Solar F.A.Q.

The process of adding solar energy production to your building often seems intimidating. The confusion is understandable—although information is available in many places, it is often spread all about the web. Here are some very basic concepts to help you understand the most common logistic and technical issues.

What are the parts I am buying?

  • Grid-Tied Inverter

    You system will need an inverter, and the grid-tied inverter is the most common type.  Inverters take the DC voltage from the panels and convert it to standard household AC voltage.  The inverter is also the place where the decision to push power to the grid is made.  A standard grid-tied inverter will disable its output whenever you lose power from the utility.  This prevents any linemen from being exposed to electrical shock while repairing a downed line.

  • Battery Backup Inverter

    A battery-backup inverter has the same primary function as a grid-tied inverter.  The difference is that a battery-backup inverter adds sophisticated electronics that can sense when the grid goes down and switch its own input power to run from a battery bank, at least for a subset of the building’s circuits that are pre-wired to the inverter.

  • Off-Grid Inverter

    An off-grid inverter uses only a battery bank as an input power source.  It has no ability to sense the grid or push power to the grid.

  • Mounting System

    Since panels include a plate of glass and brittle silicon cells, there needs to be a robust means of holding the panels in place regardless of wind and weather.  Twisting the frame is the worst thing that can be done to a panel.  A well-engineered and installed mounting system can add years to system life..


    Mounting systems are available for both roof and ground mount.  On a roof, system design differs depending on whether the roof is a pitched metal or asphalt covered surface, or a flat membrane-covered surface.


    Generally, a roof-mounted system will be less costly to install than a ground-mounted system, since it will rely on the structure of the host building for much of its rigidity.

  • Performance Monitor

    Use of a monitor system is optional.  However, they provide great benefits.  With a monitor, you can track your system production, both at the given moment, and daily/monthly/annually since the first day you turned it on.  This allows your installer to make periodic checks on system production.  Most can also be configured to send an email alert to you and your system installer if a fault is detected.

  • Balance of System

    The Balance of System (BOS) is the unglamorous stuff that is absolutely necessary for system function: wire, conduit, breakers and service panels, hardware and fasteners – you get the idea.

When we talk about solar energy, all systems start with the “Panels” or “Modules,” which do the actual conversion of sunlight to electricity.  That is what most people can see, and often the only thing people think about.  But there are other major components that are absolutely necessary to allow the output of the panels to be used:

What are the different system configurations?

Listed below are the four most common system configuration types that we install. Each will have a brief overview to explain how they work.