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.

How to Clean Solar Lights?

Most people decide to install the outdoor solar lights, the ones that will light up their gardens, backyards, pool area, or pathways, so it’s necessary to know how to maintain them properly and keep them clean all the time. They are exposed to different weather conditions, from the sun to rain, storm, and snow, so they need to be checked regularly in order to make sure they will perform as expected, with full capacity.

The fact is solar lights that are placed outside will become filthy after some time, and that dirt will reduce their ability to generate the sun’s energy into electricity. Because of that, they will be less efficient for sure. To prevent that from happening, here is a detailed guide on how to clean solar lights properly.

Solar light cleaning guide

Usually, there are three parts of solar lights that need to be cleaned. The most important one is a solar panel that dictates how much sunlight will be transformed into usable energy. If there is too much dirt, or the plastic that’s covering the panel is all cloudy, then it is definitely the right time for regular maintenance. Then there is the battery that can be subject to oxidation thanks to the moisture remained on solar lights, and the light cover, as the third part, that also needs some attention. Given that this piece is usually made of plastic or glass, it can also become filthy or stained after some time, so it won’t project as much light as it actually can. So here are the steps you can take in order to make sure every part is super clean and ready to deliver what it is supposed to deliver.

1. Cleaning the solar panel

Solar lights are almost always located on top of the solar lights since that is the most exposed place. They need to be placed in a way they can accumulate all the sunlight they can, and then transform it to the energy we can use. Given that solar panels are super sensitive, they are covered with the plastic part than can protect them, but at the same time allow them to do their job. But that plastic can become dirty and cloudy thanks to the fact the light is placed outside, and lower the efficiency rate of that particular solar light.

In order to clean the solar panel properly, you need to brush off the dirt that’s on top of it with a paper towel or some cloth, and then to wipe it thoroughly. If you notice some stains or cloudiness that simply won’t go away, you can use a bit of dish soap and water, but make sure to rub it gently. And don’t forget to remove the rest of the soap with the clean and dry cloth.

2. Cleaning the battery

Yes, solar lights are designed in a way that allows them to be resistant to all weather conditions and to work well despite the snow, rain, storm, or extreme heat. But, if they are in a very humid environment, or they are exposed to heavy rain, it may happen the wires or the battery inside start corroding. That’s because of the moisture accumulated inside of the solar housing.

You need to check your battery from time to time and see if there are any traces of white powder. That’s corrosion, and you need to brush it off immediately. It should come off easily, but if that’s not happening, then use the fine-grit sandpaper. Don’t forget to clean the housing of the battery as well, and to check if it’s dry. It needs to be completely drily before replacing the battery in order to provide a safe and corrosion free area.

3. Cleaning the light cover

Every solar light has a glass or plastic cap that serves as a protection of the LED light. Since this part is surrounded by nature and exposed to different weather conditions too, after some time, debris or dirt will find its place on its surface or inside of the cover. Because of that, the emission of light will be weaker, so you need to clean it from time to time with a soft sponge and water. If it’s needed, you can also use dish soap, just like when cleaning a solar panel. Depending on the climate of the area you live in, you will have to do this more or less often. If, for example, you live in a place that’s surrounded by sand or has a lot of rainy days, you should clean your lights at least once a month.

How often should solar lights be cleaned?

There are no strict rules when it comes to this question, but, given that these lights are placed under the open sky, and that they are disclosed to every weather condition, it would be good to determine some kind of regular cleaning schedule. Solar panels should be checked and maintained quite often, for example, once a month just to make sure they are working properly. Batteries are not so demanding, so you can subject them to cleaning once in three months, and the light caps are somewhere in the middle regarding this topic. You should monitor their condition and do the work when it’s needed. That will be every two months, on average.

How much time does cleaning solar lights take?

Those who do this kind of work regularly say it takes around 20 minutes to clean one light completely. But you need to bear in mind that in order to reach that speed you will need some practice and some time. Also, you will be pleased to hear that you will need just some basic tools like a screwdriver, soft brush, and paper towel. But solar lights can be very different, design and construction-wise, so make sure to have the instruction on how to disassemble and reassemble it without making a mistake.

Why is it important?

Let’s sum up things. It is crucial for you to clean each part of your outdoor solar light because of multiple reasons. First of all, you want your solar panel to accumulate and generate as much sunlight as possible into the electricity. If it’s dirty, it won’t be able to do that with full capacity. Second of all, you want your light to shine as bright as it can. In order to make sure it does its work, you have to make the light cover clean and non-cloudy. And the third thing is the battery. You should protect it from corrosion, so it has a long lifespan. So make sure this part is always clean too, and more importantly, dry.

Conclusion

It’s really not so hard to keep your solar light functional and clean. It won’t take much time, and you don’t need some extra tools to do it properly. Don’t be lazy, it will save you a lot of money if you do this once in a while, and it will provide you with good and bright lighting in your backyard.

Just have in mind that the average lifespan of a battery is two years, so you will need to replace it probably after that period of time. Also, in order to keep the solar panel well protected, you can apply clear nail polish on top of the plastic that covers it. That will keep this part safe from UV light.

What are Bifacial Solar Panels?

One of the newest products in the photovoltaic industry, bifacial solar panels are taking the world by storm. Unlike monofacial modules, where the back surface is covered with plastic or aluminum, bifacial panels are capable of collecting energy from the sun on both sides, by using a finger grid which allows the sun to reach the backside of the panel. In practical terms, this means the bifacial panel can absorb light that is reflected off another material or the ground. The ratio of the efficiency of the rear side compared to the front, when measured under standard test condition, is defined as bifaciality.

Bifacial solar modules can be beneficial in some ground-mounted systems as well as specific residential applications. For the majority of property owners, however, installing bifacial panels on their roof doesn’t make too much sense. For best results, bifacial panels need to be elevated and angled slightly away from a mounting surface, which allows light to reflect into the back of the module. This is best achieved in utility-scale or commercial applications.

Bifacial Solar Module Design and Mounting

Usually, monocrystalline cells are used for the manufacture of bifacial panels, but there are polycrystalline designs as well. However, there’s a significant difference in the design and look of a bifacial solar panel compared to a traditional polycrystalline or monocrystalline silicon panel. One of the physical characteristics of bifacial panels that stands out the most is their slim profile.

The modules are housed in a transparent and thin layer, which usually consists of a dual-glass design, or includes a transparent back sheet. The framing is minimal on most bifacial panels as well for improved efficiency.

As you might have guessed, the mounting solutions are also quite different when compared to traditional monofacial panels. To absorb as much energy as possible, the amount of shaded space on both sides of the board needs to be minimal.

New mounting and racking solutions for bifacial panels are presented almost daily and include things like vertical supports, narrower support rails, and small junction boxes to bring shading on the backside to a minimum.

Still, the way a bifacial panel is mounted depends mostly on its type. Frameless modules are typically more challenging to install than framed options, primarily because traditional racking and mounting systems already exist for framed models. That said, most bifacial panel manufacturers will provide their installation hardware.

Frameless bifacial modules, on the other hand, usually feature rubber guards, which are there to protect the glass. This means it is easy to damage the glass by overtightening the bolts, so special care has to be taken while mounting.

As is the case with monofacial models, some tilt is required for best results, and the bifacial modules need to be sitting some way off the ground rather than flush against a surface. This is why ground-mounted arrays and flat commercial rooftop applications provide the best results.

Commercial Applications

As we mentioned above, utility-scale and business applications are where bifacial solar panels truly shine (no pun intended). This is especially true for panels that make use of solar trackers. According to some studies, bifacial panels are capable of yielding up to 25% more energy than traditional systems when paired with solar trackers, while they only improved efficiency by around 10% in a ground-mounted and tilted installation.

The potential for bifacial solar panels to boost production and energy output in large-scale solar installations is massive thanks to their ability to collect the power of the sun on both sides. In most commercial systems, solar panels are mounted above the ground, and in the case of bifacial solar panels, all the sunlight that is reflected off the ground beneath will also be absorbed by the back-facing cells.

How much light is collected depends on the amount reflected, which depends significantly on the surface below. Surfaces of a lighter color, such as sand or white concrete, will reflect more sunlight than something like dirt or dark asphalt.

Residential Applications

Bifacial solar panels are not ideal for residential rooftop installation, given their increased price compared to traditional monofacial panels. This relatively new technology still makes more sense in larger solar projects, such as installations that allow reflected light to reach the back of the boards easily.

All that being said, bifacial panels can be used residentially in select cases, such as on pergolas and other free-standing structures. These structures will provide partial shade while generating energy at the same time, which could be a considerable asset in some scenarios. Pretty much any structure that doesn’t have anything sitting directly behind the panels is viable. This includes examples like canopies, awnings, and even highway noise barriers.

If you weren’t planning on putting your solar panels on the roof in the first place, instead opting for a ground-mounted solution in your backyard, bifacial panels may still be a great choice. A residential ground-mounted system, similar to those in utility and commercial applications, would be propped up above ground, allowing the light to reach the back side of the panels easily.

Conclusion

While bifacial solar panels have a bright future in commercial and utility solar installations, they don’t make too much sense in residential rooftop projects as of yet. However, it is hard to deny that they have a future in the industry and that they are likely to improve even more in the years to come.

Regardless of geography, project size, sun availability, and other factors, the best way to get good results from your solar set-up is to find the solution that works best for your particular situation. Also, make sure to check out the reviews and buying guides on our website to compare the different available options.

Pros and Cons of Solar Energy

pros and cons of solar energy image

Around the world, renewable energy is on the rise, and these alternative energy sources could hold the key to combating climate change. Solar power is the collection of solar radiation to produce electricity, and it is quickly becoming a conventional household technology upgrade and a viable and cost-effective power source for hundreds of thousands of homeowners.

As with any new technology, there will always be advantages and disadvantages involved. However, solar power has rapidly advanced over the past few years as a viable and attainable energy source for homeowners across the US and the world.

The benefits of solar energy have so far outweighed the drawbacks, and we can expect this shift to accelerate as solar power becomes more and more popular. If you’re interested in installing solar panels, or if you’re just looking to learn more about solar, it is essential to look at the pros and cons associated with this blossoming technology.

While there are significant advantages to solar power, there are also a few drawbacks that consumers should understand. We’ll deal with both in this article, but we’ll start with the positives.

Pros

Savings

The main goal of solar power is to eliminate or offset the majority of your electricity bill. Switching to solar puts money back in your pocket. Homeowners with solar power have significant financial savings over their previous utility bills.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the cost to install solar has decreased by over 70 percent in the last ten years. That means an average home system today costs way less than before, and that’s not counting the incentives, such as the solar investment tax credit. Solar panel installations are sized to offset all or a considerable portion of your home’s energy needs. This gives you independence from increases and uncertainty in future energy prices.

On top of all this, it should be noted that the US solar industry is a seventeen billion dollar industry that employs 250,000 people, which is more than double when compared to just six years ago. This means that solar power not only provides individual savings but promotes and boosts our economy in general.

Power Credit

Some months your panels may produce more power than you need. Being connected to the utility power grid allows you to get credit for the power you don’t use. When this happens, your utility company will credit you for the additional energy your home has generated.

If you have extra credits left over at the end of the year, you can choose to have your utility company send you a check for the excess power you’ve produced.

Many Financing Options

Over the past few years, the solar market has drastically expanded, creating a demand for solar providers and installers and increased financing options for homeowners. Whether you don’t want to pay any upfront costs, or you want to purchase the panels outright, there’s a match for every budget.

As solar power has become more mainstream, there have been significant advances in the types of financing options available. This has helped open up the solar market to virtually all homeowners, including opportunities with zero money down for some types of installations.

Also, there are significant federal, state, and local incentives and rebates to decrease the price of installation further. Making the switch to solar power has been made much more accessible in recent years thanks to these rebates and incentives. Applicable incentives vary by region, but they play an essential role in helping homeowners save thousands of dollars on power.

The Sun Shines Everywhere

Solar power is an abundant and valuable resource that can be harnessed virtually anywhere. Energy from the sun is available everywhere in the world. The sun shines every day, and homes in all climates can benefit from solar installations. Since the sun shines all across the globe, every country has the potential to produce energy from it, allowing for greater energy independence and security.

A common misconception is that you must live in a very sunny area for solar power to be effective. However, cloudy regions, particularly those with high energy bills, can realize significant energy savings with solar panels.

Energy from the sun is so abundant that enough sunlight hits the earth in one hour to meet the world’s yearly energy supply, and new technologies are being developed by researchers across the globe that capture that energy. Catching even a small fraction of this energy provides a significant amount of power.

Clean Energy Source

Producing energy for your home with power from the sun is a clean, sustainable source of electricity. There’s no air or water pollution associated with the production of energy from solar panels. Moreover, at the current level of solar-energy generation, there are seventy-four million metric tons of CO2 being eliminated. That’s equivalent to planting about two billion trees or taking sixteen million vehicles off the road.

We can feel comforted by the fact that switching to solar is beneficial for the environment and will help us preserve our resources for generations to come. Solar power is renewable and produces no pollution during its operation.

While all of this is true, it should be noted that the production of solar panels themselves produces large amounts of greenhouse gases. Nitrogen-trifluoride and sulfur-hexafluoride have been liked to the creation of solar panels. Many solar energy technologies are based on the same materials as other electronics, and they may contain some hazardous substances, such as lead and cadmium, that are a challenge to dispose of.

It’s Free

Solar power is free, and it cannot be controlled by any company. This may be one of the most significant benefits because once you have solar panels, there’s nothing to stop you from harnessing the Sun’s abundant energy.

As an infinite resource, you will never have to worry about a dwindling supply or shortages, and the ability to produce your own power will grant you independence from the uncertainty of oil and gas prices. The sun will be here for millions of years to help you realize significant energy savings.

Reliability

The sun is also an extremely reliable energy source. It will rise every day. Sure, some days are cloudier than others, but with the enormous advances in solar power technology, our panels today can still produce significant electricity under cloudy skies, and once those clouds clear, we can rest assured that the sun will always be there.

High-Quality Installation

Over the past few years, the installation of residential solar panels has been tweaked and perfected into a science. In the past, solar panel installations could take up to a couple of weeks; however, new tools and processes have cut the installation time down to just a couple of hours. Imagine being able to produce your own electricity by lunchtime! Decreased installation time means you also save on parts and labor costs.

Durability

Stationary residential solar panels don’t have any moving parts, making them very low-maintenance, as well as built to last for decades. They are engineered to withstand hurricane-strength winds, hail, and snowstorms, giving you one less thing to worry about.

Panel maintenance is virtually nonexistent as well. You don’t need to worry about cleaning your panels or scraping off the snow. The panels are installed at an angle to allow any buildup to slide off, giving you more time to spend on more important things.

Solar Panel Placement

Solar panels generate power silently and can be located almost anywhere, including most pre-existing structures. They can also come in a variety of different shapes and sizes.

Most homeowners today that have solar panels have a rooftop installation. This placement is not only convenient for hooking panels up to your home’s electrical wires, but it also saves you precious yard space. Solar panels protect your roof from weathering and can help keep your home cool as a result of the shade provided by the panels.

Decreased Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Harnessing the Sun’s energy to power our homes and businesses will drastically reduce our demand for finite fossil-fuel resources. This is excellent news for our wallets, our communities, and our environment.

By taking advantage of this clean, renewable resource, we can separate ourselves from some of the costs and uncertainty of today’s fossil fuel markets. There’s no possibility that solar energy will run out, unlike fossil fuel.

Cons

Panels Only Work During the Day

Solar power is not a constant source of energy, as it varies by time of day, weather, and season. Since solar panels need sunlight to produce electricity, they only work during the day, and unless you’re in the North Pole in the summer, the sun doesn’t shine 24/7. At night or on cloudy days, alternate power sources or storage batteries are required.

You may be wondering how you’re going to get your electricity after the sun goes down. Well, the vast majority of homes with solar power are still connected to their utility’s electric grid. This allows homeowners to access the electricity they need any time of day or night.

Unfortunately, being connected to the grid also means that when the utility’s power goes out, your power goes out too. Thankfully, this is a rare occurrence for most homeowners.

Excess Energy

Energy storage is also vital for solar energy, and unfortunately, it is both expensive and technologically challenging. Solar-powered homes that are connected to the grid do not store any excess power their panels produce.

While there are batteries you can purchase to store the energy from your panels, it is much more cost-effective to connect your panels to the utility grid and receive credit for the excess energy you produce.

Cost

Although most people today choose to lease their panels, some decide to purchase them outright. Solar panels have a high initial construction and installation cost. Large-scale solar generation installations can also take up significant areas of land, and they can degrade natural habitat.

Some people even fight the installation of solar panels in their neighborhoods. If this is the case in your area, you may need to convince your neighbors that installing solar panels on your roof is a good idea.

If you were planning on purchasing solar panels outright, you would likely be facing a high upfront cost. However, in today’s solar market, with a variety of financing methods available, you can weigh your options before jumping in and purchasing a system.

While purchasing panels was the most popular way to get solar in the past, this is no longer the case. Leases, loans, and Power Purchase Agreements give homeowners the ability to choose the best option for their budget.

On top of all this, solar energy installations can be damaged by natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, and storms, leaving the regions they serve without power.

Conclusion

When it comes to making the switch to solar power, it’s essential to understand the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy. While there are a few disadvantages when it comes to installing solar energy, the benefits here significantly outweigh the drawbacks, and as solar technology continues to develop and expand, we can only expect to see more advantages coming from solar power.

The good news is that many of the cons are being addressed by researchers, and progress is being made. That said, it’s crucial for every homeowner to feel comfortable with their decision to go solar and weigh the solar power pros and cons according to their situation.

How Does the Weather Affect Solar Panels?

There is no person who did not question the ability of solar panels to work properly when the weather is inconvenient. So what happens when we have a cloudy or rainy day? Do they generate some power or not? Are they efficient or completely blocked? It’s finally time to find out the complete and unwrapped truth regarding this matter.

How solar panel work when there is no sun?

We all know that solar panels are based on solar cells that absorb sunlight and transform it into usable electricity. Every manufacturer says that it is extremely important to place the solar panel in a way that will guarantee it’s always exposed to the sun. That’s logical since it needs as much possible sunlight in order to do its job. So what happens when there is no sun one day? What if the storm took over the sky?

The answer is – nothing happens, solar panels will continue to convert photons (small particles of sun’s light) into electrons or direct electricity.  There is a huge misconception that the solar system won’t be able to produce power we need if there is no direct sunlight. It can actually because solar panel cells don’t necessarily need direct contact with sunlight, they just need those photons emitted by the sun.

So even if the day is super cloudy, photons will be spread into the atmosphere, and the solar panels will be able to absorb them and generate electricity. But you should know that the solar system won’t be as efficient during those days as it would be on a bright sunny day. It will have less energy absorption. If there are clouds in the sky, your solar panels will work with a maximum of 25 percent capacity, so there definitely will be a difference in power output.

How different weather impact the solar system?

Modern-day solar panels are built in a way that allows them to withstand different and extreme weather conditions like heavy rain, snowstorm, hail, severe wind, and extreme heat. When they are constructed, they are subject to testing, and they need to get Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) certification in order to claim they are resistant to bad weather and extremes in that sense.

But, you need to know that that certificate doesn’t guarantee every solar panel has the same quality and durability. Most solar panels should withstand wind up to 140 MPH, and they can only benefit from cold temperatures because the whiteness of snow will reflect light and improve their performances. It’s just important they are clean and not covered with loads of snow.

Although they are built to last and to face different challenges, solar panels can be damaged by hail or storm, for example. But in that case, you should be covered with your warranty or insurance policy. And let’s not forget about the most surprising fact – extreme hot climates can lower the efficiency of solar panels! If the temperature is above 87 degrees, you can expect that exactly this happens. Every degree above this number will lower their productivity by one percent.

Does solar panel work at night?

No, solar panels don’t have the ability to generate electricity during the night because they need the sunlight in order to do that. They tend to go to the sleep mode when this part of the day comes along and to stay that way until the sun begins to rise again. Some experts, however, claim that solar panels can work based on some other light sources like the moon or some strong street lights, but it is negligible since the output will be extremely low.

Do solar panels work in the rain?

Solar panels are built in a way that allows them to use direct and indirect sunlight in order to generate electricity. That means that although they are most efficient when the day is bright and shiny, they will be able to continue with this process even if the sun is hidden by the rainy clouds. So yes, they can work in the rain, the question is just how much power they will generate in that case. There is a belief that rain is actually good for the solar system because it will naturally wash the dust and every other piece or particle of dirt off them. 

How does snow affect solar panels?

One of the solar myths is that solar panels do not work during the winter. The actual truth is they can still do their job, especially because the whiteness of the snow will reflect light and improve the solar system’s performance. Certainly, you will generate less power during these cold months that you will in the summer, but that’s not the reason to decide not to install them. The problem may occur when the huge amount of snow falls and traps solar panels underneath – at that point, they will not be able to work, so you will have to get up there and remove deposits of snow as soon as possible.

Solar panels after hurricane

This natural force can cause some serious damage to your entire house, not just the solar system. The power of the wind can dislocate your solar panels, separate them from the roof and rip some wires, but the insurance will most likely cover that. Solar panels are designed to withstand winds of approximately 140 MPH, but that’s just, generally speaking, every brand has its own, more specific assessments in this matter. Another thing you should worry about is water exposure since it can affect the wiring. But the thing you have to know is that solar panels are much more durable and resistant that they look like, that’s one of the reasons they cost so much.

solar panels during winter

How durable are solar panels?

If you decide on purchasing a high-quality solar system, you won’t have to worry about it. Those solar panels will be able to resist a lot of inconveniences and stay bulletproofed to weather impact. Usually, top-rated solar systems are placing their durability as number one attribute, right next to their efficiency, and they will probably degrade extremely slowly. Most manufacturers claim their products will look like they are new for years if properly maintained, and that they will produce 92 percent of power up to 25 years of usage.

It is also important to say that even though solar panels look very fragile and super sensitive, they are actually used as roof protectors, regarding extreme weather conditions. They can hold on to a significant amount of snow, for example, but you should remove it as soon as you can in order to enable them to work again.

What is a proper installation that will withstand bad weather?

You really need to make sure your solar system is installed and mounted precisely as it should, to make sure it will not be destroyed by an accident or some weather disaster. You really don’t want to risk your entire investment for some extra money you will pay professionals to do this for you, or some extra time you will devote yourself to study the installation manual.

If you decide on going with an installation company, make sure they are highly recommended and reputable in this industry. Because not all of them know all new technologies solar systems are built on, or they are not well informed about local wind movements and other standard or exceptional climate conditions.

But if, on the other hand, you are certain you can do that with your own hands and knowledge, you have to follow the specific manual, created by the manufacturer. Also, let’s not forget about regulations (local, federal, and state) you have to take into consideration when doing this sort of thing or about the perfect angle you need to place a solar system to make sure they will deliver with full capacity. Some people might find it as a challenge the advanced wiring systems, or the fact they need to check if the roof of the house is suitable and strong enough to hold the whole solar system.

Conclusion

We understand that these questions are some of the first ones that come up in your mind when you decide to go solar. And that’s absolutely expected. The fact solar panels work with the help of sunlight does impose the question of bad weather and its influence on the solar system. We concluded that panels would continue to transform the power of the sun into electricity on a cloudy day as well, but it is not negligible that their efficiency will be significantly lower. Just like with every other renewable source and its usage, this, too, has its flaws. But the fact is advantages are so big that this is something you can definitely live with. Because on those super sunny days, your solar system will produce more electricity than you need, and all that surplus can be stored and saved for days when they just can’t deliver.

How Many Solar Panels Do You Need?

how many solar panels do i need image

Solar panel systems for homes are decreasing in price and increasing in popularity. Many homeowners are starting to see the advantages of solar power, and you may have seen quite a few systems being installed in your neighborhood.

If you have made the decision to move forward with your solar ambitions, but are unsure about the size of the system you’re going to need, this article is for you. In the following few paragraphs, we’re going to talk about how to size your solar system properly, so keep on reading.

Figuring out the size of your solar energy system begins with a straightforward question: ‘How many solar panels do I need?’ Because most people would like to produce enough energy so that they are entirely independent of their utility company, eliminating their bill for electricity, the first step is to determine how much power is consumed by your household. It boils down to calculating the number of kilowatt-hours of energy you require and getting the right amount of appropriately-sized solar panels to power your home.

How Many Solar Panels to Power a House?

construction worker and lady looking at house plansFirst, we could talk about some general solar energy facts and numbers. The average home in the US requires anywhere between 28 and 34 solar panels to become completely independent from the power grid. Also, panel performance and geographical location are important factors that you need to consider when determining the number of panels your house needs. Hence, things are not quite so simple to calculate.

The average American household consumes roughly ten thousand kWh per year, which is how we reached the average number of solar panels required to be between 28 and 34 250W panels depending on roof size and location.

If you’re still wondering how we came up with those numbers, the breakdown is relatively straightforward. When you want to know how much power your house needs to operate daily, start by taking a look at the number of watt-hours used every day. To do this, simply look at your electric bill, which will most likely provide you with a yearly kWh consumption and divide the number by 365 to get your daily use.

For some perspective, you should know that one kWh equals a thousand watts of power used within one hour. This means that if you have ten lights in your home, all using 60W bulbs, having all the lights on for one hour will add up to 600Wh or 0.6kWh of electricity.

Location is also significant, with the highest and lowest solar panel production ratios differing by a considerable margin depending on where you live. The amount of power your panels can produce depends most of all on how much sunlight they will receive.

If you plan on mounting them on your roof, this means the amount of sunlight received by your roof on average. This amount depends not only on where you live but also on the season you are currently in. California is not the same as Maine in terms of annual sunny days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t produce enough power to cover your needs in both states; you’ll just need a more extensive system in Maine than you would in California.

residential solar panels on the roof

How Much Solar Do I Need?

To begin answering that question, we’re going to start by telling you the most important thing you need to remember when designing any solar system. Every component you buy and every decision you make regarding your solar set-up revolves around the idea of knowing how much power you need to power the appliances that you want.

Therefore, the size of your solar array, a.k.a. the number of solar panels that you need solely depends on how much energy you use daily. You should size your battery bank depending on how long you want your energy storage to last. The charge controller needs to be able to manage the energy between your battery banks and solar panels correctly. At the same time, your inverter will depend on the type of appliances you want to power. Even the sizes of fuses and wires depend on how much energy is going to be flowing through.

Solar Panel Size Calculation

solar panel calculationAt this point, you’re probably asking yourself how to size your system and how to calculate all the stuff that we mentioned above. Lucky for you, we’re here to tell you exactly how to do that.

First, you need to list out every appliance that you intend to power using your solar system. We know this isn’t the most exhilarating work you’ll ever do, but you need to go to every appliance in your home and find their power consumption rating. This label can either be imprinted on the charger or on a sticker on the device itself.

What you’re looking for is the output rating for the appliance. This can either be listed in volts and milliamps or amps. Ultimately you are concerned with the wattage of the device. If it already says the number of watts on the label, simply go ahead and write that number down, but most devices will use volt and amp labeling. Thankfully, there is a simple formula you can use to convert those values into your output wattage. The equation is this – W (Watts) = V (Volts) x A (Amps). If you have milliamps (mA) as your variable, all you need to do is divide that number by 1000 do get the value in amps, so, for example, 500mA = 0.5A.

If you can’t seem to find the power consumption rating label, look instead for the model number of your device. Either Google this number, or find a similar device online so that you could get an idea of how much power that will draw.

Once you list out every appliance that you intend to use with your solar power system, along with the corresponding output wattage, you’ll want to ask yourself how long you’re going to use each appliance daily. For this number, you’re going to use hours as your variable. So, if you’re going to use a device for half an hour or 15 minutes each day, write it down as 0.5 and 0.25 hours, respectively.

After you have written down how much time you plan to use your devices each day, you’re going to want to multiply the output wattage by the hours per day that you intend to use each device.

how much power for solar panels imageFor example, take your 15w phone charger and multiply that with the 2 hours that you intend to use it per day. That gives you 30 watt-hours (Wh). Let’s also say that your partner has the same charger and wants to use it for the same amount, all you need to do is multiply that final amount by two, and you get your total number of Wh spent on charging your phones per day, which is 60.

Next, repeat this process for each appliance that you have on your list, and at the end, each machine should have a corresponding Wh figure. Finally, add all those watt-hour numbers and write down the total Watt Hours/Day spent in your household.

Now that you have this number, all you need to do is divide it by the wattage of your desired solar panels, and you’ll have the magic number. There are many calculators online you can use to give you an exact measurement, taking into account the temperature your batteries will encounter as well as other factors, but this is the simplest explanation of the process.

Conclusion

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to solar panel systems. The number of solar panels in a set-up differs from one system to another. A significant factor determining how many solar panels you need is your electric bill, and most people aim to save the most money by installing enough panels to cover all of their electricity needs.

Your location is another factor. Depending on their geographic location, solar panels produce different amounts of electricity. For example, you’ll generate more power in a year if you install solar panels in Florida than if you install the same number of panels in Alaska, simply because Florida gets more sunshine.

Your solar panels should ideally be installed facing south in an area with no shade. However, that may not always be possible. Panels facing other directions will still produce electricity, although not as much as if they face the south. Therefore, you’ll probably have to install additional panels to achieve the same results.

In the end, some solar panels are more efficient than others. Highly efficient solar panels generate more energy, but they are also more expensive, which means you will not be able to install as many of them. If you choose to consult with a solar installation company, their professional team will take all these factors into account when they custom design a solar panels system for your home or business.