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Selecting a Contractor

With the ever increasing utility rates solar continues to be an excellent investment for your home business or church!

The real challenge is taking the time to educate yourself to be able to choose not only reputable solar panel and inverter manufacturers but a solar contractor as well.

Palomar Solar’s goal is to be patient throughout the process and help you make a great decision whether you choose Palomar Solar or not.

The first thing I would tell anyone looking to buy solar is that if someone knocks on your door, calls you, you meet them at a street fair, home show or big box store run.  .  If someone offers you an IPAD, Visa card, gas card, made up rebate or toaster this is another red flag and soon to be invitation of a high pressure sales person.  Solar does not need a gimmick!  In my six years in the industry these companies tend to be high pressure and not selling the best products nor do they have very good reputations.  If they pressure you to make a decision on the first visit RUN!    Do not be a lazy consumer you have to do some research.  I’m amazed at how many consumers still fall for the same old sales tactics.

Suggestions before inviting a company to your home, business or church:

  • Check the CSLB (California State Board) to see how long the company has really been in business and how long the sales rep has been representing the company. Any sales rep who comes to your home, business or church should be licensed as well.
  • Google the company name with the word complaints in the search.
  • Find out if they offer per solar panel monitoring. If a company is unable to show you at least 50 systems they have under monitoring I would not do business with them.  Palomar Solar has over 500 systems that have been made public by our customers to share with potential customers. Monitoring of the system as a whole is much different than at the panel level.
  • What is the credit rating of the company you are considering? Remember you are entering into at least a 25 year relationship.  Palomar Solar has an excellent rating and is happy to share this with you.

We hope these suggestions save you some time and headache.  These steps are helpful to do before choosing any type of contractor to work on your home.

We truly appreciate the opportunity to help you go solar!

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About Panels

The current standard panels now range from a minimum of 270+ watts each, in reality the industry is now reaching 300+ watts each. Anything less should not be considered.  It will either be of lesser quality or it is from a reputable manufacturer but is already more than 2 years old and has already begun to degrade.  Many other companies will sell reduced output panels because they are able to acquire them relatively cheap, so “Caveat emptor” or Buyer Beware”.  Other factors you should consider:

    • In many cases, Power output (ie. 300 watts per panel) is the most significant number to compare because efficiency ratings can vary and be misleading.
    • What about efficiency? All high quality reputable panel manufacturers have reasonable efficiencies, don’t fall for marketing gimmicks as it pertains to efficiencies. A 300 watt panel is a 300 watt panel, what is the total system size?  18 panels at 327 watts each is a 5,886 watt system, or 5.89kw.  We would sell you 20 panels at 300 watts each for a 6.0kw system.  Look at the total system size, not the efficiency.
    • All reputable panel manufacturers offer a minimum of a 25 year production warranty. Check carefully as not all warranties are the same.
    • We give you the choice between panel aesthetics and production. Choose between the all Black panels for aesthetics or the Black frame with white backing for slightly higher production. We believe the aesthetics are worth the lower production, but the choice is yours.
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About Inverters

Central- vs. Micro-inverters
  • Why Inverters? We believe that solar panels are only 50% of the production equation. The other 50 % is the inverter you choose.  It does you no good to buy the “highest efficiency solar panel or highest wattage solar panel” and pair it with an inefficient inverter.
  • The inverter is used to convert the DC coming from your solar panel to the 110 volt AC used by your house.
  • Central Inverters, also known as string inverters, are an older technology option and not your most efficient choice.
    • Warranty: Central Inverters generally have only 10-year warranties.  Down the line, you will have an expensive headache from replacing your central inverter shortly after 10 years
    • Output: Central inverters also lower their output based upon the lowest performing panel in the string.  That’s right, one lower producing panel significantly affects the production of the entire system. .
    • Aesthetics: Aesthetically Central inverters are big boxes that take up a significant space in their you garage or an eye sore on the side of your home.
    • Expandability: Additionally, it becomes much more costly to grow your system as you are limited to the capacity of your central, or string, inverter.
    • Monitoring: Per panel monitoring is not an option. What are you going to do when you receive a higher utility bill than expected and cannot hold anyone accountable for the production that was sold to you?
  • Microinverters have the same function, but rather than tying all panels together before inverting the power from DC to AC. We highly recommend EnPhase micro-inverters.
    • Warranty: Enphase Microinverters provide peace of mind with a 25-year warranty.
    • Output: Enphase Microinverters perform the their job at the panel-level  If one panel or inverter are suffering poor production it affects ONLY that panel, the rest of your system is still working at maximum output.
    • Aesthetics: Enphase microinverters are installed underneath each panel and as such do not take up space in your garage or present an eye sore on your house.
    • Expandability: With a Enphase Microinverter system, you can simply add one, two, etc at a time to get your system dialed-in.
    • Monitoring: Palomar Solar provides per panel monitoring with every system sold.  You provide the internet, we provide the monitoring.
  • Better performance and a longer warranty, it makes sense to us to use Enphase Microinverters, plus with over 25,000 units installed we can attest to their performance and longevity.
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About Racking

Ground- vs. Roof-mounts
  • Our solar consultants will help you determine which solution is best for you. At first glance, it seems simple, “I have a lot of property, so I want a ground mount” But ground mounts are not always the best option just because you have the room.  They will always cost more than a similar sized roof mount.  Factors that will come into place are distance from the main electric panel to the proposed ground location, obstacles like concrete or boulders in the “trench” path as well as the ability to bring heavy equipment to the site.  Digging by hand definitely increases the cost of a job.
  • Ground mounts – Palomar Solar has made a name for itself building high quality ground mounts.  We use a much stronger racking system than the typical fence post systems you have undoubtedly seen. Our systems are structures that are truly built to last well beyond your 25 year warranty.
  • Roof mounts – Palomar’s roof mounts come with a roof penetration warranty in writing. We use the best racking systems on the market because they work better and require fewer penetrations than lesser systems.

Know your racking equipment.  Most solar consultants will not even talk about racking.  However, it is important and just like everything else, you get what you pay for.  For example, we replaced a competitor’s cheap racking system (the racking twisted in the heat because it was such a long span) with our higher quality racking and made the “un satisfied, satisfied”.  We’ll state again… “At Palomar Solar we install the best and service the rest”.

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About Monitoring

It is very important when getting proposals that you ask if monitoring is included.  And I’m not just talking about the lease monitor that gives you limited access.  Ask your consultant to show you the systems they are currently monitoring; chances are, they do not offer “per panel” monitoring.  By choosing Palomar Solar and EnPhase micro-inverters, per panel monitoring is always included as long as you have access to the internet. This is by far the best way to insure all your panels and inverters are working correctly.

  • Standard monitoring: Most companies provide some sort of monitor that shows total output of the system, but stops short of showing a smaller panel level issue. They don’t want you call for a small issue, as such you will only know of a catastrophic failure.
  • Lease Monitoring: When leasing a system from our competitors you should receive a basic system monitoring in order to see if they reach their production goals, but you will not get per panel monitoring because they don’t want you to call about a low production panel that is only affecting your performance by 5%. The dirty secret is that most leases only guarantee 90% of a systems theoretical output.
  • Palomar Solar monitoring: All Palomar Solar systems come with Enphase per panel monitoring with every system sold.

About Financing

  • Financing your Solar system can be a daunting decision.  There are many options and yet few of those options are great options.  The following list is our ranking from the worst to best ways to invest in Solar power for your home.
    • Cash: Yes it’s a lot of cash, but if you want the best possible ROI on your Solar System then Cash is King.
    • HELOC: A Home equity loan, though not easy is the best possible way to “finance” your solar project. If you have access to tap your home equity line, then you will pay the lowest possible rate of interest available to you.  We will patiently wait while this process is completed by you and your bank.
    • Personal Loan: These loans are available from your installer through a third party lender, usually a credit union. We at Palomar can offer this type of financing, but it is not always the best choice for the consumer.  We will offer it because it is better than not getting solar at all, but the true rate of interest is higher than if you can ontain a home loan to finance the project.
    • PACE financing: This is often referred to as a Hero loan. There are now many of these lenders available in the market.  This is a decent solution as it allows you to place the loan on your property tax bill and as such the interest on the loan is deductible.  Our consultants will let you know if this financing is available for your project.
    • PPA/Lease: This is where you pay a set price per kilowatt for your power from the leasing company. While it is modestly less than you pay the utility, it is still substantially more that it would cost you to own the system, and most of these deals also include an annual escalator.  This is again a great deal for the lease company and a poor deal for you the consumer.
    • Lease: A true lease where you pay a set fee each month, usually with annual payment escalators is the worst possible way to go solar. Sure the equipment and ownership headache is the leasing companies but you are more than paying them for the trouble.  They are very happy to take your money at the rates they are charging.