We know you've got questions...

SEC Consultants have been working in the industry since 1998 and we’ve answered a few questions. Here are some answers of the most common questions. We’ve organized these FAQs by topic. If you don’t see the answer you’re looking for, please call your consultant directly or you can contact us toll-free at 855-888-3993 or Contact Us via email.



The time is running out for getting your Tax Credit for 2017. If you miss it this year you’ll have to wait 18 months to collect on your Tax Credit money. Plus you will have given PG&E all that money for another year!!!

Lock in energy savings and protect yourself against rising future prices!

The cost per kilowatt for an average electric bill of $150 per month is approximately $0.25 per kilowatt and the costs continue to escalate! When you compare the average cost per kilowatt for purchasing solar is $0.05 – $0.08 per kilowatt, the numbers are overwhelmingly clear that going solar just makes sense!

Every dollar you pay to the Utility Company could be going towards purchasing your own Solar System!

The straightest way to look at ROI is first to consider the amount of money you’re spending on electricity as a perpetual liability that continues to spiral up, especially in the last three years. As soon as you stop giving your money to the utilities, you are ahead of the game. As a matter of fact, as soon as you redirect the money that you pay to the utility company and pay it towards owning your own solar system, you are in effect using their money to invest in your asset! Plus, you’ll receive the 30% Federal tax credit as a bonus!

The cost of electricity has risen an average of 50% from 2014-2016!



Will installation interfere with my normal day to day household activities?

All of the work is conducted on the outside of your home so will most likely not be impacted. We will coordinate your project installation with you to minimize any potential impact it may have on your daily routine. There will be an installation crew walking around on your roof using power tools so, we generally recommend that you plan an outing for the day to avoid the possible noise.

How long will my installation take?

This depends mostly on the size of the system, site access, and the distance between the array(s) and the main electrical service. In general, figure 1 day for a roof mount installation.
Ground mount systems are generally 2 – 4 days depending on the complexity of the project.

What kind of county/city permits will I need?

We always need an electrical permit from the city or county and some require a building permit as well. and our licensed installers will handle all of this, from applications to inspections, including working with the utility company requirements.

What if my roof needs repair after the Solar system is installed?

Yes, by contacting our installation department we can schedule to have the system removed and installed to accommodate repairs. Call the installation department for a cost estimate for your project’

My roof needs replacing soon. Does it make sense to integrate the installations?

Yes. If you’re planning to replace your roof in the next few years, it may make sense to move that up and install the Solar system at the same time as the new roof is going on. SEC will include the roof replacement as a requirement to install solar so you are eligible to receive a 30% Federal tax credit on the roof as well. Most financing options will include the roof cost in their finance package. Be sure to ask energy consultant about your options.

Will a roof-mounted system void my roofer’s warranty?

We frequently coordinate our work with roofers to ensure warranties remain in force and the Solar system installation also comes with a 10-year warranty that includes roof integrity.



All SEC solar systems come with a 25-year warranty on solar panels and inverters and are backed by the leading manufacturing companies in the industry. ( Click Here ) for more details on warranties offered by SEC.

What about rust and oxidization?

All hardware is made for outdoor use and is made of either rust-proof stainless or galvanized steel, aluminum or high-grade outdoor-rated plastic. All electrical wiring is installed within current City or County requirements and must pass all standard before the system can be approved for operation.

What are the maintenance procedures and costs?

Solar systems are solid-state technology, have no moving parts and require no maintenance beyond optional cleaning, which can typically be done with a garden hose. Most systems shouldn’t require cleaning because normal weather patterns provide enough rain to keep them clean. If you decide to clean them yourself or have them cleaned because of a particularly dry season, then just spraying them off with a hose is sufficient.

Inverters are also solid-state and require no maintenance. Mounting hardware is either aluminum or stainless steel or high-quality ASA resin (same as car side mirrors) and is rust-proof.


I hear ______’s panels are the cheapest. Wouldn’t those be the best choice?

As with most products, you get what you pay for. Unfortunately for the homeowner, there are a lot of panels in the market with less than optimal warranties. Most of the BIG NAME lease companies use the cheaper panel to keep their costs down and profits higher. In the current market, the industry given the 25-year performance warranties solar panel manufacturers’ offer, SEC screens panel manufacturers not only for product quality and performance, but also for long-term financial viability since a 25-year warranty from a company that went out of business creates a risk that can overwhelm and potential savings from using discount panels. We typically choose only diversified manufacturers who can weather the ups and downs of the business cycle to ensure long-term warranty coverage is maintained. In fact, many so-called “Tier One” manufacturers do not pass our financial health screen due to limited track record, lack of consistent profitability, or opaque financial data.

I’ve never heard of the companies that make inverters. How can I trust them?
SEC sources inverters from only the largest, best-capitalized manufacturers for quality, longevity, and long-term financial viability.

I hear ______’s panels are the most efficient. Wouldn’t those be the best choice?

There are some considerable performance differences between manufacturer’s products and often there are differences within a given manufacturer’s product line. Whether you install a higher or lower Watt panel, your system will produce the same amount of power. The deciding factor is how much roof space is available for panels. As you might expect, greater efficiency carries a higher price. SEC has the highest efficiency solar panels on the market available. In every case, SEC will design the most cost-effective solution, maximizing your long-term return on investment while minimizing the initial investment.

Should I wait for advances in technology?

Unlike the other major use of silicon – computer chips – photovoltaic technology is not subject to Moore’s Law. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratories, the rate of improvement of achievements in efficiency for crystalline solar cells has been less than 1% per year since 1970. Additionally, it can be years before new technology can be introduced to the market. The lag-time between designing new technology and it being ready for retail installation is anywhere from 15-20! The bottom line is, waiting for a magic solar bullet will probably mean waiting a long time, missing some of the incentives, and paying a lot for electricity in the interim.

How long will solar panels last?

It’s important to understand that not all solar panels are created equally! Your panel selection should be based on two factors: 1) the manufacturers’ in-field experience and reliability testing (how long the panels have been being installed. 2) The fine print in the panel specification. By making the right selection, your solar panels will last up to 40 years.

How do PV Panels work?

Here’s a short answer: Sunlight on photovoltaic panels produces direct current (DC) electricity which is converted to alternating current (AC) by a device called an inverter, which is then wired into your main service panel where it feeds your internal power grid. For more details, click here.


SEC Uses the Highest Environmentally Friendly Rated Panels

SEC Uses the Highest Environmentally Friendly Rated Panels in the industry according to the SILICON VALLEY TOXICS COALITION – 2015 Solar Scorecard based on the fallowing criteria:

Extended Producer Responsibility—20 points, Emissions Transparency—10 points, Chemical Reduction Plan—5 points, Worker Rights, Health, and Safety—15 points, High Value Recycling—5 points, Supply Chain—10 points, Module Toxicity—10 points, Biodiversity—5 points, Energy Use and Greenhouse Emissions-5 points, Water Ues -5 points, Prison Labor—5 points, Conflict Minerals—5 points.

I hear manufacturing PV panels creates toxic by-products and waste. True?

Another good question. There’s less documentation on this than the energy return on investment question, suggesting it’s probably not an issue, but the Environmental Working Group’s ( Green Energy Guide ) reports the manufacturing and operation of photovoltaics creates far less emissions than any other source of electricity analyzed.

Someone told me that the energy required to make PV panels is greater than they will every produce. True?

Glad you asked — we’ve heard this one before. Numerous studies indicate it takes 2-3 years to generate as much power as is required to manufacture photovoltaic panels, and the Environmental Working Group’s ( Green Energy Guide ) reports an energy return on investment for photovoltaics of 9-to-1, greater than most other electricity sources.


What are the critical assumptions for modeling ROI?

The straightest way to look at ROI is first to consider the amount of money you’re spending on electricity as a perpetual liability that continues to spiral up, especially in the last three years. As soon as you stop giving your money to the utilities, you are ahead of the game. As a matter of fact, as soon as you redirect the money that you pay to the utility company and pay it towards owning your own solar system, you are in effect using their money to invest in your asset! Plus, you’ll receive the 30% Federal tax credit as a bonus!

How do I know how much power I’m selling back to my utility and how can I be confident this will be accurately accounted for?

The power you generate is metered by your inverter and the utility meter tracks power in both directions – both power you buy and power you sell back to the utility. Plus, you can track your production and the power you export via our online monitoring software. Finally, you’ll receive a monthly statement from your utility company. All these provide ample reassurance that the accounting will be done. You are able to check your systems production levels anytime day or night.
Keep in mind that the amount of power the utility company will buy back and for how much is reliant on WHEN you sign up for the Net Energy Metering (NEM) program. As time passes the NEM will progressively change to a lesser benefit. The NEM benefits are better the sooner you sign-up!

We don’t own the property so can we still go solar?

Yes, and No. First of all, you must be on title for the property to receive the 30% Federal tax credit. In some cases, we have seen property owners install solar on a rental property with some specific requirements being met. Ask your SEC consultant for more information.

What’s the impact on my property taxes?

Photovoltaic systems are exempt from property taxes in California as long as you make your purchase by the end of 2016. This benefit will be locked in for those that make the cut-off date of December 31, 2016.

What kind of financing is available?

The best source of financing is usually your mortgage company with a home equity loan. However, SEC works with three PACE programs that allow solar purchasers to pay for their system through their property taxes allowing them the ability to write off the loan interest on your taxes. SEC is able to offer 12 months same-as-cash as well! If you like, we’re happy to make arrangements with a number of independent solar finance partners we’ve worked with on other projects. Click here for more information

What incentives are available?

Residential solar buyers benefit from a 30% federal tax credit (though 2019). SEC has a Community Model Home Program that can save you up to an additional 10% Click here for more information
SEC will give you the most current information and include that in your proposal with detailed pro forma cash flow statements for a variety of appropriate financing mechanisms.( Click Here ) for more details on currently available solar financing and incentives.

How much do these systems cost and how much money will I save each year? How long will it take to pay back my investment?

The size of the system is the largest determinant of the price, and the savings rises accordingly. In most cases, the payback period for the investment in a solar system is roughly 5-7 years with internal rates of return ranging from 8% to 25%, depending on the avoided cost of energy. Your energy consultant will provide you with your system cost, payback period, and ROI during your in-home consultation.


What will this do to my roof?

Solar systems typically weigh no more than 3-4 lbs./sq. ft. and most roofs have a 20# per sq. ft. ‘dead load’ capacity so array weight on the roof is rarely an issue. We can also design a solution to be completely non-penetrating if your municipality accepts our engineering testing documentation, as many have.

I have plans for expansion. Can I plan for this now?

We frequently take into account future growth plans when designing your system. The choice of inverter’s can be influenced by near-term expectations about power usage and in some cases, it may make sense to include excess capacity now and simply add more panels later. We’ll discuss this with you and explore a variety of options to meet your needs now and in the future.

Do I need batteries?

Is backup power necessary to have? The answer is “no”. and if you don’t have a backup solution today, an ordinary grid-connected Solar system will leave you in the same position. However, if you are interested in a backup power option in the event of a power outage, SEC can you to install a battery storage solution for your Solar system to automatically switch over. Most customers inquire about batteries and ultimately choose to do without based on cost.

What happens on dark/cloudy days?

Unlike the early days of solar power when systems had to be sized for peak loads, a grid-connected Solar system seamlessly switches to draw from the utility grid when needed. SEC takes weather and shading into account when estimating an annual production target.

Roof-mounted or ground-mounted?

Your solar system will most likely be installed on your roof unless you have room on your property for a ground mounted system. Roof-mounted are less expensive as they require no additional support structures and are most often not visible to passersby. On the other hand, ground-mounted systems can usually be oriented and tilted to optimize production. Through understanding your business and your needs, will present a solution that optimizes for your business and your needs.

How do I determine how large a system I’ll need?

The size of the system is directly proportional to the amount of power you use. As part of the proposal process will perform a site assessment, analyze at least twelve months’ worth of utility statements, and raise the question of near-term (5-7 year) home ownership. With that information, taking into account the specifications of the components and space availability, will present recommendations for your input and feedback the goal of making sure you feel the ultimate path chosen is ideal.


Solar Energy Consultants LLC, Business Consultant, San Jose, CA

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