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Solar Panels 101: Help Yourself & Your Pockets

              Solar panels are still considered a fairly new technology for everyday consumers. The process, cost, and availability in always improving each year and in certain geographic locations. There are some common questions regarding solar energy which will be addressed below:

What is a solar panel?

              Solar panels are groups of solar cells which are specially designed to absorb the sunlight. It is converted into DC electricity, then to AC electricity via an inverter, that is fed into the power grid of the home. Although solar energy is environmentally friendly, the process of making these panels is not yet “green”. They require traditional manufacturing in factories, use of dangerous chemicals, semiconductors and transportation and distribution. Although these steps are based on fossil fuels the industry is slowly become more efficient.

How long will solar panels last?

              Solar panels can have different life expectancy based on their size and technology. A typically warranty period can be about 20 years or more. Owning solar energy panels might require occasional maintenance but generally speaking maintenance is low for solar panels. The most important factor is keeping them clean and clear of debris.  Over time the technology does begin to become less efficient, so they can be working at less than full capacity at the end of the 20-year period. Additionally, the technology is improving always, so there will be more efficient models on the market at that time.

Roof mounted solar panels

              There are usually two options for mounting solar panels, roof mounted or ground mounted. The benefit of the roof mounted ones are the require little additional support structure and only use space that would have otherwise not have been used. There is one significant downfall to the roof option and that is the cost of removal or replacement, which can be thousands of dollars. If you will need repairs on the roof the removal of the panels can add significant cost.

              The ground mounted ones require special support brackets and equipment to keep them sturdy and at the correct angle. This comes at a cost, and they must have the free space on the ground to maintain the number of panels needed for your home, which can take up a lot of space.

Are they worth it?

              There is a principle in that electrical engineer use that says that when one form of electricity is converted to another form, there is lost efficiency. This is one reason why incandescent light bulbs get hot, because of the lost efficiency that was not converted into light. The same is true for solar panels, Various models have more or less efficiency, but there is loss because of the conversion. There are other factors to consider like local regulations, nearby trees and tall building among other things. Solar power panels have came a long way in the last decades and have really improved. The best option is to consult with a local solar company that can give appropriate pricing, incentives, and evaluation based on your unique circumstance. When properly installed cost savings can add up as time passes.