What Our Customers Ask
These are the questions our Sunetric Solar Energy Consultants receive most often, along with answers:
- Why is solar a good investment?
- Once solar is paid for, the sun will pay your electricity bill. In fact, it’s not unusual for our customers to have their monthly electric bills completely eliminated early in the life of their solar installation. And with the low maintenance requirements and long life of solar panels, solar is an investment that will reward you for decades to come.
- Why is it so expensive?
- Solar isn’t as expensive in the long run as it might seem at first blush. With a 30% federal tax incentive and a 35% state tax incentive, solar customers in Hawaii pay only 35% of the overall cost. In the near future, a large percentage of the population will have, or seek to invest in, solar. Today, less than 2% of the population across the country has gone solar — demand is low and prices are high in order to sustain the low percentage of buyers and the higher cost of low production volume. When the demand inevitably increases, so too will production volume and competition. As prices then drop, incentive programs will be reduced or withdrawn proportionally. As fuel availability decreases, utility rates spike, and the window for getting the most out of your investment narrows. Act now!
- I can’t afford it.
- With a combined 65% of your system cost covered by tax credits and other incentives, a solar installation is surprisingly affordable. Add to that the fact that once your solar installation is paid for, your electricity costs will be drastically reduced (if not disappear completely!). Sunetric offers a number of financing options to make your investment as smart as it can be, so get in touch with us and see how affordable Sunetric PV can be.
- Is there a cap on the tax credits?
Residents in Hawaii who purchase a solar PV system receive a 65% return on their investment through combined State and Federal Credits. Home owners receive a 30% Federal Income Tax Credit, which is uncapped and a 35% Hawaii State Tax Credit, which is capped at $5,000 per system. There are circumstances which allow multiple system installations on a single home, and Sunetric Energy Consultants are well-trained and have a thorough understanding of all tax credits available to you. Call today to learn more and speak with one of our professionals.
Learn more about residential solar tax incentives and commercial solar tax incentives.
- What if I’m a homeowner but I don’t pay taxes?
- The tax information provided in this website is provided as a guide only; please consult your tax advisor. Mahalo.
- If a homeowner is retired, is a resident of Hawaii, and does not pay State tax, the homeowner will receive a 35% refundable tax credit. This means that they will receive a check from the state for 35% of the cost. This refundable 35% state credit also goes for low income families who have a taxable income of $20k or less for an individual and $40k or less for joint income.
- If a homeowner is neither retired or are low income and has tax liability with the State, they can choose to take the 35% tax credit as a full 35% against their tax liability or take a discounted refundable credit at 24.5%. (24.5% = 35% × .7) The full 35% can be only used towards the owner’s taxable liability with the State. If the owner cannot use the credit all in one year because they have a small State tax liability, they can carry it forwards into subsequent years until they use the entire credit. The 24.5% refundable credit is paid above and beyond the owner’s state tax liability and is paid all in year 1.
- If a homeowner does not file a state tax return because they are a non-resident or just doesn’t file a state tax return, they are not eligible for any state credits, refundable or non-refundable.
- The 30% federal credit is non-refundable and can only be used against federal income tax liability. This credit can be carried forward like the state credit. If the owner does not pay federal taxes because of foreign citizenship or any other reason, they are not eligible for the credit.
- What finance options exist to enable firms to convert to solar power?
- A range of financing options are available, from funding the system outright to making no upfront investment at all via a power purchase agreement. Specialized leasing and debt options, as well as hybrid arrangements, are also available. The costs and benefits of the various approaches vary substantially and no single solution is appropriate to the needs of all businesses. In general, however, the range of alternatives available is such that financing issues are rarely an impediment for firms converting to solar electricity.
- How many years before I realize my return on investment?
- Your net investment is what you pay out of pocket after the Federal Tax Credit and the Hawaii State Tax Credit are realized. It typically takes 5-9 years to see a return on your initial investment, depending on the size of your installation, the quality of materials chosen, the quality of installation provided by the installer, and the efficiency of the solar panels. Most residential systems that are sized to completely cover you electricity needs (designed, in other words, to completely zero out your electricity cost) pay for themselves in less than 7 years.
- Why is Sunetric better than the other solar companies?
- As a full-service renewable energy firm, we handle every stage of the design, development, and installation of photovoltaic systems on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island. Sunetric holds electrical, construction and solar contractor’s licenses, and our subcontracted Sunetric Authorized Partners go through rigorous training with our installation team to ensure an excellent level of service. No other solar integrator can match our level of operational and professional integrity. From project inception through the length of your warranty, you can be assured that Sunetric will offer seamless and efficient direction and support. And we’re not the only ones who know — since opening our doors in 2004, Sunetric is consistently rated amongst the state’s top companies, winning countless awards and accolades year after year. Hawaii Business named us one of their Top 250 Companies and named us a Top Solar Company. The Honolulu Advertiser named us Best of the Best, and we also won their coveted Official People’s Choice Award. It’s why we’re responsible for 40% net-metered photovoltaic power in Hawaii, and why our list of satisfied commercial and residential clients keeps on growing. Sunetric is committed to helping sustainability-minded businesses and homeowners save money while reducing their consumption of petroleum-derived electricity. We provide a complete range of services, from power use analysis to design, installation and even rebate paperwork. Together with our solar energy finance partners, we’re also able to offer a wide range of financial options that make converting to solar economically feasible as well as socially responsible. Sunetric is a HECO-approved contractor.
- I’m waiting for the price to come down — it’s so expensive right now that I’m waiting for the newest more efficient solar technology.
The solar technology we employ today hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years. Crystalline solar cells are still the dominant and most cost-effective form of delivering solar generated electricity into a residential home. What has changed in the past 50 years is the decreasing cost of solar panel production. Federal and individual State tax incentive programs too have bloomed into huge savings opportunities.
Dramatically increased incentive
Prior to March of 2009, $100,000 of investment in solar would be met with a $2000 tax credit from the federal government. Today, that same $100,000 solar installation yields a $30,000 tax incentive from the federal government and on the individual State levels the increases have been enormous as well. In today’s marketplace there is very little competition between solar panel manufacturers and relatively low market demand by buyers, although solar is gaining popularity and more and more people are considering going solar.
A great long-term investment
Consider the cost of a new smartphone or MP3 player — the upfront cost, often several hundreds of dollars, is never returned, and the device will likely be obsolete and unsupported in a year. Solar, on the other hand, is a perfect investment — it will return your upfront investment completely and continue paying off for decades. Combined with the current tax incentives, Hawaii residents can save up to 65% on their investment. And though federal tax incentives are guaranteed through 2016, state tax incentives have no expiration date and are subject to changing terms with little notice. Solar is the choice, now is the time, and Sunetric will get you there and help every step of the way.
The benefit of being an early adopter
Today, less than 3% of US homeowners have invested in photovoltaics, but the number is steadily rising. Hawaii has already reached grid parity — the point at which renewable electricity is equal or cheaper than grid power — and the rest of the US is expected to follow suit by 2016. As more and more consumers realize the potential of solar power, the price of photovoltaic panels may come down and tax incentives may be decreased, thereby dramatically increasing the cost of installing solar. Now is a great opportunity to invest in solar power and take advantage of both the generous tax incentives and the long-term financial prudence of a purchase that makes you money.
If not now, when?
It bears mentioning that the environmental impact of engaging now with renewable energy is a twofold environmental action — your forward-thinking investment is influential and exemplary for others who may be considering solar, and you actively decrease dependence on the import of pollutant foreign oil.
Increased home value
In today’s market, energy efficiency measures and renewable electricity generation adds value to a home. Recent surveys show that every $1,000 saved per year on electricity costs adds $20,000 to a home’s value. Solar energy is therefore one of the best home improvement investments you make.
- Will I get paid for any extra energy credits I produce?
- You will receive total credit from the utility for the extra electricity you produce. If, at the end of the month, you’ve generated more power than you’ve used, the electric company will credit you with the excess toward your next utility bill.
- I just read the new TIR; can we still get multiple state tax credits in 1 installation, or do we have to install one system per year?
- Yes, you can still receive more than one Hawaii State Tax credit per year for your solar installation; investors in solar energy systems are not limited to one installation per year.
- What about solar hot water?
- While solar hot water is a step in the right direction towards energy independence, photovoltaics demonstrate superior performance in both financial and environmental terms. PV is the only solar option that gives homeowners not just affordable, reliable hot water but also the power needed for household electrical needs. And as the PV system works to power the home, any excess energy is routed back to the grid and banked for credit with the utility. Read the Sunetric white paper on the advantages of PV over solar hot water.
- What can I expect during my solar installation?
Sunetric holds Electrical, Solar and General Contractor’s licenses and staffs all consulting, engineering, installation, and customer service functions in-house. No other company can match our level of operational and professional integrity. Please note:
- In most installations, PV installers will have to make small roof penetrations (they will be sealed after installation) for the equipment and for safety compliance with OSHA.
- Permitting can, in some cases, slow project progress and take a long time; this, unfortunately, is beyond our control.
- If you have any other questions, please request a user manual from Sunetric here.
Technical and Financial Questions
The science and engineering behind the solar technology we install.
- What is photovoltaic (PV)?
- Photovoltaic is an energy producing technology that uses solar cells or solar arrays to convert sunlight into electricity. Learn more about PV power.
- How do PV systems work?
- Solar PV systems are comprised of cells made from specially treated semiconductor materials. The sun’s energy liberates electrons from materials in the solar panel to create DC electricity, just like a battery. This DC electricity is collected and transformed by an inverter into AC energy that can be used in your home. Learn more about how photovoltaic cells work.
- What happens during a utility power outage?
- Most PV systems Sunetric installs are systems without batteries. These systems do not generate power when the utility is out, even if it is sunny. If backup power is desired, a battery system can be added. This is not technologically challenging but it increases the system’s cost.
- What happens when the sun doesn’t shine?
- A PV system works in parallel with your electric utility. If the sun does not shine, the utility will provide your electricity.
- How long will a photovoltaic system last?
- At Sunetric, we use the most durable and efficient products in the industry, relying exclusively on components that have been extensively tested. Our solar photovoltaic modules are under warranty to collect energy for at least 25 years.
- Can solar energy eliminate my existing power bill?
The answer depends on several factors including your monthly power demand, the amount of land and/or roof space you have to devote to your solar system and the size of the system that we install. All systems differ but under typical conditions a company will need about 2,500 square feet of roof and/or ground space to offset each $1,000 of monthly electricity expenditures on Oahu. Because neighbor island electrical rates are higher, the electricity generated by 2,500 square feet of space is worth well over $1,000.
Customer’s utility bill after going solar with Sunetric.
- Who handles the permitting?
- Sunetric handles all permitting and project coordination. Once a design is agreed upon between your company and Sunetric, we arrange for drawings and other information required by the City and/or State. We also handle the interconnection between your system and the existing power grid.
- What is the feed-in tariff?
- The feed-in tariff system puts you in the power position — literally! Under the feed-in tariff system, the utility company buys all of the electricity produced by the solar panels on your property and redistributes it through the power grid as eco-friendly, green energy. This setup is ideal for large rooftops in areas with above-average solar exposure.
- How does net metering work?
- Net metering allows for a solar PV system to send its excess generated energy back to the power grid and later withdraw the same amount for no cost. Think of it like rollover minutes — When the sun shining bright during the day and your solar panels are generating more energy than you’re using, you ’deposit’ energy in the power grid. At night, you withdraw — and the extra energy you generated during the day is ‘rolled over’ into your account at no cost. Learn more about net metering in Hawaii.
Residential Permitting and Net Energy Metering Agreements
- What is the permitting process?
- Upon receiving the contractual agreement and necessary documentation residential permitting processes a Internet Building Permit to the Honolulu Department of Permit and Planning.
- Next, we follow up with DPP by submitting a physical application for a building permit in person in order to expedite the process.
- It takes anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks for DPP to issue the permit.
- It is advised that if you are a homeowner in possession of a property that is part of a Homeowners Association to please provide necessary Homeowners Association permit and/or documentation allowing the installation of a photovoltaic system on your property.
- It is also advised that if you own a home within the Hawaiian Homelands area, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to provide a Request for Home Improvement form to our permitting department. Without proper documentation, the Sunetric permitting department will not be able to process and procure a building permit.
- When does my photovoltaic system get the final inspection from city & county?
- Upon installation completion, Sunetric’s residential permitting department initiates protocol by requesting a electrical final inspection with the city and county inspector for your respective areas. We also send a request to the building inspector.
- What’s the normal turnaround time for final inspections and the official closing of my permits?
- The normal timeframe is generally anywhere between 2 to 6 weeks for the official closure of permits. Once your system passes final inspection, the inspector will need to officially close out the permit. In certain, special situations it can take 6 to 12 weeks, if not longer: every individual situation is different depending on the scope of the issues and we will be sure to cover these issues when working with you.
- Why doesn’t permitting happen faster? Can you make the city or county do certain things?
- In all situations regarding city & county entities, all customers are advised that Sunetric works diligently in conjunction with the procedures of these organizations and that we do not have authority over such governmental departments and entities. We ask for the full cooperation from our valued customers in these processes. Sunetric, city, county, and the utility companies work in cooperation with one another to ensure the best interests of our customers are met proficiently in a timely manner.
- When does my Net Energy Metering agreement get executed?
- Your system needs to pass final inspection, inspected by city and county inspectors. Building and electrical inspectors need to sign off and officially close out the permit. Once all the necessary steps have been met, Sunetric’s permitting department sends an update/ notification to the utility company to execute the NEM agreement
- When can I expect the utility company to swap my current meter to a Net Meter?
- Upon receiving notification that all permits are closed, the utility company coordinates directly with the customer within two weeks for an appointment to swap out the meter.
Scheduling Your PV Installation
- Who schedules my installation?
- Our Sunetric Scheduling Coordinator will call you within a week of signing your contract to schedule your inspection, installation, and the post-installation inspections.
- What happens before installation?
- The pre-installation process normally only takes about an hour. During this time, our foreman and engineer will meet with you to go over the PV system’s design, procurement, and installation timeline.
- What happens during installation?
- Installation of your PV system will typically start within 5 to 6 weeks after your pre-inspection. The crew works standard construction hours, and will arrive between 7:30–9:30am and work till 5–6pm.
- Do I need to be home for the installation?
- We do ask that you are home in morning to meet the crew, ask any questions of the installation crew, and allow them access to your attic if necessary. We also ask that someone be home in the afternoon in order to set up the monitoring.
- What happens after the installation?
- After we complete your installation, we will be coming back to your residence one last time for the electrical inspection with city and county. This inspection normally only takes 10–15 minutes and can typically be done from outside your home. During this time, the city and county electrical inspector makes sure that the system is up to code and inspects the entire system.
PV System Design
- How many years will my system last?
- Sunetric-installed PV systems have a warranty of 10 years, but have a life span of about 20–25 years.
- What is my warranty?
- 10 years.
- What will the array look like?
- Our installation team does its best to make the array identical the design made by your energy consultant, but the array layout may change due to the actual conditions of your rooftop.
- Do I have to cut the tree down due to shading?
- Unfortunately, yes. Unless they are in direct sunlight, your PV modules will not produce power efficiently.
- How do you mount the panels to the roof?
- We use Terra Flash flashing, which integrates cleanly with your existing roof and is wind-rated at 120mph, to ensure that your installation will be safe in any weather condition.
- What type of electrical equipment will be on my wall?
- Typically, you’ll see three new pieces of equipment: An inverter output panel board (if you have more than one PV system on your roof), a power source disconnect module (for shutting off the system), and a 125-amp service panel to connect the existing electricity in your house to your new PV installation.
- How will you waterproof my roof?
- We use differnt roof sealants depending on the type of roof. We commonly use Henry’s or Sikaflex brands, time- and market-tested sealants that we are confident in using for our customers’ roofs.
- When will you install our system?
- Our scheduling coordinator will call you and schedule your installation date with you, working with you to find an ideal time to get your system up and running as soon as possible. Installation, however, is one of several steps before your solar array is producing power. Please see the FAQ section on scheduling for more information.
Enphase/SunPower System Questions
- Why does my meter readout say 200kW hours, but my Enphase or Sunpower readout says 400kW hours. Why?
- Enphase and Sunpower systems measure the total generation output of their respective systems. Your electric meter—a net metering (NM) meter—measures only the output of power from your home. For example, if your home is using 5kW for 1 hour, and the PV system generates 5kW for 1 hour at the same time, the NM meter will read the output section as 0 (nothing), while your Enphase or Sunpower meter will read 5kW. If your home is using 5kW for 1 hour, and the PV system generates 10kW for 1 hour at the same time, the net energy meter will read the output section as 5.
- My Enphase system lost connection for a few days. Will I be able to retrieve my information for those few days?
- Absolutely. Once your Enphase monitoring unit (EMU) reconnects and gets back online, it will immediately upload all of your missing data online. Each Micro-inverter in your PV installation stores historical information for production. The upload time may take a while, depending on the upload speed of your internet connection. The faster the upload speed, the faster your data will return to the online database.
EnerBank Solar Loans
- What is a PAF?
- It’s a Payment Authorization Form. This document is mailed to the homeowner, who signs it and hands it over to Sunetric. Sunetric will then receive the funds from EnerBank.
- What if I lose my PAF?
- Just call EnerBank and let them know. EnerBank will void the lost one and send you a replacement.
- When do I hand over my PAF?
- The first one is to be handed over as soon as you receive it. The second one is to be handed over upon completion of the installation of the PV system.
- My loan is expiring, but the installation of my panels is not complete.
- This is easy to fix. You, the homeowner, can simply contact EnerBank and apply for a new loan equal to the amount of the outstanding balance. Since EnerBank already has most of your information, the process is faster than the first application.
Solar Attic Fans
- Do I need a solar attic fan?
- Place your hand on your ceiling in the middle of the afternoon. If it’s hot, that means the heat from your attic is transferring into your home. In Hawaii, most attics do not have adequate ventilation or insulation. High humidity and poor ventilation can cause attic temperatures to soar above 150 degrees, turning your home into an oven.
- How do solar attic fans work?
- Solar attic fans are installed on your roof and activated by the sun. They cool your attic by drawing out the hot air inside. A single solar attic fan can circulate up to 1,000 cubic feet of air per minute, providing enough ventilation for a 1,200 square-foot attic. Properly installed, solar fans provide years of carefree, no-cost cooling while reducing energy consumption in your home. Solar fans are low-voltage, so there is no risk of fire.
- What are the benefits of a solar attic fan?
- Solar attic fans can reduce the temperature in your attic by more than 50 degrees and lower the temperature in your home by 10 degrees. Cooling your attic also extends the life of your roofing materials and saves you money by reducing your air conditioning load.
- What are the cost savings of installing a solar attic fan?
- How much money you save depends on the price of electricity, the amount of attic space in your home, the efficiency of your attic insulation, and the amount of ventilation your solar attic vent is able to provide. In our experience, a typical installation will usually pay for itself in savings within a single year.
- Are there different types of solar attic fans?
- Yes, Sunetric uses fans from three different manufacturers. Each fan has different characteristics ranging from color and size to housing material type. The cost is roughly comparable but different models have different durability and aesthetic trade-offs.
- Are these solar attic fans very loud?
- Solar attic fans are quiet. In fact, they make so little noise they can barely be heard — even when you are standing right next to one. The fan blades used in our solar attic vents are specially designed for whisper quiet operation.
- How long do solar attic fans last?
- We warranty each solar fan installation for 5 years. The manufacturer warranties the motor for 5 years, the housing for 10 years, and the solar panel for 20 years. These fans will give you over 20+ years of trouble free service but will require replacing the motor every 5 to 7 years which is a minor cost.
- Are there any tax incentives or rebates for solar attic fans?
- Solar attic fans can pay for themselves in less than a year with 30% Federal and 35% State tax credits leaving you with a net out of pocket cost of around $300 to $400.