Contra Costa – Solar

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3130 Crow Canyon Road, Unit F
San Ramon, CA 94583
(925) 567-3974

Serving all of Contra Costa County including Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville, San Ramon, Orinda, Lafayette and Clayton.

Services include solar electricity (PV) systems, solar pool heating, design, installation & maintenance and free analysis & site evaluations. Brands include SunPower and SMA...
License 800947 | DCID9253270980
2281 Via De Mercados, Suite B
Concord, CA 94520
(925) 284-7336
(925) 864-9282

Serving Contra Costa and all of Santa Clara County, including Mountain View, San Jose, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Gilroy, Los Altos and Palo Alto.

Services include air conditioning & heating, radiant floors, high pressure/high velocity systems, solar electric, solar thermal & solar water heating, geo thermal tankless water heaters and ductless mini splits. Brands include Trane and...
License 916517 | DCID9252847336
Map of these Diamond Certified companies
Cities: Antioch, Brentwood, Clayton, Concord, Danville, El Cerrito, Hercules, Lafayette, Martinez, Moraga, Oakley, Orinda, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Richmond, San Pablo, San Ramon, Walnut Creek
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Researched Articles
Why Trust Diamond Certified Solar Companies Rated Highest in Quality?

Photo: Sky Power Systems (2013)

SAN RAMON—You are the customer. If your goal is to choose a solar company that will deliver high customer satisfaction and quality, you’ll feel confident in choosing a Diamond Certified solar contractor. Each has been rated Highest in Quality in the most accurate ratings process anywhere. And you’re always backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. Here’s why the Diamond Certified ratings and certification process will help you find a top-rated solar power company and is unparalleled in its accuracy, rigor and usefulness:

1) Accuracy: All research is performed by live telephone interviews that verify only real customers are surveyed, so you'll never be fooled by fake reviews.

2) Statistical Reliability: A large random sample of past customers is surveyed on an ongoing basis so the research results you see truly reflect a Diamond Certified company’s top-rated status.

3) Full Disclosure: By clicking the name of a company above you'll see the exact rating results in charts and read verbatim survey responses as well as researched articles on each qualified company.

4) Guaranteed: Your purchase is backed up with mediation and the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee, so you can choose with confidence.

Click on the name of a Diamond Certified company above to read ratings results, researched articles and verbatim customer survey responses to help you make an informed decision.

More than 200,000 customers of local companies have been interviewed in live telephone calls, and only companies that score Highest in Quality in customer satisfaction–a 90+ on a 100 scale–as well as pass all of the credential-based ratings earn Diamond Certified. By requiring such a high score to qualify, the Diamond Certified program eliminates mediocre and poorly performing companies. Read detailed information about the ratings and certification process.

How to Choose
Choosing Good Solar Contractors in Contra Costa County
Photo: Green Air Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. (2013)

Solar power is increasingly attractive to Californians. The price of energy purchased from local utilities continues to rise; interests rates for an investment in solar are favorable; state and federal incentives exist to make a solar investment more affordable; prices for many types of solar arrays have dropped by 30% since 2010; and many parts of the state are well-suited for harnessing solar energy....

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Solar power is increasingly attractive to Californians. The price of energy purchased from local utilities continues to rise; interests rates for an investment in solar are favorable; state and federal incentives exist to make a solar investment more affordable; prices for many types of solar arrays have dropped by 30% since 2010; and many parts of the state are well-suited for harnessing solar energy.

Getting started on the path to installing home solar power systems can be daunting, though, because few of us outside the solar industry understand what is involved with buying, installing, and operating a solar power array. Finding a reliable solar company in Contra Costa County to guide you through to process and get your solar array installed can put your mind at ease and help you turn sunlight into money.

All solar contractors in California must be licensed by the Contractors’ State License Board (CSLB). You can check the license status of any solar installer by visiting the CSLB web site. Any recent violations, complaints or disciplinary actions will appear on their license. All solar salespersons must be registered with the CSLB. All Diamond Certified solar companies have already been thoroughly vetted for you, including license verification. But if you’re unable to choose a Diamond Certified solar installer in your area of Contra Costa County, you’ll have to do the research yourself.

Finding a Solar Contractor in Contra Costa County: Knowledge is Power
There are several kinds of solar companies in Contra Costa County. If you think you are interested in harvesting solar energy at your home or business, you want to employ the services of a solar company in your area.

Some solar energy companies serve a limited range of customers. If you want solar power for your home, select solar system installers that serve residential customers. If you want solar for your business, select solar companies that serve commercial customers in your area of Contra Costa County.

A little knowledge about solar power goes a long way and will help you navigate the range of products to find a solar array that will fit your needs. Solar power can provide your home or business with electricity, heating and cooling, and hot water. All types of solar arrays can be used to save you money by using the energy of the sunlight shining on your home or business to replace energy you otherwise would purchase from a utility.

Only electricity can be sold to a utility, so only photovoltaic arrays can earn you a monthly check from the utility. If you want to generate all of your own energy on-site and disconnect yourself from the grid entirely, you will need to invest in batteries and a solar array that generates more power than you need during the day. Most customers in Contra Costa County are interested in staying connected to the grid, though, so a smaller and simpler solar panel system will probably fit your needs.

Solar energy is harvested for four basic purposes:

  • Natural lighting
  • Heating and cooling
  • Transforming directly into electricity
  • Concentrating for use in steam turbines to make electricity

Using sunlight for natural lighting doesn’t require you to purchase a solar array. However, if you are in a position to design or remodel your home or business, you would be well advised to take advantage of the sunlight that falls on your building to provide free illumination for the interior. The health and well-being benefits of natural light are widely recognized.

Also, sunlight can be used to warm the interior of your home or business as part of a process called passive solar gain. Again, if you are in a position to design or remodel your home or business, discuss passive solar gain with your general contractor.

Solar arrays that capture sunlight’s heat for human use are called solar thermal arrays. Solar thermal can be used to heat water or to provide heating and cooling inside your home or business. Active solar thermal systems, which use pumps to move water and transfer heat, are more expensive and complex than passive solar systems, which use the use the characteristic of hot water rising above cold water to cycle water through the passive array. Though more expensive, active systems have greater lifetime efficiency and so are more cost-effective.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays turn sunlight into electricity. This is what many people think of when they hear the term “solar power”. Although photovoltaic systems typically use a layer of silicon protected by a layer of tempered glass to convert light into electricity, photovoltaic panels also include newer thin film technologies that can be applied to many surfaces in many configurations.

Electricity is the most flexible form of energy in widespread use, so a photovoltaic array potentially is the most useful option. You can install a photovoltaic array to meet some or all of your electricity needs. Anytime you generate more than you need, the extra will be sold to the utility automatically.

Solar concentration involves using mirrors to focus sunlight on a small area to heat a special fluid to very high temperatures. Some utilities use this process in places like the Mojave Desert to boil water to drive a steam engine to generate electricity. This is really a large-scale technology, not a technology suited for your home or business. We mention it here only because you may come across the term during your research, and we want you to understand that this form of solar harvesting probably is not for you.

You should understand from the start that solar is a relatively expensive way to generate electricity. A solar array of any type is a substantial investment. However, a number of factors are making solar more affordable every day. Energy prices are very likely to increase for the foreseeable future.

Oil prices continue to rise; concerns over the environmental impact of coal are serving to limit its expansion and cost-effectiveness; domestically-produced natural gas is being sold on the global market, and so increases in domestic production are not necessarily leading to lower domestic prices; the best sites for hydroelectric power already have been developed; nuclear power faces very strong opposition, and so few, if any, new nuclear plants are likely to come on-line.

All of these factors serve to drive up the cost of energy. Your solar array becomes more cost-effective as energy becomes more expensive.

Other factors make residential solar power increasingly affordable. Since the first quarter of 2010, the average cost of a fully installed solar system has dropped by 20 percent, while the average cost of photovoltaic (PV) array has dropped by 30 percent. In California, state and federal incentives lower the cost considerably. The fact that you can remain connected to the grid means that you can install a PV array to generate as much or as little of your own electricity as meets your needs.

One advantage photovoltaic arrays have or solar thermal arrays is that photovoltaic arrays are very flexible because electricity can do most of the work that needs doing in your home or business, from powering appliances and computers to lighting and, as needed, cooking, heating, cooling, and warming water.

However, electrical resistance heating (think of the red-hot filaments behind a metal grille typically found in portable space heaters) is less efficient than heating with hot water from a solar thermal array. Heating water with electricity also is inefficient compared to solar thermal and other conventional means like natural gas. If your home or business isn’t already set up for heating and cooling with electricity, making the change will be an additional investment.

When you are deciding between a solar thermal array and photovoltaic array, you’ll need to do some calculations that will be particular to your home or business. Determine how much of your energy bill is for electricity and how much of it is for hot water, heating, and cooling. You’ll get a bigger benefit from purchasing an array that will provide the same energy as the larger of the two categories. Bear in mind, though, that you can sell extra electricity to the local utility. Knowing how your energy money is being spent in your home or business will better prepare you for speaking with a local solar contractor about your solar system needs.

Once you feel confident that you understand the options available to you for harvesting solar power, you may want to use an on-line solar investment calculator to give yourself a rough idea of the costs and benefits of a solar investment. One solar investment calculator can be found at the Getsolar.com website. While the investment calculator gives approximate values, using the calculator can help you establish realistic expectations regarding the costs and benefits of a solar investment.

The federal government offers tax credits towards the purchase and installation of PV arrays and solar thermal arrays. These tax credits can be worth up to 30% of the cost of the array. A summary can be found at the Federal incentives for solar page at Getsolar.com. California offers additional state incentives for solar power. Taken together, federal and state incentives can make your solar investment much more affordable. Your locality may also have some incentives from utilities or local government.

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Know What You Want
Know What You Want from a Solar Array for Your Home or Business

Making an investment in harvesting solar energy is an important decision. You will get the best results from your investment if you have some idea of what you want your solar investment to do for you before you begin talking with representatives from solar contractors in Contra Costa County.

Be able to answer the following questions before calling a solar company for an estimate:...

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Making an investment in harvesting solar energy is an important decision. You will get the best results from your investment if you have some idea of what you want your solar investment to do for you before you begin talking with representatives from solar contractors in Contra Costa County.

Be able to answer the following questions before calling a solar company for an estimate:

  • Do I want a Diamond Certified solar company that is rated best in quality and backed by the Diamond Certified Guarantee?
  • What do I want from an investment in solar power?
  • Do I want to reduce the amount of electricity I buy from the utility by generating some of my own?
  • Do I want to generate more electricity than I need so that I can sell some for a profit?
  • Do I want my solar investment to provide hot water and heating/cooling
  • If I’m interested in generating electricity, have I used a free solar calculator to give myself some idea of the cost and benefits? (Free solar calculator)
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What to Ask on the Phone
Phone Interview Questions for Contra Costa County Solar Companies

Once you have familiarized yourself with the basics of solar arrays and have identified a potential solar power providers in Contra Costa County for your home or business, call and talk directly with the sales manager to see if they offer solar arrays to fit your needs. It’s smart to have a prepared list of questions and to write down the answers the representatives give you.

Use the following questions as a guide to help you formulate your own list of questions:...

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Once you have familiarized yourself with the basics of solar arrays and have identified a potential solar power providers in Contra Costa County for your home or business, call and talk directly with the sales manager to see if they offer solar arrays to fit your needs. It’s smart to have a prepared list of questions and to write down the answers the representatives give you.

Use the following questions as a guide to help you formulate your own list of questions:

  • Has your solar panel installation company earned and maintained a Diamond Certified rating? (Remember, Diamond Certified companies have all of the licenses and certifications necessary to do the work in question.)
  • What other industry awards, recognitions, and certifications has your business earned?
  • What can you tell me about the federal and state incentives for solar power installations in my area?
  • What can you tell me about local incentives for installing new solar panels and solar power systems in homes?
  • Do you install more photovoltaic panels or more solar thermal arrays in my area? Why?
  • Does your company offer a free consultation or site assessment for solar energy?
  • How will the consultation work? Will I be expected to purchase a product at the end of the consultation?
  • Will you give me a written, itemized estimate for the complete purchase and installation of a solar array?
  • What kinds of warranties are offered on the solar panels and products I'm considering?
  • Do you have an existing business relationship with a solar power financier?
  • Can you provide me with local references for the quality of your solar installation services?
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What to Ask in Person
In-Person Interviews with Solar Panel Installers in Contra Costa County
Photo: Roofmax (2013)

Some questions simply cannot be answered until a qualified site assessor visits your home or business, as the quality of sunlight can vary significantly from site to site....

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Some questions simply cannot be answered until a qualified site assessor visits your home or business, as the quality of sunlight can vary significantly from site to site.

  • How will the site assessment work?
  • Is my home or business site better suited to one type of solar power over another? If so, why?
  • If the site is suitable for solar thermal, how much work will be required to make the array deliver heating, cooling, and hot water beyond simply getting the array onto my roof or other part of my property?
  • How does selling back electricity work in Contra Costa County?
  • How long does the average solar panel installation like mine take?
  • When can I expect to receive a written estimate for the solar system components and the installation services?
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What to Ask References
Talk with Solar Company References

It’s best to choose among Diamond Certified solar contractors because all certified companies have passed an in-depth ratings process that most other companies can’t pass. If you want quality from a solar company in Contra Costa County, you can have confidence choosing a Diamond Certified company. Diamond Certified reports are available online for all certified companies. And you’ll never be fooled by fake reviews because all research is performed in live telephone interviews of actual customers.
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It’s best to choose among Diamond Certified solar contractors because all certified companies have passed an in-depth ratings process that most other companies can’t pass. If you want quality from a solar company in Contra Costa County, you can have confidence choosing a Diamond Certified company. Diamond Certified reports are available online for all certified companies. And you’ll never be fooled by fake reviews because all research is performed in live telephone interviews of actual customers.

If you can’t find a Diamond Certified solar company within reach, you’ll have to do some research on your own. If you do, it’s wise to call some references provided by your Contra Costa County solar contractor. Keep in mind, though, that references provided to you by a local contractors are not equal in value to the large random sample of customers surveyed during the Diamond Certified ratings process.

That’s because references given to customers from local solar panel installation companies are cherry-picked instead of randomly selected from all their customers. So the contractors will likely give you a few customers to call that they know are satisfied.

If you do call references on your own, specifically ask for a list of the solar company’s 10 most recent customers. This will help avoid them giving you the names of only customers they know were satisfied.

  • Did you have a solar array installed at your home or business by (name of the company in question)?
  • Did you receive a site assessment from (name of the company in question)?
  • What kind of solar array did you have installed?
  • How satisfied were you with the work?
  • Has the solar array operated the way you expected?
  • Have your energy bills been reduced as much as you expected?
  • (If you have a PV array) Are you selling electricity back to the utility?
  • If so, how has the experience been for you?
  • Are you making as much money as you expected from your solar panel system?
  • How does payment for excess electricity work for you?
  • Would you recommend that someone else invest in a PV array large enough to sell electricity back to the utility?
  • How did the federal and state incentives figure into your decision to invest in new solar panels?
  • How did the federal and state incentives affect your ability to pay for the solar system investment?
  • Do you have any advice or information on solar panels that we haven’t touched on yet?
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How to Work With
Before You Hire a Local Solar Energy Company in Contra Costa County

It’s best to choose a Diamond Certified solar contractor in Contra Costa County because all certified companies have passed an in-depth ratings process that most other companies can’t pass. If you want quality from a solar panel installation service in Contra Costa County, you will feel confident choosing a Diamond Certified company....

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It’s best to choose a Diamond Certified solar contractor in Contra Costa County because all certified companies have passed an in-depth ratings process that most other companies can’t pass. If you want quality from a solar panel installation service in Contra Costa County, you will feel confident choosing a Diamond Certified company.

If a Diamond Certified solar contractor isn’t available in your area, you will have to do some research on your own, including calling references and researching their license status.

All contractors performing work valued at $500 or more must hold a current valid license from the Contractors’ State License Board. Active licenses can be checked at the CSLB website.

Additionally, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) PV installer certification is a voluntary certification that provides a set of national standards by which PV installers with skills and experience can distinguish themselves from their competition. Certification provides a measure of protection to the public by giving them a credential for judging the competency of practitioners.

Simplify the Solar Panel Installation Services
Learning the basic terms and concepts of solar energy will make your working relationship with your solar contractor much better. Having realistic expectations about the cost of an array and how long it might take for an array to pay for itself also will help.

Use a solar calculator to give yourself an idea of the money involved. Know what you are spending on energy before having a site assessment. Be prepared to hear that your site may not be suitable for a specific type of solar array, but do ask for an explanation.

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Be a Good Customer
Easy Ways To Be a Good Solar Company Customer

Here are a few simple steps you can take to be a good customer when hiring a Contra Costa County solar contractor for your new solar energy system installation....

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Here are a few simple steps you can take to be a good customer when hiring a Contra Costa County solar contractor for your new solar energy system installation.

  • Be clear and upfront with the solar contractor you've hired. Let them know what you want from your solar investment, the long-term outcome you’re expecting and specific ways they can satisfy your expectations.
  • Remember, a friendly smile goes a long way!
  • Before you hire a solar contractor in Contra Costa County, restate your expectations and goals, and reiterate to the solar company representative your understanding of the agreement. Most problems with local solar contractor/installers occur because of a breakdown in communication. By being clear about your expectations and theirs, you can avoid most conflicts.
  • Ask your solar contractor if you should call to check on the progress or if he will call you with updates.
  • Be sure your service representative has a phone number where they can reach you at all times while they’re installing your solar array. The work will move along more smoothly if your solar panel installer can reach you for any necessary updates, questions or work authorizations.
  • When your solar energy contractor contacts you, return calls promptly to keep the solar contractor/installer on schedule.
  • Pay for the materials and installation work promptly.

Why would you want to make the effort to be a good customer?

Solar contractors in Contra Costa County appreciate customers who are straightforward, honest and easy to work with. Your good customer behavior sets the tone from your end and creates an environment conducive to a good relationship. Things may very well go smoother and any problems may be more easily resolved.

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Check the Work
Compare the Invoice to the Completed Solar Panel Installation

Once the solar panel installation services are complete, check your invoice carefully to make certain you received exactly what was promised. Compare the estimates you were given to the final prices on the invoice.

Politely but firmly request explanations for discrepancies. Honest mistakes can be made; checking the invoice can help identify and correct them immediately.

A complete solar installation invoice usually includes the following items:...

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Once the solar panel installation services are complete, check your invoice carefully to make certain you received exactly what was promised. Compare the estimates you were given to the final prices on the invoice.

Politely but firmly request explanations for discrepancies. Honest mistakes can be made; checking the invoice can help identify and correct them immediately.

A complete solar installation invoice usually includes the following items:

  • The name, physical address and license number of the solar contractor.
  • A complete list of all solar system work performed.
  • An itemized list of all new solar panels, solar fixtures, materials and replacement parts installed.
  • The total cost, including the amount due for labor and solar panel materials.
  • Any applicable warrantees or guarantees provided by the solar panel manufacturers and the solar installation company.
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Written Warranties
Only Invest in Guaranteed Solar Panels and Installations
Photo: Green Air Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. (2013)

Home solar panel installations are significant financial investments. So your solary energy system should function for many years. The solar system itself should come with a manufacturer's guarantee for all parts and an installation guarantee that covers workmanship-related defects. The quality of the installation also should come with a minimum guarantee.

Written warranties will protect you against the added expense of faulty solar systems or poor solar panel installation.

A good written guarantee for solar energy system installation should include:...

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Home solar panel installations are significant financial investments. So your solary energy system should function for many years. The solar system itself should come with a manufacturer's guarantee for all parts and an installation guarantee that covers workmanship-related defects. The quality of the installation also should come with a minimum guarantee.

Written warranties will protect you against the added expense of faulty solar systems or poor solar panel installation.

A good written guarantee for solar energy system installation should include:

  • The solar contracting firm name, physical address and contractors license number.
  • What solar system materials and work are covered, including whether the solar contractor will replace or repair the solar panels/solar energy system or give you a refund if you have to place a warranty claim.
  • Your responsibility if you need warranty work (i.e., if you have to pay for labor when filing a claim or pay a prorated amount).
  • Terms and limitations of the new solar panels or solar panel repair warranty.
  • If the solar installation warranty coverage is transferrable to the new owner if you sell your home.
  • Any exclusions to the warranty must be in writing.
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Top 10 Requests
Popular Solar Panel Brands Used In Contra Costa County and the Bay Area

When investing in solar, you will want to be certain that you are investing in value. Your solar array should provide you with many years of operation. The brands listed below are among the most widely used in Contra Costa County.

DayStar Technologies
DayStar manufactures thin-film photovoltaic panels aimed principally at utilities and commercial customers. However, the design of DayStar’s arrays is such that residential customers can use the thin-film panels in a standard mounting system....

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When investing in solar, you will want to be certain that you are investing in value. Your solar array should provide you with many years of operation. The brands listed below are among the most widely used in Contra Costa County.

DayStar Technologies
DayStar manufactures thin-film photovoltaic panels aimed principally at utilities and commercial customers. However, the design of DayStar’s arrays is such that residential customers can use the thin-film panels in a standard mounting system.

Evergreen Solar Panels
Evergreen Solar manufactures photovoltaic cells for use by a variety of manufacturers in the United States. The company specializes in a high-efficiency method for manufacturing silicon wafers.

First Solar Products  
First Solar offers a complete line of solar thermal products for use in all climates and all seasons. Evacuated tubes and special coatings allow for the heating of water even under cloudy skies and freezing tempertatures.

Fronius USA LLC
Fronius produces inverters for use with photovoltaic arrays, turning the DC current produced by PV into AC current used in your home or business and on the grid.

GE Energy
GE offers a very large selection of energy products for a variety of scales of operation. Included in the GE line are photovoltaic arrays for residential and commercial customers with good performance under a variety of conditions, a GE warrantee, and end-of-life recycling.

Mitsui Comtek 
Mitsui provides photovoltaic arrays to Berkeley-based PowerLight Corporation, which uses a patented rooftop installation system to lower installation costs.

Pacific SolarTech 
Pacific SolarTech offers a blended photovoltaic and concentrator technology in the form of modules which can be used by residential and commercial customers as well as utility-level generators. The concentrator feature allows the modules to use a fraction of the silicon used in conventional arrays.

Sharp Solar Photovoltaic Panels
Sharp has an extended history in the solar industry and offers photovoltaic arrays for residential, commercial, and utility use.

Sunwize Technologies
Sunwize provides photovoltaics for residential and commercial customers both on- and off-grid as well as government customers. Sunwize has 20 years in the solar business and serves a wide variety of customers in a wide variety of applications.

Terra Solar Panel Installations
Terra Solar specializes in photovoltaics for residential and commercial customers. The company is vertically integrated and has its own research and development, manufacturing, and sales. Terra solar offers thin-film PV for building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV).

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If Things Go Wrong
Solar Panel Installations Covered By The Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee

Local Diamond Certified solar contractors are backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. If the Contra Costa County solar panel company is Diamond Certified and you can’t resolve the issue by talking with the owner, contact the mediation department at info@diamondcertified.org or call 800-738-1138....

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Local Diamond Certified solar contractors are backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. If the Contra Costa County solar panel company is Diamond Certified and you can’t resolve the issue by talking with the owner, contact the mediation department at info@diamondcertified.org or call 800-738-1138.

Easy Ways To End Conflict with Contra Costa County Solar System Contractors
The solar industry is expected to grow enormously over the next decade and well into the future. Solar contractors in Contra Costa County are anxious to establish solid reputations to gain a edge in this growing market. If you experience problems during or after the installation, assume that the solar panel company you've hired is acting in good faith and wants to resolve problems in a fair and equitable fashion.

If you have a complaint or concern about your solar array installation or another aspect of the service you received from your solar contractor, immediately ask to speak with the service manager. This is often the best way to resolve problems, minimizing conflict and getting your installation done right and on time.

  • When talking with the service manager or company owner, keep these tips in mind:
  • Remain calm and polite.
  • Explain the problem, and detail what you see as a fair outcome.
  • Let your solar contractor know that you’re willing to compromise or negotiate a mutually-beneficial agreement.
  • Document in writing your concerns with the service or photograph your solar array if you have worries about the quality of the array or the installation. Write down the response of the solar contractor/installer to your complaints in case you need records for future arbitration.
  • If you can’t reach an agreement, tell the automotive repair shop you are going to file a complaint with the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs and do so.
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Glossary of Terms
Glossary of Home Solar Installation Terms
Photo: Sungevity (2012)

Below are key solar industry terms that will help ease your way through your solar investment process.

consultation
A knowledgeable representative from a solar contractor/installer will need to come to your home or business to assess the suitability of your site for a solar investment.  Once your site has been assessed, issues such as cost of an array, the most suitable array, and financing will come into play.

Also known as: site assessment, solar consultation...

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Below are key solar industry terms that will help ease your way through your solar investment process.

consultation
A knowledgeable representative from a solar contractor/installer will need to come to your home or business to assess the suitability of your site for a solar investment.  Once your site has been assessed, issues such as cost of an array, the most suitable array, and financing will come into play.

Also known as: site assessment, solar consultation

federal incentive for solar
Tax credits offered by the federal government to help offset the cost of purchasing a solar energy array.  In some instances, tax credits may be replaced by grants.

Also known as: federal solar tax credit

net excess generation  (NEG)
The electricity generated by a PV array beyond the needs of the home or business.  In most places, NEG is sold to the local utility.

net metering
A two-way flow of electricity between the grid and a home or business.  When the home or business needs more power than a PV array is providing, electricity flows into the home or business.  When the home or business is generating more electricity than it needs, the extra electricity (also called net excess generation, or NEG) flows to the grid.  The home or business pays the utility for electricity flowing into the home, while the utility pays the home or business for electricity flowing to the grid.

solar contractor / solar installer
A solar contractor installs, modifies, maintains, and repairs thermal and photovoltaic solar energy systems.

solar photovoltaic
A system for converting solar radiation (sunlight) into electrical power using semiconductors.  Photovoltaic cells are combined into modules, which are combined into arrays.  The arrays are connected to the electrical system of a home or business.

Also known as: photovoltaic, PV

solar thermal
A system for converting solar radiation (sunlight) into heat energy for space heating and cooling and for heating water using a solar collector or array, insulated piping, and a hot water storage system. 

Also known as: solar hot water

state incentive for solar
Rebates and tax breaks sponsored or mandated by the State of California to make solar investments more affordable for California homes and businesses.  The incentives take a number of forms, from rebates for solar thermal arrays to favorable rules for electricity buy-back (called net metering).

Also known as: California Solar Initiative, solar rebates

thin film solar cell
An emerging photovoltaic technology in which a solar cell made by layering one or more layers of photovoltaic material on a thin substrate.  The total thickness may be measured in nanometers.

Also known as: thin film photovoltaic cell

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Frequently Asked Questions
Solar Energy FAQ

Q: Why choose a Diamond Certified solar contractor or solar system installer?...

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Q: Why choose a Diamond Certified solar contractor or solar system installer?
A: Diamond Certified helps you choose a solar system contractor or solar installer with confidence by offering a list of top-rated local companies who have passed the country’s most in-depth rating process. Only solar contractor/installer rated Highest in Quality earn the prestigious Diamond Certified award. Most companies can’t pass the ratings. American Ratings Corporation also monitors every Diamond Certified company with ongoing research and ratings. And your purchase is backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. So you’ll feel confident choosing a Diamond Certified solar contractor/installer.

Q:  Why should I invest in solar panels for my home or business?
A:  A solar array is an investment that will pay for itself and then earn a profit in most locations in the US. This is certainly true almost everywhere in California. 

Q:  Solar energy seems expensive, so how can I make my money back?
A:  New financing options enable homeowners and businesses to start saving money as soon as their solar panels are active.  Every dollar you don’t spend on buying energy from a utility is a dollar in your pocket.  This adds up quickly, and it adds up even more quickly as energy costs rise.

Q:  If solar power works and can be cost-effective, why does it need government support?
A:  The federal government has supported every major energy source through R&D support and various incentives.  Oil, natural gas, hydroelectric, biofuel, and nuclear industries all have received government support and continue to receive support today because energy drives our economy.  The State of California supports solar partially to help increase the state’s supply of electricity without building new power plants and partially because solar energy can be harnessed right here in California.

Q:  Don’t I have to have lots of expensive batteries to have solar electric power?
A:  Batteries are only necessary if you want to get off the grid.  As long as you stay connected to the grid, you don’t need to install batteries with your new solar power system. 

Q:  Do I have to get off the grid to use solar power?
A:  No, you can stay connected to the grid to use solar electric power.  If your solar array generates electricity, your home or business will draw power from your array first, then the grid as needed.  If your array doesn’t generate as much electricity as you need, or if it’s night, your home or business will draw what is needed from the grid.  If you generate more power than is needed, the excess will go to the grid and earn you money.

Q:  Aren’t all solar products made in China?  I want to support American business.
A:  U.S. solar installations generated $6 billion in direct value in 2010, including manufacturing sales.  Of this 75% ($4.4 billion) went into the US economy.

Q: How do I know what kind of solar array is right for my home or business?
A: The answer depends on what you want from your solar array and how much money you are willing to invest.  A small passive solar thermal array is relatively inexpensive and can provide you with heat for water and heating your home.  An active solar thermal array costs more but heats water and heats and cools your home more efficiently than a passive array.  Photovoltaic (PV) arrays are more expensive than solar thermal arrays, but you can use them to offset electricity consumption in your home or business and even sell energy to the local utility.  A Diamond Certified solar contractor/installer can help you determine the right kind of solar array for your home or business based on your specific site, your needs, and your desired level of investment.

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Consumer Agencies
Agencies and Associations for Solar Energy Systems

State of California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) (http://www.dca.ca.gov/)
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) (http://www.seia.org/)
California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) (http://calseia.org)
American Solar Energy Society (ASES) (http://www.ases.org/)
Northern California Solar Energy Association (http://www.norcalsolar.org/)...

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State of California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) (http://www.dca.ca.gov/)
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) (http://www.seia.org/)
California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) (http://calseia.org)
American Solar Energy Society (ASES) (http://www.ases.org/)
Northern California Solar Energy Association (http://www.norcalsolar.org/)
Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) (www.solarelectricpower.org)

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Industry Information
Contra Costa County Solar Information
Popular Solar BrandsTypes of Solar Energy and Solar Services Available in Contra Costa County Cities ServedZip Codes Served
Mitsubishi Electric & Electronicssolar generatorsAlamo
Antioch
Bay Point
Bethel Island
Blackhawk
Brentwood
Briones
Byron
Canyon
Clayton
Clyde
Concord
Cowell
Crockett
Danville
Diablo
Discovery Bay
El Cerrito
El Sobrante
Hercules
Hilltop Mall
Kensington
Knightsen
Lafayette
Los Medanos
Maltby
Martinez
Moraga
North Richmond
Oakley
Orinda
Pacheco
Pinole
Pittsburg
Pleasant Hill
Point Richmond
Port Chicago
Port Costa
Rheem Valley
Richmond
Rodeo
San Pablo
San Ramon
Tara Hills
Vine Hill
Walnut Creek
Walnut Heights
West Pittsburg
94506
94507
94509
94511
94513
94514
94516
94517
94518
94519
94520
94521
94522
94523
94524
94525
94526
94527
94528
94530
94531
94547
94548
94549
94553
94556
94561
94563
94564
94565
94569
94570
94572
94575
94582
94583
94595
94596
94597
94598
94801
94802
94803
94804
94805
94806
94807
94808
94820
94850
Mitsui Comtekportable solar power
Pacific SolarTechsolar roofing
SANYO Energysolar power kits
Sanyo Semiconductorssolar modules
Sharp Manufacturingsolar concentrators
Solar Power Industriessolar thermal systems
Sunpower Corporationalternative energy solar systems
Sunwatt Corporationpv panels
Sunwize Technologiesrenewable energy systems
Terra Solar Globalsolar panels
United Solar Ovonicsolar energy systems
Fronius Solar Invertershome solar systems
SMA Technologiessolar water systems
SunTechsolar lighting
Advent Solarsolar panel installation
Amonix Incsolar hot water heating
Atlantis Energy System Inc. solar electricity
B P Solarsolar generators
Canrom Photovoltaicssolar photovoltaic panel installation
DayStar Technologiessolar inverters
Energy Photovoltaicsresidential solar power
Evergreen Solarcommercial solar power
First Solar 
GE Energy 
Global Solar Energy 
Innergy Power Corp 
Kyocera Solar Panels 
Matrix Solar Technologies