Solar 101Learning the basics of solar electric technology is the best way to confidently move forward with choosing a contractor and installing a PV system appropriate for your needs.

How solar worksPhotovoltaic (PV) systems convert light directly into electricity using semiconductor technology.

  1. Individual PV cells are connected to panels. Solar panels covert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity.
  2. An inverter converts DC into alternating current (AC) for electricity in the home.
  3. The utility meter records the net amount of energy generated through the PV system. When you are creating more electricity than you are using, your meter will spin backward and the excess electricity is sent to the electric grid. This helps to offset the cost of your electricity usage at night or on cloudy days when your system is not producing electricity.
Basic Terminology
  • Photovoltaic (PV) - Photo = Light Voltaic = Produces Volume
  • Direct Current (DC) - Direct Current produced by solar panels
  • Alternative Current (AC) - Electricity used in the home
  • Efficiency - Measure of how much of the sunlight is converted to electricity
  • Capacity - Total amount of power that a system produces
  • Watt - Basic unit of power
  • Kilowatt - A unit of electrical power equal to 1,000 watts (most common measurement)
  • Kilowatt Hour - Basic unit of energy. The use of 1,000 watts of electricity for one full hour (basic unit of electrical billing usage)
Reduce before you produceMaking sure your home is energy efficient prior to installing solar is an essential first step. By reducing your overall energy use, you can reduce the size of the system you need, potentially saving thousands of dollars in up-front costs.

Estimating your system sizeThe average residential system is about 5 kW but there are several factors that impact the optimal system size for you, including your 12-month prior electricity usage and desired bill and energy offset as well as the space your home has available. If you do not have access to the last 12 months of energy bills, you can retrieve this information SCE.

Solar Rates with Southern California EdisonSetting up your home with solar technology can reduce your energy bill and your carbon footprint. Before you choose a contractor and look at solar for your home it is always best practices to look at other efficiency measures first. You can save money in upfront costs by taking simple efficiency measures - like swapping old incandescent lighting for CFL or LED bulbs - to reduce your overall use.

Solar Permit ProcessPlease visit the Planning and Building Department to learn more about the permitting process and associated fees.

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