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California solar 101: must read before you buy solar panels

California State 41 solar panels available

  • $0.76/W Average gross price of a solar power system as of October 2022
  • 1 years Average system payback period
  • 49 386 / year Average savings from going solar in California
  • 5 ¢ / kWh Levelized cost of solar energy
  • 2.77 kW Recommended system size
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There are 5 fulfillment centers in California

Fontana, CA(2 items)2232 mi away
Mon-Sun 9 am - 3.30 pm
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Oceanside, CA(6 items)2242 mi away
Mon-Sun 9 am - 3.30 pm
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Los Angeles, CA(3 items)2294 mi away
Mon-Sun 9 am - 3.30 pm
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Sacramento, CA(3 items)2345 mi away
Mon-Sun 9 am - 3.30 pm
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Sacramento, CA(3 items)2345 mi away
Mon-Sun 9 am - 3.30 pm
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What our happy customers say

Hi all, i wanted to share my experience of buying from a1solar. I needed panels for my yacht. I wanted to have only 3, but they have a minimum order size for delivery so I opted for pickup. It was good. It went smoothly. I appreciate the split payment that they offer. I basically went to the center, grabbed the panels, loaded ‘em in the truck and drove them home (gotta do it carefully though!). Nice guys too. peace, Carl
Caarl Arlac
Via Trustpilot
Oct 2, 2022
I did business with A1 about half a year ago (it’s september 22 atm) when I needed panels for my home in Phoenix. I took Panasonic, if anyone’s wondering. The system’s doing great, and I think I got really lucky with my installer and the shop as well. If I recall correctly, my order was indeed processed in 24h as promised, delivery took a bit longer than expected but it wasn’t a big deal, these were busy days for fedex. panels were in good shape. I myself checked them thoroughly.
Ryden R
Via Trustpilot
Sep 25, 2022
I like this company. Good service 👍
Daiga Ellaby
Via Google
Sep 19, 2022
i read too much about the broken panels and decided to go with the pickup option. Loved the experience overall. One of their centers was nearby, so I ordered some q cells for myself and drove there. They explained in detail how to drive the package home safely so I was really careful and yeah, now they are in my garage, waiting to be installed. Can’t really complain about anything, panels are fine, the service was cool, and the delivery was on me lol
Via Trustpilot
Sep 19, 2022
So I did order a system, and everything arrived on time, and yes, one panel was broken. But you know what? I’m still going to give them 5 stars. Because 1) they warned me about the possibility of this happening and told me what to do in this case; 2) when I contacted them about it, they handled the situation professionally. I sent them all that they asked for and got a replacement relatively quickly. If it’s anyone’s fault that panels break, then it is the carrier's one. My impression: good service, great prices, commendable customer support.
Will Ghost
Via Trustpilot
Sep 14, 2022
I needed just a couple of panels for the boat, but the staff treated me like I was buying the whole warehouse. I decided to pick the order up myself, their center was within reach. Getting my panels and a Magnum inverter was easier than going for groceries. There is a lot of hard work behind this simplicity. This I know from experience
Filip Scot
Via Trustpilot
Sep 11, 2022

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Solar laws, incentives and rebates in California you need to know

Save 26% of your PV system cost with Federal Solar Tax Credit

The main solar incentive that works across all United States is the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) program. By applying to this program, all Americans can deduct 26% of the total cost of their installation from the income tax. The PV system cost doesn’t amount to only how much you’ve spent on your solar panels, but includes the shipping and installation as well. To claim the ITC, complete all the necessary forms and submit them when filing your taxes. It makes sense to hurry up: in 2023 the Tax credit decreases to 22% and after that it’s 10% for commercial systems only.

Gain credits from electric companies with Net Metering program

When your system produces more energy than you need, you can sell the surplus into the grid and gain credits from your electric company. Usually the rates for this excess energy are close to utility rates, so in theory you can stop paying all of your electricity bills this way. The rates and conditions vary from company to company, so we recommend consulting your electric supplier.

Solar systems are excluded from property tax assessment

When you add solar panels to your house in California, taxes for your property don’t change. Until 2025 new PV systems are eligible for full exclusion from taxes. You don’t have to fill any additional forms for that exclusion – it is granted automatically once your tax assessor receives a building permit. However, you might need to fill some papers when building a house with a solar system from scratch – check the details here.

Division 1 Part.0.5 Chapter 3
California Revenue and Taxation Code

Add energy storage to your system with Self-Generation Incentive Program

The Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) is specifically designed to make solar batteries more affordable in California for low-income families. By applying for this program you get a chance to receive some money back from the cost of your energy storage. The program primarily targets California residents with low income, but you can apply even if you don't fit into this category. The size of financial incentive varies depending on your status and the size of your energy storage: from $0.20 to $0.85 per Wh. The program was about to end in December 2020, but was extended due to COVID-19 pandemic. You can check out the handbook on the website of the program to see if you’re eligible and find forms for application and all the documents there.

Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes program can decrease a PV system cost in California by $15,000

Single-family Affordable Solar Homes program (SASH) aims to help families with low income to go solar in California. It is suitable for 1 to 5 kW AC installations. The applicants get a one-time payment based on the size of the system: $3 per Watt. Therefore, you can get as much as $15,000 for a 5kW AC system.

To participate in the SASH program, an applicant needs:

  • To be a customer of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), or San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)
  • Own and live in a house defined as “affordable housing” by California Public Utilities Code 2852
  • Have a household income that is 80% or below of the area median income, based on the tax return for the previous year.

The program is going to expire at the end of 2021, so it makes sense to hurry up. Check the SASH handbook for all the details and find application forms here.

CSI Single-Family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program

Sales and Use Tax Exemption makes panels and batteries cheaper

Since 2018, all equipment that is used for production, storage or distribution of electric power is exempted from sales and use taxes in California. That allows retailers to lower their prices for photovoltaics and lithium-ion batteries that are considered to be the new go-to type of solar energy storage. Making use of the next incentive in the list can make buying them in California an especially good deal.

Get a permit to install your solar panels in California

To install a solar system in California, you need a building permit. However, you aren’t getting it yourself – it’s actually your solar installer who has to apply for it with a city or county agency. A solar inspector from this agency comes and inspects your home and after that it is legal to install solar panels on your house in California. 

The state has devised a fairly detailed guide to buying and installing solar in California. It covers not only the procedure of getting a permit, but also explains the rights you have as a purchaser and lists the questions that you should ask your installer before signing a contract.

Solar Shade Control Act protects your panels from neighbor’s trees

There are lots of solar systems in California. To make sure that there is enough sunlight for each of them, the state passed the Shade Control Act. This paper protects your panels from the neighbor’s trees casting a shadow on your solar array. According to the act, the solar system should be placed at least 10 ft high and no less than 5 ft from the property line. Then your neighbor has to make sure that no tree grows on his land to cast a shadow that would cover more than 10% of your system between 10 am and 2 pm. If there is already a tree that grows so high that it blocks the sunlight, he has to trim it.

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