Top Solar Vocabulary Terms
If you’ve made the decision to go solar, congratulations, there are many benefits to becoming your own energy provider. Installing solar panels on your home is a big step, and getting the right home solar system will affect your system’s power output, how long it will last, how much support you’ll have over the decades of renewable energy it produces, and how satisfied overall you’ll be with the return on your investment.
At Baker Electric Home Energy, we are driven to design and install a top quality system. We are a long-standing, family-owned, local company built on over 80 years of electrical contracting experience. To learn more please to go our home page.
We want you to be informed so you can make the right decision on what San Diego solar installer you chose to design and install your home power generation system. To assist you, we’ve put together this list of solar terms. Use it as a reference when picking the best solar installer for your home, or read through it to get a stronger overview of the solar process so you can ask better questions when shopping for the company that will become your partner in your path to clean energy production, money saving for years, and your resource for all questions related to your home and its energy production, energy efficiency, and energy management.
This is an electrical box separate from the Main Service Panel that allows your house power to be shut down.
This is a term you might see on your SDG&E bill related to credits your solar system has created and sold back to SDG&E for that month or in a previous month. Prior to being applied, these are called Remaining Credits.
This term just refers to the collection of solar panels, as a whole, for either your rooftop solar or ground mount solar system. Your solar array might include all the panels together in one plane if your rooftop design and orientation with the sun allows that as an ideal array design, or your home solar may be comprised of several smaller solar arrays due to factors such as whether you have a good roof for solar or if your house is oriented in a way that doesn’t allow an ideal direction for the solar panels to face throughout the majority of daily sunlight.
This is a mounting system in which panel mounts are connected to a weighted-down base rather than being mounted to a rooftop or a ground mount array frame. This is not a common method of solar panel rooftop mounting but can be the right option for some unique rooftop mounting challenges and might be the best option if your roof can’t take solar panels in a more cost-efficient way.
This is a billing term for San Diego residents participating in Tiered Rate Billing. This amount is determined by factors including the location of your house, the types of appliances you use, and various other factors to determine your amount of ‘cheap electricity’ or your lowest cost electricity you’ll see on your bill before the billing rate increases with the next tier.
Battery AKA Home Battery
See: Home Energy Storage
This is the amount of energy storage your single home battery or home energy storage solution (multiple batteries) can store. In most cases, a single home battery stores enough electrical power to operate just a few key circuits in the case of a power outage or to use your stored solar energy at night.
California Climate Credit
This is a credit that California residents see on their electric bill twice a year and on their gas bill once a year. This is part of California’s fight against climate change. It stems from a program that requires electricity and gas providers to reduce greenhouse gasses through carbon credits, and this results in a credit to California rate payers which lowers their bill.
California Solar Consumer Protection Guide
This is a helpful guide created by the CPUC that is designed to make solar customers aware of what goes into the process of selecting the best solar installer for them, rights they have, and what they should expect when planning a home solar system. On September 30, 2019 it became a requirement that any homeowner going solar would need to sign and initial this agreement in various places within the guide. The solar provider is required to submit this signed guide to the IOU (Independently Owned Utility) such as Southern California Gas & Electric or Southern California Edison before the system will be granted a Permission to Operate letter (the CPUC has the right to audit this). This additional step in the process of picking the right solar installer is a very good thing. This guide helps customers evaluate solar installers and well as makes them aware of other possible options and resources. At Baker we are in favor of this new step and encourage all homeowners in San Diego considering solar to read this guide in advance of the required time – that is, we suggest you read it as early as possible in the process of finding a great solar installer in San Diego. If you sign this contract you are not under any obligation to go forward with solar – don’t let any solar installer tell you otherwise. Your signing and initialling of this guide only verifies you have read and understand the contract. Although the guide is 23 pages long, it contains many graphics and is not a dense read – the material is very digestible so please do not be discouraged from looking at this guide as early in the process of picking a solar contractor as possible. Here’s a link to the CPUC Guide. Additionally, reading customer reviews of all the solar companies you're considering is also a good way to find the best reviewed solar company in your area.
This stands for California Alternative Rates for Energy and is a program that provides discounts (30-35%) on electricity and gas bills for low-income customers who quality and are registered in the program.
Cell AKA Solar Cell AKA Photovoltaic Cell
This is one ‘square’ of one PV solar panel. It is the piece that turns sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic process. Several cells mounted and linked together make up a solar panel. These solar panels are also called Modules or solar modules.
CESA AKA Clean Energy States Alliance
This is a coalition of clean energy groups coordinating their efforts and helping to boost clean energy development and clean energy use throughout the US.
This is an option to use renewable solar energy to power a home or apartment that you don’t own. This can make sure that from 50% to 100% of the electricity you buy from your provider is solar generated green power. This can make your electrical costs change in either direction: your electrical bill could increase or decrease but Community Solar is a good option for renters who wish to consume clean energy in Southern California. If this sounds like a good option for you to increase your use of green energy, contact your energy provider for options they may offer.
Community Solar Green Tariff Program
This is a program for Disadvantaged Community households to get a lowered electric bill (20% discount) by subscribing to solar farms that are located within 5 miles of their neighborhood.
Your Solar Power Company – the company that you buy your home solar from which may be the same company that installs your rooftop solar panels (or they could subcontract the solar installation to another solar installer specific company). San Diego solar power companies need to have a current Contractors License (see Contractors License). There are many San Diego solar power companies (some are local solar businesses some are local offices of national companies) so in addition to researching solar energy companies for the correct Contractors License, it’s a good idea to look for top solar companies in San Diego that have been in business in the city or local area for a long time and have a brick and mortar facility and great customer service rather than just a few employees with a work truck. The best solar power company for you is one that will still be around years down the road, and one you can get in touch with through a visit or a phone call to a real person (not pre-recorded messages). Your home solar pv system should give you decades of home solar energy production and quickly work off the initial investment in the solar system to provide essentially free electricity for many years beyond the point that your rooftop solar panels pay for themselves. (solar power systems that benefit from the ITC tax incentives will pay for themselves sooner; beware, these incentives are dropping: 30% tax credit in 2019, 26% tax credit in 2020 and 22% tax credit in 2021 for residential solar systems. Commercial systems have a 10% tax incentive that will last beyond this time).
Your residential solar installer must have a C-46 (Solar Contractor), C-10 (Electrical Contractor) or B (General Building Contractor) contractor's license and you have the right to know their license number. Baker holds residential and commercial licenses including a C-46, C-10 as well as C-39 (Roofer) and C-20 (HVAC). Our parent company Baker Electric, Inc. holds a B (General Building Contractor) license. Baker Electric Home Energy’s contractor's license number is 858088. If you find yourself working with or considering any San Diego solar power companies who do not have the proper contractor's license you can report this to the Contractors State License Board at 800-321-CSLB.
The California Public Utilities Commission regulates privately owned Utilities, including the electric utilities. The CPUC has been in the news recently (September 2019) for creating and implementing the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide. It’s a great resource to help anyone looking for home solar solutions to learn more about what to expect in terms of solar costs, getting solar quotes, and overall solar energy solutions. It’s also a good resource for finding the best reviewed solar company and top solar experts in your area as well as some ways to best determine which is the best solar power company for you. We’ve written out some of the tips from this guide, and how Baker fits in with those topics. We feel Baker is the best solar company in San Diego and hope this guide helps you come to that same decision. Here’s a link to that blog article, and here’s a link to the complete guide. (which must be read by anyone who wants to get solar on their home, so it would be most advantageous to read it early in your journey so it can help you find the best solar company).
This refers to energy that does not cause pollution to the atmosphere when used. A home solar system creates clean energy, which is often also called green energy. In addition to major cost savings on electricity, the use of clean energy is a big motivator for many homeowners to learn about home solar.
CSLB AKA Contractors State License Board
This is the organization that licenses and monitors contractors’ licenses. Its website is a resource you can use to look up a potential Solar Installer to confirm they are a licensed contractor. The CSLB website is [[[[[[[[[[[[ http://www.cslb.ca.gov/
This stands for Disadvantaged Community and in terms of home solar power discussions describes neighborhoods in areas that suffer from multiple sources of pollution.
DAC-Green Tariff Program
This is a program that allows households to have all of their electricity offset by solar generation and also receive a discount on their energy bill (20%). This program is for households in a Disadvantaged Community. For this the solar panels are not necessarily installed on the home, the solar power can be produced off the property.
This is modeled after California’s SASH program and is focused on families living in disadvantaged communities (specifically they must live in one of the communities that is in the top 25% most disadvantaged communities). Like the SASH program, the DAC-SASH also bring job opportunities in the solar industry.
Electric Grid AKA The Grid
This is the electricity infrastructure and delivery system. People very often use this term as the system they are trying to live independent of by ‘going off the grid’ or ‘living off the grid.’ For a solar powered home to go off the grid, if it was to run at night with solar power, it would need some sort of energy storage system (home battery).
Your Utility. For most homeowners in San Diego this will be San Diego Gas & Power (SDG&E). In other areas of Southern California is might be Southern California Edison (SDE).
Energy Efficient Home
This refers to a home’s insulation, its appliance energy draw, and the occupant’s habits in terms of maximizing the energy used. It does not relate to how the electricity is produced or stored. This relates to going solar as one component of energy needs – if a home can be made more efficient, then the ideal size of the solar system, namely the number of solar panels required, might go down and result in a less expensive solar project, saving you money up front with your solar investment as well as creating energy savings into the future. For info on your home’s HVAC system and its energy efficiency options you can learn more at this page.
As it relates to a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement), which is an option to get solar for no money down type arrangements, this is the set amount the monthly payments will increase each year over the course of an agreement. (in a PPA the homeowner (or property owners) does not own the solar system attached to their house).
This stands for Electric Vehicle, which means a pure-electric car, truck or motorcycle, not a hybrid. EVs require a charging station to recharge their battery. Most drivers who have adopted an EV do it for concern for the environment and the desire to consume less fossil fuels and use more clean energy for their transportation. A home with solar and an EV charging station is the next level of clean energy use because a car charged from a home solar system bypasses any dirty energy created from Utility power plants. For an interestng blog post that looks into a possible future of Electric Cars, you can read it here.
EV Charging Station
With reference to home charging, this is a dedicated EV car charging station at your house that can charge your car in the most efficient way. If you charge your car at night, it would wait until your rates drop. If you charge your car during the day at home and you have home solar, it would obviously send the electricity your home produces into your car’s battery before selling it back to the Utility for optimized energy savings.
This stands for the Family Electric Rate Assistance Program. This is similar to the CARE program but for households that don’t quite qualify for that program. It gives an electricity discount of 12% to families who qualify.
The term Free Solar is often used as a sales pitch, possibly sometimes referring to an arrangement like a Solar Lease, in which the electricity is paid for but there is "Free Solar" put on the homeowner's roof (though homeowners do not own these solar power systems or the solar electric power they produce). Another perspective would consider free solar after the solar power systems have paid for themselves through savings in energy costs. After about five to seven years, on average, properly designed residential solar energy systems will have paid for the initial investing in a solar system, and from that point all the solar electric energy could be considered free electricity. It's not uncommon for families, once using solar power systems to generate renewable, natural energy, to enjoy their electricity more. This shows in things such as running their air conditioning as they wish once energy costs are not a limiting factor.
This is just a slang term for reducing your carbon footprint by using more natural energy and less energy produced by burning fossil fuels (lowering greenhouse gas emissions). There are various levels and approaches to going green. One great benefit of installing a home solar system is that not only is it a very impactful way to use natural energy but green solar also saves money (another good kind of green) on energy costs in the long run. So while some changes people who are concerned about the environment make to their lifestyle can cost a little more, converting your home to solar energy winds up saving thousands of dollars in the process of lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this long term savings realized through green solar technologies, it’s important you get a high quality system installed by one of the top San Diego solar power companies that is designed right for your needs. The best first step is to research the best companies in San Diego that design and install solar energy systems to create your perfect green solar power system and the best energy storage home battery system for your home.
Green energy is natural energy produced in sustainable ways and is clean and friendly for the environment when compared to dirty energy such as that made through the burning of coal and gas (fossil fuels) which increase greenhouse gas emissions. Green energy is also renewable energy. If you want to use more green energy and your home doesn’t currently have solar, your first step is to find the best San Diego county solar power company in your area and get a bid for a home solar electric system. For an investment in solar it’s good to get several bids to find not only the cheapest home solar, but also the best value in residential solar. With the long term benefits involved with green solar technologies, if you don't have it now you should consider on the near horizon solar power for your lifestyle. Take the first step by researching the best San Diego solar power companies today.
The utilities’ infrastructure of electricity delivery. Homeowners who are not connected to receive power from or sell power to the utility are considered “off the grid.” For homeowners looking for energy independence or just preventing energy bills so they are not victim to rising electricity rates, off-the-grid solar energy solutions, especially as home batteries improve, is becomes less of a fringe concept for property owners. Homeowners interested in going off the grid also may be interested in cutting edge smart home solutions to increase a home’s efficicney as well as improve their lifestye. For more on home energy technology read about it here.
This is a non-profit solar installer that delivers discounted rooftop solar for households that qualify based on income and neighborhood data parameters; GRID Alternatives works through the SASH and DAC-SASH programs. In addition to helping with low cost solar system installation this group provides on the job training through government backed programs.
This is a method of mounting solar panels into their solar array that is not on a home’s rooftop. The panels are mounted on frame designed at the optimal angle and orientation to the sun. This is an option if your home has enough acreage, or acreage that is not useful to you otherwise. This is a much less common mounting method compared to rooftop solar, and since the mounts are lower they can have more shading issues compared to rooftop solar.
Battery AKA Home Battery
See: Home Energy Storage
Home Energy Storage AKA Energy Storage AKA Home Battery AKA Battery AKA Battery Storage
This term is usually used interchangeably with the incorporation of a home battery. It’s most often paired with a PV solar system so that the rooftop solar charges the home battery as a way to store that electricity rather than send it all back to the utility so the home has back up power in the case of power outages or blackouts. There are homes that install a home battery that is not charged by a PV solar system, though those batteries do not qualify for the ITC Tax Credit. Incorporating a home battery also allows the solar panels to produce independently of the grid, so during a utility grid shut down (from planned power outages or unpredictable blackouts) the solar panels can still produce power for the house to use as well as potentially store back up power in the battery storage for use during hours after the sun has gone down. You can read more about home batteries here.
This is the acronym for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The local San Diego chapter is Local 569. Not all solar systems installations are done by union contractors (or even full time employees since some companies in San Diego subcontract solar installation work to various solar installers), so it is a good idea to research the qualifications of the installation crew when considering San Diego solar power companies. [Note: Baker uses IBEW Local 569 electricians for all solar systems installation work within Local 569’s territory (San Diego city and area). These are full time employees and solar experts and we are proud to have the best trained and most knowledgeable solar electric employees in the city].
This is the group that performs the rooftop solar installation; significant here is that this group can be a part of your Solar Provider, or a group that is sub-contracted by your Solar Provider. To get the best San Diego solar panels installed, ask any solar contractor if they use regular, full-time employees for doing the solar panel installation.
Inverter AKA String-Inverter AKA Solar Inverter
This is a component of any solar pv system that provides electricity to a home. The power generated from the solar panels is produced as DC (direct current). The Inverter or Inverters turn DC electricity in AC (alternating current) electricity. A solar inverter (or inverters) is part of all solar energy solutions that create power for your home using current solar technology. The top solar experts will know the best brand and type of inverters to use with your rooftop solar panels.
IREC AKA Interstate Renewable Energy Council
This is a group that works state by state to make sure households get the best solar power options for all income levels of owner and renters.
ITC AKA Investment Tax Credit AKA Solar Tax Credit
This stands for Investment Tax Credit. It’s been a long standing tax credit to encourage homeowners to adopt solar through its incentive programs. This tax credit was initiated years ago when solar adoption was not as popular as it is today, and solar panels were not as efficient as they are today. This government incentive, a federal tax credit that shortens the payback period before a residential solar system pays off the initial system purchase cost, is going away. 2019 will be the final year the ITC will provide consumers with a 30% tax credit, but you need to have a new system that is installed and up and running with an official Permission to Operate letter before the end of 2019. At the start of 2020, the Investment Tax Credit drops to 26%; again your system would have to be installed and officially operating before the end of 2020 to get the full 26% tax credit. At the start of 2021, the ITC drops to 22%; again, for systems that up fully and officially operational before the end of that year. After the end of 2021, the ITC for residential systems goes away. If you get your system installed in time for the tax credit, we advise you to talk to your tax consultant about the tax credit rollover rules if you don’t think you’ll be able to take full advantage of the tax credit for the year of your system installation. [As an aside, the ITC does continue on beyond 2021 for commercial solar systems, but that tax credit is at 10% and does not apply to the home solar systems incentive programs.] You can read more about the ITC tax credit here.
Kilowatt Hours aka kWh
Like it sounds, this is a measurement of power that is the amount of 1000 watts for one hour. As it relates to building a residential solar system, the typical output for a San Diego home solar system would usually fall into the range of 7.5 to 8 kWh. Remember a family’s energy use, both current usage based on a history of the home electrical bill, as well as projected energy use based on things like the addition of a pool, and Electric Vehicle charging station, an air conditioning system, or just the tendency of new home solar system users as they tend to enjoy their appliances with more freedom resulting in higher energy use.
Main Breaker AKA Main Disconnect
Like the name implies, this is the overall power breaker switch / disconnect found inside your house’s Main Service Panel (AKA Breaker Box).
Main Service Panel AKA Breaker Box AKA MSP AKA Load Center
This is your house’s ‘power box’ where you have access to the breaker switches for your Main Breaker as well as the breakers for the various power circuits in your house. Your home will have this regardless of whether or not you have solar power to your home. In some cases, the Main Service Panel will need an upgrade with the addition of solar to your home.
These are the companies that make the individual items, such as the solar panel, the inverter, or the home battery. Solar Providers might be exclusive to manufacturers for certain components or might provide options for each component when designing solar energy systems - such as the option between solar panel manufacturers based on different benefits. The Manufacturers have nothing to do with the assembling or mounting of their components in the solar pv system on your house. This is important because the Manufacturers provide the equipment warranty and usually their own customer service – so you want components with a good manufacturers warranty, real-person customer service, and a Solar Provider that will work with you through their own excellent customer service in the case of hardware warranty issues.
Micro-Inverter AKA Microinverter
Like the name suggests, this is a small Inverter. In most San Diego home solar systems an array of solar panels feed Direct Current to one inverter (sometimes there is more than one inverter to handle the electricity coming from various arrays of solar panels). In this standard arrangement, abut 20 to 30 solar panels could feed their electricity into one Inverter. This is a good cost-conscious way to design a home solar system but it susceptible to poor electrical output of an entire Array if as few as one solar panel falls under some shade or has a failure. With a solar system built using a Micro-inverter attached to each solar panel, each solar panel can remain productive independent of any other issues within the bank of solar panels. This can add to the per solar panel cost of solar pv systems but the increase in solar capacity of overall output of the San Diego solar panels (and therefor the cost per watt of electricity for that day) may help offset the cost of the Micro-inverters. So Micro-Inverters don't help the solar panel efficiency as much as help the solar array efficiency, because efficient solar panels won't be effective if they are limited by a shaded solar panel that drops the power efficiency of the array. (also see Optimizer which performs a similar function).
Minimum Charge Adjustment
This is a billing term that San Diego residents will see on their electricity bill from their utility companies. The current minimum charge as of the writing of this list from SDG&E is $.33 per day, except for customers who are participants in CARE, FERA, or Medical – that minimum charge is $.164 per day.
Module AKA Solar Panel
‘Module’ is another term for Solar Panel. It is not a layman’s term and likely is something you would only hear when discussing solar system design or solar installation with a solar professional, or something you might overhear if listening to solar companies speaking with solar panel manufacturers.
This stands for North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. This group certifies Installers. [Note: Baker has NABCEP certified personnel and been invited to present at a number of their training conferences].
Net Metering AKA Net Energy Metering AKA NEM
This is the agreement solar customers have with their utility where a home with a solar system sells back excess energy to the utility for close to retail rate (there are a few fees that cannot be backed out, so the electricity sell back is not a precise one-to-one sell back ratio). This excess energy can be carried forward until the True-Up or Settlement Bill, which usually occurs every 12 months. At this point, excess energy beyond what the home used drops from the utility’s retail rate to the utility’s wholesale electricity rate. This is a much lower electricity rate and this big drop in the price of electricity being sold back to the utility is one of the reasons an oversized home solar system (with too many solar panels and an excess of energy production beyond the household energy needs) is avoided during the design and installation of a solar system.
NEM Charges AKA Net Metering Charges AKA Net Energy Metering Charges
For homeowners with SDG&E as their power company, this is the amount of kWh charged, not including any NEM Credits, under their net metering billing.
NEM Credits AKA Net Metering Credits AKA Net Energy Metering Credits
These are the credits your San Diego home solar system generates and that have been applied to your utility account / utility bill.
Net Energy Metering Non-Bypassable Charges
These are charges that cannot be overcome with excess electricity production from your solar array. These are charges such as: Nuclear Decommissioning, Public Purpose Programs, DWR Charges and Competition Transition Charges.
For the purpose of discussing solar, Offset is the overproduction of electricity that is designed into your system so that it can sell electricity to your utility during the day to offset the electricity you will later purchase (through use) during the non-producing hours of your system. Fortunately, sunny San Diego Solar Power is an abundant and reliable source of renewable energy.
An Optimizer is one of the solar energy products that solar contractors can incorporate into a system that allows some similar functionality of a Microinverter solar panel arrangement but at a lower cost compared to a Microinverter set up. A solar Optimizer is connected to each solar panel and allows independent energy production from each solar panel, so their solar production is not limited by the lowest-producing solar panel in the solar array. There is also the added function of being able to monitor the electrical output of each solar panel (this is possible with a Microinverter system also, but in a standard Inverter system (String-Inverter) system you can only monitor the solar array’s total power output, not individual solar pv panels). Any top solar panel company in the industry will be able to determine if your photovoltaic solar panels would increase their power output with the incorporation of an Optimizer.
This stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. This is similar to a Solar Loan but with lower up front costs but more restrictions in the future including, for example, possibly a first-priority lien on your home. Usually the electric bill payment is done at the same time property taxes are paid, or other times through the house’s mortgage payment.
Panel AKA Solar Panel
This is the sheet of Solar Cells that make up one module. For the purposes of home solar in San Diego, this refers to the PV panels that are approximately five and a half feet long, three and a quarter feet wide, and about an inch thick. The production output of solar energy of Panels had a rapid increase about a decade ago. Solar Panel development and improvement continues, but their increases in efficiency and production are not growing rapidly from year to year because the current state of rooftop panels is at a good point of efficiency and power output.
This is a large powerplant that provides electricity to a city but that is only ‘turned on’ during times of rapidly increasing power demands (though that can mean every day during on-peak energy time such as when people are getting home from work). The advantage of Peaker Plants is that they can ‘accelerate’ rapidly in their ability to create energy, the disadvantage is they are not producing clean energy and they are not producing cheap energy - the average cost of the electricity is higher for the utility companies and those costs manage to show up in your utility bills. Peaker Plants are built to fill ‘holes’ in spiking energy demands that the traditional power plants cannot meet.
PPA AKA Power Purchase Agreement
A Power Purchase Agreement is a way for a homeowner to consume renewable energy without putting in the upfront costs to purchase a pv solar system. In a PPA, the homeowner agrees to buy all the power a system produces, usually at a rate below that of the Utility. The solar power is generated through a solar system on the house that is owned by the Solar Provider. The price paid for electricity in this arrangement increases (usually annually). This is a low cost way to use green energy without spending a lot of money up front, though there are considerations in the long run and in the event of a home sale before the PPA has expired, such as whether or not the PPA allows the agreement to be transferred to the new home owner or if the agreement must be bought out by the home seller. To read about PPA vs a lease, you can read more here.
This can be a Solar Provider’s guarantee/warranty that a designed system will deliver a set amount of electricity over specific time periods. This performance warranty can be backed up with a financial make-up payment if the system falls short of this amount of electricity, or in some cases a performance warranty shortcoming can be 'fixed' by the addition of more solar panels to the system, at the discretion of the solar companies. This Production Guarantee/performance warranty is different from a solar panel warranty from the solar panel manufacturers - this Production Guarantee is a guarantee on the design and size of the solar power system as conceived by the solar panel company. A performance warranty on the system is another reason to find a top solar power company that uses quality solar manufacturers when planning the solar capacity of your home system. This energy output of the system's pv cells is related to energy bill savings but is not a guarantee of a lower electrical bill or decreasing your energy costs – since customer usage is a big factor in determining that.
This is your San Diego Solar Power Company AKA the Solar Contractors you hire. They may or may not be the same in-house company that installs your solar panels and home solar system.
This is an abbreviation for photovoltaic, which is the term for the type of solar photovoltaic panel used for the standard home solar system. This differentiates today’s modern solar panels which generate electricity from other forms of using solar radiation. A simple example of a solar system that is not a solar photovoltaic system is the pool heating system that uses conduction to heat pool water “directly” by pumping it through a large-area system (often mounted on a roof) to expose more of the pool water to the sun’s heat. In nearly all circumstances when people discuss residential and commercial solar systems today they are referring to solar photovoltaic systems. Here’s an interesting blog about different types of solar systems.
The energy of the sun, as light. This is the energy the photovoltaic cells in your solar panels use to convert sunlight into electricity. When you own a solar system you become an electricity producer are your own energy provider.
This is an electronic device that is in effect the opposite of an Inverter. This device converts alternating current into direct current. When PV solar panels convert sunlight into energy, they produce direct current and nearly every home solar system converts that electricity into alternating current.
Reduce Your Use Day Reward
This is a term SDG&E uses for San Diego homeowners on a billing plan that provides rewards based on energy use timing under certain billing plans – another reason why isn’t not simple to determine the best SDG&E billing plan for you.
These are credits you might see on your SDG&E bill that represent excess Kilowatt Hours that your solar system has produced but have not yet been applied to your outstanding charges. Once they are applied they are called, not surprisingly, Applied Credits.
This is green energy aka clean energy that is produced in a way that doesn’t deplete natural resources of the earth and that can ideally operate with zero greenhouse emissions. In terms of becoming your own electricity producer, solar and wind are the two home renewable energy sources people mention. Other sources of renewable energy are rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Most, other than solar power and wind power, are not common self-produced energy sources in San Diego. Today solar companies build solar cell panel based systems. There are solar companies that can use solar tiles, though these are not as efficient or cost effective today as a panel based solar array.
Renewable Energy Certificate AKA RECs
These are certificates that you would be eligible to receive if you own a home solar system. This allows you to make the claim that you are producing clean energy and avoiding the byproduct of greenhouse gasses in the production of that energy. These certificates are for making environmental claims; unless you have a known need for you to receive RECs there is a high likeliehood that they would be of no benefit to you.
Solar panels are attached to your roof with roof mounts designed to work specifically with the type of room on your house. Whether you have a composite single roof, tile roof, concrete roof, or even a flat roof, there is a dedicated and best solar panel roof mount system for your house.
This is the most common home solar system that installation companies build which includes solar panels mounted on your roof. Another, though less common, solar panel mounting option is a ground mount, which mounts solar panels on their own frame that is build separate from the house.
The Single-family Affordable Solar Home program is a California effort to not only bring more solar homes into neighborhoods that traditionally have been left out of the option to create their own renewable energy, but it also provides education on the benefits of solar and help families enroll in programs to save on solar in California. The program also supports job training in solar industry jobs. This program enables more families to go green with solar energy.
SCE AKA Southern California Edison
A major local utility that provides electricity to Southern California homes. For most homes in the San Diego region, the utility would be SDG&E. The territory of SCE generally covers areas north of the SDG&E territory.
SDG&E AKA San Diego Gas and Electric
A major local utility that provides electricity to San Diego and the San Diego region – This is likely your San Diego electric company.
SEIA AKA Solar Energy Industries Association
This is a solar trade association for the U.S. solar industry that also provides a guide for purchasing a solar system for homeowners in the market for San Diego solar panels and a home system.
SGIP AKA Self-Generation Incentive Program
This is a program to help lower the cost of home energy storage with rebates through a government rebate program. These are good rebates for different emerging distributed energy resources (including home battery energy storage) but the incentives program has been set up in a way that makes it challenging for even the best San Diego solar power companies to ensure the customer will receive any rebates when purchasing home energy storage systems before the funding of these incentives has been depleted. If you have solar electric companies in San Diego guaranteeing you will receive SGIP incentives rebates with the purchase of an energy storage solution, you should be careful to check that those solar companies have assurances in place to make sure you receive the funds from these rebates.
This is the breaker inside the Main Service Panel for the Solar System. This is different from a separate AC Disconnect.
Solar Energy System Disclosure Document
This is a one page document, created by the CSLB (Contractors State License Board) as a form to be filled in by your solar contractor, that discloses all the costs of your home solar system. At Baker, our long standing and continuing policy is to provide this to our customers. We include it as the first page of any solar contract.
See: Solar Lender
Solar Guide AKA Solar Consumer Guide
A term often used to refer to the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide. This is a document that informs customers considering home solar with valuable information. If you move forward with solar and decide to install a PV solar system on your home in California, as of September 30, 2019 you will be required to read and sign this guide. This guide is not a commitment to buy, this guide is informative but must be signed or initialed in various places before the utility will turn on your system. This is a resource designed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to help you. It's also a good idea to check solar reviews on sites like Yelp and Angie's List, and look at the BBB rating of any solar companies you're considering; and each company's website can often give you an idea of how professional they are. But the CPUC's Solar Guide will give you a great understanding of what to look for and what to expect once you've narrowed down the list of solar companies you're considering, because the best reviewed solar company might not be the best company in your area or the best company for you.
This is the group that performs the actual installation; sometimes this is a department of the Solar Provider’s company.
This is a way for homeowners to rent/lease solar power systems that are installed on the roof of their homes. The homeowners get the electricity that the solar energy systems produce and sign an agreement to pay monthly to the Solar Provider (this monthly payment usually increases a set percentage each year per the agreement). The Solar Provider owns and maintains the solar energy systems. These agreements are usually 20+ years in length. If the homeowner wishes to sell their house during this agreement period, there may or may not be an option to transfer the Lease to the new home buyer. There may or may not be a requirement to buy out the lease, which may or may not have a penalty attached to it.
Solar Lender AKA Solar Loan Company
A financing company that specializes in loans and financing options for home solar systems. Other financing options besides a Solar Lender include banks or credit unions which might provide a better loan with a lower interest rate. It's good to investigate all the options and rank the various lending options and loan offers before making the final decision on financing new solar energy systems. Solar companies will have Solar Lenders they work with but you can pick your own, too.
This refers to the San Diego county solar company that you buy the solar system from. They can be the same solar electric company that does the solar power systems installations as well.
Solar Water Heater
These are not photovoltaic solar systems, these are a more simplistic, ez solar system that could be built without electrical expertise and that don’t produce electricity, they just heat your home’s water either directly or indirectly. With San Diego’s great weather, water freezing within the system is not a major factor in the decision of the best Solar Water Heater system for you. These solar systems do not produce renewable electricity, but they do help you go green by requiring less electricity to heat your home’s water through the natural energy of the heat of the sun.
This is a set of one or more solar Arrays in solar power systems. Most home solar systems will have a string of arrays. The top San Diego solar power companies will be happy to show you exactly how those solar pv panel arrays will be built onto your home’s roof.
Three Day Cancellation Period AKA Right to Rescind
You have at least three business days to cancel a solar contract if you change your mind. At Baker, we won’t require a customer to move forward if they’ve changed their mind, so we’ll work with you beyond the three day requirement if you decide not to continue forward. If you find yourself with a solar provider who will not honor this 3 Day Cancellation Period requirement, you can contact the Contractors State Licensing Board at 800-321-CSLB.
Tiered Rate Billing
This is one way your power company might charge you for using electricity. In this electricity billing plan, your electricity cost increases when you reach levels, or tiers, of use for each billing period. The initial rate is relatively cheap electricity, but most homeowners will use more electricity than this tier allows before electric rates increase within that billing period. From there, overuse will kick the cost of energy into becoming even more expensive electricity. In Tiered Rate Billing, the electricity costs rise in stages based on total electricity use for that billing period and is independent of when during the day or week that electricity is consumed by the house. In San Diego with SDG&E, Tiered Rate Billing is not an option when adding solar to a house today. In the past, customers were allowed to stay on this rate plan even with the adoption of solar power systems and those customers are allowed to say on their previous Tiered Rate Plans for a set period of time.
TOU Billing AKA Time-Of-Use Billing
This is the current billing plan for San Diego county solar homes with solar power systems. This cost plan for energy bills varies the cost of electricity in San Diego by having different electric rates for different periods of the day. The purpose of this billing plan is to incentivize San Diego homeowners to use less electricity during On-Peak hours (generally between 4:00PM and 9:00PM, though it varies by plan and by day of week and different halves of the year) to avoid or lessen the electrical demand spike during this time when people are getting home and turning on the lights and appliances, cooking dinner, running the dishwasher, etc. There are many plans within TOU billing at SDG&E, and the best solar power companies in San Diego can help you find the plan that’s right for you to lower your energy bills. [At Baker we have a proprietary app that helps us find the billing rate plan with your solar system and energy use that will allow you to have the most efficient billing costs to work for your needs and provide you with the lowest energy bills] For more information check out this blog post.
True Up AKA True-Up Bill AKA Settlement Bill
This is the annual bill from your electricity utility that balances home energy use with your home energy production to determine what your overall bill will be. At this point Solar Credits are not carried forward any longer, so excess credits are converted to the electricity wholesale rate, which is a much, much cheaper price for electricity. Unfortunately, in this case of excess production of solar energy (often a result when residential solar power systems are built too large), that cheap electricity rate works against you since you’re selling it back to the Utility at that wholesale rate. This is one reason why the best solar power companies in San Diego will design home solar systems that cover as close to exactly how much energy families will use today and into the future for the best return on investment when trying to reduce energy bills. Solar power systems size is part science and part art since there are many factors to consider for both energy use today and energy use, and the price of electricity from the utility companies in San Diego, on future energy bills.
This is the power company (San Diego Gas & Electric in most cases for residential San Diego homes) that provides electricity to your house. In many areas there is only a single choice for an electricity provider but with community power providers there could be more options on where customers buy their home electricity.
Utility Wholesale Rate
For the purpose of the solar energy producing homeowner, this is significant because it is that rate you would be selling back you excess energy for if you’ve carried excess electricity up to your True-Up or Settlement Bill. Excess electricity sold back to utility companies prior to this True-Up or Settlement bill is sold back (through net metering) at a rate nearly equal to the value of that electricity when it was produced. In short, you get the ‘market value’ of any electricity your solar produces (less some fees that are built in that net metering cannot bypass) during a ‘regular’ month, but once your energy consumption vs. Your energy use is tabulated over a 12-month period, the excess solar electric energy that your system produced is bought by the Utility at this much lower Utility Wholesale Rate.
Whole House Fan
This is a house venting system designed to circulate air; it is a strong fan not an air conditioning system. It can be useful to push hot air out of a home prior to turning on the home air conditioning system. This is not a solar product, but some solar companies also have HVAC divisions and therefore can handle this install for you as a part of making your home more energy efficient.
This is any warranty offered by the Solar Provider/Solar Installer that covers their work separate from the hardware warranties of the Manufacturers of the components. [Baker provides solar and solar and battery customers with a 10 year Workmanship Warranty as well as excellent customer service.]