The Ultimate Guide to Solar Panels
Have you ever considered installing solar panels in your home? It’s a renewable source of energy, and it’s been growing cheaper through the years. It also helps you save massive amounts on your energy bills.
If you own a home, then the chances are you’ve got more than 65 square feet of free space on your roof that you could utilize for solar panels. It’s understandable, however, that you might have no idea how to get started. That’s what this guide is for. Buckle in!
First Principles: What are Solar Panels and How Do They Work?
Solar panels are also known as photovoltaic, or PV, cells. The word “photo” comes from Greek, and means “light.” Voltaic, on the other hand, is a common scientific term for electric transmission. It is derived from the name if a famous Italian scientist. There are four common types of photovoltaic cells in existence today:
- Plastic cells
- Polymer cells
- Crystalline silicon cells
- Hybrid cells
A Note on Solar Panel Efficiency
The efficiency of a solar panel is an important thing to consider when you buy your solar panel. A solar panel is basically a group of single units, each doing the same job. The solar cells that make up a panel sit next to each other are covered by glass and have a black back sheet on top of which they sit.
The efficiency of these cells has to do with the proportion of solar energy that they can successfully convert into electricity. The efficiency of the panel as a whole is the aggregate of the efficiency of the cells.
Most cells on the market have an efficiency of between 15 percent and 22 percent. That probably sounds like a low number, but you’d be surprised. It’s not only enough to power your home and fulfill all your power needs but you’ll probably also have some left over that you can sell off to the grid.
The most efficient type of solar panels in this list are crystalline silicon cells, particularly monocrystalline silicon cells. They are very easy to recognize because of the gaps they have on their corners. Don’t worry about the nuances of these types of cells. For the most part, some are simply more efficient than others. However, they are all still efficient and durable enough for regular home usage.
Solar panels work by turning light from the sun into electrical energy. They do this through the application of a little gadget known as an inverter. This is pretty much the central control system of the solar panel and converts the energy into a form usable by your home appliances.
The solar energy is converted into DC electricity by the solar panels. Meanwhile, your home needs AC electricity to operate. The inverter does the job of converting the DC electricity coming from the solar panels into AC electricity. However, it can also do a lot more than that.
The inverter doesn’t merely convert power from the solar panels. It also does it in the most efficient way possible and uses digital control to achieve this. There are even “smart” inverters being developed that will have the ability to plan for your power needs and forecast conditions ahead of time. They will also be programmable, allowing you to tell them when to use solar energy and when to store it for a blackout.
Benefits of Installing Solar Panels
There are numerous benefits to installing solar panels in your home. It’s really not that difficult to switch to solar energy for your home. All you need to do is find an installer that knows what he or she is doing. That also isn’t a complicated process on its own. You can search online and find different installers. You should obtain quotes from each and compare prices to see what makes sense. If you have friends that have already made the move to solar energy, you could try asking them for references that will be helpful.
Another major advantage you enjoy when you make the move to solar is that you enjoy the unlimited energy. The sun definitely won’t stop shining anytime soon, so it’s an ideal source of energy. It’s clean, free and, if you live in certain places, you could even use solar energy to make money. You could either take advantage of government tariffs, such as the feed-in tariff or sell your excess solar power to the grid.
The Savings Possibilities with Solar Panels
One of the biggest objections people have to adopt solar energy is the large upfront cost of installing solar panels. This may be true but a close look at historical data shows that the cost of installing solar panels has actually been decreasing at a very high rate.
If that isn’t convincing enough, let’s weigh the costs against the benefits and see if the whole thing makes sense. You might spend anything from $3,000 to $13,000 (£2,000 to £9,000) when installing solar panels in your home. If you qualify for the feed-in tariff, then you can get all this money back in about 10 years.
You will also be enjoying free electricity in the interim. Your electricity bills will either be drastically reduced or not exist at all. That means that, after the payback period, you’ll be making a pure profit.
You won’t have to incur any maintenance costs when you switch to solar panels. The system will just need to be checked by your supplier once every year or two, and you might need to clean off the leaves or snow so as not to obscure the panels. Other than that, it’s pretty much a set-and-go kind of system. According to PCS Energy, a commercial solar Los Angeles company, these things can work for up to 40 years!
Making the Switch to Solar Energy
Before anything else, the first step you should take is to check if your home is optimally placed to receive as much sunlight as possible. Start by checking the inclination and size of your roof. Then look at the orientation of your house. It should generally have a southern orientation for maximum sunlight. Finally, check to see if any large figures are blocking the sun, such as large buildings or trees.
The clouds really won’t affect how much sunlight you receive. A common fear among many people is that if they live in a cloudy area, then solar energy really isn’t a viable solution to their energy problems. It’s true that you get the most sunlight when the sky is clear. Consequently, that’s also when you get the most amount of electricity. However, solar panels are pretty efficient. Even with an efficiency of 15 percent, a solar panel will produce plenty of electricity in cloudy weather.
Decide If You Want to Be Connected to the Grid8
There are plenty of options out there for solar panels systems. However, they all fall into one of two categories: grid-connected systems and off-grid systems. You can choose whether you want your solar panel system to be grid-connected or off-grid. We would recommend going for a grid-connected system for a couple of reasons.
First, a grid-connected system helps you qualify for the feed-in tariff. That means you’ll be able to start getting a return on your investment the minute you start using your solar energy. Second, a grid-connected system ensures you have electricity at night when the solar panels aren’t operating. It only makes sense to have a grid-connected system if you live close to the grid.
Off-grid solar panel systems are ideal for isolated houses in remote places without access to the grid. They are typically paired with another source of electricity, such as a battery, for providing power at night.
Determine Your Usage in Kilowatts
This is pretty easy to determine. Simply check your monthly electricity bill. The best way to do this is to get all your electricity bills from the past year and find the average to help you and your potential solar supplier figure out how much energy your household uses in a month. This is important information as it will help you determine what kind of solar panel system to get.
Get Quotes From Accredited Solar Panel Installers
Getting an accredited installer is very important. It doesn’t matter that the installer is giving you the best deal on the market, if they aren’t accredited, you might not be eligible for the feed-in tariff. To check if an installer is legitimate, visit microgenerationcertification.org to see if they are a member of the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC).
Once you’re done with that, get quotes from a few suppliers and compare prices. You can inquire about things like the warranty you get on the solar system and the installation process. Don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as you can. You want to be sure of what you’re getting. You can then compare the prices from the different suppliers and the kind of services and warranties they offer and make a choice based on that.
As you can see, the process of switching to solar really isn’t complicated at all. You just need to be conscientious about it, and everything will flow smoothly.
There a few things you should not do, however, to get the best out of the whole process. For starters, don’t fix the panels yourself. The warranty may be tied to you never touching your solar panels. Be sure to check the warranty terms and conditions before you clean or fix your solar panels. Also, never make a deal over the phone. Meet the solar supplier in person and learn as much as you can before you make any commitments. If possible, hire a surveyor to determine your house’s conditions and your power needs. Keep it conscientious, and the move will be smoother than smooth!