FAQs: Solar Electricity


Some common questions to help you guide you.

The photovoltaic effect, the process through which a solar cell converts sunlight into electricity, was first observed in 1839 by French physicist Antoine-César Becquerel. Fifty years later, an American experimenter named Charles Fritts constructed the first solar cell by coating the semiconductor selenium with ultra-thin layers of gold to form the junctions. Decades later, in the mid 1950s the first solar cells capable of generating energy to run everyday electrical equipment were developed at Bell Labs and RCA Labs.

A Suntrek solar system generates electricity through the use of photovoltaic (PV) technology which turns the sun's light energy into direct current (DC) electricity. After passing through a component called an inverter, the (DC) electricity is converted to alternating current (AC), the type of electricity that you access through the outlets in your home.

Unless you choose a stand-alone system with batteries, you will need to remain connected to the grid through your local utility company. While you generate most of your own electricity during the peak hours of daylight and demand, your utility will seamlessly take over to supply your electricity at night and on very cloudy days. For remote applications in which utility access is not feasible, stand-alone systems are ideal. With batteries that store your electricity, these systems are completely independent from the utility grid.

The amount of electricity generated by a Suntrek system depends upon several factors. These include system size, your location, and environmental conditions. If you have enough space, a solar power system can be custom-sized to meet all of your electricity needs. It is rarely necessary for a system to cover all of your electricity needs to be cost-effective. In most cases, simply eliminating the peak periods of energy consumption has a noticeable effect on monthly utility bills. This is especially the case if your utility charges are based on a tiered rate structure in which you pay an incrementally higher rate for each kWh that you use. Your Suntrek consultant will assist you in deciding what size system is best for you.

Our solar modules operate in temperatures ranging from -13 to 122 degrees F (-25 to 50 degrees C). Since PV modules generate electricity directly from light, not heat, solar modules actually function best in cooler temperatures.

Since photovoltaic technology requires sunlight to generate electricity, your system will not produce during the dark hours of the night. Unless you purchase a system with a battery backup, your local utility will continue to supply your electricity at night. During sunny days when your solar system generates more power than you need, you send the excess energy to the utlility grid. When the sun goes down, you retrieve that energy from the grid. For stand-alone systems, the excess energy is retrieved from the battery.

Output is directly proportionate to the amount of sunlight available at any given moment. While your system will produce the bulk of your electricity when it is sunny, it can generate 50 — 70% of that output under bright overcast conditions. As cloud cover thickens, production will continue to diminish as less light reaches the surface of the modules.

In any type of utility outage, only those stand-alone systems with battery backup will continue to have power. By law, any solar electric system without battery backup must shut down until utility power returns.

Because they are generally mounted in low or no-traffic areas, are virtually maintenance free, and have no moving parts, solar power systems are very safe. Suntrek system components carry all recommended electrical certifications, including Underwriters Laboratory (UL listed) and IEC. As with any electrical appliance, however, you should always use proper care when handling solar system components.

The total purchase and installation costs depend on the size of the system, available incentives and subsidies available in your area, and the specific layout of your home or structure. Our installer partners will provide a quote for designing and installing an entire solar system. Call our toll free number 800-292-7648 to schedule an appointment for a quote.

Net metering is a regulation that requires utilities to allow excess energy generated by solar electric systems to be sent to the grid. This arrangement allows all electricity produced by your Suntrek system to be used to offset the remaining portion of your utility bill. The excess electricity is received as a credit. You will not receive a check for the excess power.

Suntrek will handle all of your paperwork, making it simple and convenient for you.

To have solar panels installed on your roof, you must own a home that has enough roof space that is free from obstructions and not shaded during the key sunlight hours. The best location for a solar system is an un-shaded south or west facing roof. However, flat roofs can still capture over 80% of the power of a true south-facing roof. We will check your roof to determine the best solution. If your roof is unsuitable for solar panels, ground mounted systems are also available.

A Suntrek installer will help you determine the size you need based on your usage needs, your location, your roof and other factors. However as a general rule, an average 2,500 sq. ft. single-family home uses about 5,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. A 3 kW (AC) system will generate nearly all of the electricity required for such a home on an annual basis. The only other condition in deciding proper system size is the amount of suitable space available on your roof. To be suitable, you must have unobstructed, non-shaded roof area, either flat or a sloped, at any orientation other than North. You need roughly 100 square feet of roof space for each kWp that you wish to produce.

The system weighs 2.5 pounds per square foot. A 1-kilowatt system is approximately 80 square feet. The weight density of our modules is similar to the weight of common asphalt shingle roofing material and can be used on almost any roof.

In most states, such as California, is illegal for Home Owners Associations to prohibit the installation of solar devices, though some restrictions may be imposed. If you live outside California, you should review your homeowner's association bylaws.

It will typically take two-to-three days for a professional installation.

Yes, provided you have the available roof space.

Yes, if you start with some battery backup, it is easy to add more. However, if you start without any backup, it will be more expensive to add batteries because you will need to add a different type of inverter.

Suntrek's Solar Electric Brochure (PDF)

Suntrek systems are very durable. Solar panels have passed a standard battery of tests and are built to withstand winds of up to 125 miles per hour and 1 inch balls of hail. The solar panels used in our power systems have a 40 year design life, and come with a 25 year warranty.