What Are Solar Panels?

With the price of energy at record highs, many homeowners, business owners, and residents alike have found themselves spending too much money on keeping the lights on.

To combat those issues, people have turned to alternative energy sources. Things such as wind, tidal, and geothermal energies have slowly been incorporated into modern society. However, one of the most accessible sources of alternative energy is solar power.

If you’ve found yourself asking the question: “What are solar panels?” Then you’ve come to the right place. Below we’ll detail what solar power is, and when it’s ideal for your home.

What Are Solar Panels?

Solar panels are devices that convert solar energy into electricity. They are also known as photovoltaic panels or PV panels. The term “photovoltaic” comes from the Greek words “phos” and “volt,” which mean light and electricity, respectively.

Solar panels are made up of many photovoltaic cells connected together. These cells are made up of layers of silicon, a semi-conductive material. When sunlight hits the silicon, it knocks electrons loose from their atoms, allowing them to flow freely through the cell. The flow of electrons generates an electric current that can be captured and used as electricity.

How Does it Work?

To understand how solar panels work, it’s important to understand the structure of a solar panel. A solar panel is made up of several layers, including a layer of silicon, a metal frame, and a layer of glass.

The silicon layer is the most important layer because it is where the photovoltaic cells are located. When sunlight hits the solar panel, it penetrates the glass layer and enters the silicon layer.

Once inside the silicon layer, the sunlight strikes the photovoltaic cells. It causes electrons to be knocked loose from their atoms. These electrons then flow freely through the cells and generate an electric current.

The electric current produced by the solar panel is direct current (DC) electricity. However, most homes and businesses use alternating current (AC) electricity.

Therefore, the DC electricity produced by the solar panel needs to be converted into AC electricity using an inverter. Once the electricity has been converted, it can be used to power homes, businesses, and other electronic devices.

The Benefits

Solar panels are a clean and renewable source of energy that offer many benefits over traditional energy sources. Here are some of the most significant benefits of solar panels:

Reduce Energy Bills

One of the most significant benefits of solar panels is their ability to reduce energy bills. Once you install solar panels on your home or business, you can generate your own electricity. This means you will need to purchase less electricity from your utility company. Depending on your energy usage, solar panels can reduce your energy bills by 50% or more.

Reduce Carbon Footprint

Solar panels are a clean energy source that does not emit harmful pollutants into the environment. Unlike fossil fuels, which contribute to air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, solar panels are a sustainable and eco-friendly option. By using solar panels, you can reduce your carbon footprint and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Increase Home Value

Solar panels are a valuable addition to any home, and they can increase the value of your property. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, homes with solar panels can sell for up to 4.1% more than homes without solar panels. This means that installing solar panels can be a smart investment that pays off when you sell your home.

Low Maintenance

Solar panels require very little maintenance, which means you can save time and money on upkeep. Solar panels are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and can last for 25 years or more. While you may need to clean your solar panels periodically to remove dirt and debris, they do not require any significant maintenance.

Energy Independence

By putting up solar panels, you can stop using energy from the grid and become energy independent. This means that you can make your own electricity, which gives you more control over how much energy you use and makes you less likely to be affected by power outages and rate changes.

Incentives and Tax Credits

Many governments and utility companies offer incentives and tax credits for homeowners and businesses that install solar panels. These incentives can reduce the cost of solar panel installation. This makes it a more affordable option for homeowners and businesses.

Additionally, some utility companies offer net metering, which means they will credit your account for excess energy generated by your solar panels.

Types of Solar Panels

Solar panels come in different types, and each type has its own unique characteristics and efficiency levels. Here are the most common types of solar panels:

Monocrystalline Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single silicon crystal, which is why they are sometimes referred to as single-crystalline panels. They are known for their high-efficiency rates, ranging from 15% to 22%. They are also the most expensive type of solar panel.

Monocrystalline solar panels have a uniform black color, which makes them aesthetically pleasing for homeowners who prioritize the appearance of their solar panels.

Polycrystalline Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels are made from multiple silicon crystals. They are less efficient than monocrystalline solar panels, with efficiency rates ranging from 13% to 16%. However, they are also less expensive than monocrystalline solar panels.

Polycrystalline solar panels have a blue hue and are made from silicon that has a non-uniform texture. This texture causes the surface to reflect light in different directions, which can reduce its efficiency in some cases.

Thin-Film Panels

Thin-film solar panels are made by depositing a thin layer of photovoltaic material onto a substrate, such as glass or metal. They are the least efficient type of solar panel, with efficiency rates ranging from 7% to 13%. However, they are also the most affordable type of solar panel and are commonly used in large-scale solar projects.

Thin-film solar panels are flexible and lightweight, which makes them ideal for portable solar applications. They are also aesthetically pleasing and come in different colors, allowing homeowners to choose the option that best suits their style preferences.

Bifacial Panels

Bifacial solar panels are designed to capture sunlight from both sides of the panel. They are made with a layer of glass on the back of the panel, which allows sunlight to reflect onto the solar cells from the ground or other surfaces. This allows bifacial solar panels to produce up to 30% more energy than traditional solar panels.

Bifacial solar panels can be monocrystalline or polycrystalline. They are often used in commercial applications, where extra energy production can lead to significant cost savings.

Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)

Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) are solar panels that are designed to be integrated into the building’s architecture. BIPV solar panels can replace traditional building materials making them an aesthetically pleasing option for homeowners. These building materials can be the following:

  • Windows
  • Roofs
  • Facades

BIPV solar panels come in different shapes, sizes, and colors, allowing architects and homeowners to customize the design of their solar panel installation. They are also highly efficient, with efficiency rates similar to monocrystalline solar panels.

How Much Do Panels Cost?

The cost of solar panels can vary depending on several factors, such as:

  • System size
  • Panel type
  • Installation costs

On average, a typical residential solar panel system can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 or more. However, with the incentives and tax credits available, the cost can be significantly lower.

It’s essential to research your options and compare prices from different solar panel installation companies to find the best deal. Many companies offer financing options, which can make the upfront cost more manageable.

Overall, while the initial cost of solar panel installation may seem high, the long-term benefits of reduced energy bills and increased property value can make it a worthwhile investment.

Solar Installation

If you are interested in installing solar panels, there are a few things you should consider. First, you need to determine if your home or business is a good candidate for solar panel installation. Ideally, your roof should face south, east, or west and be free of shading from trees or buildings.

Secondly, you should calculate your energy needs to determine how many solar panels you will need. This will depend on the size of your home or business and your energy usage.

Lastly, you should choose a reputable solar panel installation company to install your solar panels. The installation process can be complex and should only be done by a professional with experience in solar panel installation. Check out this reputable solar company linked here.

Learn More About Solar Panels

Solar panels are an increasingly popular and sustainable energy source that provides many benefits for both the environment and households. With the reduced dependence on fossil fuels, a lower power bill, and potentially even generating an income, there is a lot to appreciate about solar panels.

Investing in solar panels is a wise choice for the future of our planet and our wallets. Get your solar assessment today to find out if solar is right for you!

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