Solar Panels for Homes

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Solar Panels for Homes

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With the current energy crisis, solar panels have become an increasingly popular energy source, offering a cleaner and cheaper alternative to fossil fuels. However, like any investment, it is important to understand all aspects of solar panels when considering if the investment is right for you.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels are comprised of a network of many photovoltaic cells, or cells that convert sunlight into electricity. Solar panels generate electricity by capturing particles of light, known as photons, which in turn free electrons from atoms, creating energy. In order for these photovoltaic cells to function properly, an electric field must be created, by separating the positive and negative charges. These charges can be manufactured through the use of chemical components including silicon, phosphorous, and boron. The electrons are collected on metal plates, which in turn can be transferred directly to a wire and harnessed as useable energy.

Will they save me money?

  • Solar panels provide a great opportunity to save money, although the precise amount saved depends on a variety of factors:
  • Geographic location
  • How much electricity you use
  • Size of the system you choose to install.

Based on a recent study by the NC Clean Energy Technology on the fifty largest cities in the US, those who invested in a 5kW photovoltaic system saved on average $44-$187 per month during the first year of using solar energy. In an effort to incentive homeowners to invest in solar energy, many states have introduced tax breaks, making the technology even more affordable. Many homes can produce enough energy not only to cover the entirety of their electric needs, but also to produce excess electricity, which in turn can be sold back to electric companies for a profit.

Do solar panels only work on clear, sunny days?

Solar panels function even on cloudy days. However, the sunnier the day, the more sunlight will reach the photovoltaic cells, and thus more electrons will be sent into motion. The more the electrons are sent flowing, the more electricity can be generated. Studies have shown that on a relatively cloudy day, a solar panel typically will only produce between 10 and 25 percent of what it produces on a clear, bright day. While you don’t have to live in Hawaii to reap the benefits of solar energy, solar panels function most efficiently in geographic locations that receive plenty of sunlight. It is important to ensure that your solar panels receive uninhibited access to the sun, thus, you may need to clean off snow, leaves, or other debris from your panels to allow for efficient electricity generation.

Declining Installation Costs

Many people are under the impression that installing a solar panel system entails a sizeable down payment, which may take years to pay back. However, there are many options that make installation affordable. The cost of installation has undoubtedly declined through the years, with the price of solar panels dropping close to seventy percent since 1998. Many companies have adopted business models based on Solar Power Purchase Agreements (SPPAs), in which a “host customer” allows for the installation of solar panels on his property, but the provider bears the costs of installation and handles the entirety of the installation process. The host customer then signs a contract with the solar panel provider to purchase the power generated from the system at a lower price than the retail electricity rate. These contracts can range anywhere from 6 to 25 years. The rates at which the electricity is sold back can be fixed, or may fluctuate within a five percent range to account for inflation, as well as efficiency losses as the system ages.

Installing Solar Panels

There are many options to choose from when it comes to installing solar panels for home use, so it is important that you do your research to find the installers that are right for you.

  • Determine what type of solar panels and technology the installer uses
  • Inquire about the quality of the solar panels
  • Ask about the quality of the inverters (the device responsible for converting the energy from the current into a useable energy source). A high quality inverter will have high conversion rates, and will also feature protective elements that guard your solar panels against damage.

Do my installers need certification?

It is also important to ensure that your installers are licensed, to avoid any safety issues and to ensure that your solar panel system is installed in accordance with the code and safety regulations. Furthermore, inquire if your installers have a NABCEP certification. A NABCEP certification is a voluntary certification requiring extensive training that may set certain contractors apart.

Deciding if solar panels are the right investment for you may seem like a daunting and challenging task. However, with careful assessment of your property and knowledge of PV systems, you can save thousands on your electric bill and join an increasingly popular movement that is both financially and environmentally responsible.


Sources:

http://www.livescience.com/41995-how-do-solar-panels-work.html
http://www.solar-nation.org

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