Solar Systems 101

Your Solar Questions Answered

What is the difference between solar water heaters ( thermal systems) and solar electric generating systems (photovoltaic solar systems)?

Solar water heaters (thermal systems)  The highest and best use for solar thermal systems lies in heating fluids (namely water for domestic use). These systems are typically referred to as “solar water heating” systems. In the case of domestic water heating, a fluid, generally, water or antifreeze is circulated up through a solar panel where it is heated by the sun’s rays then down through a heat exchanger where that heat is given off to potable water in a storage tank for household use.

Solar thermal systems have been around for centuries in one form or another. In ancient Greece, water was heated by passing it over stone aqueducts exposed to the sun’s rays and thereby heated.

Electric generating systems (photovoltaic solar systems)  On the other hand, solar electric generating systems are an entirely different means of capturing the sun’s energy. These systems convert light into electricity using semiconducting materials

Does a Solar Electric Generating system require batteries and battery storage in order to be worthwhile? If not, what happens when the sun goes down; where does my electricity come from?

Batteries or battery storage is not required for Solar Electric Generating Systems in order to be effective in most cases. These would be the cases where the home is currently receiving electricity from an “electricity service provider” otherwise known as a utility company. In other words, these would be homes that are presently “on the electricity grid”. Systems in such instances are referred to as “grid-tied systems”. Batteries and battery storage are not recommended for homes currently on the grid, as these represent totally unnecessary challenges in terms of cost and space requirements.

With grid-tied Solar Electric Generating systems, the utility company meter at the house keeps track of the amount of energy produced by the solar collector array separately from the amount of energy used by the house. For billing purposes, credit is given against the monthly bill for the amount of energy produced by the solar collector array.  This is frequently referred to as “net metering”.

How long does a solar system last?

Sun Up has many solar water heating systems that have been in continuous service for over 35 years.

How should I decide how big my solar system should be?

The size of the solar water heating system is determined by the number of occupants in the house or the projected occupancy based upon the number of bedrooms in the house.

For solar electric generating systems, the system size is based upon an analysis of the usage for the past year and a goal as to the amount of energy required to be displaced by the solar installation.

How much money can I expect to save annually?

A properly designed solar water heating system should provide 100% of the water heating requirement for about nine months of the year.

The savings from a solar electric generating system varies directly with the size of the system (thus the portion of the electric bill being displaced). As the cost of electricity increases the amount of savings also increases.

How long would it take for my solar system to pay for itself?

For a solar water heating system to pay back is typically estimated to be 7 to 10 years.

For a solar electric generating system to pay back will be somewhat longer however the amount of the savings from the electric bill should be sufficient to service a loan to pay for the initial system installation. Thus the money being spent each month is going toward a capital improvement on the residence as opposed to a fee for services.

Will my system need maintenance?

Solar water heating systems are mechanical systems and as such, they benefit from periodic service and maintenance.

Solar electric generating systems require less maintenance than their solar water heating cousins. System monitoring capabilities made possible by the Internet allow for close monitoring of system performance in near real-time thus making prompt detection of performance issues readily available.

Can a solar system be installed on any type of roof?

Both types of systems can be installed on any type of roof.

How long does it take to install the system?

Both types of systems can be installed in a matter of a few days.

What kind of warranty do you provide with your work and solar systems?

Any work performed by Sun Up Solar or Sun Up enterprises parries a one-year workmanship warranty. The components comprising an installation are manufactured by a variety of companies. These components carry the warranties of the respective manufacturers. We make it our business to represent our customers’ interests involving warranty claims for components that we sell or service.

What should I do if my solar system is having problems?

Any time someone with a solar water heating system or a solar electric generating system feels there may be a problem with the performance of their equipment, they are urged to call us. Dealing with such concerns is what we do and have been doing for over 40 years not only for the systems that we install but also for any system involving solar equipment.

(512) 492-5411


Do solar panels work on cloudy days?

On cloudy days the performance of solar equipment is diminished somewhat, but the equipment still makes its contribution until the point where there is no ultraviolet or sunlight available.

Are there any rebates or incentives for solar energy?

Yes, there are rebates and incentives available for the installation of solar water heating systems and solar electric generating systems.

2019 is the last year for the federal direct credit against federal income taxes owed in the amount of 30% of the amount spent. For 2020 the income tax credit diminishes to 20%, then in 2021, it goes to 10%.

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