Frequently Asked Questions

Whether you’re just starting to explore the idea of solar or you’re ready to install, we know the process comes with a lot of questions. We’ve answered the ones we get most often to help you in your research.

Contact us to further discuss what you’ve learned, or ask your unanswered questions at the bottom of this page.

Use these categories to help navigate:
1. Overview
2. Finances
3. Installation
4. Panels

OVERVIEW

First, the panels collect sunlight where a layer of silicon cells creates Direct Current (DC) electricity. This direct current travels to an inverter that will convert the power into Alternating Current (AC) electricity that can be used by the house. Solar energy now travels to your electric panel and powers your house.

The generated electricity that is not used passes through your meter and back out to the energy grid, meeting power needs at other nearby buildings and getting you credit on your utility bill.

Solar is a clean and renewable energy source that could power your home entirely, save you money, add value to your home, benefit the environment, and help supply energy to others.

A good candidate for solar is a property owner – a home or a business – with an ideal location for an installation.

An ideal location has adequate space and limited shade, a structurally sound roof in good condition with southern exposure, OR enough clear property space for a ground mount.

Financially speaking, the investment is most profitable for those with the highest utility costs, but anyone paying for electricity will save with solar.

If you think you match these criteria, don’t hesitate to talk with one of our consultants to see if you are indeed a good candidate. If you’re not, we’ll tell you!

Orientation: Your roof should have good southern exposure. Due south is considered 180 degrees, and thus your roof should be pointing somewhere between 40 degrees in either direction (approx. 140 – 200 degrees). Solar can be installed on roofs facing due east or west and still function reasonably well, but at a lower than ideal efficiency.

Shading: Your roof should have minimal shading. Do trees or other buildings cast a shadow on your roof? What about sections where a chimney or another structure casts a shadow? This will impact your panels’ efficiency and energy production.

Space: Finally, your roof needs to have enough space to fit the array. We can work around most obstacles such as windows, chimneys, or other exhaust exits, but space is one more factor to consider.

Condition: Ideally, your roof should be in good condition (we recommend less than 12 years old) and structurally sound.

One of our consultants can easily check out your roof using satellite imagery, and with a few questions determine whether or not solar is a viable option for you, so don’t hesitate to give us a call.

If your roof is not ideal but you have space on your property, consider installing a ground mount. It’s not only a practical solution, it provides optimal conditions for maximum energy production.

The best way to see if solar could work for you is to request a quote. The price range of a solar install varies greatly depending on size, energy needs, and the type of panels you choose. To give you the most accurate and personalized quote, here are the pieces of information we like to receive from you and why:

1. Your address: we can take a look at your property on Google Maps to determine sun exposure and shading. This gives us an idea if solar panels would produce enough energy to be a worthwhile investment for you.
2. Your annual energy use: take a look at your utility bill and see how much energy you use in a year (kWh). This determines what size system you need.
3. Your current utility rate: While you’re at it, we’ll figure out with you about how much your utility charges per kWh, and this will help in calculations that determine your return on investment. The easiest thing to do is send us a copy of your most recent electric bill, and we will take a look at the information with you. The higher your bill, the more you will save with solar.

Contact us with this information and we’ll be glad to give you a free estimate.

In short, the answer is yes!

We have experience doing residential, commercial, and agricultural installations, meaning we can do work at your home, business, farm, barn, garage, or any other structure you’ve got. This means we also have experience installing solar on a variety of surfaces, and we have the solutions you need.

We do both roof mounts and ground mounts according to your needs.

The majority of our installations are grid-tied, but we are one of the few companies in our area with experience providing battery backups, and we’ve also done installations completely off-the-grid.

You can be confident that we have enough experience to find the right solutions for you. And if we don’t, we’ll bring in the expertise to get the job done well.

Yes! Most of the time you’ll hear these terms we are referring to the size of your system and how much it produces.

The size of a panel is referred to by its watts (W), which is a measurement of how much power it can produce. When we talk about a SunPower 360 panel, we’re talking about a panel that is 360 watts.

The size of a system is generally referred to in kilowatts (kW), a term meaning 1,000 watts. For example, if you had 20 SunPower 360 panels on your roof, 20 x 360 = 7,200 watts, or 7.2 kilowatts. So we talk about the size of your system being 7.2 kW. (More specifically, this means it is able to produce 7.2 kW of DC power.) As a frame of reference, most small residential systems come in between 5 and 10 kW.

As we talk with customers we use watts primarily as a way to talk about the size of a system. In addition, pricing is often discussed on a per watt basis as a way to effectively compare prices between differently sized systems. For example, you’ll hear us talk about a system that may cost $3.50 per watt, or $4.00 per watt.

Finally, you may have already heard the term kilowatt-hours (kWh), and this is a way to measure energy over time. Your utility company bills you for the number of kilowatt-hours you use. Your solar system will produce a certain number of kilowatt-hours per day or per year.

The kWh figure we refer to most often is your annual use or your annual production, because talking in yearly terms includes and averages out the changes over the course of the year. For example, a home will use more energy in winter or summer for heating or cooling, or a solar system will produce more energy in the summer because of longer, sunnier days. When we talk about annual use/production in kWh, we take all of those changes into consideration. In general, we try to get a solar system’s annual production to match your annual use.

FINANCES

stay tuned

Over time, your solar installation will definitely be cheaper than your utility!

Once your solar is installed, your panels will provide for your energy needs. You will no longer be dependent on the utility company’s power and subject to their steadily increasing rates.

Let’s use a recent customer example to compare the cost. These are numbers from an actual quote we sent:
– A $40,000 installation costs $28,000 after the current federal tax credit.
– This customer’s installation will cover the home’s full energy needs producing 12,500 kWh per year.
– At that usage rate, we estimate this person would pay more than $89,000 over 30 years to the utility!

You decide:
paying $28,000 to produce your own energy with solar OR
paying the utility $89,000 for theirs.

This customer chose to go solar! Their net savings will be $61,000 over 30 years. There are some customers who save even more than that, others who save a bit less. Your savings depend on your circumstances, and we outline these savings in our consultations and system quotes. Request a quote to find out how much you would save.

Even though you’re producing your own energy with solar, the utility company still serves a purpose. The majority of installations are “grid-tied” meaning you are still connected to the utility’s network and your power is tracked through “net-metering.”

In the evenings when your panels are not producing power, you’ll use electricity from the utility, and your meter will count your use normally. But on a sunny day, you’ll produce even more than you’re using. This power will be fed to the utility’s grid, you will receive credits for the power that is being shared with others, and your meter will start spinning backwards! (Well, meters are digital these days, so that’s actually become a figurative expression…)

This is called net-metering because you will then pay for your net-use, the balance of what you’ve used minus what you’ve produced. As long as you aren’t using more than you’re producing, you will not be charged for electricity, and may even end up with a credit for the month.

Your utility company will still process a minimum customer charge for the services they provide; this fee will remain on your monthly bill, typically between $8 and $14.

Yes. Most utilities will pay you for the excess energy your system produced but that your home did not consume, and this typically happens after a year of use. Each month, your excess energy is giving you a credit going toward your use in following months. If you still end up with a credit at the end of a year, you are then paid for that excess energy that you supplied to the grid.

During the year the energy you produce is worth exactly what you pay for it, but when your utility pays for the annual excess, they pay you based on a lower wholesale rate. You could equate this to the generation charge on your bill. Be aware then, that you are paid a smaller amount for this excess, and it is usually not a worthwhile investment to install extra panels just to make extra money.

These policies vary among utility companies, so consider verifying the arrangements with yours for a more specific answer.

If you purchase your system, this “payback time” depends entirely on the size and cost of your system and the amount of your utility rates.

In New Jersey and New York, average payback times we see are between 5 and 6 years. In Pennsylvania, average payback times are between 7 and 10 years. Considering the average life of a solar installation is 30 years, these payback times mean you’ll have 20 to 25 years of paying $0 for your electricity.

When we estimate these payback times, total savings, and return on investment, we take into consideration a 3% annual increase of utility rates over the next 30 years, because historic figures have actually been higher, showing a 5% increase over time.

Contact us to see what payback time could look like for you.

For the most broad and up to date information, we recommend you check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency. Find the appropriate website here: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, then filter your search results for Solar Photovoltaics.

The US government currently offers a 30% federal tax credit: for any solar PV system installed, you receive 30% of its cost as a dollar for dollar credit on the taxes you owe. This is currently scheduled to last through 2019, with decreased credits scheduled through 2021. This helps to make a solar install considerably more affordable. Visit this page at energy.gov for more information and talk with a tax professional to learn how this incentive can best help you.

SREC stands for Solar Renewable Energy Credit, and these credits are something you automatically accumulate as your system produces power. The value of these credits fluctuates depending on supply and demand in your state, but selling them earns you extra income. If you’re curious and financially minded, visit the GATS site to learn a bit more; otherwise we recommend using an aggregator to manage selling SRECs for you.

Tax credits and SRECs are the primary incentives currently offered that we focus on with our customers, but don’t hesitate to research other rebates, grants, or discounts that may be available in your state, locally, or even with your employer.

SRECs stand for Solar Renewable Energy Credits, also called Alternative Energy Credits (AECs) in Pennsylvania. For the energy your system produces, you receive a credit that has a certain value and can be sold or traded on the SREC market. For every 1,000 kWh your system produces in its lifetime, you receive 1 SREC. The value of SRECs fluctuates greatly depending on supply and demand, but selling them earns you extra income. These earnings are an added financial incentive beyond what you are saving in utility costs.

Currently, the SREC market is much stronger in NJ than in PA, making an installation an even more appealing investment for those living in the Garden State.

After installation, you can register yourself to sell and manage your SRECs, but we advise most of our customers to use a broker or an aggregator who will manage this investment for you. We will help you in this process when your system is turned on.

Estimated SREC earnings are shown on each of our quotes. Request a quote to find out more specifically how this could benefit you.

To quote our 8th grade science teacher: “TANSTAAFL: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

Free solar is a marketing concept some companies use implying a no-cost installation, typically in a lease or PPA contract. But the truth is the customer is paying for the installation and its power over time, and often at a greater long-term cost. Sounds good, but it’s not free. (Think of it as a car dealership telling you they were giving you a free car but were simply charging you a monthly fee for the miles it drove you.)

That being said, Evoke does offer a variety of zero-down financing options, meaning you could go solar with no up-front expense and pay for the system over a loan period or lease period ranging from ten to twenty years. See the following questions for more details.

We are proud to offer the best lease option on the market. Currently, this is only available in New Jersey.

It is a SunPower lease with extremely low cost and the best equipment available. You pay nothing up front and agree to a fixed monthly payment with no escalator for the life of the agreement, saving you 30-60% on utility bills.

Power your home with clean, renewable energy while saving money, without the burden of an upfront investment and free from the concern of unforeseen system maintenance.

Contact us for more information on this lease program.

Yes, Evoke can arrange residential loans ranging from $15,000-$100,000 with reasonable interest rates, contingent on credit approvals.

Our customers have found a variety of their own financing solutions to best suit their needs. Before purchasing a system, we encourage you to inquire with your local bank or credit union for the best rate possible.

Evoke has always encouraged the purchase of systems, but we also recognize leasing as a valuable option.

The major advantages of a purchase are that you own the equipment, you call the shots, and you reap all the benefits that come with it: the savings, the tax credits, the energy credits, the home value increases, the energy independence, and once your system is paid off, power at zero cost. Purchasing gives you more autonomy, more flexibility, and the full benefit of the investment.

But purchasing is not for everyone, so we offer the option to lease a system through SunPower. This becomes an agreement between you and SunPower, and Evoke is simply there to facilitate the process and install the system. SunPower retains ownership of the system and you make the monthly payments for the installation over the course of a 20 year period. Those lease payments have the potential to fully replace your electricity bill while being 30%-60% less expensive.

The advantages of a lease include zero up-front investment while still saving a considerable amount of money and generating clean power at your home. In addition, your lease payment is fixed for the duration of 20 years, giving you predictability with no surprise rate hikes from the utility. For those looking to save some money but see the management of an asset as added stress, the lease is an excellent option, as system maintenance and insurance remains SunPower’s responsibility.

But as is typical with Lease agreements, SunPower still owns all of the installed equipment. Some homeowners will see that as an advantage: less risk and less worry. But keep in mind the trade-off: it is now SunPower that receives the tax credits, energy credits, and any other added financial incentive that comes from the system itself.

Many will find a loan to be the happy medium: less up-front financial burden, but still working toward the full ownership of the investment.

Which suits your needs and preferences? Contact us to discuss the options further.

INSTALLATION

Our SunPower installations come with a 25 year warranty: the panels are guaranteed to last that long. We consider the lifespan of an installation to be 30 years, but many would agree 40 years is realistic; we’ve seen panels in the field that were installed in the eighties, and they are still producing well. We are happy to be working with SunPower, a solar manufacturer with 30 years of experience upon which their warranties are based.

Bottom line: if you move and sell your house, you have options!

Some of our more committed customers have chosen to move their installation with them. It really is possible! If you purchase your system, you own the panels, and you have every right to keep them. Just keep in mind this can be an intensive and expensive project depending on the move.

Other customers have sold their home with no problems and studies show that a solar system will significantly increase the value of the home. A thorough study was done by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (“Selling into the Sun: Price Premium Analysis of a Multi-State Dataset of Solar Homes”) stating that home values increased $15,000 for a small-scale system, and that value increased according to system size and how much savings it provides.

As a general rule of advice, we counsel our customers that it is still worth installing solar if you plan on being in your home for another 5 years. If you have plans to move sooner than that, we would generally advise you to wait.

When you need to replace your roof in the future, the solar panels will need to be removed before and reinstalled after. This can be done with no worries, but it’s an added expense to an already expensive roof replacement, so factor it into your considerations. So yes, your roof should be in good condition before adding solar. If the expected lifespan of a system is 30 years, it would be ideal if your roof would last that long too. As a general rule, we recommend your roof be less than 12 years old.

The number of panels depends primarily on two criteria: how much space you have and how much energy you use.

As often as possible, we try to meet as much of your energy usage with solar as possible, providing you with the best savings. The number of panels depends entirely on how much power you need, the size and efficiency of the panels you choose, and the sun exposure they will get at your location.

To give a general idea, to produce 10,000 kWh annually, we might use around 30 standard efficiency panels or 20 high efficiency panels. (So we recommend high efficiency panels if space is limited!)

Talk to one of our consultants to know more about your particular case.

Whenever possible, we design a system so that it produces the amount of electricity you typically use.

It all depends on the size of your system, the efficiency of the panels, and their exposure to the sun. To give an example, a 10kW system could typically produce between 11,000 kWH and 14,000 kWh per year. Again, this range depends on the efficiency of the panels and the site conditions.

Keep in mind that we always discuss energy production over the course of a year which provides a consistent average for your consideration. Your production will vary each day and each month depending on the amount of sunshine, the weather, the season, etc, but speaking in annual terms takes these variations into consideration. Production estimates we provide with our consultations are based on typical weather data and sun exposure for your area.

stay tuned

A solar installation is a big decision and important investment, so we want to help our customers as much as we can to make the process as simple as possible.

1. We begin with a consultation. Is solar right for you or not? What are your needs and preferences? This a relaxed, informative, exploratory process. We are not here to pressure you but rather to give you the details and the time that you need.
2. Once you’ve decided and signed a contract with us, we go to work for you. We will design your system and draw up installation plans. We contact your utility and submit an interconnection application, getting their initial approval to connect to your future system. For New Jersey residents, we submit an initial application to the New Jersey Clean Energy Project (NJCEP) which manages financial incentives including SRECs. Then, we submit permit applications to your township for all necessary approvals.
3. Our experienced crew will come to install the system.
4. We manage all the township inspections after install and get the necessary approvals for operation.
5. We submit another round of applications to your utility and NJCEP (NJ residents) to get their approval for operation.
6. We will come back to your home to turn the system on and make sure you understand how it works.
7. Finally, we’ll make sure you are set up to manage the SRECs you’ll begin to earn.

You can expect to be in steady communication with us in the office as we schedule and move through each step of the process, and we are always happy to answer your questions along the way.

We do our best to give you a target install date as the process begins. The wait time between contract signing and installation depends on your utility and township granting necessary approvals as well as Evoke’s install schedule, which can vary depending on weather and time of year. In general, 8 to 12 weeks is the average timeline to expect. It is possible in some cases to install earlier than 8 weeks, but depending on circumstances sometimes the wait lasts longer than 12 weeks. We do everything within our power to work with you and meet timeline constraints when they exist, and we will personally keep you updated through every step.

The hardest part is the wait!

Unfortunately, you can’t expect your system to be turned on when the install crew leaves. Before energy production and utility savings begin, we need to get approval from the township inspectors and approval from your utility to begin operation. This can take a few weeks. We continue to work for you after install and when all approvals are received we’ll come out to show you how to turn your system on. This can sometimes take up to a month, but the wait depends on your utility company and township.

Stay calm! You have every reason to rest assured…

If something goes wrong, you are always welcome to call us for help. We are here for that, too. Evoke does provide ongoing service maintenance for our install customers.

SunPower systems come with full 25-year warranties, and all other panels, inverters, and racking systems come with excellent warranty coverage as well. We will inform you of all available warranties before signing the contract, and at the end of the install process we will make sure you have all the information you need in this regard.

As for Evoke, we generally provide a 5-year warranty on all of our workmanship.

Overall, problems occur very rarely. You will be pleasantly surprised at how worry-free your system can be.

PANELS

stay tuned

stay tuned

stay tuned

stay tuned.

we love your curiosity

answer forthcoming

Still Need Help?

To ASK ANOTHER QUESTION about something not listed here, use the form below.

You can also contact us at info@evokesolar.com or 877.449.0404

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

A Sunpower Authorized Dealer