Going solar is a great idea, and if you’re shopping around for quotes you’re going to hear a lot of new terms, and it might feel intimidating to understand them in order to understand what you’re investing in. But Hi Power Solar is here to help with this list of common solar terms!

Common Solar Terms

Solar System: A complete system, made up of the various components required to generate, convert, and supply a home with usable electricity.

Solar: Using the sun to generate energy. There’s 2 major types: Photovoltaic & Thermal.

Photovoltaic Solar: Turning light into electricity, PV (for short) is used to power homes.

Thermal Solar: Turning light into heat. Typically applied to water for water heaters or pools.

Module: An individual solar panel, either type can be referred to as a module or a panel.

Array: A group of solar panels. Homes can have multiple Arrays if more than one area of the roof is to have modules placed on it.

Mount: The sealed bracket that penetrates the roof & is secured to the rafters of a home.

Racking: The metal racks that panels and micro inverters (see below) are fastened to. These are connected to the mount

Conduit: The plastic PVC-like tubing which houses & protects the wires from weather exposure as they run from the roof into the home.

DC Power: Direct Current, a type of electricity. PV panels generate DC

AC Power: Alternating Current, the other type of electricity. The power in your outlets has AC.

Inverter: An electrical component which turns DC from the panels on your roof into AC which powers your home.

Central Inverter: A type of inverter that all panels feed into, and the traditional way to wire a solar system.

Micro Inverter: A newer type of inverter that turns DC into AC on a per panel basis. Every panel has it’s own micro inverter in this type of system.

System Size: The total output of your panels in DC Power.

Sun Hours: The duration of peak sun hours your home experiences. Sun Hours vary by your home’s location.

Shading: The amount of shade your roof experiences. Typically caused by trees & taller buildings nearby.


Common Home Terms

Circuit: A group of outlets. For example a bathroom, living room, or kitchen are all usually on their own circuits.

Circuit Breaker Box: The box that houses fuses that protects hour home’s circuits from pulling too much power and becoming a fire hazard. This is the thing you have to flip back on if only part of your home doesn’t have power. These are usually located inside a home.

Load Panel: The box that houses the main breakers for your house circuits and supplies power to the Circuit Breaker Box. These usually support 100,125, or 200 Amp service.

Electric Meter: The box on the side of your house that monitors your power consumption. They send power to your Load Panel to power your home. These are located outside the home and is the “property line” between you and the utility.

Overhead Connection: If the wires from the power line that run to your electric meter are visible and strung through the air you have an Overhead Connection.

Underground Connection: If the wires from the power line that run to your electric meter run underground you have an Underground Connection.

Revamp: An electrical service upgrade to your electric meter. PV solar systems require additional breakers to be installed & if your box doesn’t have any extra slots you need to revamp your meter.

Upgrade: The amount of power going to your house from the power lines. Older homes typically have 100 or 125 Amp Service (Amps are explained next). Newer builds usually come with 200 Amp service, letting you run more or more powerful electronics at the same time. Upgrades are more expensive with an Underground Connection since a trench must be dug to support stronger wire to carry this increased electrical service.

Common Electricity Terms

Volts: Volts are electrical pressure. Think about volts like the width of the pipe.

Amps: Amps are the actual electricity, and Amps are like the water running through the pipe. This determines how much power you can use at a time.

Watts: Watts is a measurement of usable power. Volts x Amps = Watts.

Kilowatt: A Kilowatt is 1000 watts.

Kilowatt Hour: A Kilowatt Hour (kWh) is using 1000 watts for 1 hour. Microwaves usually come in 800 or 1,200 watt sizes, so that would be 0.8 or 1.2 kWh if you were to run it for an hour. This is the unit in which you are billed by the utility.

Solar Warranty Terms

Production Warranty: Also known as a Workmanship Warranty, this will guarantee how well a product is made & guarantees it not falling apart. Depending on the component and manufacturer they can vary from 5 – 25 years.

Performance Warranty: This warranty will guarantee how well a product will perform for a certain length of time. It will do the job the manufacturer will say it will do. These also vary from 5 – 25 years.

Labor Warranty: This warranty will cover the installation labor cost should you have a component failure that is covered by the Production or Performance warranty.

What is Time of Use in Hawaii?

Time of Use can be defined as a varying retail rate a utility charges customers and based on time of consumption, on a daily or monthly schedule. If Time of Use in Hawaii becomes a real thing, it’s going to effect a lot of people, and not in a great way.

This is typically at times of high consumption called Peak Hours, which are usually in the morning and evening. There can be multiple prices per day, and prices or times can vary seasonally.

Here’s what a rate schedule for California Summertime looks like for Summer & Winter:

INSERT TOU GRAPH PHOTO, make sure to give source credit

Why is This Important?

Peak Hours are when most people use most of the power they use in a day. So if power gets more expensive their bill will most certainly go up. Do you use power in the mornings & evenings? We know we do.

Here’s how most people use their power and a look at when solar power is generated by homes:

Currently the price of electricity is about 25.5¢/kWh, and has historically risen 5% per year over the last 15 years. Hawaii also has the most expensive electric utility rates in the country.

Is Time of Use in Hawaii Coming?

The utility has already worked with the Public Utilities Commission to create a voluntary program where residents can

opt-in to be charged less in the daytime but pay more in the evening. It benefits some, who use most of their power

during the day and less at night.

Proposed Time of Use in Hawaii rates and times are as high as 38¢/kWh (49% increase) for the evening peak, a daytime rate of 13.4¢/kWh (47% decrease), and an overnight rate of 16¢/kWh (37% decrease).

So Why is This Happening?

The reason for such an increase is due to the fluctuating cost of oil and how the plants actually have to generate that power needed.

A lot of power is needed in a short time to cover peak loads and that kind of power generation is expensive. Sort of like flooring the gas pedal on a car as opposed to steady but normal acceleration to reach a certain speed, just on a larger scale.

One reason for this is the power generated by solar in the daytime going back onto the grid for others to use. The utility doesn’t have to generate as much power in the daytime with all the solar out there because of the extra power and all the people who have solar don’t need power in the daytime anymore. Double whammy.

This is great for the environment because most of our power here in Hawaii is generated from burning oil.

This is great for solar system owners because their power bills are a low flat rate for the utility interconnection fee.

Is The Future Bright?

Much is uncertain at this point. The hours could change, there could only be 2 peaks, the rates could change as well. One thing is clear, the utility is pursuing this avenue and it will likely lead to widespread bill amount increases.

There is one way to protect yourself though: Go Solar. And if you already have solar great.

If you have an approved NEM or DER agreement from the utility, don’t let it go to waste! You can’t afford NOT to get solar, especially if you have a NEM.

Check out this recent blog post explaining NEMs & DERs. (LINK TO NEM/DER BLOG POST)

Even a small battery in your solar system would definitely offset Time of Use in Hawaii increases in utility rates. Your home would be using power from there first, and would only pull from the grid when the battery’s charge was depleted.

Ideally, you’d want to power your home from 4:00pm till 12:00am (the highest rate time) off solar or a battery, and pull from the grid when it is cheaper. Your home constantly uses power, even when you’re asleep, but at least you won’t be getting charged more even when you’re not actively using it.

You’ll also have power in an outage, and be able to have power everyday during any repairs needed during extended grid failure (like after a hurricane). Here’s a bunch more advantages to having a home battery here. (INSERT LINK TO BATTERY ADVANTAGE BLOG)



Benefits of a Home Battery?

Benefits To Having A Home Battery

With the only viable option for new solar customers in Hawaii being to purchase a home battery, lets take a look at the benefits to having a home battery.


You Get to Keep All That Energy

A home battery is no different than any other battery. It charges up and stores power for later use. The power going into it generated by solar panels in the daytime is free, and the power coming out of it at night when solar panels don’t generate electricity is also free.


Its easy to calculate savings from a battery as well. Battery sizes are measured in Kilowatt hours (kWh), and the utility charges you based on the kWh you use. So if you fully charge your 10kWh battery in the daytime and use almost all of it at night, you’ve saved yourself from having to buy 10kWh from the utility. Going rate right now for 1kWh is about $0.255, which is about $2.55 you’ll per day on your night time usage alone.


Big Storm Coming? No Worries!

Another benefit to having a home battery is if there’s a storm. With a grid failure, no one has power. Not even those who have solar, not even in the daytime. But you will.


The utility mandates that in the event of a power outage, no solar systems can supply energy to the grid so technicians can safely make repairs. This applies to all systems that feed back to the grid for credit, including NEM & DER agreements.


With the current Customer Self Supply (CSS) program energy is not permitted to feed back to the grid and a battery is needed to make the investment sound. In the event of the storm, since your battery-enabled system can’t feed back to the grid you will still have power! As long as your panels are intact, producing, and sending power to the inverter & battery you will have power at night (supplied by your battery) and it will charge back up every day.


So if you have a battery & the grid goes down, your food wont go bad, you won’t be stuck next to candlelight, and still be able to enjoy some of the comforts you’re used to on a daily basis. Like cooking & not eating canned food.


Did Someone Say Tax Credits?

Tax credits are a big reason why solar in Hawaii has been such a hit. And batteries are eligible for them as well.


As long as 75% of the energy going into the battery is from a renewable source of energy (like solar) it qualifies! Depending on your energy needs, a battery can be a significant investment so its eligibility for tax credits reinforce the system’s affordability.


Home batteries are eligible for Hawaii state Tax Incentive as well, and fall under the same stipulations as PV. You can read here for more. (LINK TO TAX INCENTIVES PAGE ON HPS.COM)


Home Batteries Benefit The Earth Too!

Aside from the benefits above, having a home battery does a great deal to reduce your carbon footprint. How? The utility doesn’t have to burn oil (which is only getting more expensive) to produce your energy.


Do you have questions about home batteries? Are you interested purchasing a home battery? Connect with one of our energy advisors today! (LINK TO EMAIL INQUIRY, LIST PHONE NUMBER, OR HAVE BANNER AD WITH CALL TO ACTION BELOW)

What is a NEM? What is a DER? A Beginner’s Guide to Solar in Hawaii

Most people know it’s a good investment to go solar in Hawaii, but why? How does it save money? Isn’t solar expensive? And we want to help so here’s a beginner’s guide to solar in Hawaii.

The Good Old Days

When solar first took off in Hawaii, the compensation for sending power back to the grid was the best offer the islands ever experienced. This first-generation agreement was called a NEM.

NEM stands for Net Energy Metering. Solar only generates power during the day so when most families are at work & school there’s very little energy being consumed in the daytime. The extra power has to go somewhere, and back onto the grid it went.

A credit was issued for this daytime surplus of power, and when families return home in the evening to start cooking, doing laundry, watching TV, turning lights on, and such and began to need that power back, they received a full credit (watt for watt). So as long as your system produced more in the daytime than you used at night, you wouldn’t have any charges for power and a nice $17 or $25 connection fee was the only charge from the utility.

Talk about a good deal.

“There’s Too Much Power!”

With the sudden boom in popularity because of the NEM agreement, the power grids of the islands began to fill up. To prevent overload & eventual failure, the utility had to do something to curb this growing surplus.

A plan was hatched. Hawaii has a goal to reach 100% clean energy by 2045 and residential solar is a great way to do this. The utility didn’t want to stop people from being able to go solar, but the daytime power surplus was an issue that needed to be addressed.

Enter the DER

In October of 2015 the utility & the Public Utilities Commission worked together to create, in essence, the NEM 2.0.

Called Distributed Energy Resources or DER for short, it still provided value to customers, but it also set a cap on how much could be built. There were 2 programs created, Customer Grid Supply (CGS) & Customer Self Supply (CSS) and we’ll look at these more later.

25mW was the cap for Oahu. 25 Megawatts, or 25,000 Kilowatts was set. Thats about 5,000 average sized homes with 5kW systems. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but at least it kept solar alive. Maui & the Big Island had their own caps which corresponded to their grid capacity as well.

The DER credit wasn’t as lucrative as the NEM credit as residents received only a $0.15 credit per kWh (a Kilowatt Hour is using 1000 watts for 1 hour & is the unit at which the utility charges you) used to encourage more daytime use of the power. So if you have a NEM, you can’t afford NOT to get solar.

The DER program solved 2 problems: It diminished the amount of daytime surplus power sent back to the grid & reinforced conscious energy usage by customers when they get the best rate for their power… During the day.

Capped Out

In September of 2016 the 25mW cap on Oahu was reached, and the utility closed the enrollment into the DER program. Maui & the Big Island capped out shortly prior to this and the solar industry began to wonder what the future looked like.

We mentioned earlier there were 2 DER programs created. CGS & CSS. The CGS had the cap placed on it because those systems feed energy back to the grid.

In the CSS program no energy is fed to the grid, therefore no cap was set, and no enrollment limits are in effect.

But if you don’t feed back to the grid, how do you get credit for the energy you don’t use?

Since CSS systems don’t feed back to the grid & the power has to go somewhere, many people began to see the future… Home Batteries. But as little as many people knew about how solar worked, even less people understood batteries on a home-sized scale.

Power storage solutions began to take the forefront & solar companies soon understood in order to stay in the game it was necessary to become a battery expert.

Currently for new solar customers who don’t have a NEM or DER a home battery is required to make the solar switch.

A Bright Future Indeed

So with batteries becoming a necessary component for going solar, a new era of energy independence is here for Hawaii. While it does add cost to a solar project, the benefits outweigh the expense.

Solar in Hawaii is here to stay, and there will still be a good number of companies to turn to for support, and you can count on them (and us) to be here when you need!

Do You Have a NEM or DER & Are Unsure of What’s Next?

If you have a NEM or a DER and aren’t sure what the next step should be connect with us today! (BANNER AD WITH CALL TO ACTION WITHIN IT)