What are Solar Panels?
Solar panels are comprised of many smaller units called photovoltaic cells (PV). These cells combine together to allow photons or particles of light to generate electrons free of atoms, thereby producing electricity. Metal conductive plates present on the sides of these cells help collect these electrons to transmit them through wires.
What are Photovoltaic Cells Made of?
Each photovoltaic cell is made up of two slices of semiconducting material, generally silicon. Since these cells need to establish an electromagnetic field to function, manufacturers mix other metals with the silicon, to give each slice of conductor a positive and negative electrical charge. The metals used are usually phosphorous for the top level of silicon, which adds extra electrons to that slice and hence gives it a negative charge. The lower level is mixed with boron, for a positive charge. Photovoltaic cells or PVs are measured in terms of kilowatts (KW).
What are the Different Types of Solar Panels?
There are mainly two types of solar panels to choose from:
- Photovoltaic Systems (PV): These are made of a cluster of PV cells, typically spread over a large area to generate enough power. Individual cells can produce electricity up to 1 to 2 watts. These cells are then connected to a series of larger modules to generate greater power.
- Solar Thermal Systems: Also known as solar water heating systems, these are made of large ‘collectors’ that are fitted on roofs; to heat water for immediate use or to be stored in large cylinders.
What are the Advantages of Solar Panels?
Some significant advantages of using solar panels are:
- Renewable Source of Energy: Sunlight is a renewable source of energy, available in abundance.
- Low Carbon Footprint: No greenhouse gases are emitted when you use solar energy, helping to reduce our carbon footprint on the planet. It is clean energy.
- Energy Savings: If electricity is produced in excess, it can be sent back to the grid.
- Lower Electricity Bills: Declining cost of solar panels and high energy savings can help you save a lot of money. Since solar power is expected to replace traditional electricity sources, at least to some extent, energy bills can be lowered.
- Easy Maintenance: They don’t require a lot of maintenance, except cleaning them once or twice a year. The most reliable solar panels come with a warranty for 20-25 years. They have no moving parts, so wear and tear are low.
- Tax Incentives: The US government offers homeowners tax benefits to install solar panels at their homes. Taxpayers can claim up to 30% of the installation costs for systems employed in service by December 31, 2019, under the federal tax credit system. Moreover, when a state has higher solar rankings, residents can get extra incentives from the US government, such as exemption from property tax and cash backs.
- Increase in Property Value: Installing solar panels can help raise the value of your residential value.
Do Solar Panels Really Help Save Money?
Yes, solar panels can help you save, and not just on electricity bills. However, the amount of savings depends on certain factors:
- Sunlight Exposure: The more the sunlight, the more energy will be produced. States like Florida have more sunlight hours per day. Also, the orientation of homes as regards to the sunlight is vital, as are the type and size of rooftops.
- Solar Panel Cost: The size of the solar panels will depend on the energy requirements. Installation requires a certain amount of investment. However, most systems are created to last up to 20-25 years and require low maintenance.
- Incentives: The US government offers tax incentives for investing in solar panels. Many states with good solar ratings also have extra incentives from the government. In some states, homeowners can sell off the extra electricity generated to local power companies (if the system is connected to a grid).