Solar PV technology has come a long way and today solar panels when put together and wired properly can supply the needs of not only a house, but commercial as well as farming interests as well.
Not only can you cut your electric bill, but you can actually make money from the power company and from the government by gaining tax credits for switching to alternative energy sources and being paid by the power companies for the excess electricity that solar panels are capable of producing after supplying your home’s needs.
In this web page, we are going to take a look at solar panels and how using off-the-shelf components you can make your home energy efficient and perhaps even take it off the power grid entirely. When you’re done reading this article, you’ll better understand how solar panels can fit into your busy lifestyle and supply the energy to run your appliances, home electronics, and even your home entertainment center.
Solar energy is the future as coal, fossil fuels dwindle, and our reliance on them is being made redundant by the use of solar and other forms of alternative energy.
1. Types of solar panels:
Crystalline silicon makes up the majority of the solar panels today, as the ability to convert solar energy into electricity is a function of purity of the silicon that is used. In America, 95% of all solar panels are from crystalline silicon.
This forms the basis of both Mono and Polycrystalline silicon solar panels and each has characteristics, which makes it desirable for either use in the home or for commercial use.
1. Monocrystalline silicon solar panels
Monocrystalline silicon solar panels have a uniform look and even coloring when you look at them indicating the high purity of the silica and content used in each individual solar cell that makes up a solar panel.
Using these types of cells in your solar panel has the potential of saving you over $1000 per year in energy costs, which includes the purchase price of the solar cells themselves.
These types of solar panels give you a 15 to 20% efficiency of conversion of solar to electricity and with newer technologies now coming online, the efficiency rating even goes up to 21.5%.
Since the efficiency and density of the solar cells provide a modular and smaller footprint than some of the other types they require the least amount of space compared to other types of solar panels.
For example, Monocrystalline solar panels, which produce 4 times the amount of electricity as thin-film solar panels and have a longer life expectancy and are often warranted up to 25 years.
They also perform better than similarly rated polycrystalline solar panels under low light conditions.
However, Monocrystalline solar cells are also the most expensive from the standpoint of a homeowner where thin-film solar panels might be a better option. The process by which the solar cell modules are created has a significant amount of silicon ending up as waste material.
Monocrystalline solar panels are more efficient in warm climates, but as the temperature goes up performance goes down. However, this is less than polycrystalline solar panels. For most homeowners this is often not a factor.
2. Polycrystalline solar panels
The early solar cells were made of polycrystalline silicon and entered the market in the early 80s. They are much easier to make as the molten liquid silicon is poured into a square mold and cut into square wafers.
This gives you a less expensive solar module and with less waste when compared to Monocrystalline solar panels. They also have a slightly lower heat tolerance and high temperatures affect them adversely and can shorten their lifespan.
Unfortunately, their conversion efficiency is only about 16% and you need a larger surface area to generate the same amount of electricity than the smaller Monocrystalline silicon solar panels are capable of producing.
Many homeowners are put off by the speckled blue color of polycrystalline silicon as compared to the uniform coloration of Monocrystalline solar panels.
3. String Ribbon solar cells use polycrystalline silicon is the base and when a high-temperature resistant wire slices off a thin ribbon of silicon you have a very thin solar cell that can make for a compact solar panel.
This allows you to use less silicon and thus lowering the solar panel cost per unit by as much as 25 to 30%. However, at the time of this writing, the failure of the company that pioneered the development of this product has put the future of this type of solar panel in question.
4. Thin-film solar cells in the lab and reached anywhere between 7 and 13% efficiency and operate at approximately 9% efficiency improvements in the manufacturing process is expected to bring this to 16%. Currently, 5 to 7% of the market for homeowners is currently thin-film solar panels.
Thin-film has the advantage of being cheaper to manufacture than crystalline-based solar cells. Their homogeneous appearance is a statically more pleasing to a homeowner and their flexibility allows them to be used in unique applications. They are less affected by high temperature or shading and in situations where surface area is not restricted, they offer an attractive solution.
However, they are cheap but require a lot of space and Monocrystalline solar panels produce up to 4 times the energy in less space. Thin-film solar panels also tend to degrade more quickly than Mono or polycrystalline solar panels.
There are some other types of solar cells in use today, however, their application for home or commercial energy requirements has not yet reached a significant level to be considered in this article.
We will list them anyway for your edification:
● Amorphous Silicon Solar Cells
● Cadmium Telluride Solar Cells
● Copper Indium Gallium Selenide Solar Cells
2. Factors affecting efficiency of solar panels
Solar panel efficiency is a factor of area and material used in the construction of a particular solar panel. Currently commercial solar panels operate in the area of approximately 15%. Experimental Solar Power Panel modules not currently in production have achieved 21.5% and hopefully will reach the market in the near future.
For now, at least, you need to choose between the three major solar cell types. This will be based on of course on the amount of money you intend to spend, the surface area available to mount the solar panels themselves, and whether your application is residential or commercial. When these factors are all compared, you can then decide on which solar panel meets your needs the best. The following factors also can affect which type of solar panel you will choose:
● Orientation – Pointing south for most homeowners in the US to get the most sunlight
● Temperature – Usually not a factor unless you live in the Southwest in places like Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico
● Maintenance – Normally solar power panels require very little maintenance, which is often just wiping them clean from time to time
The bottom line, however, is how much energy from the sun gets converted into electricity and here is a recap of what we’ve covered so far:
● Monocrystalline – 15 to 20%
● Polycrystalline – 13 to 16%
● Thin-Film – 8 to 10%
3. Where do you find a Solar panel for sale, DIY, and/or have it done for you
Do you buy solar panel(s), make them yourself or have it all done for you. There is also the option of buying solar as a service and after you’ve used the system for a number of years purchasing it outright.
So as you can see you have various options to choose from. If you are handy around the house, you can install your own solar system, which consists of solar cells mounted in a solar panel. An inverter system to take the DC from the solar panels and converted into usable AC power as well as setting up a connection to feed the surplus back into the power grid which then allows you to cut your electric bill and sell your surplus electricity at a premium to your local utility company.
Most homeowners today, however, go with having a system installed. There are many vendors currently on the Internet who provide these services for you. They will come out free of charge to your home and give you an estimate of your electrical needs. Offer a solution based on the area of the country you’re living in, the amount of surface area they have to work with and give you a selection of the various types of solar panels that are currently available and the pricing for each type.
If you decide to go this route you can have a solar power system fully up and running in a matter of days while you sit back and relax and watch the work being done.
Purchasing solar as a service is gaining more popularity as the solar panels the inverters the connections are all put in gratis and you pay for the electricity you use similarly, to what you’re currently doing now but instead of paying a utility company you’re paying the solar energy provider instead.
In this way, you can have the benefit of having “GoneSolar”, lower electrical costs, and tax credits such as California’s Solar Initiative, which can net you up to a 50% rebate on solar water heating, Solar Power Systems, as well as selling the surplus electricity back to the utility company.
If you are looking for solar energy providers or an online solar panels market place that provides you with financing options, solar energy savings, solar panel cost and relevant information you need for your specific case to switch to solar, you can start here.
4. Solar panel cost can be reduced if you do the work yourself and a little at a time
Amazon or your local library have a lot of resources for DIY (Do it yourself) solar. Simply by clicking here you can take a look at the selection of books that Amazon has to offer and you can have them delivered to your home in a very short period of time.
The advantages of going to Amazon before your local library is that your library will typically have books that are one to 5 years old and Amazons books are usually of recent vintage and have cutting edge information that can help simplify your do-it-yourself efforts.
Along with the build-it-yourself approach you could go with the various kits available on the market and some of these advantages to this are obvious as you get all the components you need and the instructions on how to do it right in the first place.
These kits can be obtained from Amazon as well and they can be delivered reasonably quickly to your doorstep. Click here to find a small selection of what Amazon has to offer the homeowner in the way of kits for solar energy.
As mentioned earlier there are a plethora of other vendors offering kits as well as installation of solar power for your home.
5. Residential solar panels for those who prefer to have the work done for them
This brings us to whether you should go with the solar energy provider or not to have the system installed for you or to purchase solar panel electric power from a vendor who installs all the hardware, connection to the grid, and even provides maintenance on the system for you.
6. Commercial solar panels can do the same for your business as well
Commercial enterprises often can benefit from the use of solar panels as well. In fact, they have an advantage over the homeowner as many businesses have warehouses and corporate headquarters that have vast areas of unused roof space that are ideal set up for solar panels. Since in many cases solar energy can be installed as a business write-off, solar panel positioning devices can rotate the solar panels to track the sun throughout the day, something that is cost prohibitive for the homeowner to use.
The same vendors mentioned previously provide commercial solar power solutions for corporations as well as their residential clients. The major difference however, is the size and scope and the amount of power that a commercial system can generate.
The solar industry continues to grow and companies like SunCity not only produce solar panels but also provide the financing to those who wish to purchase solar energy for their home or business.
SunCity and other solar energy providers also provides solar power both to residential and commercial users as a pay-for-use service similar to the power utilities currently in place today.
The only difference being the generation plant is at the home or business venue and with a “Solar Power Purchase Agreement” you can buy the entire system after using it for a specified length of time. This allows you to install solar panels in your home or business without the initial cost of solar panels, inverters, installation, and maintenance.
To start your shopping for solar panels and switching to solar, you can start using this solar panel cost calculator and all you need to do is type your address to determine how much you can save with solar energy.