How to Solar Panels Convert Energy from the Sun

People have been taking advantage of solar power for decades. While early adopters installed solar panels on their roofs to generate electricity for their homes, the modern-day equivalent are solar installations that generate electricity and heat for buildings.

The advantage of on-premises solar power is the ability to gain immediate gratification. If you have a pool, you can use the generated electricity to run the pool pump. If you don’t have a pool, you can cook food with the heat generated by the panels or use it to power electronics in a similar fashion to how battery-based systems operate.

Off-premises (or distributed) generation has several advantages. The power can be delivered wherever you want it, when you want it and how much you want is up to you. If you have a large enough system, you can even generate power during peak hours, when electricity demand is at its highest. This can help reduce your electricity costs.

The power is generated by the sun during the day, so you don’t have to worry about the sun not shining or being cloudy. You can literally count on it always being available.

Install The Right Hardware

The first step to harvesting the energy of the sun is to determine how large of a system you need. This depends on how much electricity you need and how many solar panels you want to attach to your roof. Some homes with a few attic-mounted solar panels can generate enough electricity to power all the lighting and electronics in the home. For larger homes, several panels on the roof can be wired together to generate enough electricity for the entire structure. Once you know how much power you need, you can determine the proper wattage of electrical wiring to utilize and the size of the inverter that will handle the electrical load. Remember: bigger is better when it comes to solar.

Choose The Right Location

The second step to generating electricity with solar power is to determine where you want the panels and how high you want them to be installed on your roof. One of the primary benefits of solar is that, as the sun rises during the day, more and more of it falls on your roof as the hours go by. This means you can generate more and more electricity as the day progresses. The height of your roof determines how high the sun will shine, so the higher the better when it comes to generating electricity with solar.

Look Into Financing

Financing can be a major challenge when trying to generate electricity with solar. Traditional banks and lending institutions are not comfortable lending money to homeowners who are not guaranteed future income. However, solar loan providers are aware of this and are more than willing to take the risk given the potential for high ROI and low operational costs.

Consider All The Options

Once you have decided where you want to install your solar panels and determined how much power you need, the next step is to look at all the options available to you. There are three basic types of solar setups you can utilize: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and dye-sensitized. Each of these have their perks and quirks, but it’s important to understand what you are getting into.

Monocrystalline solar panels are considered the gold standard when it comes to solar power. They are highly efficient (up to 90%) at converting sunlight into electricity and, as a result, are very popular among electricians and homeowners who want a hands-off approach to managing their electricity needs.

Polycrystalline solar panels are also quite popular and are often the economy-minded choice due to their low price point. While they only achieve an efficiency rate of around 40%, the trade-off is that they are considerably less efficient than monocrystalline panels and require more care and feeding to maintain.

Dye-sensitized solar panels are a relatively new addition to the market and are considered the green alternative to standard silicon-based solar panels. While dye-sensitized solar panels are not yet as efficient as monocrystalline panels, they have several advantages. First, they are much lighter and, therefore, easier to transport. Second, they don’t require high temperatures to operate which, in turn, lowers the chance of overheating and malfunctioning. Third, they don’t require extremely thick substrates, which makes them much more flexible and, therefore, more durable.

The Math Doesn’t Lie

Another major issue surrounding solar power concerns the math. Just because you have solar panels doesn’t mean you automatically have electricity. You have to do the math to determine how much electricity you will actually generate. This is where a little knowledge of Mathieu Richer’s comes in handy. When you add up the power of all the panels on your roof, including the ones that are connected, you will get a total peak output. This is the amount of electricity you can expect to generate at the strongest point of the day. To determine how much electricity you will actually generate at any given time, look at the power of each panel and take the difference of this amount and the total peak output. In some cases, this can be as much as 15-20%, depending on the time of day and year. This is why you always have to check the weather and ensure the conditions are suitable for collecting solar power. If you live in a cold climate, you will need to bundle up when the sun is shining and strip down when the sun goes down. If you live in a hot climate, you will need to take care not to overheat your panels and incur the risk of damage or malfunction.

The Ups And Downs Of Solar

The ups and downs of solar are almost as plentiful as the downsides to not generating electricity with solar. The first and perhaps the biggest downside to solar power are the costs associated with installation and upkeep. Installing a small solar setup on your roof will cost you several hundred dollars, and this does not include the price of the panels themselves. This is not to mention the additional costs associated with installing the electric wiring (fees, overtime wages and material costs) and maintaining it (wires eventually need to be replaced due to wear and tear).

The second major downside to solar is its availability. While the sun shines on your roof throughout the day, you don’t have access to it at all times. This means you are restricted to only using it when you can and, therefore, cannot generate power when you need it. During cloudy weather or at night, you are out of luck. You can also lose power if there is a major storm or if you are in a heavy rainstorm. This is why many utilities offer power generation warranties- in case you do indeed generate more power than you need, they will take care of you.

The Major Differences

The above points only describe the biggest challenges associated with solar power. There are several key differences between solar and other options that you should know about. First, the environment. While you are not hurting the environment by generating electricity with solar, you are somewhat limited to the hours the sun shines. This could be problematic in a hot climate where you want to use the electricity during the day. Second, the return on investment (ROI). This is mainly due to the fact that it can take several years for solar panels to return the cost of installation. In most cases, the payback period on a solar investment is between three and five years. Third, flexibility. Because solar requires a lot of planning ahead and research to install the right way, it is often seen as less flexible than other options. This means you cannot simply change your mind and decide you don’t want to generate power anymore. Fourth, security. The main concern here is that in some places there is a danger of theft. This applies mainly to systems that generate power off-premises (i.e., away from your home). While there is very little chance of your solar panels being stolen from your roof, it is still a concern and you should take this into consideration. Fifth, speed. It usually takes a while for solar to start generating electricity. This is because it is heavily dependent on the weather and, therefore, can be temperamental. Sixth, backup power. If you do indeed generate a lot power with solar, you will undoubtedly find yourself in need of back-up power in case of a power outage. Luckily for you, we have the National Grid Gold Standard Service, which provides you with an emergency power system that will automatically switch on when the power goes out (typically in the event of a heavy storm). This way, you don’t have to worry about losing power and being unable to operate critical appliances and electronics. This also allows you to regulate how much power you want to use by turning off unneeded appliances and electronics during periods of non-usage. Finally, fuel-efficiency. This one is self-explanatory- the less fuel you need to operate your vehicle, the more fuel-efficient it is. This means you can save money on fuel costs and reduce your impact on the environment. It’s a win-win!

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