your roof. In addition to our own rigorous installation standards, your system is reviewed, inspected, and approved by your municipality, utility company, and CEFIA.
ii. Square Footage
Below is a listing of the number of SunPower 245 watt solar panels and the square footage needed. After approximating the square footage of your roof (length multiplied by width) you can compare it to the chart. Remember: pipe vents, skylights, and other obstacles limit available space. If there is not enough roof space or the roof is not viable for a solar system, we can install a ground or pole mounted solar array.
Number of 245 Watt Panels Approximate Square Footage of Roof Total Wattage of Solar Array 12 168 2,940 18 252 4,410 24 336 5,880 30 420 7,350 36 504 8,820 44 616 10,780 i.Angle
The sun’s daily path in the sky changes throughout the year. In the winter, the sun is low to the horizon, while during the summer it is higher. During the spring and fall seasons, the sun is somewhere in between. The diagram below depicts the sun’s arc traversing the Connecticut sky during the winter and summer months. Solar PV systems on steep roofs produce more electricity in the winter, while roofs with lower pitches or angles work better in the summer, when the sun is higher overhead.
Shading has a significant impact on the efficiency of the solar panels and system. It is one of the prime reasons we cannot install a solar system on some houses or properties. The site should not be shaded more than 10-25% throughout the day (6am to 6pm), throughout the year. Ideally, a solar array should have no shade between the hours of 9am and 3pm, the times of greatest solar electricity production (“solar noon”).
Shading can be caused by soft sources (snow, leaves, and bird droppings) or hard sources (objects in the distance such as trees, dormers, and chimneys). Shading problems from trees can be handled by pruning, topping off, or cutting down trees and replacing them with shorter-growing trees and bushes; shading cause by chimneys and dormers are unavoidable obstructions.
Take a close look at your home or business and see how much sunshine falls on your roof during the day. Imagine what shade will be on your roof in the summer. What about in the winter, when the sun is low over the horizon? Seasonal changes in foliage and sun angle are extremely important.
Trees to the east and west of your roof should be more than twice as far from your house as they are tall and trees to the south should be at least three times away as they are tall. If the trees on or near
your property meet these general criteria then you probably will not have to worry about shade during the year. During our site survey, we assess and identify any potential shading challenges.
Depending upon the color of the roof, it may be preferable to install an all-black panel so the panels can blend in with the roof. Additionally, if there are
vent pipes on the southern-facing section of the roof, it could be helpful to have the vent pipes moved so that the panels can be placed in an uninterrupted row on the roof.
E. Tilt Mounts
While not our favorite type of installation for both aesthetic and labor-time reasons, tilt mounts are important when the roof is flat or facing east or west. We often suggest keeping the panels at a 5-degree tilt towards the south to maximize aesthetics. However, tilting the solar panels at a greater pitch to the south maximizes the solar production and the CEFIA rebate.
F. Metal Roofs
For customers with metal roofs we use clips that attach to the standing seams; the PV panel is then bolted onto the clips, negating the need for any penetration to the roof.
VI. Other Considerations
Our best maintenance suggestion is to visually inspect the panels and wiring at least once a year. If anything looks amiss, just give us a call. It is also good to keep the panels and equipment clean from dirt, dust, salt, pollen, and debris. You may hose the panels down with water and, if necessary, use a soft brush or squeegee to scrub off bird droppings, pollen, dirt, etc. A mild non-abrasive detergent can be used to
take care of persistent dirt.
A common question customers have is how long it takes for snow to melt off the panels. The answer depends on a number of factors including the amount of snowfall, temperature, cloud cover, shading, orientation, and tilt of the solar panels. Generally, if you have six inches of snowfall overnight, snow on panels tilted 22 degrees or more will melt off by the early afternoon, provided there is full sunshine. The greater the tilt on the panels, the faster the snow will melt off. However, snow could remain on the panels for several days during heavy snowstorms and cold overcast conditions.
B. Homeowner’s Associations & Historic Commissions
Some homes are located in communities where there are active and stringent Homeowner’s Association regulations. Associations typically have the power to
approve or deny solar panels on a homeowner’s roof prior to obtaining any required permits.
Historic District Commissions also present challenges to solar installations as they have an eye towards protecting the historic character of the buildings. However, in our experience, most Historic Commissions have allowed PV systems to be installed on homes.
You will want to contact your Homeowner’s Association or Historic Commission to get a sense if your application will be considered for approval. Our staff will help support your application and provide any materials or documents required by the Association or Commission. A number of our customers have received Historic Commission and Homeowner’s Association approvals for solar panels on their homes.
Solar systems are typically covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy. However, you may have to increase your coverage because of the replacement value of your solar array. We recommend you check with your insurance agent regarding coverage. For PV systems, both CL&P and UI require a minimum of $300,000 in Personal Liability coverage in order to approve the Interconnection Agreement. This is a utility requirement, not Sunlight Solar’s.
C. Property Taxes & Property Values
Many homeowners ask whether installing solar panels on their home will increase their property taxes. You will be happy to know that the General Statues of Connecticut address this issue: any municipality may exempt, by ordinance, Class I Renewable Energy Facilities [such as solar PV systems] for single-family houses or multi-family dwellings of two to four units. Be sure to file an exemption from your local tax assessor or contact your town assessor’s office for further information.