Solar Panels and Inverters

Solar panels and inverters are the foundation of a solar system so you want to get them right. We’ll show you everything you need to know.

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Solar cells

What is a solar panel?

Solar panels collect the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity. Solar PV is the most common technology used to power homes.

There are two main Solar PV types: monocrystalline or polycrystalline, and they offer different aesthetics, efficiency, and price ranges. Their output and efficiency ratings determine their size and total output. Panels are an essential part of a solar panel system and these are just a few factors that will play into the type you choose.

How many panels will I need?

Your past electric bills will show your usage trends. But we won’t stop there. Think about what you have planned for the future and let us know so we can build your system to handle it. Here are some common changes to consider:

  • Installing a pool, hot tub, or major appliance
  • Getting an electric vehicle
  • Adding a central air conditioner or simply running yours more
  • Switching from a gas dryer to an electric one
  • Growing your family (more people = more energy)

Your solar panels will have a very long life, most likely 25-30 years or more. Though they are a solid long-term investment requiring little maintenance, they have limits, much like any other machinery or appliance you buy. Over time, all solar panels experience some loss of production, known as degradation.

What does this mean for you? To maintain the same output over time, we need to build in enough power to compensate for degradation. For example, our calculations will include a buffer of energy production now, so you’re not limited by slight power loss 15 or 20 years in the future.

Buying quality solar panels also helps. Tier 1 panels guarantee no more than 10% loss over 25 years. This means that in 25 years your system will still be producing above 90% of the energy production you produced when you first went Solar.

In Arizona, all solar homeowners must have a time-of-use plan. With TOU plans, the cost of one kWh of electricity varies depending on the time of day. Rates are typically lower during off-peak hours and higher during peak hours like 4-9 pm.

This means when you send excess energy to the utility at 12 pm, you get a lower credit than for energy sent at 5 pm. Likewise, you’re charged this higher rate if you need to draw energy from the grid during peak hours. We recommend planning a 5-10% cushion to counteract these effects.

You can. We’d be happy to help you with that too. But if you’re building a solar system with us, let’s get your solar panel installation right the first time.

We could take shortcuts to make your solar panel system seem less expensive upfront, but we’d just be under-sizing your system. So when you inevitably need more power, you’ll be frustrated to learn that adding even a few panels requires the same fixed projects costs as the first installation (e.g., permitting, design and engineering, and an installation crew). You don’t want that.

Instead, we’ll tell you an industry secret: everyone, and we mean everyone uses more power once they get solar energy.
Call it freedom. Call it human nature. Or call it enjoying your ROI. It’s real, and it proves that with solar energy, people stop limiting their energy usage and start living. One of the most common changes we see from our clients is that they finally feel free to run their air conditioner as much as they want!
This may be the most important thing we can stress: The question is not “will you use more power?”. It’s “how much more will you use?”.

No one has ever complained that they ended up with too much power. But the few who opted for less power…well, it wasn’t long before they wished for more!

How do I choose?

The tiered solar industry classification system is a helpful guide in choosing the best solar panel company for you. Manufacturers are classified as either Tier 1 or Tier 2, depending on factors like how long they’ve been producing solar panels and how they’re known for quality, service, etc.

We recommend Tier 1 solar manufacturers because their solar panels must meet higher standards, like a stricter manufacturing process, and have longer warranties. These companies also have solid reputations. Being able to trust that they’ll be here for the life of your warranty is critical.

We recommend solar panel manufacturers who offer a 25-year power warranty. They guarantee your solar panels will produce electricity at minimum 90% of their power output rating at year 25. This warranty covers your system output as a whole.

This warranty covers each individual panel. Most manufacturers offer 12 or 15-year product warranties. This means if an individual panel becomes defective during that period, it’s covered. After the warranty is up, you’re responsible for individual panel replacements or repairs.

This decision really depends on your situation, goals and budget. The most efficient solar panels will cost a little more, but provide the most power production per square foot, which maximizes output when space is limited. If you’re not limited by space, slightly lower efficiency options may be more budget-friendly.

As with anything, your budget will play a role in your decision here. The things we’ve covered like manufacturer type, warranties, and efficiency will all impact the cost of the panels. Your installation type — roof-mounted or ground-mounted — will also be a factor.
The good news is your “per panel” cost effectively goes down the more panels you install. Fixed installation costs stay the same whether you install 2 panels or 20, so don’t hold back when deciding how many you want to install. Planning for your future energy needs now will save you the bigger expense of adding one or two panels later (after initial installation).

We hope this is obvious but it’s worth saying anyway. Solar panel kits can be hazardous, likely aren’t warrantied, and can cost far more in the long run. You wouldn’t buy a car in pieces and attempt to put it together yourself. Don’t do it here either.

Let certified installation professionals, like Streamline Solar, help you choose quality solar panels and handle your system with the utmost care.

The small but mighty solar inverter

Some folks call it the heart of a solar energy system, others call it the brain. Either way, the point is: the solar inverter is really important. Solar panels may get all the attention, but inverters are arguably the star of the show because they make your solar energy usable!

How does it work?

Solar panels use the sun’s energy to produce direct current (DC). However, your home uses alternating current (AC) for power. Solar inverters transform direct current from your panels to alternating current for your home.

There are two main types of residential solar inverters to choose from:

Central Inverter

Central inverters

Central inverters are typically installed close to your existing main service panel. Most systems run on one central inverter; large systems may need two or more.

All solar panels connect to your central inverter and send the energy they produce to it. The central inverter then converts that energy to AC power for your home.

Pros: Central Inverters can be easier to service since they are usually installed at ground level. They can also include features like integrated EV charging and integrated support for DC-coupled batteries.

Cons: If your central inverter fails, your entire system is down until it is repaired.

Microinverter

Microinverters

Microinverters are small, individual inverters installed underneath each solar panel. Each microinverter converts that panel’s output to an AC circuit, and all output merges at the AC combiner panel. We install Enphase® microinverters, which are the most advanced on the market and are backed by rigorous testing.

Pros: If a microinverter fails, only one panel is down. This means the rest of your solar array can continue producing power! Burst technology lets microinverters produce more at dawn, dusk and in lowlight conditions, which makes for a longer solar day. Streamlined components make for quicker and less costly installations. High-quality materials and remote problem-solving save money on repairs. Enphase microinverters also come with a 25-year warranty.

Cons: Microinverters can be more challenging to replace since they are installed at the solar panel (typically on the roof).

Streamline Roofing

Absolutely the best company to work with! We originally started with Vivent solar and weren’t getting the customer service or quality we expected. Eli knocked on our door just a week after we had already signed with Vivent and we’re so glad he came when he did! We were able to cancel with Vivent and sign up with Streamline.

This has been the best and easiest decision ever. Eli was in contact with us through the whole procedure. Install was quick and the crew kept us informed of everything they were doing. Couldn’t have asked for anything better!

Airan Scott

We love our solar electric system! Streamline Solar designed our system using American made products that we could be proud to own, while suggesting new technologies that other companies did not offer us, resulting in a more efficient use of our roof space and better production from the SUN! We love our new electric bills. Go Sun Devils!

Bruce and Joan Haroldson (Goodyear, AZ)

Our experience with Streamline Solar has been very good. From the initial sales cycle, through the installation, and to the final step of getting the cellular monitoring system enabled. The salesman spent 5 hours with us on the first meeting. Who does that!

We had an unexpected slip in schedule but after explaining the importance of getting the job done this tax year the project manager figured out a way to get it done with time to spare. The installers were professional, courteous, and went out of their way to make sure that everything was working as expected before they left. They even painted the conduit to match our house color. The field project manager made a special trip to replace one of the panels that had some minor physical damage that wasn’t affecting the panel’s output. But he replaced it anyway. Although this is our first solar system I can’t imagine better service from a company. I can highly recommend Streamline Solar.

I. Space (Phoenix, AZ)

Not often do I write reviews because I’m often times so let down by businesses these days. However streamline solar has given me new hope on customer service and customer satisfaction.

From the day I met Marc at our 1st appointment he explained things in a way that you fully understand what you’re purchasing. There was no sales pressure or gimmicks or hidden facts, just an honest small company selling a great product that is saving me money . Their customer service is great and from start to finish my solar system went in without any headaches or issues! If you’re considering going solar I highly recommend streamline solar!

J. Kemper (Phoenix, AZ)

Great company to do business with. I found them through word of mouth because a few neighbors had their solar installed by Streamline. Also want to make a recommendation get Fred to come out to give you the rundown and quote. This is not a fly by night type of company. My system has been up and running for one year as of this month. Today I reached out to Fred to get some information about batteries added to my system. About a half hour later of chatting I brought up what I perceived as a issue with one of my panels under-producing. Fred is in sales and even though I decided not to buy a battery system he took the time to address my concern about one of my panels. Come to find out I have a roof vent creating a shadow on that panel. Since it was only a small percentage different than my other panels in output I see why that panel is a little lower. This is because I maxed out my roof with solar panels and not because of anything that Streamline missed. Very pleased to have chosen the right company. Thanks. Keep up the good work.

Kevin W. (Buckeye, AZ)

Initially, I had my doubts about solar. But after owning my system for nearly a year, I tell everybody “going solar” is a no brainer. My system consistently produces 85% of my electric needs according to my monthly SRP bill. Some months all I have to pay is SRP’s grid connection fee!

Streamline Solar provided the financing, guided me through the tax credit and rebate process and even came out and removed and re-installed my system after last October’s massive hail storm. Think about that! My roof didn’t live through that storm but my solar panels did! Yes, I’m a believer.

Tod Haines (Mesa, AZ)