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Solar Design 101. Does anyone have questions regarding solar energy?

I want to discuss a simple and common mistake I see while helping people with solar packages.   

Inverters and their differences. Not all inverters are right for your specific application.  There are many factors to consider.  Will you be off-grid or on-grid?   Do you want the ability to use other methods of energy generation other then solar panels?   Do you want to sell energy back to the power grid?    These are some common questions and they make a big difference when picking the right inverter.  It’s true that some inverters have limitations and others are what we call “all in one” inverters which are as they are named.  They don’t require other pieces of equipment to add needed functions to the inverter.  They have few or no real limitations other then sizing.  After discussing these questions, you need to then properly size the inverter for your homes specific applications.  After sizing the inverter correctly, the next question is, do you want battery backup for those times when the power fails or do you want to nearly eliminate your energy bill completely?   Not every inverter is capable of charging or drawing energy from battery storage. If these questions are not properly addressed while designing your system, it leads to customer frustration and often overspending in the future by the client.

If you are someone that is considering solar and would like to hear more about this exciting topic, please PM me and I will be happy to share more interesting facts about solar. Thanks for reading this and have a wonderful day. I want to explain these limitations in more detail so that you a potential solar client will know and understand why we (designers) ask so many questions to match up the right inverter with the right client and their power future needs and energy consumptions.  I get many calls from solar system investors,  people that have purchased systems that need help with making their system work properly at their home.  These people are often having problems with their system and can’t get help from their original installer.  Sometimes installer’s don’t want to admit that they made a mistake in the design phase.  These people turn to me for help and more often than not, it’s an issue with the wrong inverter in the wrong application.  Today I want to discuss properly sizing and choosing the right inverters for the home owners electrical requirements. There are many sizes and functions of inverters on the market. There are also many makes and models on the market.  They all are designed differently and can handle different applications if required, like generator backup, battery backup or even wind turbine coupling. 

For residential use they can range from 1kw to 15 kw.  They are 120 Vac or 120/240 Vac.  Each size puts out an AC output to the main panel or a critical loads panel that will run your home electronics, lights/fans, AC units, electric car chargers and pumps, both well or pool pumps. We will discuss pumps and electric car chargers in another posting. As pumps add another element into picking the proper sized inverter. As some inverters don’t do well with inductive loads (like motors) and we try to leave pumps on the grid power if possible.  Not installed on the inverter power panel.

When sizing your inverter we try to look at your past 6 months of energy consumption if possible.  This gives us a good baseline to what your energy requirements are.  We ask you what  your goals are with purchasing a solar system.  Do you want 100% coverage to  cover your total consumption or perhaps just 50% to reduce your energy bills.  These are important questions when sizing the proper inverter for your application.

Once we know your wishes and goals, we look at what the individual loads are in your home. Like I mentioned earlier, inductive loads add more complexity to the designing stage.  Inductive loads (motors) require a larger inverter to be able to handle the high inrush of current when the motor is starting. It is important to understand this while picking the proper inverter.  Some inverters are sensitive to seeing those spikes in energy output and will cause your inverter to trip out.

Causing you frustration. 

Some inductive loads cannot be eliminated from the solar system design.  Especially when designing a system for off grid use.  So it’s important to pick the right inverter for your application.

After calculating your energy loads and using your baseline energy consumption we then look for equipment that can cause an inverter issues. (Inductive loads)

You can contact me at or by cell or what’s app at 506 6330-5137.  You can also follow me at Sunny Side Solar Solutions facebook page to read my weekly articles on many different solar topics.  These same topics can be read at my facebook group at Costa Rica Solar Installation Reviews along with other important information related to solar.    

Not all Solar Systems are the same, is the topic of my concern.  

I’m not a writer, so forgive me if my grammar is bad.  I’m an expert in electrical and solar systems.  That’s my area of expertise.

Recently I was speaking to a local builder in Costa Rica.  We were discussing solar systems in Costa Rica and this builder made a very concerning statement. Well, he actually made several statements that were concerning. For that reason, I decided to write about this experience and maybe as a warning to some potential clients looking to find a builder. Let me be clear that I have been in contact with and worked with many great builders and architects in Costa Rica.  There are good and bad in all industries.  So with that in mind, let’s start by breaking some of these statements down with an explanation as to why they are concerning to me.

1.  He stated, “All solar inverters are the same, they just have a different prices”. Well this statement was easy to debunk.  For example let’s take cars into consideration.  Some cars are 4×4 and some are not.  4×4 vehicles usually serve a different purpose then a 2 wheel vehicle.  We all know and understand why we use one or the other in a specific application.  I tried explaining this to him but it went right over his head, or he just didn’t care about selling the wrong product to his clients.  With inverters they need to be properly chosen for the type of application and sized for the equipment they will be providing energy to.  There are many different features between different inverters.  When the power fails do you want an UPS style backup which is instantaneous or backup power that operates after 3 seconds?  Generally speaking, do you want to reset the clocks in your house after every power failure, or turn on the AC units again when the power shuts off.  These are important options to most people.  These are big differences in the types of inverters in the market.  Then there is the next obvious question, do you actually want or need battery power backup.  Buying the wrong inverter at the beginning can cost you far more in the end if you have to change it out when you can’t have battery backup with it. Also do you want to sell power back to the grid?  Not all inverters are capable of doing this.  So don’t ever let someone tell you that all inverters are the same except for cost. It’s true that when you add value with better and more features the costs do go up.  That’s a no brainer.  It’s the same as with buying a car.  Different features cost more. 4×4 cars are generally more costly than 2 wheel drive cars are but they serve a different purpose. 

2. This builder told me that “the clients don’t know the difference so why should he care”. 

This statement is alarming for so many reasons.  Well this also may be true but it’s their responsibility to inform you as a client.  If they are not able to educate you properly regarding the inverter differences, or if you need battery backup then they should ask an export.  If they are not telling you the differences of the solar systems available then what other things are they keeping from you?   Builders are often experts in their particular trades but not everyone is an expert at all trades.  It would be better if you yourself asked an exports opinion.  Get all the information needed so that you can get the proper system installed for your application.

3.  His next statement was “these systems are super simple”. Well there is some truth to this statement as I’m an export, and I do find some systems very simple.  He’s correct that there can be super simple solar systems installed but these systems don’t offer much

in the way of protections, warranty, quality or features that others systems offer. Warranties are different.  10 years vs. 1 year, which do you think is a better product?   Is the warranty actually usable here in Costa Rica? Then there are features like I mentioned earlier with power transfer timing.  Does the system operate like a UPS or does it transfer in 3 seconds.  Is the inverter able to handle loads like AC units or maybe pool pumps, water pumps or other large loads?  These are important features to most clients.  Does the inverter have the capability to operate high current loads on a regular bases without tripping out and causing the client costly problems.  Do the batteries and inverter have closed loop communications to protect the batteries from overcharging and rendering them useless?  Another very important feature is a monitoring platform that you can monitor your system from anywhere. The low cost “simple” systems don’t often offer a good monitoring system if they offer any at all.  Anyone can sell you the lowest cost inverter, but will it be the right inverter for you?  

So in short, if you are considering solar, ask questions, get all the information you can and read the spec sheets of the equipment offered to you.  If you don’t understand the spec sheets, ask someone to explain it to you. I would be happy to help you with this. I take the time to educate my clients so that they are able to make good decisions based on the facts about the system.  I don’t want you to have problems with your system.  It’s better to design the proper system from the start. If you want more information you can reach me at 506 6330-5137 what’s app.  Or email me at you can also follow me at Sunny Side Solar Solutions facebook page to read my weekly articles on many different solar topics. These same topics can be read at my facebook group at Costa Rica Solar Installation Reviews along with other important information related to solar.

The 9 main reasons why I like an “All in One Inverter”  

There are many types of inverters in the market. One type is called the “All in One Inverter”. As an installer, I choose this style of inverter over many other inverters for the following reasons.

1. As stated, everything you need is built into one enclosure. You don’t require several pieces of equipment to be added to your system. Everything you need is in one enclosure. This inverter takes up less wall space, making it easier for me and the client. Therefore the client can place this inverter next to the main panel in almost all situations that I’ve come across so far. Trust me this is a huge deal in some installations.

2. With an “All in One” inverter it is more simple to install and it takes less time and effort to do the installation. This saves the client money in labor costs.

3. Acstetics, with one enclosure this inverter isn’t an eye sore. You don’t have as many cables coming in and out from the inverter and other equipment. Of course you still have cables going in and out but the “all in one” cleans some of that mess up by having everything built into the one enclosure.

4. The communication to the homes wifi is a small doggle on the side of the inverter. Not a box with antennas and wires popping out of it. It looks much cleaner.

5. These inverters have all the breakers built into the inverter making it simple to disconnect for the client in an emergency. It has the grid tie breaker built in, the critical load tie in breaker and the auxilary generator breaker are all built into the enclosure. Some installs don’t require the generator input but it’s there and it can also be used as a AC coupled input. So later the client can tie in another AC couple input like a wind turbine or a second inverter of any kind.

6. The PV DC circuits from the solar panels  are all controlled by one switch located on the side of the “all in one” inverter. Making it very simple to shut down in an emergency.

7. They have excellent LED displays and more features by design then the other inverters. These “all in one”  inverters are engineered much better with far more features built into them then the typical inverters that are not “all in one”.

8. The LED displays are very user friendly making it easier for the client to see what is happening with the inverter. The display shows the PV input to the inverter, the AC power pulled from the grid to the home, the AC power pulled from the inverter and both  the battery charging and feeding energy to the home. The arrows are color coded and directional for easy understanding. These are shown in Kwh’s right on the LED screen. It’s very simple for the clients to walk by and see exactly what is happening at any given time. Although you can also see this same recorded data on your smart phone or your computer. I like it that you can see it right at the inverter itself.

9. I have found that after adding all the accessories and equipment like transfer switches, communication routers, DC shut down switches etc etc, to the non “all in one” inverter that the systems themselves are actually more costly when comparing the two different inverters with all the added features, design and quality of the “all in one” style inverter. There are many other features that cause me to choose these inverters before choosing the non “all in one” inverter. Of course this is only one man’s opinion. For me it’s an easy choice to make. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope it helps you to make your choice easier when picking an inverter for your new system. You can contact me at or by cell or what’s app at 506 6330-5137. You can also follow me at Sunny Side Solar Solutions facebook page to read my weekly articles on many different solar topics. These same topics can be read at my facebook group at Costa Rica Solar Installation Reviews along with other important information related to solar.

Battery Back Up

The top 7 considerations when looking to purchase battery storage backup.  Today I will only focus on Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries as they are very common in the market today.  

1. Is your inverter capable of utilizing battery backup?   Like I wrote in a past article, not all inverters are the same. Some are able to be paired with battery backup and some are not. If you are not sure then ask an expert. They can let you know.

2. If your inverter is capable of battery storage then the next consideration is what is the nominal voltage needed for your inverter?  Some common nominal voltages of battery storage are 48 Vdc and 300-400 Vdc. Ask an installer or an expert to walk you through the differences.

3. Once you know what voltage is needed, you need to consider what size of battery do you want or require. This is where it gets a little more involved. Talking to an expert can help you through this portion of the process.  Let’s start with the basics.  Are you looking to be able to supply energy to your house to just ride through the frequent short power outages in your area or are you looking to use battery storage to supply the energy for your house during the entire evening (12 hrs)?   There are differences in choosing the right battery for this application. For example if your inverter was capable of using the LG RESU battery then you have a limit of 2 batteries in parallel, per inverter totalling approx 20 Kwh of storage per inverter. If you don’t want to buy additional inverters but want high levels of storage then choose a different battery or inverter if you were still in the planning phase of purchasing a solar system. Other batteries on the market allow much higher storage capacities that can be paralleled together up to 15- 5.12 kwh batteries.  Thats a whopping 76.8 Kwh’s of storage. This is important to understand when choosing a battery backup system, it is also important to understand when choosing an inverter. Some inverters are limited to certain battery options.  Know the difference before purchasing a system. Ask an expert.

4. Common Battery types and sizes. This is a huge topic in itself, so I will only generalize specific points. As stated there are different nominal voltages but there are also different styles of mounting or racking. These two generalized types are network rack mounted batteries or wall mount batteries. They are self explanatory as one comes with a cabinet to mount the batteries together, similar to a network cabinet and the other has its own mounting bracket that fastens to the wall.  Network batteries are typically 5.12 Kwh batteries with some manufacturers making 4.8 kwh batteries of a similar size. Wall mount batteries tend to be larger in size, weight and capacity. All batteries are heavy as it’s just the way they are made.

5. Discharge rates. Each battery has a specific discharge rate. This is listed in the spec sheets as current or Kw’s. For example the LG RESU battery is limited to a 5 Kw discharge rate where as the EG4 PowerPro can discharge at a rate of 10 Kw’s. That’s a big difference when you are running larger loads in your home. This is why experts ask you questions regarding your energy consumption and what electrical appliances you have in your home.  They want to match up the best inverter and battery system for your application.

6. Battery Cycles rating, what does that mean? We all understand 5 years or 10 years warranty. But battery cycles are a little different. First let’s explain what a cycle is. A typical cycle is from 100% charge to 20% charge. So when you see a statement saying that the battery is good for 6000 cycles, its referring that you can safely cycle your battery 6000 times from 100%-20% which is known as the DOD or depth of discharge in this case its 80%. All batteries lose storage capacity over time. With 6000 cycles at a DOD of 80% most batteries will retain a specific storage amount in that battery after the 6000 cycles is up. Usually that is between 70% and 80% of the batteries original capacity. This doesn’t mean that the battery is no good after 6000 cycles, it means that it has lost some storage capacity. Most batteries today list 6000 cycles. I use one battery  manufacturer that boasts 8000 cycles and I use this battery in my quotations to clients. That’s 21.91 years of cycling 100%-20%, that’s great value for the clients system. Typically there is one cycle per day if your inverter is set up to supply energy to your home during the evening. The inverter will utilize the battery energy instead of the grid energy up to the 20% discharge setting. If you had a large battery capacity then it’s possible that you would not reach the battery cut off of 20% so you could be dealing with half cycles which I will not cover in this article. These cut off points are programmable and can be changed in the set up of most inverter. Some batteries also have this cut off set up function in their BMS.

7. Closed loop communications, what does that mean for a battery?   Closed loop communications means that the battery sends information to the inverter so that the inverter doesn’t overcharge the battery and destroy it. This is 1 level of safety that is built into the battery and inverter system. Overcharging will kill a battery and in some cases it can actually cause the lithium battery to catch fire. These days most quality batteries have a built in BMS, Battery Management System that can shut itself off if the inverter keeps charging. There are 3 levels of safety that I will discuss in more detail in a separate article. Stay tuned. In this article I will only discuss the closed loop communication between the inverter and battery.  The short explanation for this safety feature is that the battery sends information to the inverter; the inverter monitors that information and adjusts the charging output accordingly. That information is the state of charge, battery voltage, current levels being discharged or charged, battery temperature etc etc. It’s simple and straight forward and in my opinion it should be a part of all solar system designs.  When purchasing a solar system, ask if there is closed loop communication between the battery and the inverter.  It’s worth it.

Well there are many more features that we could discuss regarding batteries, but in an effort to keep this article short, I think I will break those up into individual topics for later. I hope this was helpful and that it gave you a better understanding about battery storage and what to look for. As always, if you want more information I am happy to help,  please contact me at  or 506 6330-5137 what’s app. Till next time everyone. You can also follow me at Sunny Side Solar Solutions facebook page to read my weekly articles on many different solar topics. These same topics can be read at my facebook group at Costa Rica Solar Installation Reviews along with other important information related to solar.

Buyer Beware is the Topic

I have been in business for many years as an electrical contractor.  My career started as an apprentice in 1989. That was 4 years of learning from great teachers. In 1994 I become a red seal journeyman electrician. It was then when I really started learning because I no longer had a journeyman as a safety net to fall back on. I was now responsible for teaching others and I took pride in the work I completed and in the training I was giving the new tradesmen. It was a great experience. After many years of being a journeyman electrician, I decided to open my own electrical business. That is when I became a master electrician because it was necessary for me to pull permits for different electrical projects. It also gave me the ability to inspect electrical projects. That was another adventure and a huge learning experience for me. The experience while running my company taught me how to interact with clients and how to apply ethics in business. In that environment we needed to provide excellent service with fair and reasonable prices. We had a lot of competition so it was a must. Here in Costa Rica it doesn’t seem to be a similar environment. In Costa Rica there seems to be a shortage of skilled labor as well as reputable businesses. I believe that those two things are connected.

Now we come to the topic at hand, Buyer Beware. In that environment in Canada you were not given multiple opportunities to act badly as a businessman or a tradesman. If you messed up and treated the clients badly, word got around fast. If the business practices were questionable or even illegal, then you would face harsh consequences. It was much different then what I see here in Costa Rica. I’m believe two of the main reasons we see bad behavior are because of the lack of skilled tradesmen as well as different laws and how they apply to businesses and clients here in Costa Rica. I’m certainly not a lawyer and I don’t claim to be. So I will not focus on the actual laws here. Instead, I will focus on some business practices that I have saw that I believe are not reputable.     

Being from North America I took reputable business practices for granted that they would be normal here.  Some businesses do a great job while others break every golden rule known, and somehow they get away with it. One troubling practice I’ve saw here is regarding client deposits for equipment. In North America we assume that those deposits will only be used for OUR equipment purchases. Seems straight forward right?   Well be careful. You would also assume that these businesses are doing the right thing for you if they are in business. Well think again. They don’t all do that.  Make sure that you have a contract that makes it impossible for them to use your deposit for anything other than for your equipment. This is crazy to have to explain, but it happens here. I have witnessed this at one solar installation company here in Costa Rica.  Their abbreviations are CRSS. They would take the clients deposit of 70% and then use that deposit to purchase equipment for previous clients from months earlier. This was a cycle for them that the deposit made today would go to purchase equipment for the client in the past, as far back as 1 year I saw.  As you can imagine this is similar to a ponzie scheme. At some point, the house of cards will fall.  It’s just a matter of when. Remember if this is their practice today; ask yourself why they are doing this.  Being in financial difficulty is likely the reason. Buyer Beware.

Here are some tips. Do your homework. Ask questions before jumping in with both feet.  Keep in mind that websites can be deceiving, the companies past reputation may have been good at one point, but how are they now. Ask to talk to past clients for references, make sure to ask for recent references,  within the past three to six months.  Look into comment boards on Facebook. Try to get as much information as possible and use your head when getting into business with them. It’s a good idea to get a feel for their compentency by asking questions that you already know the answer too. Go on YouTube to research the equipment that you plan to purchase.  Do your homework.   

It’s difficult to get all the information to make the right choice.  By asking questions you should get a good feeling for their competency level which should help you to understand their business practices. Competent skilled tradesmen are not willing to damage their reputation by acting badly in business. If something does go wrong skilled tradesman usually want to fix the issue so it is resolved correctly. That’s a great sign of a good business. Skilled tradesmen take pride in their work. Skilled tradesmen want to stay in business.  

In closing, please be careful out there. Ask lots of questions to check for competency, knowledge of products and material. Are they skilled to do the job correctly which means,  “Do they have the actual skilled certifications to be competent”. That doesn’t mean a 10 hour online product course. That isn’t skilled experience. These questions  usually help to see if that business is reputable.  If they don’t answer questions intelligently that’s your first red flag. Remember, most skilled tradesman don’t want to damage their reputations by practicing poor business practices.  Good luck out there. To contact me send your emails to or by cell or what’s app at 506 6330-5137. You can also follow me at Sunny Side Solar Solutions facebook page to read my weekly articles on many different solar topics. These same topics can be read at my facebook group at Costa Rica Solar Installation Reviews along with other important information related to solar.   

Is Solar right for You

There are always Pro’s and Con’s with any big decision we make. With solar there are typically two main reasons why people chose to go with solar.

The first reason is economic, because people want to save money on their energy bills. The second reason is environment, because people want to lower their carbon footprint and see solar as one way to achieve that goal. The majority of people I talk to actually chose solar, because they fall under the category of wanting solar for both reasons. Both economic and environmental being important to them.

There is actually one more reason that I see that applies here in Costa Rica. Power quality and the frequent power outages from the poor power grid here in Costa Rica. If you have been in areas like Nosara or Samara, you know exactly what I mean. There are many other areas in Costa Rica that experience frequent outages also. For this reason we get many people contacting us.

Let’s start of by discussing some Pro’s for purchasing solar.

1. Reducing your energy bills are very rewarding and seem to be at the top of the scale of importantance. This is a big factor in choosing solar. Solar can also be added to hedge against the never ending raising costs of energy from the producers and providers. Costs seem to be jumping up and there is no way to stop the energy costs from rising. Solar can reduce or eliminate this problem.

2. Battery back up to correct the frequent outages and poor power quality. This seems to be the second biggest Pro and it also helps with saving money by storing generated energy that you produced with your solar equipment. Why buy it from the energy providers if you can generate it yourself and store it for later use in the evenings or during the power outages. Sizing your battery storage correctly can not only resolve the frequent outages but it can also lower your entire energy bill from the providers by you using your generated energy when the sun is down. Reducing or even eliminating that energy bill completely.

3. You can actually sell your excess energy generated back to the grid (energy providers).

4. With the new net metering policy in Costa Rica, property owners with more than one property can actually utilize the excess exported energy from one property and apply it to a second or third properties energy consumption. So these property investors can over size the solar system on one property to generate energy for another property by exporting the energy from their property with solar. Pretty cool.

5. Another Pro is helping to reduce the world’s carbon footprint. Here in Costa Rica, energy is actually close to 100% hydro, wind or solar generated. The carbon footprint is very small but it’s still a Pro for most people.

6. Solar equipment raises the properties value when selling your property. This can actually raise the value of your property above the solar  installation costs.

Let’s now discuss a few Con’s of purchasing solar.

1. The upfront cost of solar equipment and battery storage. These costs can be sizable and a typical solar system has a return on investment (ROI) of 5 to 7 years. When adding battery storage into that  equation, it can stretch that ROI even longer.

2. Solar equipment needs to have a clear path to the sun light available. If you are in an area with poor sunlight or shading, this can be a problem for solar equipment. There are ways to help reduce this problem that the solar panels and inverter have. They call them power optimizers. These optimizers are added to the solar panels during installation. However this is an additional cost to your solar system.

3. If you are not the owner of the property where you live and you want to purchase solar you are investing in the owners property not your own. This isn’t a wise investment unless the owner is willing to reimburse you.   In the end you need to weigh the Pro’s against the Con’s and deside what is best for you. If you would like to know more information regarding these Pro’s and Con’s to see if solar is right for you, ask a qualified installer like myself. I am a journeyman electrician, a master electrician and I owned and operated an electrical contracting company in Canada for many years. I focus on selling quality equipment at a fair price. I supply my clients with a high level of service, which I don’t often see here in Costa Rica. If you are looking to invest in solar please let me know. You can contact me at or 506 6330-5137 on cell or what’s app. I look forward to telling you more. You can also follow me at Sunny Side Solar Solutions facebook page to read my weekly articles on many different solar topics. These same topics can be read at my facebook group at Costa Rica Solar Installation Reviews along with other important information related to solar.  

Load Shifting, one reason to use a battery on your Solar System design.  

Well, I want to explore one more of the reasons why to purchase batteries for your solar system and why batteries are beneficial on any solar system. As we all know there are many power outages in many parts of Costa Rica. It’s a common concern in the expat community. For that reason alone people buy batteries. Today, I want to discuss load shifting, and why batteries can not only be used as backup but they can save you money over the life of your solar system. In the three charts I’ve attached, you will see the typical hours of solar generation, the typical house hold loads vs the time of day hours those loads are used and where a battery can shift those loads to different times when there is no solar production present.

As shown, there are times during the day when solar generation isn’t available or simply isn’t enough to benefit the user. The times between 3 pm and 8 am, these hours have too little or no solar production available.

During the peak hours of solar, your system is generating large amounts of energy that are typically not being utilized without charging batteries. This energy is either being limited by the MPPT functions of the system or being sold to the grid at a fraction of the cost to repurchase it back from the energy providers. Why not use your own produced energy during this time?  Knowing the new and old net metering policies in Costa Rica, selling back to the grid may not be an advantage. I believe it is more advantageous to the system owner to store the energy to use later.  With the energy costs raising and the poor net metering policies in place, it only makes sense to store the energy for later use.  

One thing I have noticed with some solar system owners is that they do have battery storage but not properly sized or programmed to be utilized correctly. It’s true that they may only want the battery for backup. There is nothing wrong with that.  However, purchasing the correct size battery storage and programming the inverter to utilize the stored energy when there is no solar production presents, allows the owner to maximize their savings and properly utilize all their solar energy production.  As shown in the charts, If your system is capable of producing a certain amount of energy during the day why not utilize it all?  Don’t waste it through the MPPT function or selling it for pennies when its worth dollars, store it to use later and not buy the energy from the grid.   If you would like more information, or have questions regarding solar products please give me a call. If you have questions on how to best utilize your current solar system or if you are considering purchasing a new solar system, please contact me at or at 506 6330-5137. I provide quality installations and system services that are similar to what you would expect from North American style installers. Manana isn’t a word that gets used often. I’m happy to help walk you through the process and to give you advise.  I look forward to hearing from you. You can also follow me at Sunny Side Solar Solutions facebook page to read my weekly articles on many different solar topics. These same topics can be read at my facebook group at Costa Rica Solar Installation Reviews along with other important information related to solar.

Solar System, how to calculate the Return on Investment (ROI).

For all those people concidering purchasing Solar Equipment in Costa Rica. How do you calculate the ROI?  The below numbers are using averages based on actual system designs that I have priced for clients and the solar packages priced in this example are with lithium battery backup.

In Costa Rica there are no government rebates, no tax exemptions or other factors to use in the formula. So that simplifies the formula some. We also will not calculate the rise in energy rates which consistently go up each year. Let’s leave those out for now.  For this calculation we will try to make the formula simple enough to get a good understanding of the method used to calculated the savings, and when your system is making you free energy.

We will use .26 cents US as an average cost per kwh. Remember kwh rates range widely across Costa Rica depending on the area where you live and the provider supplying the energy. Also this calculation will not use multiple rate charges based on the time of use with your consumption. We will also make a few other assumptions like the energy consumption in your home being a consistant number from month to month. In this example we will estimate the size of the solar system in a percentage of kwh’s of energy produced to cover the monthly bill. These assumptions have to be made to calculate the ROI. Below I will list the factors needed to make the calculations. In your calculation, just exchange my numbers with your own numbers to make the calculation. Review your ICE bill to get the monthly consumptions and the average them throughout the year.

Here are the factors when calculating the ROI. Let’s list them so we fully understand how to correctly calculate the ROI.

1. The energy consumption of the home in kwh per month, we will use 1200 kwhs per month.

2. The current energy providers cost of a kwh which we will use is .26 cents US.

3. How large of a system do you want to install, based on the kwh’s of production produced. In this example we will use 80% coverage as our target and this is a common target when designing a solar system.

4. The cost of the solar package equipment and installation. In this case we will estimate this package at a cost of $24,000 USD.

Let’s  multiple 1200 kwh per month of energy consumption by .26 cents as the cost per kwh. Which would be $312 USD of energy cost per month. Multiple that by twelve months and you get $3744 cost per year. With solar you will save $3744 @ 80% which is $2995.20 per year until the ROI is reached. Remember you will only be paying 20% of your old energy bill with your new solar package in place. Take the system upfront cost of $24,000 for the package and divide that by the savings of $2995.20 and you get 8.01 years for your ROI. Now it’s important to realize that in those 8 years during the ROI period, the electric energy rates will likely rise considerably. That initial .26 cents could easily be .35 cents per kwh after 5 years. Maybe even more. So the reality is that the ROI is actually less than 8 years, more accurately between 6-8 years when considering the raise of energy costs.   I hope this helps you to understand how to calculate the ROI and to see the benefits of purchasing a solar package. If you require additional information feel free to ask. If you are looking for a reliable, knowledgeable solar installer, then you have found me. You can contact me at my email address at or by cell or at what’s app at 506 6330-5137. You can also follow me at Sunny Side Solar Solutions facebook page to read my weekly articles on many different solar topics. These same topics can be read at my facebook group at Costa Rica Solar Installation Reviews along with other important information related to solar. I look forward to hearing from you.

Getting ready for Solar

People often ask me when they are in the process of building a house and are thinking of installing solar in it, what do we need to do to be ready for solar?   Well, here are a few suggestions that I feel are important.  

1.  When choosing your air conditioner units, look for a SEER rating of 19 or greater.  These are often inverter style air conditioners.  New normal AC units are SEER 15-17, older units are often less then that.  Although the higher rated air conditioners are slightly more expensive, they will pay for themselves in savings in a few months.  These ratings makes a big difference in an appliances efficiency and the greater efficiencies  translate into greater energy savings.  When dealing with multiple air conditioners in your home it can mean several hundred to even  thousands of dollars per year for multiple units.   When I do the load calculations for sizing a solar package, the higher SEER rated air conditioner units means that I can downsize a solar system which means less solar production is needed, which means less panels and even possibly a smaller sized inverter.  Translation, less money spent on a solar system.

2.  How are you planning to heat your water?  This also can save money by less solar production needed and by lowering the energy consumption while heating the water.   There are a couple of good alternatives to the regular electric element hot water tank or the on demand water heaters that are hooked up inline with your showers or kitchen faucets.  Consider the typical regular electric hot water tank.  It uses an electric element that is 240 volt at 3000-4500 watts to heat your water.   The inline on demand water heaters are typically 240 volt 12000-18000 watt units.  Both of those options draw a lot of energy to heat the water.  What if I told you that you can use a fraction of that energy to heat your water at a reasonable cost for the appliance?   I recommend a hybrid electric heat pump water tank.   They heat the water at a fraction of the cost per month and it also acts like a small air conditioner that dehumidifies your utility room where it is placed.  This is a far better option then the traditional electric water tanks or inline on demand water heaters.  By choosing the hybrid electric hot water option, we can reduce the size of your solar system to save you money.  They use much less energy.  There are also solar evaculated tube style water heaters available, but they do have some potential drawbacks like extra maintenance due to the hard water here in Costa Rica and the scaling issues that the hard water can create. 

3.  Pool pumps and opporational timers are important to consider if you have a pool.   The typical pool pump consumes 480 kwh’s per month or 2000 watts per hour of consumption during the pump run time.   That would be a 1.5 – 2 hp pump.  Larger pumps will draw more energy.  These pumps should be put on a daily/hourly timer to run 8 hrs a day to limit the energy consumed.  It’s best to run these while the solar production is available so you can use the solar energy generated from your solar system.  The alternatives to the traditional pool pumps are solar pool pumps that use the DC current from the solar panels which use no energy from the grid or the main solar system.  This again, allows me to lower the size of the main solar system or it will reduces the monthly energy consumption from the energy provider depending on the solar system wiring method.  In many cases when installers install a solar package the inverter may only power a critical loads panel which the air conditioner units or pool pumps are not on. I will write another article on the differences between whole home backup systems and critical loads backup systems.  That’s a lengthy topic to get into during this article.  There is a big difference between these two systems.   Stay tuned for that article later.

4.  Lighting and fan choices.   LED lights use less energy then the old style incandescent bulbs.  These days it’s hard to find incandescent lights, and I’d recommend LED lights over fluorescent tube lights.  When picking ceiling fans you can observe the voltage and the current or amperage used by the fans to calculate the power used.   The formula is, power is equal to voltage times the current in amperage.   For example, watts (power) is equal to 120 volts times the current in this example we will use 1 amp, which would give you 120 watts of power used for the given time that the fan runs.  If that fan runs 12 hrs a day that would be 1440 watts for power used for that one fan.  If you chose a fan with a lower current value then your power consumption would be less and you would save money throughout the month or again your solar system may be reduced.

5.  This next suggestion isn’t a money saver, it’s more of an astetics thing.   When building your house, I recommend that I meet with the builder at the build site so i can instruct the builder and their electricians where to install the conduits for the roof top solar pv wires, preferably inside the wall structure to hide the conduit as an eye sore.  Hiding the conduits inside the wall reduces the posibility of an unwanted viewpoints of the equipment.  Take the time to get any solar installer involved with the pre-construction  discussions to avoid these concerns. These are a few of the ways to prepare or “get ready for solar”.   Ultimately, its up to you to choose if you want to follow these simple suggestions.  They are not hard and fast rules but if followed, they will save you money and the possibility of an eye sore.  If you would like more information regarding solar, please contact me at or by cell or at what’s app at 506 6330-5137.  You can also follow me at Sunny Side Solar Solutions facebook page to read my weekly articles on many different solar topics.  These same topics can be read at my facebook group at Costa Rica Solar Installation Reviews along with other important information related to solar.

What is the difference between a whole home back up solar system and a critical loads solar backup system with grid tied.

With solar systems there are two common systems used as indicated above.  These two systems are used on a grid tied electrical system.  Grid tied meaning that you are both creating your own energy with solar and also connected to the energy provider.  Each system will reduce your energy consumption but one one can actually eliminate your energy bill if the system is sized correctly to do so.   That requires a properly sized solar array to generate the solar energy needed for the amount of energy consumption in your home.  It also requires a properly sized inverter to rectify the DC energy to AC energy that your home needs to use, and a properly sized battery storage to shift the loads during the hours of 4 pm to 7 am.  See my article on load shifting for more details on that topic.

Whole home back up is as it says it is.   You are providing all the power needed from the solar system to all of the circuits in the home.  The inverter can be installed between your meter and your main electrical panel in your home as is done with the All in One Inverters, or you can install a breaker in the main panel that the inverter feeds to back up the whole home.  Of course, this inverter needs to be sized correctly to handle the complete load of the home.  These methods provide power to all the circuits in your home, therefore a whole home backup system.

The critical loads system would be installed to only power a critical loads panel or panels with separated circuits as you classify as critical circuits for your home.  With this system it is often smaller and cannot eliminate your total energy bill from your provider.  It also would  require you to isolate the critical load circuits  during the installation of this system or have had it previously isolated during construction.  Each of these systems have their advantages and disadvantages.  With the whole home system, the cost is higher which could be considered as a disadvantage.  However the advantage to this system is that when the power goes out your whole home is still energized if you have battery backup when the solar is not available.

With the critical loads system, when you lose power from the grid, only the critical.loads receive power from the system using batteries when there is no solar production.   This can be seen as a disadvantage. The critical loads system is often less expensive so that can be considered as an advantage.   

These are important points to consider when talking to the installer and when picking the right system for you.  If you have any questions please contact me at or what’s app or cell at 506 6330-5137.   Ask for Neil.   I’m always happy to answer questions. Please visit my Facebook group called Costa Rica Solar Installation Reviews where you will find many other useful solar topics to help you through the process of understanding solar and all its benefits.  Until next time, have a great week.