Frequently Asked Questions

The content presented within Solar Topps’ Frequently Asked Questions, is meant solely for informative purposes and neither the individual contributors, developers, nor sponsors of Solar Topps, nor anyone else connected or affiliated with Solar Topps can take any responsibility for the results or consequences of any attempt to use or adopt any of the information presented.

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar

Is converting my home or office building to Solar a sound investment and how does it affect the value of my property?
Absolutely yes!

A solar electric system is an investment that will add both immediate and long-term value to your home or business.

A recent study estimated that $1,000 a year electricity saving translates to $20,000 increase in value of a home. If you ever decide to sell your home, research shows that buyers are willing to pay a premium for a home with a solar electric system installed.

With a Solar Topps Solar Electric System, the Return On Investment ranges from 10-30% depending on the system size, building structure and available incentives.

You can dramatically reduce your utility bills from the very first day your solar electric system is installed and for years to come; you may still draw some power from the utility grid, but at a lower-priced rate. When you switch to solar power, you are hedging against rising utility rates. You can lock in low, predictable electricity costs for years into the future

Why should I go solar today when technology and pricing may change in the future?

Unlike other electronics, home solar technology has changed very little in recent decades. Some companies like SunPower are pioneers and producing high efficiency solar panels which use less number of panels on the rooftop to generate same amount of electricity. This results in lower costs. But don’t forget that solar power starts saving on electric bill from day one. Assuming you get a solar system now. In few years you will end up saving on electric bill few thousands. Even if you wait for few years and save some % on solar installation, there will be no net benefit because you would have paid higher electric bill for these years. Using low density, low efficiency panels will require more roof space and more solar panels to produce the same amount of electricity. Waiting for prices to go down will not give you any net benefit as electricity prices most likely going to be higher every year in Arizona. Now is really the best time to invest in a solar system and start helping clean the environment and saving money.

Federal, state, local governments and utility companies offer incredible financial incentives to go solar. You can receive 30% of your system cost off your federal income taxes credit; these credits can carry forward. Solar Topps will identify all of the qualifying programs for your solar electric system and file the required paperwork for you. Solar Topps will even credit you for the utility rebate up front so that you do not have to wait for the utility company to send you a check.

Although the utility incentives are not set to expire at any specific time, the funding set aside for solar electric systems is being allocated at a rapid pace. Each utility offering solar power incentives, maintains their own incentive budget and program time-frames; these programs are designed to reward early adopters. Continually increasing utility rates and decreasing rebates means that homeowner’s should go solar now for the best immediate and long-term savings.

How long can I reserve the utility incentive before installing the solar system?

Typical utility solar programs allow for 180 days from initial incentive reservation to solar electric system installation. This means your solar electric system needs to be up and running within 6 months of when your incentive is reserved. On a case by case basis, allowances and extensions are made for new construction projects and other situations where delays in the installation have occurred and are justified.

Will a solar system increase my property taxes?
No.

Even though your property will increase in value, there is legislation that prevents your property taxes from increasing. In California, the specific legislation is Section 73 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code, which provides a property tax exclusion on most types of solar systems, including home solar electric systems.

Arizona’s property tax exemption was established in June 2006 (HB 2429) and applies to “solar energy devices and any other device or system designed for the production of solar energy for on-site consumption.” For property tax assessment purposes, solar electric systems are not included in the valuation of the property.

Can my homeowners association (HOA) stop me from installing a solar system on my home?
Not in Arizona and California.

Arizona law protects individual homeowners’ private property rights to solar access by dissolving any local covenant, restriction or condition attached to a property deed that restricts the use of solar energy. Senate Bill 1254, enacted in July 2007, stipulates that a homeowners association may not prohibit the installation or use of solar-energy devices (panels and associated devices). An association may, however, adopt reasonable rules regarding the placement of a solar device if those rules do not prevent the installation of the device, impair the functioning of the device, restrict its use, or adversely affect the cost or efficiency of the device. The bill also grants reasonable attorney fees to any party who substantially prevails in litigation against an association’s board of directors.

In California specifically, the California Solar Rights Act says that homeowners associations, governments, and other organizations can’t stop you from installing a home solar system. However, they may ask you to modify the design and/or location for aesthetic reasons as long as the changes don’t significantly impact solar electricity production (a decrease greater than 10%) or cost more than $2000.

Solar Electric System Basics

How much Sun do I need to for the system to be worthwhile?

In general, the more sun your solar system gets, the better return you’ll get on your money.

The best roofs get several hours of sun each day, face south or southwest and don’t have too much shade. Solar Topps will assess if your roof gets enough sun to make solar cost-effective and a good investment. We do this by viewing satellite images and while conducting a free site evaluation.

Across most of the United States, the amount of available sunlight is surprisingly uniform, with most areas within plus/minus 20% of the sunlight level of Miami, Florida. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has sunlight data on 239 locations across the U.S. and its territories available.

Will I need to adapt my home or business to run on solar power?
No.

Solar power electric systems fit seamlessly into your building. You won’t have to buy new appliances or change your electrical outlets; everything will work just the same as it did before.

When your solar system generates more electricity than your building can immediately use, your excess power flows back to the utility grid and your meter literally spins backward! You should experience no practical changes except for one: you won’t have to pay a big electrical bill every month.

How long will a solar system last?

Most of the parts on your solar system, such as solar panels, carry limited manufacturer’s warranties of 25 year; other parts, such as inverters, carry limited 10-year warranties.

Most solar systems may far outlast their warranties; many of the first solar systems installed more than 30 years ago are still going strong.

How durable is a solar system?

Solar technology has proven its reliability in some of the most brutal environments on earth – and beyond. Solar technology is used on telecommunication towers on wind-swept mountaintops, weather stations in the bitter cold of Antarctica and wells in Africa’s blazing deserts – even on satellites orbiting in space.

How safe is a solar system?

Since solar systems are generally mounted in a low or no-traffic area, have no moving parts and are virtually maintenance free, they are very safe.

Solar Topps Solar Systems components carry all appropriate/recommended electrical certifications, including Underwriters Laboratory (UL listed) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) standards. As with any electrical appliance, you should always use proper care when handling solar system components, but as an owner, you will have no cause to do so – your Solar Topps representative will take care of everything for you.

Do I need a battery back-up system?
No.

Most Solar Topps solar systems are connected to the utility grid, so you always have access to a power source. You never have to worry about “running out” of power. However, for properties which are located in a remote area, placing it off the grid, battery back-up systems are available.

What happens at night or when the weather turns cloudy?
No.

Since the amount of power your solar system generates is a direct result of sunlight, it will produce slightly less energy when the weather is cloudy. However, companies like SunPower, make highly efficient solar panels that outperform in extreme weather conditions and extreme temperatures.

Your system will not produce any energy at night. Your Solar Topps power system will be interconnected to your local utility grid, so that you can automatically begin to draw power from the grid whenever you need it. You won’t experience any power interruptions. The switch between solar system power and the utility grid happens seamlessly, with no effort on your part.

What is the warranty on a Solar Topps Solar System?

For a purchased, residential system the normal warranty is 25 year on the panel for performance, 10 year on inverter, and 10 year roof warranty. SunPower offers 25 year warranties on all panels from bumper-to-bumper if anything goes wrong. If your system is leased, then the performance warranty is extended for the life of the lease.

Solar Installation

What size system do I need?

Every home and business is different, so the size of your system will depend on your energy needs, roof space and solar goals. Residential solar systems are typically 5-15 kW.

Solar Topps will custom design a solar electrical system to meet your specific needs depending on the roof available solar roof space and some other factors.

How long will it take to get my new solar system up and running?
No.

A typical residential roof installation takes about few days, and a typical commercial installation takes about few weeks from the day we begin the installation. The length of time of the actual installation depends on the complexity of your roof and the number of panels that will be installed. The estimated installation time will be included in the design proposal presented to you by Solar Topps.

What kinds of permits are needed to meet local building codes?

As part of our comprehensive service, Solar Topps will obtain all building permits and design your solar electrical system to meet local building code in your area. Solar Topps will arrange the electrical, building and utility inspections and be on-site to make sure that everything is up to code. Solar Topps takes care of your project every step of the way.

Once Your System is Installed

What happens to the excess power I generate from my Solar System?
Absolutely yes!

Your solar electric system produces the most electricity during the day. During “peak” hours when the utility rates are at their highest, you are replacing the high cost energy with your own solar generated energy. This is to your advantage, because when your system generates more electricity then your house can use, your excess power flows back to the utility grid- your meter literally spins backward! You will sell excess electricity to the utility companies-this is referred to as net metering-and generate revenue; most utility companies will pay or credit you for this electricity. In Cap and Trade programs, each company is issued an annual limit or “cap” on the amount of pollutants that can be emitted. Companies that install solar can reduce their emissions below the cap and sell or “trade” their credits to other companies that are not in compliance.

How much will I reduce my utility bill?

When you begin to generate your own solar power, your electricity bill will drop significantly. How much you can save will depend on the size of your solar system and your electricity usage. You may still draw some power from the utility grid, but at a lower-priced rate tier. Solar Topps will design a system that’s right for your home or business and determine the optimal utility rate structure for your remaining energy needs.

What maintenance is required?

Your solar energy system requires very little maintenance, largely because it has no moving parts. All your system requires is occasional cleaning and inspection. We suggest that you keep an eye on trees that may shade your system and keep them trimmed

How frequently should I clean my solar panels?
No.

With home solar, the solar power your panels produce will naturally vary depending mostly on the season and number of daylight hours. Weather, particularly very dark stormy days, and how clear your solar panels are, will have a smaller impact. Most dust and debris that gets on your panels won’t severely limit solar production, and average wind and rainfall will keep your solar panels producing at near optimum.

In certain situations, dust and debris can decrease your solar production. But this would most likely occur in special situations, such as a forest fire near your home. It’s best to clean your panels only if you notice a significant drop in electricity production.

How should I clean my solar panels?

By using a hose, you can simply spray your panels with tap water.

Although most roofs are designed to be rain-tight, using pressurized water on the roof in an improper way, may lead to a roof leak and void your roof warranty. Always spray water on the panel, not the roof itself.

Be very careful while moving around on a wet roof, as water on your roof can cause it to become slippery, and if precautions are not taken, this could result in serious injury or death.

Questions to Ask Installers Before You Sign Up

What's my total out-of-pocket cost if I were to buy the system outright?

Asking this question lets you know what this system costs you before taxes are applied. Hence, it will provide you the value of the true cost of the system.

What are my monthly payments after the first year?

Generally, the monthly payment for the solar lease proposed to you looks pretty compelling compared to your utility bills but – buyer beware – that monthly payment in the first year might go up in the second and subsequent years. In the solar industry, its called an “escalator” and is not uncommon, nor is it a bad thing. It can be a useful way to make solar electricity more competitive with today’s utility prices, anticipating that utility prices will go up in the future faster than the escalator. For example, let’s say you take a 2.9% escalator in your lease, which reduces your monthly payment to a price that is attractive relative to your utility bill. You are essentially betting that your utility rates will go up more than 2.9% per year. If you don’t like this bet, then ask for a lease that has no escalator, which provides you fixed-price energy for the entire term of the lease! Always remember, your monthly payment should not be more than your utility bill.

Are you a solar company or a company that offers solar as one of your many services?

In the economic downturn, there just wasn’t a lot of construction work for individuals involved in many different trades to get in on, so they had to figure out other ways to make a living. Some of them turned to solar because it seemed like a natural transition from the construction industry. Thing is, there’s a lot more to it than wiring panels together or installing them on a roof. A good solar installer is going to be an expert at solar panel technologies, positioning the solar system on your property, sizing the system appropriately to your usage, sizing the inverter appropriately to the system etc. They’re going to know exactly what needs to happen to successfully and safely affix the system to your rooftop. They’re going to recommend the right size, not just the biggest that will fit. They’re going to connect you with the right incentives, and correctly estimate how much money you’re going to save. Most of all, they’re set up to provide ongoing service to the solar systems they’ve installed at your house. Considering that solar arrays last for 25 years at least - under industry-standard manufacturer’s warranty - service and monitoring is important. Solar Topps is an all-in-one solar company that provides designing, engineering and installation services as well as post-installation monitoring and maintenance services if choosen.

Where does your financing come from?

Most solar installers don’t provide their own financing. They’ll use a third party for your lease, which isn’t all bad. But it can be better for you if the installer provides their own financing because it tells you that they have a solid financial foundation as a company, meaning they’ll be around to service your system for years to come. It also ensures that they’re highly invested in the quality of the systems they install and have a financial incentive to maintain a robust service team. Plus, self-financing solar installers may offer a more competitive lease rate. Solar Topps provides its own, in-house financing program which means we do not work with third-party lenders who can make the process more complex and costly. Rather than being a financing company that provides solar, we are a solar company that provides financing with flexible terms. As a company with no debt and substantial warranty reserves, you can count on Solar Topps to be there for you over the long haul. This allows us to focus on what matters most: ensuring that your financial goals are met by implementing the best solar product to meet your electrical needs. With no middleman, we work directly with you and retain full accountability for everything we do - giving you a single point of contact during the entire process.

What kind of solar panels do you use?

As you may imagine, there is a significant range in the quality of panels. If it’s a name that you’ve never heard of or cannot pronounce, chances are you’ll want to do a good, thorough Google search to determine if it is a quality product. Also, you want to download and read a copy of their warranty. It is industry standard for a panel manufacturer to offer a 25-year warranty. The lowest price doesn't always mean the best value, so look for installers that provide high quality panel from companies that have a good financial outlook. Solar Topps uses A rated panels by SunPower - a US based company - and Hyundai Panels - a Fortune 200 company. Solar Topps uses these manufacturers because they are going to stand the test of time.

How do you affix the array to my rooftop?

If they simply provide assurances and no explanations, that may not be a good sign. You want them to state clearly all of the measures they take to provide for zero roof leakage, longevity of the products they use and the experience and know-how to make certain that the roof work is performed with expertise. Solar Topps uses a proprietary method of installation known as double-flash system for all roof tops to ensure that the roof does not leak for years to come. This is why we provide the best workmanship warranty in the industry - 10 years on all work - this is 5 times what is required by the Registrar of Contractors. Moreover, we warrant the roof in areas where we penetrate your roof for the life of the lease term.

Do you do all the work yourself or do you hire subcontractors for different parts of the installation?

Many solar companies are a sale office and then subcontract different parts of your job to various other companies. Many of these companies piece meal their entire operation. Sometimes, they have certain parts done in-house and then have other parts subcontracted. Generally, a company that subcontracts its work cannot maintain adequate quality control which can result in a system that is inefficient or inoperable. Solar Topps is completely different - we do everything in-house and we outsource nothing. You put your faith in us and we give you a single point of contact and accountability. By hiring Arizonans, you not only provide savings to your family but also support our local economy.

What's your cancellation policy?

So, let’s say you took the plunge and signed the lease agreement, but then you change your mind. In many states, including Arizona, the law provides you with the right to cancel contracts within some given time frame — 3 business days in Arizona. Some companies provide for a more generous cancellation period. We provide 7 days to make your final decision with no questions asked.

What deposit do you require?

Many solar companies ask for some sort of deposit upfront to bind you to their contract. Solar Topps does not require nor ask for any deposit upfront.

What equipment am I buying or leasing?

Many companies will not give you many details for the equipment they use, the material they have or the method they use for installation. They simply brush your question aside and say it does not matter since all you are doing is buying power. This is not true. All of these aspects matter. The better the equipment, design, engineering and installation the more power you will generate and the greater your savings will be. All of these aspects make an enormous difference. So do not be mislead or fooled into thinking that all systems are created equally. Solar Topps is the best because we take pride in everything we do - including the types of equipment and manufacturers we work with.

What is my production guarantee?

Many company's will offer a production guarantee but in their fine print they will say this guarantee is only 95% of the amount they write. Solar Topps offers 100% guarantee so that you know what to expect every step of the way.