Solar Panel Direction by Zip Code

You probably feel a bit confused by this title, thinking how it is that the direction of solar panels is connected to some specific zip code. Well, if you want your solar installation to provide you with the best possible production, you need to establish what the proper solar panel angle for your location is. And the zip code will pretty much tell you everything you need to know regarding this subject.

The importance of solar panel direction by zip code

There are several factors that will affect the level of productivity your solar system can provide. And there are things you can and those you cannot influence. For example – the weather and its movement are not something that’s possible to control, but the angle at which your panels will be elevated definitely is. And that’s something that can play a crucial role in generating more energy from the sun.

Now, when installing solar panels for home usage on top of the roof, you need to take into consideration that every location is different, and that something that’s a good solution in one state won’t be equally appreciated and effective in another. That’s because of the average position of the sun that’s different in every place.

It is extremely important to establish what’s the best angle in which to position the solar panels in order to make sure they can bring the maximum out of the system. But that can be quite challenging and hard. You see, there is no one ideal position for solar panels given that the weather is always changing, and seasons are rotating nonstop. What’s a good angle for long summer days isn’t the best one for those short winter and fall daytime hours.

The solar panel experts claim that you can manage to find an adequate angle for your solar construction based on zip code. But let’s first establish why it is important for solar panels to be positioned under a certain angle, how you can calculate it, and what you will achieve by doing so.

Why do solar panels need to be installed at a certain angle?

As you can suspect, the answer is pretty simple. Solar panels don’t need to be but should be positioned with a tilt angle so they could get better exposure towards the sun. The idea behind the solar system is to provide solar cells with as much sunlight as possible, in order for them to generate as much electricity as possible.

The fact that the sun is moving throughout the day, as well as throughout the seasons, can make it tricky to establish the optimal solar panel angle, the one that could provide you with the most effective solar system all the time. It would be good for you to be able to change it several times during the year, but if you are not in a position to do that, then you just have to place it at an optimal angle for the most relevant season.

During the summer, the sun is the highest, while during the winter, it has the lowest position. The middle-ground between these two extremes is believed to be an optimal angle for photovoltaic panels. Of course, it needs to be in correspondence with the latitude of the location of the solar panels. According to experts, if you take all that into consideration and tilt your solar system at that average angle, you will have the best possible output.

How to calculate the ideal solar panel angle?

In order to get the exact number of degrees you can consider to be optimal for the angle of your solar panels, you can use a solar panel angle calculator, or you can do the match on your own. There are two main methods you can use in order to do that. But bear in mind that there is a difference in calculating the optimal title angle for the summer season and the one for the winter season.

The first method implies you take the latitude of the solar panel system location, and then subtract 15° to get an adequate angle for summer. For winter days, you should add 15° on your location’s latitude, while for spring and fall season, it would be best to simply subtract 2.5°. But, evidently, this method is not the most reliable one.

The other system you can use for angle calculation purposes will also establish the right tilt angle for each season, but it will also tell you what the best angle for the midday sun – the hottest period of each day is. You will need to know the latitude of the place once again, then to multiply it by 0.9, and finally to subtract 23.5° in order to get the right number for summertime. For winter, repeat the first step and multiply the latitude by 0.9, and then add 29°.

What are solar trackers?

Solar trackers are devices that will do all the work regarding tilting solar panels in the best possible way on their own. If you own solar trackers, you won’t have to change the position of your solar panels manually every few months so that they can deliver the best output. Instead, trackers will make sure they are always at an optimal angle, working their best.

We are talking about a system that’s designed to constantly follow the movement of the sun in the sky in order to collect the highest amount of sunrays during each day, no matter the season. But there’s a catch. They can be used only for ground-mounted solar systems, and as you know, most households have solar panels on top of their roofs.

 

On the other hand, even if you have solar panels placed in the ground, you should probably think twice about purchasing solar trackers, given they are pretty expensive. They will most definitely make you overstep the budget you have established. The question is, are they worth it? Well, they are a great investment for commercial projects for sure, because these objects need to bring the maximum output all the time, but when it comes to home-related solar systems, they are really not that necessary. If you know what’s the right angle for your solar panels based on the zip code, you are covered.

What Other Factors Affect Solar Panel Angle?

When deciding how to install your solar panel system, you should consider several other things that can affect their angle:

The design of the roof

Most people decide to place a solar installation on the roof, given it won’t be on their way, and it will have the best possible exposure to the sun. Now, roofs usually have an inclination of 30 to 40 degrees, and in that case, solar panels will most likely get enough sunlight, even if they lie flat. But if the inclination is bigger, there’s a chance you won’t be able to get the best possible tilt angle for your panels.

In those cases, it can happen that the optimal angle of solar panels is lower than the roof angle. The solar experts say that the best solution in that scenario would be to leave them flat on the roof. Other extreme implies you have a low angle roof. This is definitely the better option given you can manage to achieve having the best angle for your solar panels, but that will take some time and some money.

If your roof has a very small inclination, you will have to build a specially designed racking system that will hold solar panels the right way, under the right angle. It would not be good to place the solar system directly on the roof of that king because you will always have lower output.

But the worst possible scenario is the one where you want to install solar panels on top of a completely flat roof. In that case, you will absolutely need the racking system, it won’t be a question at all. Only that way, you will be able to set solar panels at an angle you believe is the right one for your place and the season that’s coming.

Solar panels direction

Besides the tilt angle, the outcome of your solar system can depend a lot on the direction of solar panels. Here we are talking about the Azimuth angle, which is actually a horizontal orientation of panels in relation to the equator. This aspect is perhaps more important than the optimal angle because if your solar system is not well-oriented, everything else will be less relevant.

According to solar experts, solar panels should always be oriented towards the equator. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you should position your panels in a way they always face south, and if you are in the southern hemisphere, shift the solar panels, so they face north.

In case you want to check with a compass in what direction to turn your panels bear in mind that they are not always very reliable. Their inaccuracy can go up to 25 percent, but that’s not that often. Even if they miss to point to the north or south precisely, and their inaccuracy is around 10 percent, that won’t interfere with the outcome of your solar system.

Snow

During the winter months, the sun is pretty low in its position, and most people tend to lower the angle of their solar panels as well, in order for them to have the best possible exposure to the sun. But there is one problem – when the snow starts falling, it will probably fully cover the panels system.

So if you want them to continue to work even when the weather is bad, you will have to remove the snow from them or simply adjust the angle in a way that will allow the snow to slide off solar panels on its own. People who live in areas where it regularly snows during the winter keep the panels at a steep angle all the time.

Temperature

Solar panels are made to withstand different weather conditions, including high temperatures. But it can happen that in some places where the temperature goes extremely high, solar panels get negatively affected by it and fail to deliver the expected output. Because of that, people in some states need to make sure there is airflow around their solar installation so that it can work properly and generate electricity at the expected level.

 

Solar Panel Angle by Zip Code

In order to make sure you have the best possible results each season, you should check what’s the optimal solar panel angle for your location by zip code, and hold onto that. The solar experts calculated what is the best angle for each state and city by using a solar panel direction calculator, so you don’t have to do the work on your own.

Now, if you are not in a position to change the angle of your solar panels each season, you should just keep them set up for the season that lasts the longest, or for the one during which you need your system to be the most productive. That usually means keeping solar panels tilted at the angle suitable for the summer.

If you wonder what the angles for some of the cities in the US are, we can tell you that, for instance, the optimal angle for summer in Atlanta is 80°, while for winter, it’s 32°. For Indianapolis, the recommended summer angle is 74°, and for winter 26, for Portland, it’s 68° during summer, and 46° during winter days, etc.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the decision to install solar panels was the right one. Thanks to this move of yours, you will be protecting the environment, and at the same time saving a lot of money on electricity bills. Now you should just make sure you get the maximum out of your investment, and that means adjusting the system in a way that will provide you with the best possible energy output. The tilt angle of solar panels is a crucial part of that process, and we wanted to make sure you know that. All you have to do is to establish what is the optimal angle for panels based on your zip code or to simply calculate it by using one of the two methods we explained above in the text.

On-Grid vs Off-Grid Solar Power Systems

There is no doubt that going solar was the right decision for you. The benefits of relying on the power of the sun are numerous, and they will bring a lot of satisfaction in your life. Now, before you install the whole construction, you need to decide whether you are going for an on-grid or an off-grid solar power system. We are here to point out all the differences between these two in order to help you choose the right one.

Off-Grid and On-Grid Solar Energy Definitions

You should know that every solar-powered system works the same way. First, solar panels generate sunlight and transform it into DC power. Then, that power goes through a solar inverter that changes it to the AC power. You can choose whether you want to use that power immediately for your home appliances or to store it into the battery. That’s an off-grid solar system, and it means that you are relying solely on the power of the sun. The on-grid technology implies basing your electricity consumption on what your solar panels produced, but being connected to the grid as well and pulling out some of the regular electricity from it in case you need more. Now, here are the four main differences between the on-grid solar system and an off-grid one.

Differences

1. Access to Electricity

When it comes to the off-grid power system, you are entirely reliant on the power of the sun. That means that you won’t have any access to the electricity, and your home appliances will work only if the solar panel installation provided enough capacity. In this case, you need to have a solar storage device like a solar battery where the power will be kept for those occasions when the system is not working, like during the night time. Also, when it’s cloudy outside, you will have less or no electricity, so your appliances may not work, or at least all of them. That’s one of the biggest disadvantages of this type of solar system. All you can count on is what you’re producing and how much electricity you have stored.

The on-grid solar system will provide you with electricity no matter what. Even in situations when your solar panels are not converting enough power, or if you don’t have anything stored in batteries. You can simply pull some electricity from the utility grid in order to complement your needs. That way, your heat will always be on, and all of your machines will be working. The only problem you may face is when the power goes down.

2. Excess Production

Solar panel systems are designed to bring enough energy for your household for it to work normally. The experts who are doing the assessment will determine how big and how strong the installation you need. But these numbers cannot be super precise, and there will be days when you will create more electricity than you actually need. Now, the question is, what happens in that case, where this excess electricity goes? In the case of an off-grid solar power system, that energy will go straight to the solar battery. It will be stored there until you need to use it – when the system is not producing energy, which means during the night or cloudy weather. These systems are actually designed to produce some extra electricity for those situations. Most off-grid installations are designed to provide you with non-stop power. But since the weather is unpredictable, it may happen you don’t have enough energy all the time.

When it comes to on-grid systems, the chances of that happening are zero. We established that you will always have enough power by taking some from the utility grid if you need it, but the question is – where the surplus goes? The answer is – into the grid. You can choose to deliver everything your solar installation converted, and you don’t actually need to the public utility grid for which you will be compensated through net metering. That means that you will get credits by the utility company so that when you need to pull out some of it for your home needs, you won’t be charged for that certain amount based on those credits.

3. What if the Grid Goes Down?

If you are off the grid, your solar panels will be producing electricity no matter what, only if there’s enough sunlight coming from the sky. So in case there’s a power outage out there, you won’t even know. Your system will be working independently from the public utility grid, and you won’t be disturbed by the fact the whole electrical system went down.

But when it comes to on-grid households, the story is completely different. People who chose to have full access to the grid and to take some of the electricity whenever they need it will be in a problem in case of the power outage. They won’t have electricity at all unless they are proud owners of a grid-tied system that includes battery storage. The system is designed that way in order to protect the safety of utility workers who need to fix the power line.

4. Electricity Bills

The things are very simple here – if you are not connected to the grid, and you have an off-grid installation on top of your roof, you won’t be served with an electricity bill because there’s no way you could spend any of the utility electrical power.

However, the on-grid households will have some charges each month, at least the minimal ones, even if their system provided them with 100 percent of electricity. One of them is the delivery charge or service fee, which is actually the cost you need to pay for connecting your system to the grid. Usually, it is a flat rate, and it won’t change no matter how much electricity you are pulling from the grid. The other type of charge is the demand charge, which is most commonly tied only to commercial properties, and it’s based on the increased electric rate for the power you used during the peak demand period. This period is a short time frame during which your business uses the most electricity.  Now, if that period is during the day, you can lower your costs by simply relying more on your solar system, but if it’s during the night, and your demand charges are really high, you can think about investing in a solar battery and drawing the energy from it.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are some advantages and some disadvantages to both on-grid and off-grid solar power systems. With the first one, you will never have to worry about running out of electricity, but you will also never experience that sort of freedom off-grid construction can offer you. With an on-grid system, you will be able to lower the expenses and even save some money, while off-grid ones are pretty expensive to start with, given they need storage batteries and some other investments. In the end, it is a matter of personal preferences which one you will choose as a solution for your home or your business.

What are Solar Panels Made of?

Energy from the Sun is not only freely available but also the most abundant form of energy on the planet. The Earth receives twenty-five times more power from the Sun than we use in the world every day. To harness some of that energy, we use solar panels

Solar energy’s contribution to the total energy supply of humanity has grown significantly in the last couple of decades. In this article, we’ll deal with how solar panels are made as well as how their photovoltaic cells produce electricity.

How are Solar Panels Made?

To utilize the plentiful energy provided by our Sun, we require the help of one of the most abundant materials on earth – sand. Sand has to be converted to 99.999% pure silicon crystals to use in solar cells and has to go through a complex purification process to achieve this. The process consists of mixing it with carbon and applying temperatures of up to 2000°C. 

The result is a gaseous silicon compound form that the raw silicon gets converted to, which is then mixed with hydrogen to obtain highly purified polycrystalline silicon. Scientists then reshape these silicon ingots and turn them into silicon wafers – very thin slices of silicon. The silicon wafer is the heart of a photovoltaic cell. 

If you were to look into the structure of the silicon molecule, you would see that the atoms bond together, which means the electrons in the structure lose their freedom of movement. A sufficient amount of energy needs to be added to the system to allow the particles to move freely. This is where the Sun comes in. 

How do Solar Cells Work?

When sunlight strikes the silicon, the electrons will gain photon energy and will be free to move once again. However, at this moment, the movement of the particles is random, and it does not result in any current through the load. 

A driving force is needed to ensure the unidirectional flow of electrons. An easy and practical way to produce the driving force is a P-N junction. Boron, with three valence electrons, is injected into pure silicon to create ‘holes’ for the particles to move towards. When these two materials are connected, some electrons will migrate into this positively-charged region and fill the holes available there. This creates a depletion region with no free electrons and holes.

Due to the electron migration, the boundary of the negative side becomes slightly positively charged, while the positive side becomes slightly negatively charged. Fundamental physics tells us that an electric field will form between these charges. This is the electric field that produces the necessary driving force to move the electrons in our desired direction. 

When light strikes the solar panel, it hits the negatively-charged region of the PV-cell, called the N-region, and it penetrates it, reaching down to the depletion region. The energy inserted into the system in this way is enough to generate electron-hole pairs in the depletion region. 

Holes and electrons are driven out of the depletion region by this electric field, increasing the concentration of both the electrons in the N-region as well as holes in the P-region. This creates a difference between them, which allows the electrons from the N-region to flow through the load we connect to the panel and complete their path, recombining with the holes in the P-region. This is how a solar cell continuously gives a direct current.

In a practical solar cell, the top N-Layer is very thin and abundant with electrons, whereas the P-layer is a lot thicker. Solar cells are constructed in this way to increase their performance. In this type of arrangement, the electron-hole pairs are generated in a broader area, resulting in more current generation by the PV cell. The other advantage is that due to the thin top layer, more light energy can reach the depletion region. 

Solar Panel Materials

A solar panel has several layers. One of them is a layer of cells, connected in series through copper strips. Another is a layer of EVA sheeting on each side of the cells to protect them from dirt, humidity, vibrations, and shocks. 

For ground-mounted or rooftop installations, two main types of solar panels exist– thin-film and crystalline silicon.

Crystalline silicon solar modules are the most common. They look like black or blue rectangular grids consisting of smaller square-shaped cells. Those are silicon solar cells, and they link together in a series to form a circuit—the more interconnected cells in a series, the more electricity produced by the system. 

When you connect these series-connected solar cells parallel to another cell series, you get the solar panel. Only around 0.5V is produced by a single photovoltaic cell. The combination of parallel and series connection of the cells increases the current and voltage values to a usable range. 

Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline

Two types of crystalline silicon designs exist – monocrystalline and polycrystalline. The difference between the internal crystalline lattice structure leads to different appearances between these two types of panels. Even though the principles of operation do not differ, monocrystalline cells are capable of producing higher electrical conductivity. On the other hand, their more complex production process makes monocrystalline cells costlier, which contributes to their more limited use.

Molten silicon is poured into a cast to create polycrystalline solar cells. Because of this method of construction, however, the crystal structure forms imperfectly, with randomly oriented crystals showing clear boundaries where the crystal formation was broken. This gives the polycrystalline silicon solar panel its distinctive grainy appearance, as the gemstone-type pattern highlights the boundaries in the crystal. The lower efficiency and lower price of polycrystalline modules are due to these impurities.

Monocrystalline silicon solar is created by growing a single crystal. In a monocrystalline solar cell, the crystal framework produces a uniform blue color without any grain marks, giving the highest efficiency levels and best purity.

Less Common Variants

The other type of modules – thin film, are more traditionally used in large utility-scale installations. A thin semiconductor adheres to the metal foil, plastic, or glass substrates. As its name suggests, the thin film can be fragile and sometimes flexible. Its lightweight and flexibility have led to its use on automobiles, curved roofs, and other unique installations.

Most solar panels consist of solar cells with a glass layer on the front and a protective back sheet on the rear. With new bifacial designs, where solar cells are exposed on both the front and back sides of the panel, back sheets are no longer needed. Some manufacturers are also deciding to go frameless, choosing to either use sturdier back sheets that don’t warrant a frame or sandwich solar cells between two pieces of glass.

Conclusion

It all sounds relatively simple. All you need is a semi-conductor for the photovoltaic effect, and a conductor to allow electricity to flow, but don’t think you can build your own solar panels just yet. 

There are a lot of details at play when it comes to any decent level of efficiency, and that is a real engineering challenge. The basic idea is simple, but the details are incredibly tricky. Complexity aside, solar energy provides a sustainable way to power our lives, and all that is thanks to silicon, the Sun, and some intelligent engineering.

What is a Solar Inverter, and What is its Purpose?

solar inverter working process

Everybody who becomes interested in installing a solar panel system heard about solar inverters, but as it turns out, it’s quite often that people don’t really get what its function is, and why this part of the equipment is essential to any sort of solar installation. That’s why we decided to explain to you thoroughly what a solar inverter is, how does it work, what its purpose is, and how you can connect it to solar panels.

What is a solar inverter?

The solar inverter is often called the brain of the solar project and with a reason. It has an extremely important role in every solar installation, no matter how small it is. That means that solar inverter needs to be part of every residential solar panel construction, as well as part of a utility power plant. It is the piece of the puzzle that will allow you to actually use the power of the sun that your solar panels collected, for lighting up your space and using all the electrical appliances.

man working on solar inverter wearing protective gloves

What is the purpose of a solar inverter?

The main function and purpose of a solar inverter is to change or invert the direct current (DC) power solar panels made into the alternating current (AC). Since almost all homes, appliances, and businesses are based on AC usage, the inverters are a certain type of a bond, so-called gateway, between the photovoltaic system and all energy off-takers. Now, given that inverter technologies are very advanced nowadays, besides their primary function, they can provide you with much more. They can offer you advanced utility control, as well as data monitoring, which is crucial for the inverter to make sure it will operate at the expected performance level.

How does solar inverter work?

The first thing an inverter does is inverting direct current generated by solar panels into the alternating current. After it created the right power input, the inverter will send it into the fusebox in order for it to be delivered to your home or building efficiently. The AC will be received by the switchboard, after which all the appliances in your home can start using it in the proper way. Now, if your solar panel system creates more electricity than you need, the surplus will be sent to the grid, or to the battery storage system, depending on how you set up this part to work.

Why do solar cells need an inverter?

Solar cells need an inverter to turn the DC power into the AC energy. Solar panels are collecting energy provided by the sun, after which they will start generating it into electricity. But they are not capable of creating an alternating current. They will provide you with direct current only, which means you need a solar inverter that has the capacity to make this much-needed shift from DC to AC.

women analysing solar inverter

How to connect a solar panel to battery and inverter?

This procedure might be a bit different in some cases, depending on what type of solar system you purchased and installed, but in general, these are the steps you need to take. First, you have to connect the panels to a battery bank, but make sure the output voltage from the panels is the same as the voltage of the battery bank. Then, you should connect the panels to a charge controller. Bear in mind that the controller should be placed close to the battery. The next step implies creating a connection between the charge controller and battery bank. This is a very important part because the controller will protect your battery from overcharging. In the end, you have to connect the battery bank to the solar inverter that will convert the DC cumulated inside of the battery to the AC you can use in your space. If the inverter is programmed to send the excess power to the grid, it will do that automatically.

What is the purpose of a solar inverter?

In the end, let’s summarize what the purpose of a solar inverter is. It will convert DC to AC and allow you to use the power solar panels gather from the sun. Also, it will identify the maximum power output and keep the performance level of the whole solar system consistent. The inverter will allow you to keep track of the power output of your solar system, so you will be able to know all about diagnostics, error codes, and power production information. And in case of an electrical arc, it will automatically shut down, and therefore protect the whole solar system from endangerment. 

 

Submersible Solar Water Pump vs Surface Water Pump

solar water pump

If you are thinking about installing a water pump in your pool, pond, birds bath, or some other water-based construction, you have two options – you can choose to use a submersible water pump, or a surface mounted water pump. And just like with any other product, there are some advantages and some shortcomings that each solution brings. Also, which one of them to choose will mostly depend on your specific situation and your needs.

Surface solar water pump

The surface water pump is usually very easy to install, and you will be able to access it at any moment. But since it is upon the surface of the water, it will be in constant contact with all sorts of weather conditions – rain, snow, storm, etc. Also, since it is approachable, it will be exposed to the possibility of vandalism.

The wintertime can be really problematic for this type of water pump, it can severely affect its performance. In case of extremely low temperatures, the water will start freezing, and since the pump is positioned on the pathway of the newly created ice layer, it may happen that water trapped inside of the pump freezes too. And that sort of thing can damage the pump gravely.

Another problem is that these pumps are not shielded and protected like the submersible ones, they are on the water’s surface, exposed to thunderstorms, floods, wildlife, or irresponsible behavior of people. And according to experts in this field, surface water pumps use a great amount of energy, which will be visible on your electricity bill for sure.

Submersible Solar Water Pumps

When it comes to submersible water pumps, they need to be completely submerged into the water so that they can work properly. There’s always information on what’s the minimum water level they need to be provided with. Their greatest benefit is their efficiency, since the water will come naturally into the pump, and you won’t need any sort of energy applied in order to make it go the right way.

Since submersible pumps are placed under the water, they won’t be exposed to any sort of danger brought by climate, but also caused by people or animals. It’s just extremely important to make sure the water level is always appropriate, or that your pump has an auto shut off system that will prevent it from working in case there’s not enough water in a tank. That way, you will prolong its lifespan.

Also, submersible water pumps are much quieter than surface mounted ones, so if you would like to retain the silent and undisturbing atmosphere in your backyard that’s followed with nothing but the sounds of nature, this is a much better choice for you.

Conclusion

Now, let us be clear – both submersible and surface water pumps are great electricity spenders, which is why many people decide to give up on their purchase and postpone their decision in this matter. But they can now be relieved because modern-day life brought us solar powered water pumps that work only on electricity provided by the sun, and generated by solar panels. They work completely the same way as the regular water pumps, with a slight difference – it won’t cost you a thing.

What are Solar Panel Carports?

If you are thinking about building a patio cover or carport in order to provide shade and weather protection for your vehicles, you should definitely consider taking it all to the next level and transforming this simple construction into a solar station. We are talking about solar canopies that are also called carports. But what is a carport? If you want to find out more about this topic, just keep on reading.

Solar carport definition

The solar carport is an overhead canopy placed above a parking place that has the purpose of providing shelter for your car, boat, tractor, or some other vehicle, but also to generate and transform the sun’s power into usable electricity. These things are actually a sort of upgraded traditional carports based on solar technology that’s becoming bigger and bigger part of our lives, just as it should given all the advantages it has to offer.

Solar carports or solar driveways are quite different from panels installed on top of already existing carport structures, but they are similar to ground mount solar panels. The main thing that makes them distinctive and different than a classic solar system is that solar carports don’t need a surface on which solar panels will be mounted. That is a huge benefit money-wise, given you won’t have to build base or construction that will have a capacity to hold them – panels themselves will be the actual roof.

And if you compare solar carports to the ground-mounted system, you will see that they don’t need any additional space like these ground-based constructions just so they can be placed and able to work. Solar carports are more space-efficient, there is no doubt about that. But other than that, and the fact that they are positioned in a certain height and not at the ground, they are pretty similar to ground panels.

Commercial vs. residential carport

After we are finished with the carport definition, let’s see what types of carports there are. Carports can have different sizes and layouts available. It all depends on whether you need a commercial or residential solar canopy. In the United States, the first ones are way more popular, many corporations, recreation centers, schools, stadiums, and other facilities already decided to install carports with solar panels above their parking lots. 

Photovoltaic canopies can have one, two, or three rows, depending on how big of a marquee you need. The fact is, when it comes to commercial solar carports, the amount of electricity they can generate can power up the entire house. But there’s another thing you should know – these solar constructions can be set up in different angles, which might affect the electricity production process.

The panels can be places almost totally flat, in order to provide the more shaded place in a parking lot, they can be slightly curved on the edges, or positioned under a significant angle (most residential carports look like that).

Residential canopies are still not as popular as commercial ones, but they are on their way to conquer the world. More and more people are becoming aware of their advantages and starting to build these constructions at their home. And in one thing they are certainly way better than the carports companies are usually building – they will cost less to be set up for a private purpose only.

If you wonder why the answer is simple. Because they need to cover a huge area. When they are built-in commercial places, solar carports have to have a stable and durable steel metal foundation, which automatically raises the price of installation significantly.

What is the difference between a solar carport and a regular rooftop solar system?

People usually assume those who decided to install a ground mount solar system or solar carport were not allowed to implement a rooftop solar system, but that’s not true. There are many reasons these are better solutions than classic roof-based solar construction.

First of all, the standard solar system sometimes isn’t big enough to generate the right amount of electricity, because the house roof doesn’t have enough room to welcome the right number of panels. This usually won’t be the problem with solar canopies or ground mound systems. Then, you can easily set the right angle and orientation for the solar carport by adjusting the construction that holds it, but you cannot do that with the rooftop system, it’s unchangeable and inflexible.

The truth is, at this moment, installing a solar carport would cost you more than setting up the traditional solar system, or ground mount. But the experts predict their prices will go down drastically in the next few years, so it will be a viable option for most American households.

The fact is that all the electricity that can be produced thanks to the solar carports can be used just like any other solar energy. You will be able to power up your house and the backyard, to save the surplus in the battery storage or to exchange it for credits in a grid.

How to install solar carport?

Solar carports are still pretty much the new thing in the solar market, so there is not enough information about how to set up one for your home. Not enough people had the opportunity to do this, so you will probably have a hard time finding a good recommendation for the professional installer. But the fact is most of the companies that have ground mount solar as part of their offer should know how to set up solar carports as well. 

If, however, you are thinking about doing it by yourself, as a DIY project, you should probably first try with the smaller off-grid canopy. The one that can power up your entire home will be quite challenging for a non-professional.

Conclusion

The fact is, solar is our future, and this is just another example of that. There are tremendous benefits of having a solar panel system on top of a marquee instead of having just a useless piece of metal, wood, plastic, or any other material. These solar canopies can provide you with electricity while protecting your vehicles from different weather conditions, and they are very reliable and require little maintenance. And if you decide to add battery storage, you will make them absolutely trustworthy, since you will be able to use the power they generate 24/7.

Top 10 Surprising Facts About Solar Energy

We use solar technology to harness the energy of the sun and make it usable in everyday applications. The Sun’s power is so abundant that being able to utilize even a tiny percentage could potentially solve all of our energy-related problems.

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve heard of photovoltaic (PV) cells, otherwise known as solar cells, which we most commonly see as parts of a larger structure that is the solar panel. Solar panels are seen in a variety of applications, ranging from handheld calculators, through rooftops to spacecraft and satellites.

Photovoltaic cells are made of the same materials we use to create computer chips – semiconductors. When sunlight reaches the cell at the end of its 100-million-mile-long journey, it uses its energy to knock electrons loose from their atoms. These electrons generate electricity as they flow through the cell.

Making the switch to solar energy promises many advantages, such as allowing you to help the environment and save money in the process. It may have a few limitations as well since it depends not only on how long the day is but weather conditions and even the position of your house. 

You might think you already know a lot about solar energy, but in this article, we’re going to deal with some of the lesser-known facts about solar power that you might find interesting.

1. China is the Global Leader in Renewable Energy

Even though we often think of China as the country with the highest amount of carbon emissions, it is also the largest producer of renewable energy in the world. For the last several years, this country has been leading the charge in terms of renewable energy use according to UN reports. 

In terms of investments in renewable energy, China contributes to nearly a third of it worldwide. This has led to an increase in electric vehicle sales in this country as well. 

2. Utilities Offer Solar Options

If you want to go solar, your best bet is probably a rooftop system. However, in a growing number of places, you can opt to get all of your electricity from solar panels even if your home is not suitable for installing them. 

States like Minnesota and Massachusetts are coming up with community solar projects allowing consumers to purchase energy from this source. Aside from this, there are many utility companies nationwide offering customers the option of sourcing their electricity from solar or wind for an extra fee. 

3. More of Your Neighbors Are Using Solar Power Than You Probably Think

When we think of solar power, the image of large solar installation in the middle of the desert comes to mind for many of us. However, the thing that is really changing the way we look at energy is distributed solar.

From panels deployed on your local big-box retailer to home rooftops, these projects are spread all over. According to the latest reports, Apple, Walmart, and Target are the most significant corporate energy buyers, but more and more residential applications are popping up all over the place.

4. Chernobyl Is a Renewable Energy Haven

The catastrophe at Chernobyl might be the greatest hazard the world has faced in the last 50 years. However, the entire area is now open for tourists and visitors, and the Ukrainian government has decided to make the best of a dire situation.

Not much can be built in the area due to radioactive waste, and that’s where wind turbines and solar panels come in. The Ukrainians plan to install over 1,000 miles of solar panels, and if all goes according to plan, they will expand the project to produce over 100 megawatts.

5. There Are Many Financing Options

You can rent your roof and have solar panels installed for free. The biggest problem with renewable energy is that most households can’t afford the cut on electricity and gas because solar panels come with a hefty initial investment. 

The good news is that if you can’t afford them, there’s an option to rent your rooftop and have them installed for free. All this means is that you split the energy they produce and benefit from them as well. Switching to 50% solar energy use can save you a few hundred dollars on your bills in the long run.

6. Facebook Runs on Renewable Energy

Social media doesn’t only require the internet to operate. They are massive corporations with headquarter buildings and servers to keep them running. With over 2 billion users worldwide, Facebook needs a lot of energy, which means they have large electricity bills to pay.

In 2018, Facebook announced that all of its offices and data centers would run on 100% renewable energy by 2020. It has been an ambitious plan, but it showed that not only big plants and polluting industries need to change the way they source their energy.

7. Solar Panels surround the Pyramids of Giza

Tourism may not be the first thing on your mind when you think about solar energy. Still, as wind turbines and solar panels are becoming more popular, they might ruin some of your Instagram pictures when you visit famous landmarks such as the Pyramids of Giza.

Yes, Egypt is also investing heavily in solar panels, and they’ve put them around the pyramids. They have the potential to produce over half of their electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030 and could reduce energy bills up to 900 million dollars annually.

8. Solar Cells can be Organic

With the solar industry booming, scientists are looking for new options to replace the traditional silicon cells. Ideally, the replacement would be more efficient, less costly, and more environmentally friendly. Some scientists seem to believe that semiconducting organic materials may be the solution to this problem.

Organic solar cells could become a readily available and environmentally safe option for large scale projects. They can be manufactured quickly and easily, but the efficiency and long term reliability of these cells are still debatable.

9. Solar Power Can Be Used to Desalinate Water

Solar energy can make drinking water from seawater. As many areas around the world face an increasing shortage of fresh water, this could be the solution to one of the world’s most immediate problems.

While conventional desalination is an energy-demanding and expensive process, solar-powered desalination could be an excellent chance to build our water supply. It could do so while maintaining low emissions, and perhaps more importantly, a low cost.

10. It is Cheaper Than You Think

The cost of solar panels has plummeted by over 80% in the last ten years, and it is expected to continue this trend in the years to come. The price of commercially-available solar technology is expected to decrease by around 5% annually, meaning that more and more people will be able to afford it in the future.

The falling costs will most likely boost the development of technology, and studies predict that by 2050, photovoltaic systems could supply up to 70% of the world’s electricity. We could rely entirely on renewable energy in the future, as it is likely to become more cost-effective than nuclear power and fossil fuels combined.

How to Become a Solar Installer and Get Your Certification?

The solar industry is one of the fastest-growing and the most prospective ones, so it’s not surprising many people are thinking about finding their new calling in this field. Given that solar installers and technicians are highly sought, it’s not a surprise there is an increased interest in how to become a solar system expert and make a living out of it.

Many of those who are in this business claim that becoming a solar installer is the best way to enter this field and learn how to make progress in it. It’s the best possible path for those who really want to master the knowledge of the solar system. So if you have decided renewable solar energy is your future, we will give you a full and detailed guide on how to become a solar energy technician and how to get solar certification the proper way.

Installing Process

The professional solar installer has two main tasks1. to set up the solar systems and to 2. maintain those that are already in place. When it comes to this first assignment, it’s necessary for this person to properly access the location of the client’s home and to design the whole system based on specific site characteristics. After that, they need to explain to their customers how to get all the needed permits, or to do it for them, if that’s the agreement.

The next step is assembling the firm and reliable structural frame that will hold the solar system in place, attaching the solar panels on the house roof or ground mounts, and connecting and wiring all pieces together, including the inverter. The good solar technician will check the equipment and the materials first in order to make sure everything is aligned with safety compliances.

But let us get back to the first and the most important thing. People don’t know much about solar panel specifications, they don’t know what exactly they need regarding the solar panel type or the way the system needs to be positioned in order to be most effective. That’s where your job as a solar installer starts. You have to know how much sunlight there is during the day, at the specific location, and what solar system would be the best one to install. Also, it’s up to you to determine the precise angle and position of the panels so they can get the most exposure. Sometimes, the solar system is not the right choice for a household, and you should be the one accessing that.

Maintenance Tasks

As we already said, besides installing the new solar systems, the solar technician’s job description is also its maintenance. So when the house owner who has solar panels calls them to do the regular check-up, they need to go to the field and provide this service. If we are talking about a small project, they will go and do it by themselves, but if it’s a huge installment, then they will need the help of several colleagues.

Both installing and maintaining a solar system is a dangerous job because these people usually need to climb up to the house’s or building’s roof where solar panels are. They have to take all the safety measures in order to make sure they will not fall or hurt themselves any other way. There is a possibility something isn’t right with the electrical wiring, so they have to be very skilled and avoid electrical shocks or burns from hot equipment. So paying attention to the details and great knowledge of this field is a must.

Solar installers work on residential, commercial, and industrial sites. When it comes to maintenance they usually start by checking up the structure that holds solar panels, then they evaluate the state of every panel, if they work as they should, or if there is something that keeps them from being full efficient, after which they need to control the connections that bring generated power to the building systems or the electrical grid.

Duties of Solar Installer

So let’s sum up all the duties, and task certified solar technicians have. He needs to 1. talk to the customers and see what exactly they want to accomplish by installing the solar system. Then, based on that, his knowledge, and the assessment of the location, he has to create a solar configuration that will be aligned with all the demands and possibilities.

2. The second part includes measuring the roof and cutting and creating the support structure that will hold the solar system. This part needs to be impeccable in order for you, as an installer, can guarantee safety. At the same time, you have to make sure all of that – the base structure, solar modules, and solar panels are in accordance with standards and building codes.

The next step includes 3. placing solar panels at the right spot, securing them, and connecting them to the electrical grid. Then there is a 4. verifying process of their performance, activation of the system, as well as testing part. The solar installer has an obligation to make sure everything is working flawlessly before going off the site. After that, from time to time, his job is to come back and 5. provide professional maintenance.

Now, to do all this, solar installers will need some tools. They usually use basic hand and power items that can help them install the solar panels. We are talking about drills, saws, wrenches, screwdrivers, etc. Beginners will mostly be in charge only of some simple tasks like placing the support structure in the right spot, or attaching solar panels, while the more experienced professionals will do the hard parts like connecting the electrical components with the equipment. Depending on the state law, what it allows or not allows, the solar installer will sometimes connect the solar system to the grid, but mostly it will be the job for an electrician.

Education

If you want to become a solar installer, you will need a high school diploma, at least. You can rely on the practice and learn how to do this job over the years by simply repeating the actions numerous times, or, you can get your solar panel installation certification by finishing some courses or programs specialized in this field.

No matter where they choose to gain their knowledge, future solar installers will certainly get to learn the basics of electricity, as well as advanced cognition about solar energy and solar systems in general. There are many schools – trade schools and community colleges mostly that offer certificate programs that can provide you with all the necessary skills you will need to have to become a solar technician.

These courses can last from a couple of days to one year, depending on what they encompass, and there you can learn all, from basic things and safety to designing a solar system. There is also the possibility of taking an online training course, which can be a great idea for those people who already have some knowledge and experience in this field.

But if you are an electrician or construction worker, you are in a much better position than anyone else, given that these professionals are often considered to be qualified enough to start with this job immediately after some elementary introductions and some time spent on training.

Certification

When it comes to solar licensing requirements by states, you should know that some of them demand solar installers have specialized licenses, but in most cases, these certifications are not necessary. Since we are talking about a relatively new industry branch, there are mostly no binding rules about programs and certifications you need to attend or have in order to be able to do this job.

In general, all those people and firms that have electrical or plumbing licenses can start working with solar panels and installing solar systems. But, even though you don’t have to possess any kind of certification, it would be good to consider getting one, because it will most certainly give you a significant advantage in business.

It turns out that people tend to have much more confidence in those who possess a certification that proves they have required knowledge in a specific field, like this one. So that piece of paper is proof for customers that the professional they hired definitely knows what he’s doing, but also, it is a great advantage for those who are looking for a job as solar installers.

So in a word, certification is beneficial for everyone. It will make those workers who have it stand out from the crowd and get the job opportunity more easily, and the companies that have certified staff more reliable and trustworthy.

If you have decided this is a path for you, and you really want to become a solar technician, you should first check what the requirements in your country are. In some states, you will be able to make your dream come true only by participating in a solar apprenticeship program, while in others, it will be enough for you to simply work with an experienced and established solar energy installer.

Requirements for Solar Installer Certification

In case you are interested in getting a solar installer certification, you should know that you have to be at least 18 years old, and probably a high school diploma. Those are two elemental things that are required if you want to be a certified professional.

There are two ways you can get to that point – by getting an entry-level position and learning through the work for a year or two, or by attending a community college or vocational school course in this field. At the end of the course, students will have a NABCEP entry-level exam, which will, if they pass, provide them with the written proof they have obtained the fundamentals of PV systems. It is not a certificate, but it is a good start. After that, they will have to prove they have led three to five PV installation projects on their own.

This way, you will get to know everything you need to about assessing the houses and buildings, their locations primarily, preparing the structure that will hold the entire system, installing solar panels, and connecting them to the grid.

Recognized Certification Programs

There are three reliable and recognized programs you can attend in order to get a certification that has some value. First on our list is The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, or shortly NABCEP, which is a popular national voluntary program designed in a way to provide great guidelines for photovoltaic and solar system installers.

This certificate is recognized in the solar industry, and it will give you a status of professionalism. But first, you must have a certain amount of work experience, or more precisely, 58 hours of advanced photovoltaic training you can get through a school or organization, as well as 10 hours of construction safety provided by OSHA – Occupational Safety & Health Administration. After you pass the exam, you will be obliged to take some educational courses and recertify every three years.

The Electronics Technicians Association International or ETA is another licensed program that can provide you with numerous installer certifications. If you decide you would like to have one of those, you will need to go through educational and training programs in schools approved by this organization. The ETA program includes the certification for renewable energy integrators, in three levels.

And at the last place is Certified Solar Roofing Professional – CSRP, another program with the national standard provided by Roof Integrated Solar Energy Incorporated. If you want to be a part of this program as a candidate, you need to have a minimum of 40 hours of training or education in this field, as well as three years of experience in roofing or PV domain.

Apprenticeship

It would be great if you could start your solar technician career by getting appropriate education at community college or trade school, but also by gaining some valuable work experience through some kind of apprenticeship. That means that you will be able to see in practice what a solar installer job includes, and you will be in a position to learn all the basic steps of creating an installing solar system.

The whole process needs to be supervised by someone with a significant amount of experience, and candidates have to be hired as an apprentice. Usually, apprenticeship lasts from two to four years, after which candidates can become qualified to work without supervision.

Training

In order to become a great solar installer, you will need some training. There are a lot of solar panel install training centers where you can get general training in this field, but the exact practice, what it includes, will depend on the state and its requirements.

The first thing a newly solar technician will learn covers safety matters, tool use, and all the installation techniques they will need to do the job properly. The whole program may last from one month to a year, and it is a valuable experience someone who didn’t do this previously can get. Sometimes it can even include training on specific equipment and products if the program was organized by a certain manufacturer.

If the state you live in doesn’t demand to license solar installers, then companies take over and create training centers for their specific needs. You will have to check what is the situation in your country, and then apply for training in the right place. In most states, electricians are considered to be adequate professionals for this job, given that they will know how to connect a solar system to the electric grid, but if you are not one of them, training will provide you with the education you need.

Online Training

In this modern world of ours, it’s quite often people are embracing the online education system, so there is no difference here. If you are not in a position to go to someplace and attend classes or training in a traditional way, you have an alternative that’s based on online education.

Taking courses online is sometimes the only option for those who already have a job or other responsibilities that disables them to do things the old-fashioned way. It’s the only chance for them to get this specific knowledge and make a shift in their career.

The greatest benefit of online training, besides the fact you don’t have to go to some specific place, and you can study from home is the fact they are less expensive than the traditional ones. They have a more flexible schedule, so you can continue with your regular obligations and still manage to qualify for this new future job of yours, and save some money along the way.

If you are interested in something like this, you should know that there are a couple of installer courses that start from the beginning available online. They will give you a chance to learn how to be a good solar technician even if you previously didn’t know anything and had no skills in this matter.

However, it is essential to apply to those online courses that have both theoretical and practical fields covered, because it will provide you with some valuable lessons and help you pass the NABCEP exam. And be careful, some of these programs demand from candidates to have certain experience or knowledge in roofing, engineering, or construction.

Essential Qualities for Solar Installers

  • Mechanical skills

Given that solar technician’s everyday work with modern and sophisticated equipment, and that they need to use versatile mechanical tools to create and install solar systems, they need to have excellent mechanical skills. Besides the fact installers have to build a support structure for solar panel construction, they need to know how to connect it to the grid.

  • Customer-service skills

Solar installers will be in contact with many people while doing their job. They are the ones that need to understand what the customer wants and to explain to them what is that they can expect or what their options are. Because of that, they need to have great customer service skills that include politeness, tolerance, professionalism, and ability to navigate customer’s desires and expectations. Also, they will have to communicate with other workers too, so this skill is definitely a must.

  • Detail-oriented

The process of creating and installing the solar panel system is very delicate and super sensitive since these materials are very modern and based on the latest technology. It is crucial that a solar installer knows what he is doing, and to follow the instructions very carefully and precisely because otherwise, the system will not work. In the worst-case scenario, they can even hurt themselves by experiencing electrical shock, for example.

  • Physical strength

It is very important solar technicians are in great shape physically because they will have to carry solar panels and other heavy equipment up to the roof quite often. That, and the fact that they will be in a situation to climb up and down the leather many times during the day, mostly transferring some tools or pieces of equipment, shows how essential their physical strength actually is.

Conclusion

As you can see, the process of becoming a proper solar installer is not that easy, but it’s also not impossible. If we are honest, it’s actually commendable there is such a long list of demands and tasks you need to finish in order to become one because it’s not an easy and banal job. It is quite the opposite, a very responsible and delicate position that implies having a lot of skills and great knowledge of the matter. If you are the one who wishes to become a solar technician, please consider gaining experience and education the proper way. It may take a while, but after that, you will be certain you will know how to do it right, and your safety won’t be questionable.

There are always shortcuts, like in every other aspect of life, but that road may lead you to many problems, and possibly in a situation where your life can be in danger. Even though the solar industry is still quite new, and most installer companies don’t require a specific diploma, license, or certificate, it is a belief that in the near future, this will be a must.

How to Clean Your Solar Panels?

Although solar panels seem so fragile and super sensitive, they really are not. They are very durable and resistant to all weather conditions, and they don’t need much maintenance. Most manufacturers will say that you need to keep them clean all the time, free of the dust, leaves, or other kinds of impurity, but the fact is – rain will do the job just fine in most cases. So no, you won’t have to do it that often, which is great given that you probably placed your solar system like most people on top of your roof, and it’s not so fun to climb that high if you don’t have to. But it would be good from time to time to do it in order to make sure your panels work with their full capacity.

If you wonder how much dirt affects the process of turning the sunlight into electricity, or if it affects it at all, you should know that it does, but not in extreme amounts, at least that’s what most experts say. If you forget or don’t want to practice solar panel cleaning, they will be slightly less efficient, maybe by five to ten. That, on the one hand, is not so much, but on the other, it’s not negligible either. So you shouldn’t take this lightly. There are some studies that have shown how cleaning solar panels that were working for 15 months increased their efficiency by 12 percent. The conclusion is simple – this is an important step if you want to protect your investment and make sure your solar system will work for years to come in its best capacity.

Professional service or DIY project?

When the time comes to this job, you can hire professionals, or you can do it yourself and turn it into an exciting DIY project. The truth is most solar panel companies will provide you with this service, it’s just that some of them will do it for free as part of annual maintenance, and some for a fee. You should know that they might ask for quite an amount for this service, which they justify by saying they are saving you a lot of money and sparing you from doing the “dirty work “by yourself. It’s up to you to decide whether these are plausible reasons or not.

Anyway, you should also know that there is always another way of doing things. In this context, it means you will have to roll up your sleeves and make some effort. But don’t worry, we will guide you every step of the way, it’s really not that hard. In the end, you will see that it wasn’t much of a big deal, and you will probably decide to always do this on your own. So, if you want to know how to clean solar panels, just keep on reading.

Do the prep work

The great thing is that you will most likely have everything you need in order to make solar panels clean again at your home. The essentials are water and soap, and it would be great if you could have a hose that will make the whole process so much easier. But first things first.

Before doing anything, you should determine if there’s even a reason to start the cleaning adventure. You need to inspect solar panels physically and see if there is any dirt, bird droppings, debris, etc. But if you have a monitoring system that will alert you if your panels are not functioning and performing well enough, you should use that too. However, you should know that the alert may point to some mechanical or electrical problems, not just to the necessity for cleaning.

After that, you should consider contacting your manufacturer and check if there are some recommendations regarding this matter. They may reveal to you some specifics that can turn out to be very helpful, or underline what the things you mustn’t do in order not to damage your panels are.

Cleaning can now start

You should know that solar panels can be extremely hot during a sunny day, so it is recommended to do the cleaning in the early morning or late afternoon, or you can just pick some cloudy days for that. Not only to protect yourself from burning, but also because of the panels. If you do the washing when they are overheated, the soapy water will quickly evaporate and possibly leave some marks that can affect their efficiency.

Also, see if there is any chance to do this from the ground. If you don’t have to climb to the roof of your house, it would be great and much safer. If that’s not the case, make sure you have all the equipment needed and the necessary training done. It’s no joke to be that high from the ground without knowing how to protect yourself properly.

In the beginning, you can just turn on the water and wash the panels with a garden hose. Then you can see if there are still impurities left. But before that brush off all the materials you see are on your way. If there is a need to more thoroughly wash them, fill the bucket with warm water and a bit of soap, and manually, with a sponge or soft cloth, clean them easily. Do not use any chemicals and abrasive products, they are strictly forbidden because they can only do damage.

It will be just like washing a car. Be careful, you don’t want to scratch it and don’t use water under pressure, which could damage solar cells. Also, know that you shouldn’t wash the wiring that’s underneath the panels, focus just on their front.

However, you will probably notice that this way, with just water and a soft cloth, you won’t be able to remove the traces of bird droppings. They are a bit greasy, and sometimes impossible to clean. In order to take care of this problem, you will need something firmer, but it has to be bristle-free. And when it comes to detergent, you can use only the dishwashing product, but do not rely on laundry detergents, they are much stronger and can cause some negative effects. It would actually be the best to just use plain water, nothing else. That way, you will be sure everything will go smoothly.

How important is this step?

Experts cannot seem to come to an agreement on this one. One side says that this effort or an investment if you decide to hire professionals, won’t pay off. They claim that dirty solar panels will work with only five percent less efficiency, which is negligible, as they believe.

They are basing this theory on the fact that in sandy regions, solar panels are always impeded by these tiny particles, and that they were not found to be operating at reduced capacity. Besides that, solar panels are set at a certain angle, which means most of the dirt will run down to the bottom of the construction.

But others do not agree. They say that it’s reasonable to claim the solar system will lose 15 to 20 percent of its strength if not cleaned properly. And that means they will generate significantly less electricity.

How often should you clean solar panels?

Usually, solar panels become the most soiled during the winter. That’s why most people tend to clean them in late spring. It’s a good time for annual maintenance. Those who believe cleaning solar panels does make a difference are suggested to take some time to do the work once or twice a year. That should keep solar panels in their maximum capacity all the time.

But in case of your home, and therefore your solar system is located near a highway, airport, factory, or some other source of pollution, you should do this more often. The reason is that the filth will accumulate on top of your roof more often than it would happen if you were to live somewhere surrounded by nothing but nature.

And let’s not forget that you definitely should remove leaves from the panels in the autumn, as well as loads of snow during the winter. They can drastically lower the solar system’s efficiency, and you don’t want that, especially in those times of the year when there’s not enough sunlight.

When it comes to this topic, the best possible advice is to monitor your solar system, see if and when there are changes in the power output. Especially pay attention to that right before and after you cleaned them. That should tell you if this effort has a sense or not.

Conclusion

Truth to be told, cleaning solar panels is not nuclear physics, anybody can do it. It’s just important to be gentle, to take some time and don’t rush it, and not to use any kind of chemicals, ever. The only thing allowed is clean water and soap, unless the manufacturer says otherwise. And remember, if you are doing it by yourself, it’s crucial to stay safe, given that solar panels are usually placed on top of the roof. If you are afraid of heights or you are known to be clumsy, please don’t do it, just hire the professionals.

What are Solar Cell Fabrics?

The solar industry gave us a lot already. We are in a situation where we don’t have to be in a grid system, but to proudly present ourselves as an independent household that generates its own power. We can light up our backyard or sheds with the help of solar lights. We can heat the water for our home needs or for our pool, provide electricity for our phone or laptop when we are off camping or sailing and do many more things relying only on the power of the sun. But all those things demand having a firm object in the shape of a solar panel in our hands or our roof.

The next step in the development of the solar sector provided us with something we call solar cell fabric, a novelty that will make our lives easier and more leisurely. And given that our current generations are all about comfort, this is probably something we all are going to love.

What Do We Mean by Solar Cell Fabric?

Solar cell fabric is an actual fabric that has photovoltaic cells embedded on top of it, and therefore the ability to generate some electricity when exposed to the sun’s light. We are talking about thin-film cells that are quite flexible, so they can be sewn onto the fabric, and quite more affordable to produce than classic silicone-based cells.

For a long time, this was only a dream, a fiction – the ability to wear little solar panels on our wardrobe, wherever we go, without feeling their weight, without being even aware they are there, with us all the time. But thanks to the technological step forward and thorough research, we are finally able to test this impressive achievement and see if it fits our lifestyle.

Benefits of Solar Cell Fabric

There are more than a few great benefits solar cell fabric will bring into our lives. We listed them in a manner that reflects the needs of today’s people.

Ability to charge electronic devices

Imagine walking around the whole day, taking pictures with your smartphone, answering some calls, writing few mails, texting and scrolling through your social media feed without having to worry about your battery status, or thinking about places you can go to charge your phone. Sure, there is always an option of using power banks, but as it often happens, you may forget to bring them with yourself or to charge them. This way, with clothes that have integrated solar cells, you will be calm and relaxed all the time. All you need is a little bit of sun to make those cells work and generate electricity, and then you can simply plug your phone or other devices to the USB port placed somewhere on your clothing.

Reduction of electricity consumption

Clearly, if we don’t charge our phones in our houses or any other place but with our solar panel fabrics, we will definitely spend significantly less electricity.  If this patent comes to life in a full capacity, the reduction in electricity usage would be huge and noticeable. It probably seems like charging these small smart devices isn’t meaningful in the overall electricity consumption context, but it’s actually quite the opposite.

It’s an equation based on quantity. Sure, it’s not something you, as an individual, should worry about, you will pay less than a dollar for a whole year of charging your phone since you will need 2kWh in total. But how many phones do you have in your household? And where are all those other small devices? Now multiple that with the number of people in the world.

Micro size solar cells

In order for this patent to work, these cells needed to be extremely small, so you don’t feel their presence, their weight particularly. That was one of the greatest challenges when developing this technology – making them be the micro size and adequate addition to our clothing. The developers had in mind the modern breathable pieces of clothes these cells need to become part of, so they adapted and shaped everything to that standard. One university research team wanted to know how sustainable this idea was, is it even manageable for these solar cells to be so small they could be integrated into the regular fabric, and jet to provide with real power after absorbing and generating sun’s light.

They were working with cells that were the size of fleas (3mm x 1.5mm), but they confirmed that despite this tiny package, the technology of these cells was a perfect real powerhouse. They tested these little solar bugs and proved they are working just as they should. You won’t feel them at all, and still, you will be able to charge your phone and Fitbit device, for example. They tested 200 individual cells that were generating 2.5 to 10 volts and up to 80 mill watts in power and came to this result.

Waterproof and machine washable fabric

Another idea is to create these solar cell fabrics so they can do the work they should regarding generating power from the sun, but also to make them reliable and trustworthy. We don’t want a jacket or some other piece of clothes we need to treat differently, with some particular guidelines. People are impatient, they don’t want to think about things like that. So three years ago, the University of Tokyo and Riken research institute presented a prototype of this solar fabric that’s waterproof and machine-washable.

With that, the whole circle was made. Now, we have solar clothing that has integrated micro solar cells that can charge your small devices, and all that wrapped in up to date pieces you can wear every day and maintain the regular way. This system is waterproofed thanks to the patent where each cell was laminated in a waterproof resin. Because of that, you can wear your solar cell fabric no matter what the weather is like – even when it is absolutely pouring outside.

Shortcomings of Solar Cell Fabric

Just like with anything else, there are some disadvantages or shortcomings of solar cell fabrics. And we need to address this too in order to approach this subject objectively. The main problem with this new technology is the fact that it is at the beginning of the development process. Yes, it is sustainable, but we are talking about the prototype phase still.

We would all like to try this on and see how it works in the real world, but at this moment, that is not possible. Due to many limitations, especially those that are protecting the micro-sized solar cells, there is still a lot of work to be done before everything goes fully public.

Even though it doesn’t sound fair, because the technology was proven as a good, reliable one, it will take a lot more time before you could go to the store and buy a shirt or jacket made out of fabric that has solar cells implemented. Right now, it looks like something a bit futuristic, but it is obvious that it can be real and quite accepted by society.

The Ways You Can Use Solar Cell Fabric

Besides clothes, this solar cell fabric can be useful in many ways. Those who were working on this patent came to the conclusion that solar tents, for example, created with this solar fabric, could be a great solution for people who lost their homes in some natural disaster or some other misfortune.

In that case, a solar tent would provide them with a shelter in the first place, but also with a power they will need for many purposes. It would be an easy and practical solution, and there wouldn’t have to be those huge and complex power generators installed.

In cases of emergency, creating a tent village would be a much more practical scenario than this current one, because it needs time to set everything up. So instead of waiting for those generators to arrive and to be set up, solar tents can be ready in a couple of minutes. This process needs less manpower, fewer resources, it’s quicker and super comfortable.

What Are The Ongoing Problems?

There are two serious things that question or limit the usage of this technology. The first one is the price. We have to take into consideration the fact that it takes a lot of money to create and implement a couple of thousands of solar cells into one piece of fabric. Those are microcells, yes, but they work just like the regular ones, and the cost of making them is not negligible, on the contrary.  There is also a question of battery in which generated power will be stored. Its design needs to be compatible and in alignment with the rest of the system. Then there are the connection ports that will physically allow this item to charge devices through, etc. The designers also need to think of the ways to attach these cells, so they don’t bother us when we wear the fabric that is covered with them.

The second issue is the one that is not in our power, but that can affect the technology greatly. It’s the question of sun’s exposure, or, more precisely, the fact that we all live in different parts of the world and that the amount of sun’s presence isn’t the same everywhere. Northern Europe’s countries, for example, have a lot of hours during the year when the sun isn’t shining, or at least not strong enough for this to work correctly, especially when winter comes.

So what then? We already know that solar panels work even when it’s cloudy outside, but with much lower capacity. They are not as efficient as if they were exposed to bright and direct sunlight. And let’s not forget the fact that we are not always outside, even during summer. When we are sitting in the office, at school, at our own home, far from the sun’s reach, this patent won’t be able to supply us with enough power to charge our devices.

What Are the Expectations For the Future?

If the public becomes more and more interested in something like this, the fact is expenses for creating and implementing solar cell fabric will come down. It’s already happening, given that all around the world, there is the incensement of interest for solar technology overall. So the amount of money needed for this type of experiment and creating prototypes will be more acceptable and realistic. With that, further research and development will be possible. The hope is, some of the clothing giants that are dominating the industry will become interested in investing in solar cell fabric.

Then, the next step is to keep welcoming this novelty into our everyday life. Besides creating solar tents we already spoke about, it would be great to see solar fabric enters different areas and products. It would be great to have solar cell curtains, for example, or solar car seats that could power up our phones and other small devices easily and unobtrusively. Some of the motoring giants like Toyota already used solar-powered technology to make their models more up to date and in line with modern trends.

Conclusion

In the last couple of decades, the world suddenly became extremely interested in renewable energy, especially in the solar system. It seems like we finally get how much we can get from the nature that surrounds us, but minus the pollution aspect we really needed to start thinking about. After solar panel systems that helped us power up our homes, we managed to create the panels we can use when we are on the move, on camping, sailing, when going off the grid entirely, and now seems the perfect time to take the next step and invest in solar cell fabric.

This is something that could possibly be a huge hit, something we probably won’t be able to think of our lives without in a couple of years. The truth is, it will need some more time for this technology to develop properly and present itself with full capacity, there are still plenty of challenges ahead. The experts need to find a way to make this technology less expensive and more affordable, as well as to create these clothing pieces truly resistible, but it’s just a matter of time when it will happen. We are sure it will be a huge success, the one that will completely flow up our minds.