Do solar panels work in the winter?

Here in South Carolina, we are used to plenty of sunshine and warm weather. Based on years of data from The National Climatic Data Center, South Carolina averages over 200 days of full and partial sunshine per year. That’s why the Palmetto state is ideal for solar energy production! 

But what does that mean for solar when the winter brings shorter days and less sun? To answer this, first it’s valuable to understand how solar panels work.

How solar panels create electricity

A solar energy system uses photovoltaic (or PV) modules that are installed on a roof or mounted in a yard. Each panel is made up of silicon cells which works as a semiconductor to generate electricity. When sunlight hits the system, it causes the electrons in these cells to move and generate an electrical current. Wiring inside the array captures this current and combines it with the power from the other solar cells. This DC electricity is then converted into AC electricity which feeds directly into your home to power things such as appliances and lights. Excess electricity is sent back to the utility grid. 

 

How solar works

Are solar panels still effective in winter months? 

As is the case with most electronics, solar panels actually function more efficiently in colder temperatures. Additionally, as the leaves fall off trees, it means less shade to block the panels. Snow really is the only deterrent for energy absorption, but it typically melts quickly and solar arrays are designed for snow to slide off easily. (Read more at energysage.com) Not that we see much snow around here, anyway! 

In fact, solar can be a fantastic option for energy production in the winter when your family stays indoors more often and starts to turn on the heat. You can hang up those holiday lights knowing that solar has your back! And because no fuel is burned in the process of converting solar energy into electricity, it offers a clean resource that truly is renewable. With the combination of the current federal and state tax credits, most solar installations pay themselves off in around 7 years.* 

Even with less direct sunlight hours in the winter months, homeowners and the environment can continue to reap the benefits all year round.

 

 

*for a standard 5kW solar system

 

Note: the federal state tax credit will be stepping down AGAIN. Find out more. 

Understanding an electric bill after going solar

solar meter

What are kilowatt hours anyway?

In order to understand solar energy production, it’s helpful to have a grasp on how it is measured. The size of a solar system is often described in kilowatts (kW). Watts are a unit of power that we use to express output of energy that the system is producing.  

One kilowatt = 1,000 watts

So, kilowatts measure power while kilowatt hours measure energy usage and production over a set period of time. This is how your utility company determines how much electricity to bill you for. All the appliances in your home have a rating based on how many watts of power they use.

When sunlight is captured in a solar array, it produces electricity measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). One kWh is produced when a kW of power production is sustained for one hour. 

Net Metering

Net metering is a billing mechanism that allows residential customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the utility grid. When your solar system is installed, you will also get a bi-directional meter that will measure both the electricity you are purchasing from your utility and the excess electricity you are sending back to the grid. 

net metering bell curve solar vs the grid

Utility power usage from the grid drops when solar is on site

You are charged only for your “net” energy use from that meter; which is the electricity you purchased minus what your system sent to the grid. If your solar system generates more kilowatt hours (kWh) during daylight hours than you purchase in a given month, you receive a 1:1 credit on your account for those excess kWh. 

When your usage is low, like a Wednesday afternoon when everyone is at work, surplus solar production is sent to the utility for the same price you pay for it, reducing your bill, and saving you money.  The utility can then utilize this power, sending it to your neighbors to support their needs – selling it to them on the same power lines you are using!

Results! 

real life solar customer electric bill

 

What will your particular electric bill look like after going solar? That will depend on a few aspects, including your particular solar system’s energy production, your local electric rate and your household’s energy consumption. When assessing your home for solar, a goal is to build an array that will generate as close to 100% of your household’s energy usage as possible. This is dependent on additional key factors such as roof space, budget and tax liability. Our experts will help you create a financial equation that balances your electric bill and energy needs. Then, it is as simple as adding up the thousands of dollars you’re not spending over the years by using solar, especially as energy prices continue to increase.

Ready to lower your energy bill?
SCHEDULE A CONSULT

 

Energy Storage for Solar

Battery backup storage can be an added benefit to a solar energy system. 

Here in the Carolinas, we are no stranger to power outages. Many of our solar customers look into renewable energy because they want alternative electricity options when their lights go out. 

batter backup storage for solar

Understanding Battery Backup

In order to receive the benefits of net metering in our area, a solar system is connected to your home and the utility grid. Because of this, it will automatically shut off during a power outage along with the electricity in your home for safety purposes. Once power is restored, the panels will begin producing again. 

Battery backup allows your solar system to keep your electricity continuously running, even during outages. Some people also consider it as an alternative to net metering, becoming completely independent of the grid. At Southern Current, we believe in empowering you through education to help you understand the advantages and current options for battery backup. 

Solar batteries

Read more at Solar Reviews

Recent Updates on Battery Storage

Battery storage technology is constantly improving and new innovations are on the horizon. Lithium-ion batteries are becoming more prevalent over the traditional lead-acid battery hookups. Additionally, the cost for battery storage is forecasted to drop rapidly in upcoming years. Southern Current is committed to working with South Carolina customers to meet your energy goals, including battery backup. 

To discuss battery backup storage for solar

Book a Consult

 

If you currently have a solar system installed on your home, your solar consultant can help you determine the steps to retrofit your system with battery storage. Because everyone uses energy differently, your battery can be sized to match your needs, just like your solar system. 

Learn More About Tesla Powerwall Storage

tesla powerwall solar battery backup

Combine Tesla Powerwall and solar panels to power your home 24/7, even when the grid goes down. Installing Powerwall with Southern Current is easy. We take care of everything from system design, permitting, installation, and financing.

 

CONTACT US TO LEARN MORE

 

Solar Tax Credits Stepping Down Soon

solar tax credits stepping down

Changes are coming to solar incentives.

Everywhere you look, solar panels seem to be more and more common; from homes to businesses and even farmland. Recent studies have shown that carbon emissions are decreasing in most states. Lately, many homeowners are adopting solar energy due in large part to the financial benefits it currently offers. This is because the cost for solar installation is at an all-time low and there are income tax credits offered by both the federal government and the state of South Carolina. However, these incentives will not exist forever. Solar tax credits are stepping down. In fact, the federal solar tax credit will begin stepping down at the end of this year, so it is valuable to understand how it could benefit you. 

What are the federal solar tax credits?

The federal solar tax credit, also referred to as the investment tax credit (or ITC), allows you to deduct 30% of the cost to install a solar system on your federal tax return. It can be used for both homeowners and business owners and there is no cap on its value. The only requirements are that you own the solar system and have tax liability.

According to energy.gov, “If the federal tax credit exceeds tax liability, the excess amount may be carried forward to the succeeding taxable year.”  The form to file for the federal solar credit can be found here.

These credits are scheduled to step down from 30% to 26% for systems placed in service in the year 2020. Less than 4 months away. But there is still time to schedule an installation to fit in this time frame.

Get Your Free Cost Estimate Today!

 

What are the South Carolina solar tax credits?

South Carolina has one of the most generous incentives in the country, offering a 25% tax credit.  Limitations include: (1) a value cap of $35,000 and (2) a maximum amount of $3,500 per year or 50% of your state tax liability (whichever is less).

For both federal and state tax credits, you do not have to use the credit in the first year and it can be carried forward. Federal may be carried an unlimited amount and South Carolina is limited to 10 years to carry over. 

 

 

Solar tax credits stepping down

The solar tax incentives are not going to be around forever. 2019 is the last year to claim the full 30% federal solar tax credit.  The federal solar tax credit will be lowered to 26% in 2020 and then 22% in 2021, which makes the decision to switch to solar more time sensitive if you would like to reap all the current tax rewards. Otherwise, you are missing out on between $1,500 to $2,000 worth of savings. 

Can you still install solar after 2020?

Yes!  You can still install a solar system after this date. System costs and performance are not impacted. 

Now is the time to go solar in South Carolina!

As 2020 approaches, RIGHT NOW truly is the best time to switch to solar in South Carolina. It can take at least 30 to 60 days to install and hook up a system because of a variety of uncontrollable external factors, such as permits and utilities. The current federal and state solar tax credits are at the highest value they will ever be. Combine that with the decrease in price for solar installations and it is no wonder people are motivated to go solar now. If you would like to have your home evaluated for its solar potential and to find out which tax credits you qualify for, fill out this form:

Learn More About Southern Current

Southern Current is proud to be one of the top Solar Installers in the Southeast, with specialties in residential solar for homes, commercial solar for businesses, and utility-scale solar farms for property owners and utilities. Schedule a solar consultation today to receive a free analysis of how much money you could be saving with solar!

 

Financing residential solar: what are my options?

Today, people are choosing solar for their homes at a rapidly growing rate and the opportunity to finance a solar project is better than ever before. Financing a solar panel system for your home is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are multiple good options for payment plans that can be structured to fit your needs. You might find that most solar companies don’t discuss how financing might affect the total cost. But at Southern Current, we are all about empowering through education. Your options depend on your access to capital and how convenient you want your financing to be.

 

For customers who do not want to or are unable to purchase solar panels with cash, there are $0 down payment plans that offer immediate returns on electric bills even as they are being repaid. With nothing out of pocket, you can reap the rewards of going solar – which is the only home renovation that pays you back immediately.

There are two $0 down payment plan choices:

  • Solar Loans: tailored to the customer and have structured financing with low monthly payments.
  • Bank Loans: such as Home Equity Lines of Credit or HELOC, are the ideal option for lowest fees and interest rates.

All loans offer no money down and no hidden contract terms which allow you to finance the total amount of the system with the same basic conditions as other home improvement loans. Additionally, these payment plans can be used at the time of building a new house or even rolled into a new mortgage. One of our solar experts can help you decide which is the best fit for you. Every form of financing includes a 10 year workmanship warranty and allows you to own your system and the tax credits.

 

We all know that if you are mortgaging a home or building a new home, remodeling can get expensive. But why add additional costs when you don’t have to? Solar isn’t like a kitchen rehab that won’t ever truly pay off. One assumption when you buy a home, is that you are automatically going to be paying for power with a utility company from day one. But why rent your power? It never goes away. It’s like taking a mortgage with a higher interest rate by choice simply by defaulting to the power company for electricity.

 

Data from EnergySage.com

Electricity rates are constantly rising.  Solar fixes these costs and then pays off with very minimum maintenance.

Solar is an investment that is worth it in the end – because the risk and exposure is twice as bad if you don’t go solar.

 

Also, if you are wondering what happens when you sell your home – read more here.