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What is the difference between Solar Hot Water (Thermal) and Solar Electric (Photovoltaic) systems?

Solar technology can be subdivided into two distinct, primary segments: Solar Thermal (ST) and Solar Electric (photovoltaic, or PV). The two never compete for the same task, although they occasionally “compete” for the same roof space or funding. Since Solar Thermal is able to convert 60 to 90% of the Sun’s energy for use, whereas PV is 15 to 20% efficient, ST is always employed where there is something that needs heating (hot water, swimming pools, space heating) because it is three to four times more efficient per square foot of solar collector than is PV. PV is only used for everything else that is not thermal (lighting, pumping, television, refrigeration, etc.). 


What makes All Valley Solar different and/or better than our competitors?

All Valley Solar has been installing and servicing ST since 1986, with 10 years of experience prior to that.  Always specializing in the highest quality installations and techniques, we are uniquely positioned to be the installer of choice in Southern California.  Systems are designed to last over 30 years virtually trouble-free.  We almost always install “Drainback” solar hot water systems, which do not require the expensive maintenance of “Glycol” systems, but do require more experience and finesse in design and installation.  The end result is simple, trouble-free operation.  All Valley Solar has applied for and completed more CSI jobs than any other Southern California Gas area contractor, developing more expertise in maximizing rebates and ROI. The benefits of using All Valley Solar are:

  • Use of long-lasting, less expensive, low maintenance “Drainback” systems

  • Skillful in maximizing your CSI Rebate

  • Precise calculation of your cost savings, profits, and return on investment

  • Experts in solar thermal hot water systems

  • Experts in solar electric photovoltaic

  • Great customer service, from installation through maintenance!


What is the warranty on my system?

At All Valley Solar customer service is priority number one, and you can reach us 24/7 via telephone in case of emergency.  Our installers and maintenance crews are professional, responsive, and friendly. All of our solar systems come with a 10 year warranty against 15% performance degradation.  All Valley Solar warranties all parts and labor for three years.  AVS strives to create highly efficient systems that will remain maintenance free for decades. We are a locally-based company with over 37 years of solar installation experience and 100% customer satisfaction.  We use only the highest quality components available on the market, from reputable solar brands including SunEarth, High Sierra, Navien, Pentair, and SunPower – all of which have a reputation for quality and durability, and have warranty programs. 





I've heard there is a Tax Credit for Commercial solar hot water systems, is that true?

Yes! The Solar Investment Tax Credit is one of the most important federal policy mechanisms to support the deployment of solar energy in the United States. Tax policies related to renewable energy play a vital role in creating new high-wage American jobs, spurring economic growth, ensuring U.S. global competitiveness, lowering energy bills for consumers & businesses, and reducing pollution and global warming.

  • The Tax Credit is a 30 percent tax credit for solar systems on commercial (under Section 48) properties through Dec. 31st, 2016. The existence of the Tax Credit through 2016 provides market certainty for companies to develop long-term investments that drive competition and technological innovation, which in turn, lowers costs for consumers.  All types of solar qualify for the Federal Tax Credit except swimming pool systems.

  • The solar Tax Credit has helped the number of solar installations grow by over 1,600% since it was implemented in 2006 - a compound annual growth rate of 76 percent.

Click here for more information on the Federal Solar Tax Credit

Click here for an article on Solar for Apartment Buildings published in October, 2013, Apartment Owners Association magazine.


I am an Owner of a Commercial Building, What Can you Tell me About Details of the 2014 Commercial Solar Tax Credit, Rebate and Depreciation? (For Your CPA)

Click here for more information on the 2014 Commercial Solar Tax Credit, Rebate & Depreciation


What's the difference between buying, or leasing my solar system?

With a cash purchase, you own your solar system, which will last over 30 years given that we install only the most durable, trouble-free, and long-lasting systems on the market.  You receive the Rebate, and 30% Federal Tax Credit, and, if a business use, depreciation benefits.  If you do NOT have tax appetite (pay little or no taxes or are a non-profit like a HOA), you would benefit from leasing the solar system(s).  A third party purchases and owns it, utilizing the tax incentives and rebate, selling you cheaper hot water (or electricity) in return!  At the end of the lease (10 to 20 years), you are allowed to purchase the system very cheaply OR continue the lease.

Click here for more information on solar loans and leasing


How long does it take to install my solar system?

Typically you should allow for 4 -6 weeks for the equipment to be ordered and arrive to the warehouse, and the installation process takes between 2 days and 3 weeks depending on how big the job is.  Our work trucks never interfere with driveway or parking lot access and usage, and we always accomodate your schedule as much as possible.  Your hot water and/or electricity will only be off briefly for final hook-up with plenty of notice.


How much is my CSI rebate for solar hot water, and when do I get it?

Cash rebates vary depending on the type of solar water heating system, location, shading and other design factors.

Multifamily and Commercial properties that use a lot of hot water (including apartment buildings, Laundromats, dormitories, food processors) qualify for cash rebates of up to $500,000; often the rebate is so substantial that it pays for 50% - 60% of the entire solar system.  Rebates are almost always received within 30 to 45 days of system completion. 

Click here for more information on the CSI cash rebate

Click here for more information on types of solar systems that qualify for the CSI cash rebate


What does a solar system do to the resale value of my property?

Your solar hot water system, when in working order and well-maintained, typically adds at least 10X of your first year's energy savings cost to the value of your multi-family apartment complex or home.


Is there a rebate for commercial solar electric systems?

Yes there is, hopefully the CSI fund will last through the end of 2014, but it is disappearing fast, so to be safe, secure your rebate by going solar today!  The CSI fund for residential  solar electric has already been exhausted and no more rebates will be offered as of April 4th, 2014.

Click here for more information on the CSI rebate for solar electric photovoltaic systems





I've heard there is a Federal Tax Credit for Residential solar systems, is that true?

Yes! The Solar Investment Tax Credit is a 30 percent tax credit for solar systems on residential (under Section 25D) properties through Dec. 31st, 2016.  All types of solar qualify for the Federal Tax Credit except swimming pool systems.

Click here for more information on the Federal Solar Tax Credit


How big is a solar hot water system?

Residential solar hot water systems do not take much room!  Most are only 8' x 8' on the roof.


I want to heat my pool with solar, how big does the solar system need to be?

Pools require a lot of heat, so pool systems must be relatively large:  between 60 and 100% of your pool's surface area.


Should I use Unglazed or Glazed Solar Collectors for my swimming pool?

There are two types of collectors commonly used for solar pool heating: “glazed” and “unglazed”. Unglazed collectors (black plastic or copper absorber plates with no glass covering) are excellent for approximately eight months of swimming (usually April through October/November), but provide very little savings in colder (winter) months or under cool sea-breeze conditions. The majority of solar pool systems are unglazed, providing owners with 7 to 9 months per year of 80 to 88 degree pool water without the use of gas.  Glazed collectors (the same copper absorber plate boxed in an anodized aluminum frame with glass covering and insulation underneath) perform almost the same as unglazed collectors during the April to October/November swim season.  At around double the initial installation cost of unglazed, a glazed solar pool heating system is only worth its extra cost where year-round swimming is required.


Should I Buy Copper Panels or Plastic Panels?

We feel the aesthetics of our solar systems are as important as their functionality, especially in residential installations.  If the panels are going to be seen, copper panels look a lot better than plastic or rubber collectors, and last around twice as long.  As a matter of fact, virtually all solar pool service calls are for leaks in plastic or rubber collectors.  Because plastic panels expand and contract a lot daily, they must be installed to allow for this movement.  If aesthetics do not matter, the most important aspect is for the panels to be installed correctly as follows:

1.  They must be at enough of an angle to drain nightly.  Freezing occurs occasionally EVERYWHERE in Los Angeles, even on the coast, and is the #1 cause of solar failure.  Plastic panels will survive their first 7 or 8 years by stretching without freeze damage, but then will be destroyed as they become more brittle.  Copper panels will drain with only 1/2" per foot of tilt, whereas plastic requires much more due to tiny tubes.

2.  Panels should NOT be strapped right to the roof, blocking rain runnoff and building up debris.  Many solar contractors ignore this rule, with hundreds of little screws penetrating the roofing and plywood attaching the straps to hold the collectors down.  It is far better to attach panels only to roof rafters, as those points of attachment will never loosen and leak.  To do this requires construction of a pallet, made of metal or wood, supporting the panels above the roof.  They must be well supported so that they do not sag.


What is a Variable Speed Pool Pump?

We often install a variable speed pump like the Pentair Intelliflo VS, providing pool owners with significant electrical savings.  We “dial in” low speeds for pool filtering, with automatic increase for solar heating, features, and cleaners.  This pump is very high quality and extremely quiet.


If I want to replace my roof, how hard is it to remove the solar system and replace it?

It is very easy for us to remove the solar system from your roof.  However, please call us to do the removal and reinstallation, so we can protect your system from damage.  Our warranty is void if the roofer or another contractor damages the solar system.


Are there any unexpected, add-on expenses that I have to pay during the installation?



Is there a CSI cash rebate for solar thermal on my house or pool?

The CSI-Thermal Program offers cash rebates of up to $2,719 for solar water heating systems on single-family homes.  This is in addition to the 30% Federal Tax Credit!

Click here for more information on the CSI cash rebate

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