Residential Frequently Asked Questions
The following questions were put together based on research and surveys conducted by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). At Arch Electric we think it is important that home and business owners do their own research when looking for a solar professional. Here are 40 frequently asked questions that should be asked of any solar professional, and Arch Electric’s answers.
About the Company
What year was the company established? Where are the offices?
Arch Electric was established in 2003 and has been installing solar since 2004. We are headquartered in Plymouth, WI with additional offices in Milwaukee and Madison.
Are you licensed and insured?
Arch Electric is a fully insured, licensed Electrical Contractor in Wisconsin. We can offer our Evidence of Insurance if necessary. We can also be found on the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website to confirm our credentials.
Are the installers & electricians your employees? Do you use subcontractors for any part of the installation?
Arch Electric is a completely vertically integrated company. This means we do everything in-house, from design to installation, with our own employees. We have our own Master, Journeyman, and Apprentice Electricians on staff.
Have you worked with my municipality before?
We are familiar with most municipalities in Southeastern Wisconsin. Most simply require an electrical permit for solar installations. Some may also request a building permit along with a structural engineering report which can add to total application cost.
Can you provide customer references?
Yes! We have numerous happy customers who would be willing to discuss their solar installations with potential customers. We strive for a superior level of service throughout the entire solar process. Arch Electric will take care of everything in house and keep you informed every step of the way. We want to do the work. We want you to enjoy the savings.
What happens if I sell my home?
Recent studies have shown solar increases home value by 3-5%. Most warranties related to solar panel equipment stay with the installation and are transferable to the new homeowner.
Should I wait for newer technology?
The evolution of solar panels has leveled out somewhat in the last few years. While we do anticipate continued technological advancements, it is likely that power generation capacity will not change drastically in the immediate future. Now is the time to invest in solar!
Can my homeowner’s association stop me from putting solar on my house?
No. Wisconsin has strong solar access rights that prevent any private land use controls from restricting the construction of a solar energy system. You may still need to notify your association of the installation, but they cannot stop you from taking advantage of solar.
What is the process for future roof replacement? What is the cost for removing and replacing panels?
The PV system will need to be removed for roof replacement. Our current labor rate is $95 per hour. Depending on the system size and complexity it may take our installers a day or two to remove and replace the installation.
What if a new building is built and shades my system?
Wisconsin law protects a solar system owner’s right to unobstructed access to the sun. WI Statute 700.41 limits the permitted building envelope of properties next to a solar system to what it was at the time of system installation. This allows the system owner to be certain that future zoning and development will not render the system ineffective. In addition, WI Statute 844.22 states that any structure of vegetative growth that occurs after the installation of a solar system and interferes with its function is considered to be a private nuisance. The right to unobstructed resource access can only be applied after a system is constructed.
If I have an electric vehicle (EV), how much solar energy is needed to charge it? Can I charge it when the sun isn’t shining?
It depends — vehicle type, average miles driven, charging rate, charger type, etc., all make a difference when determining how much solar is needed to offset the EV’s usage. A vehicle can be charged via the grid or battery system even when the sun isn’t shining. We can work with a homeowner to evaluate their EV usage and take it into account when planning the solar install.
Will you perform a whole house audit and let me know how to reduce all my energy demands?
We do not perform whole home auditing. Homeowners interested in this service can find reputable companies through the Focus on Energy website: www.focusonenergy.com
Will the panel performance degrade over time?
Yes, all solar panels have a degradation rate and slowly lose production capacity over their lifespan. Most panels guarantee a power performance of 87-90% over 25 years, which is the industry standard. Panasonic, one of our preferred panel manufacturers guarantees their panel production will never drop below 91%.
Do you recommend using a central inverter, micro-inverters, or optimizers? Why?
Most of our residential installs use micro-inverters for a few reasons. Micro-inverters generally have a warranty and lifespan similar to that of the panels, whereas central inverters are usually only warrantied for 10-15 years and may need to be replaced. Micro-inverters allow for easier expansion if the homeowner would like to add on to their system in the future. Most micro-inverters will be compatible with battery systems should the homeowner wish to look into storage options. Finally, we see better power performance with micro-inverters as each panel operates independently of each other compared to a string.
What warranties are there on different parts of the system? Who do I call if there is a problem?
The panels and inverters we install come with their own warranties (typically 25 years). Arch Electric offers a 5-year workmanship warranty for residential installs. If a problem occurs with any installed equipment or workmanship, homeowners are welcome to reach out to us!
Project Management and Design
Who designs the system and forecasts estimated annual output?
We have in-house Solar Energy Consultants and Designers who collaboratively use the latest technology and software to design solar arrays. We utilize local weather data and forecasting to provide the most accurate production estimates possible.
Will you give me a firm quote or an estimate prior to signing a contract?
The quote provided at the time of signing will be a firm quote. Your Solar Experience Consultant will ensure you understand the contract before it is signed.
How are contract changes addressed? Do I have the right to cancel?
All contract changes will be addressed with a change order to be reviewed by the homeowner. We do allow a 3-day grace period following contract signing during which the homeowner may cancel their installation.
Does your system include panel-level monitoring? Does it cost anything extra? How do I access it?
Yes, our systems installed with micro-inverters come with panel-level monitoring. The monitoring is provided by the inverter company. The homeowner will have their own account for the system monitoring that can be accessed from any web-based device. Monitoring set up is completed by our installation team. While production monitoring is included with every installation, consumption monitoring is not. This can be added at an additional cost to cover parts and labor.
Who does the paperwork for the utility interconnection and permits? Are associated fees included in the price of the system?
We take care of all permitting and interconnection applications for homeowners. The associated fees are included in the total project cost. If the utility or town requires a form that cannot be completed by Arch Electric, we will notify the homeowner.
Do you confirm that my roof is structurally OK to hold panels?
Roof-mounted solar installs are not very heavy (about 3lbs/sq ft) and most homes in WI have no issue with the additional load. If a homeowner is concerned their home may need reinforcement or if a municipality requires it, we can provide a structural engineering report at an additional cost.
Will the system meet local building codes?
Yes, our designers are conscientious of local and national codes regarding solar installs and make sure to follow proper procedures.
Should my panels be interconnected to the grid? Can I get power during a blackout?
The majority of our installs are grid-tied. This means the grid acts like a storage system, allowing the solar to feed power out during the day and the home to draw it back at night. Unfortunately, for safety reasons, grid-tied solar systems will shut down during a power outage. The only way to avoid this occurrence is to install a battery backup, which Arch commonly installs.
Can I add more panels/modules later?
In most instances, yes. Provided there is space and the inverter can handle expansion, we can add more panels. If the homeowner knows during the initial consultation that they would like to add panels in the future, we can do some pre-planning to make the addition easier.
Can you install a ground mount system if my roof isn’t appropriate?
Yes. Our Solar Experience Consultants and design team can work with you to find the best solution for a solar install if a homeowner’s roof is inconvenient. Arch has all the equipment to install ground mount systems.
Savings & Financing
What financing option do you offer?
Our main financing partner is Clean Energy Credit Union. They offer a loan specifically for solar installations. In addition, we work with several local banks to make solar a possibility for homeowners.
How much can I save using solar?
It depends. Just about anyone can save money with solar; however, the amount (and payback period) is dependent on numerous factors. This includes but is not limited to: location, panel orientation and tilt, shading, electrical usage, ease of installation, utility and existing electrical service.
How much is due up front? When are other payments due?
Our terms are 60% down upon contract signing with the remaining 40% due after commissioning. Depending on the preferences of the homeowner, we have some flexibility regarding how the payments are split.
Which rebates are available to me?
The Federal Income Tax Credit (ITC) is available to all homeowners installing a residential solar system. It will be applied to 26% of the project cost in 2020 and 22% in 2021. The ITC will be discontinued in 2022 for residential customers. Wisconsin’s state program, Focus on Energy, offers rebates for residential installs. They will rebate 12% of the total project cost up to $1,500. An additional $500 is available to homeowners located in eligible “rural” zip codes.
Do I need to be home during the entire installation?
No. We let homeowners know which portion of the installation requires indoor access (if any) and if their presence is necessary.
Will there be a Master Electrician on site?
We do have several electricians working for Arch Electric, including two Master Electricians. However, it is not necessary a Master Electrician be on site during most residential installs as all electrical can be handled by our Journeymen and their apprentices. A licensed Journeyman Electrician will be on site for all AC electrical work on the installation.
How much time will be between the contract signing and the installation of my system?
Our typical lead time for residential projects from contract signing to installation is 6-8 weeks. This fluctuates throughout the year depending on our construction queue. We keep all customers apprised of scheduling expectations and delays. After installation is complete, we will need to schedule an inspection with the municipality and the interconnection/commissioning with the utility. The time from when the installation is complete to when the system is interconnected with the utility and producing power can range from 2-5 weeks depending on the availability of the inspector and utility.
Will someone from your team be present when inspectors come to inspect the installation?
Yes, we work with the utility and authority having jurisdiction to schedule inspections and will have someone on site during the process.
How long will the inspection take?
The inspection itself is quick. However, how soon we can schedule the inspection depends on the installation. On average, most residential installs take 2-3 days and occur in two parts. The DC portion (panels and some electrical) and the AC portion (additional electrical, meter changes, and communications). We do need to work with utility and inspectors to coordinate the AC portion of the installation. This takes place 1-3 weeks following the DC portion of the installation. Following your outage and inspections, we scheduled the system commissioning with the utility. Once the utility receives the inspection report, they have 10 business days to schedule the commissioning.
Who is responsible for fixing any damage to my home caused during the installation or due to a penetration in the roof that results in a water leak?
Arch Electric offers a 5-year workmanship warranty on our residential solar installs. If roof damage does occur as a result of the solar installation, we will rectify it.
Do you proactively monitor my system’s performance after installation and notify me if there are issues?
Yes, as the installer, we do have access to your panel monitoring system (provided it is connected to a data line). We routinely check monitoring and, if we note any discrepancies in system reporting, we will notify the homeowner and look for a solution.