FAQ

Frequently asked questions

Solar Power

Purchasing


What is the price for a solar installation?

Most solar projects fit one of the following categories and price ranges:

  • Cabin (with batteries): $4,000 - $20,000

  • Residential (grid-tie only): $8,000 - $30,000

  • Residential (with batteries): $20,000 - $60,000

  • Commercial: $15,000 - $100,000+

Each project has a unique set of variables that require an evaluation in order to create a custom quote. For our current price list, click here.

The total installed costs are eligible for a federal tax credit.

How do I get a quote?

Please contact us and provide your project information. We start by responding with details and an initial estimate, and then follow up for an evaluation of the site so we can produce a custom quote.

Do you lease or finance?

Sorry but we do not provide financial services. If you'd like to consider financing, there are several financing providers that specialize in solar. Click here to learn more.

Are there tax incentives?

You can claim a 26% federal tax credit (for year 2020) on the full price for installation. Learn more here.

At DSIREUSA.org you can search a database of incentives by state. Learn more here: South Dakota, Wyoming




System Design


What types of systems do you offer?

We specialize in the design and installation of residential and commercial solar power systems.

  • Solar photovoltaic panels and inverters

  • Roof- and Ground-mounted solar arrays

  • Battery systems for off-grid and backup power

  • Solar-powered EV chargers

  • Solar electric water heaters

  • Home energy monitoring devices

We do not sell or service systems for recreational vehicles, hot water collectors, or wind power systems.

Why install solar?

Solar power systems can be designed to favor specific benefits, including:

  • Power bill reduction

  • Back-up or off-grid power

  • Clean Energy / Environmental

  • Electric Vehicle charging

How much solar power do I need?

In most cases, there is no specific capacity needed but a range to choose from depending on your needs.

Grid-tied systems aimed primarily at reducing power bills perform best on the smaller size. Small to medium-sized systems in the range of 3 kW to 5 kW (ten to sixteen solar panels) will generate about half of electricity use, but be mostly self-consumed by the home, resulting in a better savings-to-watt ratio. Larger systems may produce excess power that can’t be used (and is instead sold to the grid), but can be more practical in cases with high daytime power use such as air-conditioning, commercial use, and timed loads such as electric vehicle charging.

  • Smaller systems have a higher rate of savings, but lesser overall impact.

  • Larger systems have better economy of scale and greater long-term savings.

  • Each solar panel can generate 1 - 2 kWh of energy per day on average.

  • Each solar panel can reduce bills by $30 to $60 per year.

    • The level of savings depends on solar exposure, alignment of solar power with electricity use (users), and most of all – the rates of the utility that are being offset.

Can I go off-grid?

The solar capacity of an off-grid system must satisfy year-round energy needs, especially for winter (least daylight, highest energy needs). A moderately-sized high-efficiency home can be served by 8 kW to 12 kW of solar power, but should always incorporate a backup generator for support in the wintertime. Off-grid homes should also incorporate a propane furnace and/or biomass (wood or pellet stove) as an additional heat source. There are many ways for a home to be optimized for off-grid, especially during construction.

  • Best suited to smaller high-efficiency, newly constructed homes and remote cabins

  • Must be sized to meet at least 90% of electricity needs

  • A propane generator is necessary for winter backup

  • Propane furnace is recommended, biomass as secondary heat source

What is a Hybrid system?

Hybrid systems combine batteries with solar and grid power to offer combined benefits with more flexible sizing than off-grid applications. In hybrid systems, the capacity of solar and battery can meet temporary back-up power needs for essential loads like lighting and refrigeration, or be sized up to meet whole-house requirements.

Is it better to install solar panels on the roof or on the ground?

Roof and ground-based mounts each have their advantages. Roof mounts are popular as they install quickly and have a much lower cost than a ground-based systems. Ground mounts are best for off-grid homes, winter optimization, or if a roof is unfavorable for any reason.

Roof-mounts:

  • Pro: most cost-effective

  • Pro: fast installation

  • Pro: does not occupy additional real estate

  • Con: imperfect orientation and pitch

  • Con: snow cover (esp. for lower pitch)

Ground-mounts:

  • Pro: can optimize orientation/tilt

  • Pro: accessibility for snow removal

  • Pro: higher efficiency (due to air circulation, cooling)

  • Con: construction and site work has additional cost

  • Con: trench required for power line

  • Con: may need to be fenced




Installation


Will solar panels affect my roof?

We install UL-Listed waterproof flashings for all roofing types, which are guaranteed leak-free for their lifetime (a 25-year manufacturer warranty). For most roofing types, 4 to 5-inch lag screws are driven into the roof rafters for a strong attachment and a reliable seal. With metal standing-seam roofs, our hardware can clamp directly to the metal seam without making penetrations.

The mounting system is also engineered to meet the local snow loads (usually 25 to 50 pounds per square foot) and 100 mph or higher wind speeds.

The distributed weight of a rooftop solar array is less than 3 pounds per square foot.

What is required for a ground-based mount?

Most ground-based mounts are constructed with structural steel in concrete footings, which include multi-pole structures, mono-pole mounts or other anchored platforms. Also required is a trench to bury the power line from the solar array to the building, and a fence around the array. The location of the array must not interfere with water, septic, drain fields, electrical or telecom lines.

How long does an installation take?

An average project is completed with 1 to 4 days of work, depending on the location, system size, type of system and electrical connection requirements or upgrades needed. Total project time may be from 1 to 4 weeks, including the site evaluation, system design, permitting, installation and commissioning phases.

What is required by the utility?

The utility requires you to sign an interconnection application and agreement. We may complete the application details on your behalf, but the homeowner must sign and return the agreement to the utility. They will also require you to provide proof of homeowners insurance.

When the system is ready to commission, a utility technician will change your meter to be able to record your excess solar power that flows to the grid.




Technical Features


Do solar panels resist hail?

Solar panels are made with highly-durable tempered glass, which is rated to withstand a minimum of 1-inch hailstones at 50 mph direct strikes. However, we have seen our installations hold up to much worse conditions. In the event of a break, replacement costs may be covered by homeowners insurance.

How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels will continue to produce power for as long as they are practically useful. For each year an average panel will lose about 0.5%. Most solar panel manufacturers guarantee at least 80% of the original performance at 25 years.

How long do inverters last?

Most inverters are warrantied for 10 years, and some up to 25 years.

How much power does a solar panel actually produce?

In full sun a solar panel produces 70% to 90% of its rated power. The loss of power is due to the heat. In winter time efficiency is higher, but also solar radiance is lower. Over the course of an average day, each solar panel will generate about 1.5 kWh of energy. (See Energy vs Power for more information.)




Investment


Is solar a good investment? Solar can be a great investment for many properties. For some a solar installation is treated purely as an investment, whereas for others, solar may geared to another purpose. As an investment, solar is considered for the rate of savings (alternative to grid power) and calculated time to payback. Beyond the point of payback, energy is considered free. To learn more on this topic, click here. How much is the federal investment tax credit? You can claim a tax credit for a percentage of your total costs of solar energy improvements. This includes battery systems, when solar is part of the package. 2020: 26% 2021: 22% 2022: 10% (commercial only) The tax credit can be claimed using IRS form 5695 for the tax year in which the system is installed. To get an installation for the current year, installations should be scheduled in advance of winter to ensure completion by year-end.





Solatube Lighting

Solatube FAQ


How does a Solatube work? Solatubes utilize a light-capturing acrylic dome on your roof to direct daylight through a 99% reflective tubing system.The tubing is routed through the attic to deliver light through an attractive round or square lens.Solatubes are much more versatile and cost effective than traditional skylights. Why use natural lighting? Studies have shown that people exposed to natural light are more productive, achieve a better sense of well-being, and are more positive. Until recently, the technology to deliver natural light to interior spaces like closets, bathrooms, offices and corridors simply didn’t exist. That’s no longer the case.

How much does a Solatube installation cost?

Our Solatube installations typically fall within the following range, depending on the model, length of extension tubing, lens options, and number of units. For a current price list, click here.

  • Solatube w/ installation: $650 - $950

  • Fixtures (decorative lens options): $20 - $99

  • When purchasing multiple units, discounts apply.

What sizes/options are available? Solatubes come in two sizes, and tubing length can be up to 30ft (two to eight feet is typical):
  • Solatube Model 160: 10-inch diameter, ideal for bathrooms, hallways, and other smaller areas.
  • Solatube Model 290: 14-inch diameter, ideal for kitchens, stairwells, living rooms and other larger areas.
How long does an installation take? The first installation takes about 2 to 3 hours, while additional units take about 2 hours each. The quick work of installation is one of the great features of Solatube compared to traditional skylights, because Solatube does not require any strucutral modification to the roof.

In what roof types can you install

Asphalt shingle roofs are most common. Contact us regarding other roof types.

Are Solatube's electric?

Solatubes use only natural sunlight and have no electrical components. However, Solatubes do include an accessory solar-powered night light, powered by two AA batteries, which automatically turns on to provide a moon-like glow at night time.

Do Solatube's require maintenance?

Solatubes are maintenance-free. The steel flashing used for the roof pass-thru has a wide base that installs under several rows of shingles, and are therefore not dependent on sealants to remain 100% waterproof.

What warranty is provided?

We provide a 5-year installers warranty and guarantee of 100% waterproof installations. If you have any problems with your Solatube, we will fix it for free.

Are Solatubes eligible for a tax credit? Yes, the full cost of installation for Solatubes that include a solar powered night light is eligible for the federal tax credit.





Company Info

About Us


What is your service area?
We serve all parts of the Black Hills region and within 100 miles of Rapid City, South Dakota, including north-eastern Wyoming. Counties including: Pennington, Meade, Lawrence, Butte, Custer, Fall River, Oglala, Weston, Crook.
Where are you located?
Our shop is located in Rapid City. Please see our contact page for more information and to schedule an appointment. What is your certification/experience?
Black Hills Solar owner, solar designer and lead installer is a certified PV Installation Professional certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, experienced in the design and installation of all system types and over one thousand solar panels installed since 2016. Are you licensed?
Yes, building contractor and electrical contractor licenses are held by Black Hills Solar and our electricians.
Are you insured?
Yes, we are commercially insured by Acuity.





Energy Tips

Energy Saving Tips


How much electricity do I use?

Learn how to read your power bills, or request a monthly summary of usage from your utility power company. The power company may also have an online system to allow you to log in and monitor your usage and billing history. For a more in-depth look, we recommend a smart home energy device that can monitor your individual appliances, helping you identify problem areas and ways to save.

How does your home compare to the average?

- 30 kWh per day / 980 kWh per month / 11,970 kWh per year.

How do I reduce my power bills?

As part of our work we can help you identify problem areas and improve your energy efficiency to help you save more.

Our Top Energy-Saving Tips:

  1. Reduce or eliminate air leaks, especially around door seals and windows.

  2. Improve insulation, especially in attics and around hot water lines.

  3. Know your appliances and how much energy they consume. Major appliances (i.e. heating, cooling, and pumping/heating systems) represent a significant majority of total energy consumption.

  4. Replace inefficient appliances such as old refrigerators and water heaters, replace indancescent lamps with LEDs, and replace furnace filters periodically.

  5. Understand your power bill and review your monthly usage. Compare with previous years. Contact your utility provider for support, and ask about incentives and rebates for energy efficiency improvements.

  6. Use a home energy monitor to learn about and observe your energy use, and quickly identify specific problem appliances.





ABOUT US

Black Hills Solar provides professionally installed solar power systems, energy storage systems, and electrical services.

LOCATION

Rapid City, Black Hills, South Dakota

Please contact us to make an appointment.

Serving Counties: Pennington, Meade, Custer, Fall River, Lawrence, Butte, Weston, Crook

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