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Arkansas solar panel installer, off grid solar

Frequently Asked Questions
(and honest answers to them)

  • How does solar work to lower my bill?
    Solar energy systems convert the sun's rays into usable AC power for your home or business. The panels help make this possible by creating direct current (DC) that an inverter then converts into alternating current (AC) for use in the home. Energy produced goes directly to the home's electrical loads and appliances. Excess energy not immediately used in the home is then back-fed to the utility. A special meter that they provide will keep track of this excess energy in the form of kWh credits. With a properly sized solar array, these credits will accrue during months where solar production exceeds a customer's energy consumption and be applied to their account during high usage months such as the winter. Excess credits always carry over to the following billing cycle.
  • Is now a good time to go solar?
    Yes. Now is the best time to go solar. Panel and equipment costs are steadily increasing. This means the same system installed today will cost much more a year from now. Additionally, Arkansas' net metering rules are set to expire at the end of this year. Anyone who gets a system now will be grandfathered in and won't have to worry about future rule changes that might disincentivize solar. Furthermore, locking in your monthly energy expenses with solar will immunize you from the rising cost of energy. Finally, a federal tax incentive currently in place will reduce the cost by up to 30%. This information published by the Solar Energy Industries Association is helpful in understanding how solar energy is deflationary in the current economic climate.
  • How does net metering work in Arkansas?
    Arkansas has one of the best net metering programs available. Through net metering, the utility acts as a battery with endless capacity storing any excess energy produced by a customer's solar energy system that is not used directly in the home at the time of production. This energy is stored in the form of kWh credits to be used days, even months later. Excess energy that is not used will roll over indefinitely, and the user may choose to sell the accumulated energy to the utility after two years, but may also choose to hold on to the credits. Customers will only be paid a fraction of the retail rate called avoided cost, usually around 2 cents per kWh. Most utilities limit the size of a solar power system to not produce more than a years total kWh usage on a customers account(s). Read this blog post for net metering changes that will be taking place in Arkansas in 2024.
  • What is meter aggregation?
    A solar array installed at one location can offset usage tied to additional meters located on the same property or even miles away, as long as all the meters are under the same utility and account name. Only one meter in an aggregation system can be used as the primary generation meter.
  • How much does solar cost?
    A typical 7-7.6 kWh grid tie solar energy system that includes approximately 20 panels on a roof with no battery, can cost anywhere from $19,000 - $27,000. A system such as this will offset approximately $95-$105 per month if facing south at an optimal angle to the sun. Costs can vary depending on payment options, roof angle, equipment location, and wire costs.
  • How many solar panels do I need for my home?
    Ideally, it is best to size a system for 100% offset of your annual kWh usage, which is what New Farm Solar strives to accomplish for our customers. With 100% offset, the utility bill will have little to no usage and will only have a service availability charge ranging from $15-$25 per month. Factors that go into sizing a system include the last 12 months of your total kWh usage along with site considerations such as panel orientation and sun exposure. For a rough estimate, 1 kW of solar (roughly 3 panels) will produce approximately 1,300 kWh annually. Simply divide your total 12 months of kWh usage by 1300 to get an approximate size of the solar array in kW.
  • Does solar increase my property value?
    Yes! If you own your solar energy system rather than leasing one, it will increase your home and property’s value. Studies show that homes with solar will sell for higher amounts than homes without.
  • Will a grid tie system still produce power if grid power is lost?
    It depends. Most grid-tie systems without batteries rely on grid voltage to function and will not produce power when there is an outage. However, our SMA Sunny Boy grid-tie inverters do include a secure power supply at no additional cost. This supplies up to 2,000 watts of power per inverter during an outage when the sun is shining. The secure power supply can be used to power refrigeration, lights, fans, and other small 120V loads during the daytime only. Hybrid grid tie inverter solar energy systems include a battery and a separate AC circuit that will supply power during an outage 24/7. Hybrid systems can be sized to power some loads or the entire home. These systems are also interactive with standby generators. When needed, they command the generator to start and charge batteries and power loads. This saves on fuel costs, oil changes, and wear and tear. New Farm Solar specializes in custom designs from battery backup to off-grid or stand-alone applications.
  • What type of maintenance is involved?
    Other than occasionally cleaning solar panels, virtually no maintenance is required. Cleaning solar panels is easy. Rinse the panels with a hose. Using a mild soap and warm water gently scrub the panels with a scrubber and clean them of any debris or buildup. Rinse thoroughly to remove any soapy water.
  • Are there any state or federal incentives?
    Other than net metering, there are no Arkansas state incentives for going solar. There is a federal tax credit of 30% of the system cost that can apply to your tax burden at the end of the year. This will carry forward to the next year if it is not exhausted in the first one. Other costs, such as reroofing for the purpose of adding solar, can also qualify for the tax rebate. You must owe taxes in order to claim the rebate. We recommend talking to your CPA to determine if the tax rebate will benefit you.
  • How do I finance a solar energy system for my home?
    New Farm Solar offers multiple solar financing options. We are happy to help you find what best fits your financial situation. For the lowest cost, cash payment is always available. Other options may include HELOCs or second mortgages to name a few.
  • How long will solar panels produce energy?
    Solar panels are expected to still generate power for over 35 years. Most premium panels have low annual degradation rates and have production guarantees of 85-92% output by year 25.
  • I don’t have any south facing roof space but I do have east and west facing roof spaces. Is my home still viable for solar?
    Yes! Solar arrays facing directly east or west will produce approximately 85% of that of an array that is south-facing.
  • How far away can I place a ground mount array?
    With proper design and equipment choices, we have placed arrays over 600 feet from the home while keeping losses below 2% voltage drop. With high voltage outputs and low amperage per string, DC current is able to carry the distance and stay within an acceptable range of line loss.
  • What is a NABCEP certification and should I choose only an installer that has a member that is certified?
    NABCEP, or North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, is a nationally recognized solar energy installer certification that is awarded to individuals who have gone through a rigorous testing and training regime. The certification requires members to have multiple years of experience installing solar energy systems. There are different types of certifications from associate certifications to PV installation certifications. Hiring an installer with a NABCEP certification ensures a quality system design and install.
  • What is the difference between a string inverter and a micro inverter?
    A string inverter is a single inverter per 28-30 panels. The inverter itself can be placed at the ground level while the panels wired to it are installed at a distance. Micro inverters are smaller individual inverters that are placed behind each panel on top of the roof. The inverter is the highest point of failure in a solar energy system. There are pros and cons to each inverter system. Enphase, which is the most popular microinverter brand, claims to have a failure rate of .05%, while SMA claims a .15%. If a microinverter fails in a system, the others will continue to produce and there are little losses in the downtime. However, replacing a microinverter is more involved and requires ladders and two installers to change one out. It also requires more dependency on the installation company to keep the system up and running for the 25-year warranty period of the microinverters, and the workmanship warranty to cover replacement is something to consider as well. String inverters are much easier to replace and because there is only one per 28-30 panels, the likelihood of multiple failures is less simply because there are fewer inverters to fail. Replacement requires only one installer. In fact, the process is so simple the homeowner can often do so themselves with relative ease. The cons to a string inverter are, if one fails, the entire array connected to it will stop producing until the inverter manufacturer can send a replacement, which usually takes about a week. Free monitoring of a system will notify the company when a warranty is needed. Shading is another factor that is used to compare micro inverters to string inverters. Today's string inverters have software-driven shade mitigation that can outperform micro inverters' natural shade mitigation properties simply by adjusting to new voltage inputs. Unless there is heavy shading on a roof, string inverters can outperform micro inverters with arrays that have up to 15% shading or more. Monitoring is another comparison factor in inverter selection. Micro inverters monitor the output of each individual panel while a string inverter monitors the array as a whole. Both systems have free monitoring platforms and will report deviations in production or errors in either solar energy system. Micro inverters typically have a lower wattage output than the panel they are connected to. For example, a 380-watt module at STC (Standard Test Conditions) will have a maximum output of 295 watts, although there are higher wattage micro inverters that may be used at an additional cost for a one-to-one ratio. A string inverter can be sized to match the exact output of the array it is attached to. Although, it is standard practice to size an array 120%-140% larger than the inverter's output. This is done to keep inverter and other wiring costs down, and because the wattage of a solar panel is rated at perfect STC conditions, which is rarely seen in realtime conditions during times of higher production due to temperature derates. Most commonly, panels see around 80% of their STC nameplate rating. The collective output of a micro inverter system is also affected by shading, whereas the maximum output of a single string inverter will not be affected by shade. If an array is sized larger than a string inverter's total output, when shading occurs on part of the array the inverter still has the capability of its maximum output.
  • Is it better to just go off the grid?
    If you are already connected to a utility that offers a net metering program, it is going to be much more cost-effective to stay connected to the grid and offset 100% of your usage if possible. The largest expense in an off-grid system is the battery bank. If you have net metering, the utility can act as a battery, but with endless capacity to store energy that can be used months later. Unlike an off-grid system where the battery capacity is limited to day-to-day storage, banking energy in the form of credits is much more efficient. Also, the battery is never full, allowing for your solar to produce as much energy as it possibly can. This is environmentally beneficial as the excess renewable energy produced by your system that is not directly used on site is going to physically satisfy your neighbors' loads. Off-grid systems require a larger storage capacity than a grid-tied backup system, and will most likely require a standby generator in long periods of low light conditions, depending on the home's loads. A grid-interactive hybrid battery inverter with a smaller battery bank acts as a grid tie inverter when grid power is available, exporting power to the grid and offsetting your energy usage. The battery bank connected to it remains full and ready for a grid outage. When grid power is lost, the hybrid inverter instantaneously provides backup power to essential loads or to the whole home, depending on the design. If grid power is not available or is costly to bring into a remote location, a stand-alone or off-grid system can be a great way to make land a viable building space. Most often this will be for a new build and is a good time to consider appliances, HVAC equipment, other loads, and the building envelope during the beginning building phases.
  • What steps should I consider if I want to go off grid?
    If going the off-grid approach, there are plenty of great options for low consumption appliances and other lower cost options for heating and cooling. We recommend variable speed motor units and mini splits, for example. These units can operate at lower temperatures than a conventional single stage heat pump, and require 20%-30% less energy, and do not require heat strips, which are a very inefficient way to heat in an off-grid setting. Another issue with single stage heat pumps is the locking rotor amps (LRA) needed to turn over the motor. A variable speed unit has little to no surge or LRAs. Heating during the winter when light conditions are low and days are short are the most challenging part of living off the grid. Using gas for heat in a dual fuel heating and cooling system is a good choice to keep costs down. If you have plenty of access to firewood, outdoor boilers are one of the best ways to heat your domestic water and home and use much lower amounts of energy. Heating water with a conventional electric water heater (not a whole house on demand) is a reasonable option. New Farm Solar offers off-grid consultations. Please call or write for more information. (833) 639-3276.
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