SOLAR FAQS

Got Questions? Let us help!

 

We are here to help homeowners and businesses along the process of going solar.

If you have any additional questions, please call our office at (210)227-6527.

 

What steps should I make BEFORE going solar?

We highly recommend that prior to going solar, you make your home as energy efficient as possible. The more efficient your home, the less energy it requires. The less energy your home requires, the smaller the size of the solar energy system you will have to buy.

Before installing a photovoltaic (PV) systems to generate solar energy or a solar water heating system, evaluate the existing conditions of your house and surroundings to determine whether your house is a good candidate for installing renewable energy systems such as these:

Building Envelope – This refers to the roof, walls, windows and doors of the home.

o Roof – Roofing material should be selected to not only for energy efficiency, but for durability when installing and supporting the solar energy system. Examine the roof to make sure it has adequate exposure to the sun for a solar energy system to function properly. If there are problems finding appropriate areas on the roof of your home, you have the option to build structures such as arbors, trellises, garden sheds, or gazebos which may be located in areas of your yard with more favorable solar exposure.

o Walls – Adequate insulation should be installed in the walls.

o Windows – Install low-E glass windows or install solar screens over existing windows to limit heat infiltration.

o Doors – Make sure adequate weather-stripping is in place around all exterior doors.

Home Energy Rating – Contact a RESNET-certified home energy rater to perform a thorough audit and make pinpoint recommendations how your home could be made more energy efficient. Depending on where a home is deficient, upgrades should be performed. A list of qualified raters may be found at http://www.natresnet.org/directory/raters.aspx

Appliances – Replace old or inefficient appliances with ENERGY STAR® rated appliances.

Lighting – Fixtures should be fitted with fluorescent or compact fluorescent bulbs.

Equipment Location – Provide areas in your utility room, garage or elsewhere to install the inverter and other related equipment. Remember if you are connecting your PV system to the house panel, being a CPS Energy customer, you can obtain credit for the excess energy you produce when it exceeds the energy your home demands. There will be no need at all for expensive batteries.

How much does it cost?

The cost of solar depends on the size of your house as well as how big of a system you would want. The average residential system is 5 kW and the current average price could cost $20,000.

Currently, CPS Energy has allocated $30 million in solar rebates to be divided into three tiers:

  • Tier 1 – first $10 million at a Rebate Level of $1.20 per watt
  • Tier 2 – next $10 million at a Rebate Level of $1.00 per watt    *current rebate tier*
  • Tier 3 – last $10 million at a Rebate Level of $0.80 per watt

The current rebate limits up to $25,000 for residential projects and $80,000 for commercial remain in place. Rebates are also capped at 50% of project cost, whichever one is less. Once the rebate is credited, you can apply the 30% Incentive Federal Tax Credit to the remaining balance.

Here is an example of how the incentives can help bring down the upfront cost of solar. Keep in mind this is just an estimate based on the average of contracts signed. Your quote will vary.

If a 5 kW system costs $20,000 before rebates, the CPS Energy residential rebate at the $1.20 tier could bring this cost down to $14,000. After the 30% tax credit is applied to the remaining balance, the final out-of-pocket cost could be $9,800.

How long does a system last?

If you are trying to obtain the CPS Energy solar rebate, CPS requires that all installed PV systems must carry a 5-year warranty from the installer. Solar modules must carry a 20-year warranty from the manufacturer. Inverters must carry at least a 5-year manufacturer warranty without battery back-up.

Solar systems can last 25-30 years or longer. The panels are designed to withstand hail, hurricane force winds, and rainstorms.

How big is a solar PV system?

The average residential system is 5 kW, which is about 20 panels. Systems come in many sizes and vary depending on your energy goals. The solar installer should review your current and average energy usage to design a system that will produce the correct amount of power to suit your needs.

What if I live in a Historical District?

The City of San Antonio’s Office of Historic Preservation has set guidelines for solar panels on locally designated historic properties. When planning the installation of solar panels the overall objective is to preserve character-defining features and the historic fabric while accommodating the need for solar access to the greatest extent possible.

All solar panel installations must be considered on a case by case basis recognizing that the best option will depend on the characteristics of the property under consideration. Some guidelines apply to virtually all installation options and are repeated in each section.

All solar panel installations should conform to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Applicable Standards are:

  • Standard Two: The historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved. The removal of historic materials or alteration of features and spaces that characterize a property shall be avoided.
  • Standard Nine: New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment.

For most properties, locating solar panels on the primary facade is not an option because it will adversely effect on the property’s character defining features. All other options should be thoroughly explored.

How much is solar worth?

Currently, CPS Energy uses net metering to apply value to solar generated by your system.

Through net metering, CPS Energy credits your utility bill 1-for-1 with the amount of energy generated by your system.

Each kilowatt produced by your system cancels out a kilowatt-hour you used from the grid. This allows you to have a source of electricity whenever you need it, not just when your system is generating electricity.

Will I make money off of my PV system?

If your solar system overproduces, meaning it generated more electricity than you used from CPS Energy, the amount the utility will pay you is $.02 per kilowatt-hour. Since CPS Energy does not pay the full price of electricity for what you over-produce, you will not make a significant profit from this.

I want to be off the grid. What does that entail?

Well, it is pretty difficult to be completely off the grid. In addition to the solar system, you will need to purchase a battery to store excess energy for use at night. Batteries are still an expensive technology. Additionally, you cannot take advantage of the CPS rebate if you are not connected to the grid.

What are some easy Energy Saving tips?

CPS Energy offers the following tips to save energy:

  • Set your thermostat between 78 and 80 degrees during warm months. During colder months, set it between 68 to 70 degrees.
  • Use a programmable thermostat to manage your daily heating and cooling needs.
  • Try a free CPS Energy Savers Smart Thermostat or other programmable thermostat programs.
  • Use a ceiling or portable fan to circulate air and make you feel cooler.
  • Turn off the television, fan and lights when you leave a room.
  • Replace less efficient incandescent light bulbs with LEDs and CFLs.
  • Purchase energy-efficient appliances and products. Take advantage of our home efficiency rebates.
  • Turn off or unplug electronic devices, such as computers, power tools, etc., when not in use.
  • Reduce your hot water use – take short showers, use cold water to wash clothes, etc.

To learn more about CPS Energy’s Energy Saving Tips, click here: https://www.cpsenergy.com/en/my-home/ways-to-save/energy-efficiency.html

**To learn more about CPS Energy’s Efficiency programs, click here: https://www.cpsenergy.com/en/my-home/ways-to-save/efficiency-programs.html

Are the rebates/incentives running out?

No. Currently, CPS Energy has allocated $30 million in solar rebates to be divided into three tiers:

  • Tier 1 – first $10 million at a Rebate Level of $1.20 per watt
  • Tier 2 – next $10 million at a Rebate Level of $1.00 per watt    *current rebate tier*
  • Tier 3 – last $10 million at a Rebate Level of $0.80 per watt

The current rebate limits up to $25,000 for residential projects and $80,000 for commercial remain in place. Rebates are also capped at 50% of project cost, whichever one is less.

The 30% Incentive Federal Tax Credit was set to run out at the end of 2016. However, Congress has decided to extend the Tax Credit until 2019.

Do the panels need to be oriented a specific direction?

PV modules should be oriented geographically to maximize the amount of daily and seasonal solar energy that they receive. In general, the optimum orientation for a PV module in the northern hemisphere is true south. However, your modules could also be oriented South West and/or West without significantly decreasing its performance. The ideal roof pitch would be 26 degrees.

Do I need to have a new roof?

If your roof is in new or good condition, then there is no need to get a new roof. If you have an older roof that needs to be repaired, you will want to do it at the time the PV system is installed. This is because if you put your solar PV system in place and then have to replace your roof, you will have to pay extra to remove and reinstall your PV system.

Can my HOA prevent me from going solar?

A Homeowner’s Association cannot legally stop you from going solar unless there is still an undeveloped plot in your neighborhood.

There have been instances where the rules of a Homeowner Association (HOA) and Property Owner Association (POA) created barriers to the installation of solar energy equipment. The State Legislature addressed this situation by passing House Bill 362. This law amended Chapter 202 of the Texas Property Code by adding Sections 202.010 and 202.011.

The law defines the limited circumstances under which an HOA or POA can prohibit or require the relocation of a solar energy installation. To read the bill, click here:  http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/82R/billtext/html/HB00362F.htm

How long does it take to install a solar system?

The entire process of receiving an estimate, site survey, approval, installation, and inspection takes about 6-8 weeks.

Do the solar panels need to be mounted on a roof?

Panels are often mounted on the roof, but can also be mounted on the ground if the space is available. Keep in mind, wherever the panels are located needs to be free of shade. Roof mount systems are most common in residential installations.

What happens if it's raining or cloudy? Does shade matter?

The panels can still produce if it’s cloudy, but the production will not be the same as it is when the sun is shining. A permanent shade caused by a tree could also seriously restrict the productivity of your panels. Your solar installer should make your panels are not shaded.