Solar Energy Trade Shows 2014: Top 7 Things You Should Know

The global solar panel market was valued at US$16.9 billion in 2014 and is expected to rise to $26.9 billion by 2018.

With the cost of solar power plummeting, more and more people are deciding that going solar is a good idea. However, before you rush out and buy a solar system, there are some important things you need to know first.

1. What Are Solar Panels?

Solar panels are used to generate electricity from sunlight. Typically, they consist of a few dozen solar cells connected in series and/or parallel to create a higher voltage. This higher voltage is then used to power electrical appliances such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops. When connected to a larger circuit, they can also act as a power supply. For example, a 5kW solar panel system would supply enough electricity for a small home.

Solar panels come in different shapes and sizes, but are usually characterized by their ability to generate electricity versus capacity. For example, a 6.4-kW solar panel system installed on the roof of a home would generate approximately 64kW of electricity per day (the average US home uses 13.2kW). The larger the solar panel system, the more electricity it will generate and the less prone to damage it will be from the weather conditions. If you live somewhere cold, you will need to install a system that is smaller in size in order to prevent your home from being damaged by extreme temperatures (less heat generated = less risk of damage).

2. Why Should You Go Solar?

The main reason people are going solar is because it is now possible to generate your own clean electricity that is free. Most electricity providers charge you for what is called the “summer price” for electricity, which typically ranges between 12-14 cents per kWh in the summertime and 8-10 cents per kWh in the wintertime. The “summer price” is what electricity providers charge during the times when the sun is high in the sky and it is typically higher than the “winter price,” which is the rate they charge during the times when the sun is not high in the sky. This means that, over the course of a year, the amount you will save by generating your own electricity will far outweigh the cost of installing the system.

It is also possible to sell your excess electricity to electricity providers at the same price you paid for it, which is a great way to make money off unused solar power. For example, if you generate enough energy to meet your household’s needs, you can sell the rest to the grid for 14 cents per kWh. Not only will this money help you save but it will also help fund renewable energy projects.

3. How Many Days Will The Sun Come Up?

One of the most important things to consider when deciding to go solar is how much sunlight you will receive. In areas where the sun is high up in the sky, it will likely be bright and active for more than 6-7 hours each day in the summertime and for nearly all day in the wintertime. The more sunlight you receive, the more electricity you can generate. However, if you live in an area where the sun is not so high up in the sky, you will only be receiving limited sunlight and electricity generation will likely be less than optimal.

In these situations, you can increase your electricity generation by taking advantage of early morning and late night hours when the sun is at its peak. Typically, these hours fall between 6 am and 11 pm in the summertime and between 3 pm and 9 pm in the wintertime, which is why many people refer to them as the “Golden Hours.” If you try to generate electricity during these hours, you will likely find that it is more than sufficient to meet your needs. In some areas, there are also supplemental electric generators that can come on-line if the main supply is not enough.

4. What Is The Difference Between The Summertime & Wintertime?

If you are located in an area where the seasons change, you will need to take this into consideration when deciding on how large of a solar panel system to buy. In general, the summertime is characterized by longer hours of daylight and higher daytime temperatures while the wintertime is characterized by shorter hours of daylight, lower daytime temperatures, and a lot of clouds/rain/snow.

Because of this, if you are located in an area where the wintertime is approaching, you will need to buy a smaller solar panel system to prevent your electricity from being cut off by the grid. Alternatively, if you are located in an area where the summertime is approaching, you will need to buy a larger solar panel system to take advantage of the longer hours of daylight and higher daytime temperatures.

5. Should You Install Plastic (PVC) Or Vinyl Tiles?

Another important factor to consider when deciding on how much sunlight to allow into your home is the material used for the roof. Most homes have an artificial roof made of tile or plastic (commonly known as vinyl tiles) and the majority of these roofs are installed over concrete slabs. When it comes to solar energy, a tile roof will let in more light and allow for more electricity generation than a plastic roof as long as the same surface area is considered. If your home has a flat roof (metal or concrete), you should ask yourself whether or not you want to go solar because tiles will work perfectly on a flat roof while plastic will require an incline or a slope to work effectively (more on this in tip 6 below).

6. Should You Install Trombe Lights?

Trombe lights are any type of light that uses light diffusion technology to cast a soft, even light rather than a strong glow. Popularly used in yoga studios and meditation centers, trombe lights enable the practitioner to have a soft, pulsating light without interfering with their practice or the flow of their meditation. Some people also use trombe lights for scented candles as they emit a soft glow that does not disturb those who are trying to sleep nearby.

The advantage of trombe lights is that they do not need to be replaced as often as regular lights do and they do not consume as much energy while still producing a soft, even light. They also last longer as they do not deteriorate as quickly as regular lights do.

7. What Size Battery Should You Get?

The last but not the least important factor you need to consider when going solar is the size of the battery used to store the electricity generated by the sun. Generally, the larger the battery the more electricity you will have stored and the less prone you will be to power losses caused by sudden surges in power consumption (think: starting an electric appliance when the sun is not yet high in the sky). Batteries come in all sizes, but the most popular ones range from 12 volts to 36 volts and are frequently 12 volts due to the widespread availability of this type of battery. Regardless of the type of battery you buy, make sure that it is manufactured by a reputable company with a good reputation.

If you take these 7 things into consideration, you will be well on your way to deciding whether or not to install solar energy at your home. Just remember to be smart about where you put it (summertime in the northern hemisphere, wintertime in the southern hemisphere) and how big you make it (smaller systems are more efficient at generating electricity, but in areas where the sun does not provide enough light, larger systems can still produce power). Also, make sure to consult with an expert if you are deciding to take the plunge and go solar. They can help you find the best system for your needs and the size of your wallet!

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