Getting started with Solar
Everything you need to know for getting started with a solar energy system. We recommend starting with our Solar 101 section to understand a basic overview of a solar electric system.
How Does Solar Work? A Short Insight
For the first topic in our Solar 101 section, we break down the process of how sunlight becomes energy to answer the question: How does solar work? It is the light of the sun, not its heat, that is needed for a photovoltaic (PV) system to work.
A simple explanation how a solar system works
- Step 1: When sunlight strikes the surface of a solar cell, electrons are extracted from the metal and begin to move faster. The more sunlight that hits the panel, the faster the electrons move. Because the panels connect over an electrical circuit, there is a flow of power. A direct current is generated.
- Step 2: Before we can use this power directly from the power outlet, one essential transformation has yet to happen: A power inverter converts the DC (direct current) into AC (alternating current), which is needed for all electronics in our households. With a solar battery installed, excess energy can be stored if you produce more electricity than required.
10 Things You Need to Know When Going Solar
Are you interested in going solar? We have compiled a list of the top 10 things to know/FAQs to make navigating solar easier for you!
1. Unsuitable Roofs
FAQ: What are my options if my roof is not suitable?
There are many requirements for a roof to meet in order to be considered a suitable match for solar installation. If your roof is not suitable for solar, you should look into ground mount solar panels. Ground mount systems are built into the foundation at ground level. Without the restriction of the roof, it allows for the perfect alignment that optimizes the sun’s production.
2. Roof Replacement
FAQ: What if my roof needs replacing after I install solar panels?
Your roof will be evaluated before the installation process to ensure that it would be the right fit for system installation. This inspection makes post-installation roof replacements highly unlikely. Nevertheless, solar panels have a long lifetime so there are still options to explore if something does happen to your roof. 90% of our systems with partners are installed using lag bolts. If the roof needs repairs, our partners can uninstall the system and reinstall it in the same place after the fix. Another option is to insulate the holes on the roof made by the previous fixings.
3. Solar System Size & Cost
FAQ: How big of a system do I need? (cost & sq feet)
There actually isn’t a correct answer – solar panels aren’t a “one-size fits all.” There are many different factors to consider: geographic variables, federal and local tax incentives, energy cost in the area, and the energy usage of the homeowner. To get an accurate estimate, sign up with us, we would love to check your options!
4. Warranties & What They Include
FAQ: How long is a system warranty for & what does that include?
A system warranty is a guarantee from the solar manufacturer/installer to protect your solar investment. There are two types of warranties: performance and product warranty. The performance warranty ensures that the solar installation will meet and/or exceed a production threshold over a period. Panels with our partners guarantee performance at 80% of its power for 25 years! If the system doesn’t operate at the expected baseline, the performance warranty will support you in repairing or replacing the problematic panels. The software that we use makes it easy for us (and you, the customer) to monitor the system. The product warranty covers equipment failure and defects.
5. Moving in the Future
FAQ: What if I want to move in 10-15 years?
Removal and reinstallation are usually not the way to go. Depending on the location, your current solar system might also not be a good match. However, having a solar installation can be an advantage when trying to sell your house! Homes with solar options sell as much as two times faster than homes without. Research shows that homes with a solar system can sell at $15,000 more than a comparable house without one.
6. Address & Utility Bill
FAQ: Why do you need my address and utility bill?
During a consulting session, you might be asked for your address or utility bill. The location has a huge impact on solar; therefore, your address is key when figuring out if your property is able to have an efficient system installation. Your utility bill is necessary to determine how much energy you and your family are using annually. This bill is necessary to correctly design a system to help offset the energy charges.
7. Offset Utility Costs
FAQ: Which utility costs does the solar system offset? What do I still have to pay?
If you are a homeowner, switching to solar will offset all charges on your bill except the “Basic Service Charge.” The Basic Service Charge is a monthly price (often $10-$15) that covers the cost of maintaining the customer records, transactions, electric meter, wires that bring electricity into your homes, and more. The only option to avoid paying this fee is to go off-grid.
8. Financing Options
FAQ: What financing options are there?
There are 3 general financing options for you to choose between: loans, leases, and cash. Find out more about these options in our solar financing section.
9. Solar Incentives
FAQ: What are incentives & how do the incentives work?
There are many different types of solar incentives that vary between locations. Some key ones to look into are solar investment tax credit (ITC), state-specific policies, and performance-based incentives (PBIs). Check out our solar cost-benefits section for a more in-depth explanation of the three.
10. Checking Solar Panels
FAQ: How do I know the system is working?
Congratulations on investing in solar! Now you might be wondering whether your solar system is working. You can simply log in to our monitoring portal to check how many kilowatts each panel is producing. We will be notified if your system goes offline or stops working. This way it is easy for us to help and determine where the error happened. If anything happens, we will be there for you every step of the way!
What Are Solar Panels? - A Smart Way to Generate Electricity
With solar energy becoming the fastest-growing source of power in the world, solar technology is worth considering as there are many benefits from solar-generated electricity. Here we explain what solar panels are and how they work in more detail.
What are solar panels?
Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) panels, are a collection of solar PV cells that convert energy from the sun into electricity. They consist of solar cells, which are made up of silicon that acts as a semiconductor. The silicon is constructed with a positive and negative layer which creates an electric field like a battery.
Multiple solar cells make up a solar panel, and multiple solar panels make up a solar array. The more solar panels you have, the more electricity you can expect to generate. Click here to find out which way solar panels should face.
How do solar panels work?
Now let’s answer the question: How does solar work? As energy particles from the sun known as photons hit a solar cell, they knock electrons loose from their atoms. These electrons flow through the electric circuit created by the positive and negative layers and generate electricity.
Solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity, which is when electrons flow in a single direction around the circuit. Today, alternating current (AC) electricity is used for the U.S. electrical power grid. AC electricity is when electrons can flow in different directions. An inverter is used to convert the DC electricity generated by solar panels to AC electricity. The AC electricity then gets directed to the electrical panel where it can be used directly by your home or business.
How does a solar system work?
Let’s look at the process that would take place on your roof if you had a solar system. First, the sunlight strikes the solar panels. Then the solar panels convert this sunlight into electricity. The electricity then flows through an electric circuit to an inverter. This inverter converts the DC electricity into AC electricity, which then can be used to power your home or business. When there is no sun, your home or business will continue to be powered by the electric grid. This system is simple, clean, and becoming more affordable every day.
Types of Solar Panels
So, you’re thinking of switching over to solar, where to start? There are three main solar panel types, and one option may be better than the others when it comes to your needs.
The three most common solar panel types are:
- Monocrystalline PV panels
- Polycrystalline PV panels
- Thin-Film PV panels
The materials, appearances, efficiencies, and costs of these panels vary greatly. Because of these differences, there are advantages and disadvantages to each of the three solar panel types. Monocrystalline PV panels are the most efficient with the highest costs. Polycrystalline PV panels cost less but are also less efficient than monocrystalline PV panels. Thin-film PV panels have the lowest efficiency and lowest cost. The materials that the solar panel consists of greatly affect its cost and efficiency.
To convert light into electricity, the panels must have cells that are made of a semi-conducting material. Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells are made from silicon wafers that are assembled to form a rectangle, covered with a glass sheet and framed. Monocrystalline cells are cut from a single sheet of silicon, while polycrystalline cells are composed of silicon fragments that have been melted together.
On the other hand, thin-film cells are made from a variety of materials. The most common material is a layer of cadmium telluride, which is placed between transparent conducting sheets and covered with a glass layer. Another common thin-film cell material is amorphous silicon, which is similar to the monocrystalline and polycrystalline material but is composed of non-crystalline instead of solid silicon.
Because the panels are all made of different materials, they have slight differences in their appearances. Monocrystalline panels are usually black, with back sheets that are either black, white, or silver, and either a black or silver frame. Polycrystalline panels tend to have a blue tint, with either a silver or white back sheet and a silver frame. Thin-film solar panels are the thinnest and lightest of solar panels. They are the lowest profile solar panel, but the framing of these panels can make them the same thickness as the other two. Thin-film panels can either be blue or black depending on the material that they are made from.
Another difference in the solar panel types is their efficiencies. Monocrystalline panels have up to a 20 per cent efficiency rate and the highest power capacity. Polycrystalline panels can usually reach 15 to 17 per cent efficiency and a slightly lower wattage of power capacity. Thin-film panels usually only have efficiencies up to 11 per cent, and the power capacities vary greatly. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels come in standard 60, 72, and 96 cell variants, which standardizes the amount of power and efficiency. Thin-film panels, however, do not come in uniform sizes. The efficiency and power that will come from thin-film panels depend on the physical size of the system that is installed.
All of these factors come into play when determining what the cost of your solar panels will be. Because of the higher quality materials and more intensive manufacturing process, monocrystalline panels tend to be higher cost. Since polycrystalline panels are produced from silicon fragments instead of one silicon sheet, the manufacturing process is a little simpler. This makes their cost a considerable amount lower than monocrystalline panels. Thin-film panels have varying costs. Because there are different types of materials that the cells can be made from, the costs depend on the quality of these materials. Generally, thin-film panels are less labor-intensive to produce, making their costs lower than monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels.
So, which type of solar panel?
You should consider the materials, appearance, efficiency, and cost when deciding which type of solar panel is best for your home. If you have a smaller property that needs smaller but more efficient paneling, monocrystalline is your best bet. If you own a larger property and can spread out paneling, lower efficiency paneling may be more cost-effective for you. Thin-film paneling works best on surfaces that cannot handle very heavy paneling. RVs and boats would benefit the most from this type of paneling. Once you’ve figured out which type of paneling is best for your needs, you are one step closer to switching to solar energy.
Types of Solar Installations
Going solar is one of the easiest decisions to make because you reduce your carbon footprint and your electricity bill. When deciding to go solar, you need to decide which installation type is right for you. Here we provide the three most common installations on the market that can help you through your decision-making process. These are pitched roof solar panel installation, flat roof solar panel installation, and ground-mount solar panel installation.
Pitched roof solar panel installation
Pitched roof solar panel installations are the most common solar panel system installation seen in residential areas. A pitched roof solar panel installation is for non-flat or angled roofs. The angular shape of the roof and the complex equipment needed to keep the solar panels in place on these types of roofs make the pitched roof solar panel installation the most difficult of all the installations.
Flat roof solar panel installation
Flat roof solar panel installations provide flexibility in tilting and orienting solar panels on the roof. For this reason, the flat roof solar panel installation is one of the easiest installations. They are the most common on commercial buildings.
These are the three common mounting options for flat roof installations:
- Ballasted Mount
- Mechanically Attached
- Hybrid Mount
A ballasted mount is when weights called ballasts are used to hold solar panels down to the roof instead of bolting them down. An advantage of a ballasted system is that it does not penetrate the roof. However, a ballasted system can only work for large systems in low-wind zones.
A mechanically attached system is one that is mounted to the posts secured in the roof beams. There is special roof leak protection added to each penetration to prevent any leakage. Mechanically attached systems work for any size systems and can even hold in windy zones.
A hybrid mount is also known as a minimally attached system using a combination of the ballasted system design and mechanical attachments. This creates a system that has minimal roofing penetrations and security in windy areas.
Ground mount solar panel installation
A ground-mount solar panel installation is needed when your building may not be suitable for solar installations as a result of its location, size, or orientation. The installation instead takes place on the ground. The installation involves an angled structure made of steel that anchors the solar panels to the ground. A ground-mount solar panel installation thus provides you with more flexibility and other advantages when considering which type of solar panel system installation to choose.
Where you should install panels
Are you looking to install a new solar system? Before you do, let’s take a look at a few factors you consider to determine where you should install your solar panels. If you are looking to install a solar system on your roof, we must examine some physical properties of your roof.
Everything You Need to Know About Solar Panel Maintenance
You finally have solar panels, and you’re saving both money and energy. But what now? Do solar panels need any upkeep? Overall, panels need very little maintenance. Here, we cover everything you need to know to keep your panels in tip-top shape.
Does the type of solar system I have make a difference?
The type of solar system that you have, whether ground-mount or roof-mount, won’t affect your panels’ maintenance needs. The only difference is that ground-mount panels will be easier to access for cleaning purposes.
What role does my warranty play?
Your warranties will definitely play a role in maintaining your panels. Performance warranties will guarantee that your panels will maintain their productivity for a certain amount of time, typically 25 years.
Workmanship warranties, also known as equipment warranties, ensure that any defective parts or components are replaced in an affordable manner. Finally, many solar companies also provide warranties for inverters. Inverters are a type of technology that converts solar energy into electricity for your home.
Can I monitor the performance of my panels?
It’s easy to monitor the production of your solar system online or with apps. Some solar companies have included this as a standard. Ask for it beforehand – it offers many advantages because you can see the system’s production and when panels are not intact.
Should I be concerned about extreme weather?
Quality solar panels are highly durable and will be able to withstand most kinds of extreme weather, including high winds, snow, and most forms of hail. The only kind of documented weather that can harm your panels is hurricanes, tornadoes or lightning. However, with a good warranty, you should be able to get the replacement of your damaged panels covered.
Do I need to clean my panels?
Generally, you don’t have to worry about manually cleaning your solar panels as they are self-cleaning; the rain should be enough to keep them in tip-top shape. In cases of snow, don’t worry about clearing snow off your panels as your panels are designed for snow to slide off on their own.
Sometimes, though, you may need to clean off accumulated dust and debris. When cleaning your panels, pick an overcast day, shut down your solar system, and use warm water and a cloth to clean them. Click here to find out all of the key considerations for keeping your solar panels clean.
In conclusion: High quality solar panels are low maintenance
If you invest in high-quality solar panels, then you should be all good to go. At enlighten.energy, we will help you guarantee the highest quality panels, an extensive warranty, and an abundance of resources that cover how to keep your panels well-maintained.
Learn more about solar maintenance here.
Solar Panel Installation Companies
Going solar is a smart decision for upgrading your home and saving on energy costs. For you to go solar, you will need to work with a solar panel installation company. Solar panel installation companies or businesses install your solar power systems in your home. These companies install solar panels on rooftops, inverters required, and connect all wirings. Solar panel installation companies also help you maintain your solar system and repair any damages.
When choosing a solar panel installation company, it is important to look for professional quote documentation. This includes a detailed list of the products/components, price, proposed system design and roof plan, warranty terms, and estimated energy yield. By signing up with enlighten.energy we will help you manage your projects with our trusted partners.
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