Frequently Asked Questions
What is solar photovoltaics?
A solar photovoltaic system generates power by converting solar radiation into direct current (DC) electricity. An inverter converts the DC electricity into alternating current (AC) that is used directly by the consumer.
How do solar photovoltaic cells work?
A solar cell is a device that uses energy from sunlight and converts this energy into electricity. Photovoltaic cells are composed of a semiconductor (for example, silicon) that is combined with specific impurities that change the electrical properties of the cell to increase conductivity. When light from the sun (photons) is absorbed by the photovoltaic cell, electrons are dislodged from the semiconductor. The front surface of the semiconductor is manufactured to attract free electrons, so the electrons migrate to the surface. Metal contacts on the edges of the semiconductor catch the moving electrons and allow them to travel onto wires. The result of this process is electric current.
How much does a solar photovoltaic system cost?
Since every project is unique and many variables need to be considered before determining price, cost varies from one job to the next. Southern Atlantic Solar can provide you with a free estimate for your home or business that can be tailored to your needs and desires. Also, our solar power arrays are designed to give you the option to add on to your existing system in the future, so it gives you the ability to start small and expand your system at a later date.
What types of solar photovoltaic systems are available?
There are currently three types of systems available and the ultimate decision about which solar system you choose depends on your needs and desires.
Grid-Tied Photovoltaic System
A grid-tied solar pv system allows you to use the electricity generated by your system as well as electricity from the grid (utility company). During the day when your system is producing electricity, your home will be powered by solar. At night when your solar system is not producing power, your home will use the electricity provided by the grid. In the event excess electricity is produced by your system, the remainder is fed back to the grid. This is referred to as net-metering. Net-metering allows you to receive a credit-for-credit exchange from your utility company for excess kilowatt hours produced by your pv array. A grid-tied solar power system is typically less expensive than other types of pv systems.
Grid-Tied Photovoltaic System with Battery Backup
A battery backup system can be added to your grid-tied pv array. This type of system is beneficial if you desire to have electricity in the event of a power outage.
Stand Alone Photovoltaic System
A stand alone pv system is specifically designed to provide all the electricity you need for your home or business which makes you independent of the grid. This type of system is ideal for homes in remote locations and for those who desire to go completely green for their electricity needs.
Are there any disadvantages to solar energy?
Solar photovoltaic systems often have a higher “first cost”. This translates to you paying more up front to purchase and install a solar power system, but in most cases, the high initial cost is recovered through substantial energy savings over the life of the system. Keep in mind you are essentially pre-purchasing your power for the next 25+ years. With electricity rates continuously on the rise, this can translate to considerable savings for you.
Can I use a solar water heating system in place of my existing traditional gas or electric hot water system?
While a solar hot water system can provide the majority of your hot water needs, when it’s rainy or cloudy for extended periods of time, the system may not be able to provide all the hot water you need. To avoid any disruptions, we strongly recommend that the solar hot water system be installed with your existing system or to install the system with a solar storage tank with electric or gas backup.
Can the solar air conditioning system replace my existing system?
The absorption chiller solar air conditioning system is not designed to replace an existing system, but rather work in conjunction with it while eliminating the need for your current system from operating a large percentage of the time. In effect, the solar air conditioning system is configured as your primary system and your existing system is set up as supplemental.
Do solar thermal systems produce hot water when it’s cloudy or cold?
Solar hot water systems work exceptionally well during cold or cloudy conditions. However, during periods of extreme cloud cover, some light use of your backup system may be required to meet your demands.
Can I use a solar space heating system in place of my existing traditional gas or electric heating system?
A solar space heating system can provide the bulk of your heating needs which can significantly reduce your heating bill. In the event of periods of extended cloudiness, we recommend the solar system be installed in conjunction with your existing system to ensure all your heating needs are met.
Can I use a solar hot water system for my business to reduce expenses for my facility?
Yes! Due to the large volume of hot water that many businesses, industrial facilities and manufacturing plants require, a solar hot water system can provide the majority of your needs while saving you a significant amount of money that was previously spent on traditional water heating.
Why use a solar pool heater instead of an electric or gas pool heater?
A solar pool heater can have a lower up-front cost than other traditional pool heating methods. With an electric or gas heater, you pay your utility for usage; with a solar pool heater, you heat your pool for free, regardless of how much you use it. This translates to you having the option of opening your pool earlier in the spring and keeping it open longer in the fall. Also, during very hot months, a solar pool heater can cool your pool down to a comfortable temperature.
What exactly is an energy audit?
An energy audit is an assessment of how much energy your home consumes along with suggestions on how you can make your home more energy efficient. An audit will specifically show you where your house is losing energy and how your insulation, heating and cooling systems, electrical systems and appliances could be more efficient.
What can I expect with an energy audit?
Depending on the size of your home or business, an energy audit will take an average of 3-4 onsite hours. Data is then interpreted back at our office and, within approximately 10 days, you will receive a comprehensive report detailing suggestions for improved energy efficiency. We recommend you be present for the audit so our BPI-certified auditor can explain what any concerns may be, but it is not necessary. After completing any improvements, we will assist you in filling out necessary paperwork to ensure you receive all available rebates from your utility.