Shedding Light on Solar

(Rows of commercial solar panels line green pasture; photo credit to Unsplash.)

Buying solar panels is a significant investment, both financially and environmentally. Often, it’s well worth it. Homeowners typically base their solar buying decision on price and type of solar panel rather than their power needs. The truth is every home has different electrical needs based on its size, number of appliances, and building materials.

With the continuously growing trend towards renewable energy and the increasing cost of fossil fuels, solar panel technology has become a hot topic. There are three main types of solar panels that most people are aware of. Each type has its benefits and drawbacks, and it’s vital to know what you need before buying.

Mono-crystalline solar panels are the most efficient of the three types, converting approximately 18% of the sunlight that hits them into electricity. These panels are durable and can withstand hail and other natural weather conditions better than other solar panels. However, they are costlier than polycrystalline and thin film panels. Thus, they’re not the best for small applications like residential use.

Polycrystalline panels comprise small crystalline silicon crystals manufactured into a panel. These panels are also long-lasting and can withstand hail and other natural weather better than other solar panels. However, they don’t convert more sunlight into solar energy like the mono-crystalline panels. This makes them cheaper than mono-crystalline solar panels, but more expensive than thin film panels. These panels are a popular choice for home use.

If you’re looking for the most efficient solar panels, single-crystalline is what you need. However, they’re more expensive than others. Single-crystalline silicon solar panels convert around 20% of sunlight into electricity. With their blue appearance, anyone can identify them with ease.

Thin film solar panels don’t use crystalline silicon and therefore do not require as much energy to produce them. Homeowners with limited space can install this type of panel. The panels can be mounted on a roof or the ground, as long as they are not in direct sunlight when mounted.

Thin film solar panels are lighter than crystalline silicon panels and therefore easier to install. They do not need to be connected to an inverter either, which reduces installation costs. Thin film solar panels can last longer than crystalline silicon panels and have better performance in low light conditions. However, the initial cost of thin film solar panels is higher than crystalline silicon panels.

It’s always necessary to perform a home energy audit to ascertain the required output for your electrical systems and appliances. But how do you determine your home energy or power needs?

The first step in determining your home’s energy needs is to determine its structure. To do so, you’ll need to know how old your home is, its construction elements (i.e., how old the house is, and what materials areas like the rood and siding are made of), and your home’s typical power consumption, among other things. There are various ways that homeowners can determine their energy needs. Some methods require some level of estimation, while others are more exact.

The best battery to use with solar panels is what you can afford and will last at least five years. You have several choices of batteries to use with your solar panels. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Lead-acid batteries were the standard for solar systems for decades, but sealed gel batteries have replaced them in most applications. The main reason is that gel batteries can be mounted without a container to collect leaked acid, making them much safer.

Lithium-ion batteries are the newer technology that can provide much more power than lead acid. However, they’re also costly and might not last to the extent that their manufacturer claims. Some manufacturers now offer extended warranties on their lithium-ion batteries, but it doesn’t seem like a good deal if you need to replace your battery every few years.

Lastly, gel-cell batteries are a type of hybrid, mixing elements of lead and lithium-ion batteries. They’re less expensive than lithium-ion, but they also last longer than lead acid. These batteries are more rugged and can be mounted in any position, making them ideal for off-grid solar systems.

Bottom line, if you’re looking to reduce your on-grid energy costs and also help fight global warming, solar panels should be on your radar. While it may seem like a huge expense at first, the long-term savings could potentially be well worth the investment.

Written by Editorial Team

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