5 Terms to Understand When Shopping for a Solar Panel System

Author profile image for Nate Lewis, Chief Revenue Officer
  • Nate Lewis
  • Chief Revenue Officer

Understanding some basic solar terms is a smart way to do some homework before embarking on your solar system exploration. It will help you evaluate proposals and understand better what is being recommended.

If you're looking into solar or thinking about it, having a basic understanding of "solar lingo" will help you ask the right questions and make more informed decisions. Here are a few terms to get you started: 

1. Kilowatt Hour (kWh):

This is the measurement the utility company uses to measure your home's electricity usage. One Kilowatt-hour (1kWh) is equal to (10) 100-watt light bulbs running for 1 hour. Understanding how many kWh's you use, and when, will help solar companies properly size your system and accurately estimate your savings.  

2. Time-of-Use Rate (TOU) Plans:

Customers who use Southern California Edison as their utility will be placed on TOU rates when going solar. The cost for energy on TOU rate plans is determined by the season and time of day that power is used. Currently, there are on-peak rates, off-peak rates, and super off-peak rates. Solar production will also be valued based on the season and time of day. Having a company that does a proper evaluation is critical to making sure you are making the best investment. A properly-sized system is the best way to make sure you plan for the effects-of-time period changes in the future with the utility.

3. Azimuth or orientation of the panels:

Simply put, this is the direction that the panels face. In Southern California, panels that are facing south are going to produce more kWh's on an annual basis than any other orientation. Panels facing west will produce power when TOU rates are the highest. Other orientations or azimuths can be used, but a good rule of thumb is to first use your south and west-facing roofs. 

4. Solar Panel Efficiency:

Solar panel efficiency is a measurement of how effectively the panel converts sunlight into energy. Not all panels are not created or perform equally. A premium panel, like a SunPower panel, is going to produce more power per Sq/Ft than any other panel on the market. The more efficient the panel, the fewer panels you will need. Fewer panels allow you to utilize the best areas of your roof. It also allows for shorter installation times, fewer connections or potential points of failures, fewer penetrations in your roof, and a more attractive solar system.  

5. Inverter/Microinverter:

The energy that solar panels produce is DC power, but since our homes run on AC power, the current must be “inverted”. Originally, this was done by stringing seven or eight solar panels together and running the wires to an inverter mounted in or near the garage. Now, many of the newer style panels, like SunPower panels, have the inverter built-in. The advantage of this is that the entire system is under a longer warranty, whereas before the panels might have a 25-year warranty with the inverter at only 10. Additionally, because each panel operates independently, there is much more flexibility with panel placement so you can have the optimum layout. In addition to the improved warranty and design flexibility, microinverters are especially helpful in applications where there is shade from chimneys or trees. 

Call Our Coachella Valley Solar Installation Company for a Free Quote!

Now that you have a good start on solar terms, it's time to put it to use with a free quote to see if solar is right for you! We will answer any questions and address any concerns you may have. We understand choosing a reliable solar company can be a daunting task, so we make it easy for you!

Call our Coachella Valley solar installation team at Renova Energy today!

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