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California solar 101: must read before you buy solar panels

Last updated 05.27.22

California State 52 solar panels available

  • $2.83 / W Average gross price of a solar power system as of February 2023
  • 6 years Average system payback period
  • $44 572 Average savings from going solar in California
  • 9 ¢ / kWh Levelized cost of solar energy
  • 2.87 kW Recommended system size
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There are 7 fulfillment centers in California

San Leandro, CA(9 items)6 mi away
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Sacramento, CA(4 items)84 mi away
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Sacramento, CA(10 items)85 mi away
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Los Angeles, CA(3 items)362 mi away
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Chino, CA(9 items)429 mi away
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Fontana, CA(8 items)431 mi away
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Oceanside, CA(4 items)493 mi away
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What our happy customers say

I like this company. Good service 👍
Daiga Ellaby
Via Google
Sep 19, 2022
I was choosing between a1solar and another store, the prices finally convinced me,
and I contacted A1. Everything was processed, packed and delivered to Fresno, CA
in under a week. We kept in contact during the installation and I got a few additional
parts from them. A1SolarStore deserves a solid five stars!
Michael Grubb
Via Google
Sep 7, 2022
I ordered some solar panels. The top 4 ones were damaged during delivery (A1 had emailed me in advance what to check for before I took delivery which I followed even though the truck driver was pushing not to inspect them as thouroughly) and A1 replaced them in a timely manner and kept me informed. The price on the panels were some of the best on the internet (delivered). I would buy from them again.
Robert Broughton
Via Google
Nov 27, 2021
Ordering online was easy.
Price was reasonable even with shipping added. Actually, it was the best I could find with the panels I wanted.
Customer service was beyond expectations. I received a phone call after the order to verify everything. The rep also went over receiving instructions. I got an email with recieving procedure. I got a follow up call the day before the panels were to be delivered. The day of delivery, the FedEx call also called. I got a follow call afterwards verifying everything was good.I had 8 350 watt panels shipped. They arrived via FedEx on a pallet. Recieving instructions said to not sign the recieving doc until I inspected everything. I am half paralyzed so I asked my neighbor ahead of time to help unpack the panels to inspect for physical damage. The FedEx guy dropped the pallet in my driveway and handed me the package list and then he very quickly left before I was able to inspect the panels. He said he did not need a signature. My mindset immidiately turned negative since fraud, burglary, murders, etc are now legal, encouraged, and even rewarded in the US. To my relief, the panels turned out to be in good shape.
I have had several different panels prior to ordering from A1 Solar. I am used to solar panels outputting 70% or less of the rated output.I hooked up one panel yesterday and I was getting over 85% at 9:30 AM in direct sun output which really suprised me. This number is what the charge controller reported while charging a 12 volt battery bank. My current project that these panels will be used for is my second offgrid system.
Next year after I have my house electrical panels rebuilt to allow for a whole house battery bank, I will be ordering another 7KWH in panels and I plan to order those from A1 Solar Store.
Junkyard Dog
Via Google
Aug 12, 2021
Solar panels are great quality at a good price! Pick up was very easy!
Quirino Passione
Via Google
Jul 27, 2021
Great price and AWESOME service.
Sam McCleary
Via Google
Jun 23, 2021

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

Save 30% of your PV system cost with Federal Solar Tax Credit

The US government wants more people to go solar: it’s a modern and green way of getting energy. This is why the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) program was developed. It allows American citizens to claim 30% of the cost of their installation as an income tax deduction. The cost here is not only solar panels, but also shipping, installation expenses and more. For example, if your system overall made you spend $10,000, the government returns you $3,000. To claim the ITC, complete all the necessary forms and submit them when filing your taxes.

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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