Solar Energy 101 – 6 Steps to Understand How Solar Works and Benefits

Solar energy is clean and affordable energy that can be a great alternative to the unpredictable service from your local electric company. You can back up your energy from equipment failures to natural disasters and be the only house with the lights on in your neighborhood with the solar panel. With your solar energy system, you can reduce your dependence on the traditional electric grid and generate monthly energy savings that lower what you pay for energy every month.

Solar 101
Solar 101 – A guide to understanding how solar works

In this Solar Energy 101 article, we’ll cover all you need to know about solar panel generation, including how solar power works, the components of a solar energy system, solar panels costs, your potential return on investment, and so much more.

Solar Energy 101: How Solar Energy is generated

The solar panels or solar array on your roof, made of photovoltaic solar cells, absorb the sun’s rays. The energy generated from those rays is passed through your inverter, a piece of equipment that is part of your system, and converts the solar power your panels receive into energy in your home. Your rooftop system generates more energy than you can use, you can store it for later—like at night or when it’s cloudy—with solar batteries, so you’re never in the dark.

The Lifespan of a Solar Panel

Most solar panels have a lifespan of about 25-30 years. However, solar panels become less able to absorb the sun over time. So while they will certainly still work even after a couple of decades, they will work at a reduced capacity and be less efficient as time goes on. The lifespan listed by the solar panel manufacturer indicates when the panel’s capacity will reduce to the point that it is no longer efficient.

On-Grid or Off-Grid?

Another question you’ll be asking yourself is whether you want to remain tethered to your power company’s electric grid as a backup energy source or go 100% solar. Being totally off the grid would require you to include solar battery storage when not enough solar is available. When grid-tied solar power systems are cloudy or at night, you’ll get your energy from the grid and pay grid energy prices. For off-the-grid solar power systems, they will pull energy from your battery storage to keep the lights on and transition from day to night without a hitch.

Key Components of a Solar Energy System

Solar Panels

Solar panel

First, we have your solar photovoltaic panels, which are monocrystalline (mono) and polycrystalline (poly) solar panels, made from solar cells (Monocrystalline Solar cells or Polycrystalline Solar Cells), Both function in the same way—they take the energy from the sun and capture it to be converted into electricity for you to use. And while both are made from durable silicon, mono panels have a black, shiny appearance, while poly appears bright blue. Some people think the black looks sleeker or blends in with their roof more, but others prefer the more affordable blue option, especially for businesses looking to cut costs with solar.

Solar Inverter

Solar Inverter
Solar inverter

Helping to pump the energy into your home or business is your inverter. It takes the direct current generated by the solar panels and turns it into alternating current we can use. The choice of your solar inverter may have an impact on your choice of panels. The use of string inverters is on the rise as they install more efficiently and allow for more flexibility. For a business looking to gradually go solar or install solar on just a portion of the roof or parking structures, this can be an easy and agile way to move forward while controlling costs.

The Effects of a Good (or Bad) Solar Inverter

As a key part of what makes the system work. Getting the right solar inverter for your solar power system means looking at your needs, your solar panel’s ability to collect energy, and your budget. This isn’t a place to skimp you because it really is the heart of your system.

Three Kinds of Solar Inverters

1: String Inverters

String Inverters are devices that convert energy from solar panels which are direct current or DC into AC or Alternating current. The AC output of these solar panels is equivalent to the output of the solar panels that is the worst performing among all solar panels. These inverters are also known as a central inverter, low cost and durable. They’re easy to keep working and are usually in an easily reachable place. But, a drop in productivity by one panel can affect them all due to its centralized nature.

2: Power optimizers

A Power optimizer is a device similar to that of a Micro-Inverter. Still, these optimizers allow for maximum electricity production, especially for Solar panels attached to complicated roofs. Although Micro-inverters can solve almost all of these concerns, the challenge is that micro-inverter systems can get pricey and almost make your ROI go over the roof. These power optimizers are usually installed on the roof next to your panels. These optimizers are installed underneath your panels, especially where the roof is exposed to partial shading and multiple orientations. As a result, solar power output will suffer. Power is still sent to the centralized inverter but can be helpful if you have shade issues.

3: Microinverters

Micro Inverters are well, devices that are inverters that are small and hence they are called Micro inverters. They are attached underneath to individual solar panels and are supported via the Solar racking system. Microinverters are added to each panel, so energy is not centralized, and you can maximize your output. But due to how they’re installed, maintenance can be a challenge. These inverters can be pricey to say the least.

How Do I Know Which Inverter is Right for Me?

If you already have a solar power energy system, it can affect which option is available. Some are very friendly to string inverters, and others may require microinverters. The best way to know is to speak with an expert. Especially if you’re getting a quote for a new installation, you’ll want to know what your options are and the pros and cons of each.

Solar Panel Mounting Equipment

Solar mounting system

Solar Racking systems or Solar panel mounts are the metal frames that hold your solar panels on top of the roof. These metal frames or mounts are generally installed on roofs or ground or other surfaces. Detailed study should be conducted to decide which mount will be suitable for a specific application. The type of anchors your tech uses will be based on the style of roof you have to make sure the panels stay on, and your roof stays in tip-top shape. A good installation can have a big effect on how well your solar panels generate energy.

Solar Batteries

Enphase Solar Storage System

Rooftop solar systems can generate more energy than your home can even use, and if you don’t use it, you lose it. That’s why some people choose to install a solar energy storage system that takes that excess solar power and stores it for later. If you have grid-tied solar, you may need only a small amount of battery storage for when the grid is down and you can’t generate enough solar at the moment. If you plan 100% energy independence with solar, you’ll need enough battery storage for anytime the sun isn’t out, including during storms or at night. This is generally estimated at 3x your daily energy needs. While your panels can generate energy through the clouds and rain, the amount they may generate won’t be up to your standard operating capacity.

Solar Performance Monitoring

Solar Performance Monitoring

Solar Monitoring is one of the most important things to consider when you’re going solar, as it gives an insight into how good your solar energy output is tracking. Solar Power performance monitoring helps ensure that your solar panels are working in great condition by tracking the power generated from the solar energy system. With this monitoring installed, it helps you to understand if your panels are working efficiently and producing the best possible output, as mentioned when you initially purchased the system. The fundamental importance of all this is that you’ll get good insights into how much money you’re saving in electricity costs and what will be your ROI for purchasing and using your solar energy system. In an unlikely scenario, if you notice that your system is not performing as well as it should, the solar monitoring system can pinpoint the issues of why your solar energy system is not performing as it should and helps you to quickly resolve an issue either by calling a trained solar technician or maybe just cleaning the solar panels of any debris.

Solar Warranties

Some would say that the most important part of your system is the warranties. A solar panel generally has two kinds of warranties that have been used, one is called performance warranty, and the other is called the equipment guarantee. A solar panel’s performance warranty will guarantee 90% production at 10 years and 80% at 25 years. In contrast, the product warranty is basically on the product’s workmanship and will guarantee you a minimum of 25 years [2].  Most manufacturers or installers will provide warranties or limited warranties on some of all of the parts of your solar energy system for up to 25 years. This is usually a sign of a quality product if a company is willing to stand by it for several decades. If you choose the right quality equipment and solar panels and have a qualified installer help you maximize their efficiency, your system could last 25 years or more.

Achieving Freedom with Solar Power

Experience personal energy independence with a complete home solar energy system. Solar Power is growing fast, and it’s easy to see why—owning your own power and relying on the grid as little as possible puts you in control. That’s real freedom! And, as the cost of solar energy installation and equipment continues to come down, your return on investment will be here sooner than you know it. Getting off the grid with solar could pay for itself in as little as seven years—just a third of the total lifespan of the average solar system.

Don’t Let The Grid Control What You Pay

There was a time when solar was expensive and experimental, but as an alternative energy source you own and operate, it’s become more affordable and accessible than ever. When you own your energy, you can free yourself from the ever-increasing costs of traditional grid-tied energy. No more surprises on your bill, and if you secured financing, your monthly charge would never go up or down. And when you’ve paid it off, you’re done! And you own your solar energy free and clear. The electric utility companies have nothing on that deal.

What Does it Cost to Go Solar

The costs of going solar depend on many unique factors and finding a reputable company. Don’t be tricked by a low-ball quote only to have poor quality or faulty products and a sub-par installation that hurts more than it helps. On average, you can expect a solar power system to cost you USD 15,000 to USD 20,000, depending on your needs, home size, and energy use.

Exploring Your Return on Investment: Is Solar Worth it?

Here are four key factors that can affect your ROI and how soon you see that return.

1: The rate you’re paying for electricity now

The rate you pay for energy now and your current electric bill is a good place to start looking when figuring out how long it will take you to see a return on your rooftop solar panel system. Compare available financing options and their monthly cost to your average monthly bill. Most find that they pay less with solar.

2: Financial incentives in your state

This can be state or local incentives for adopting clean energy systems. Even if you own a business and go solar, there may be business-specific tax incentives or rebates available to you. The United States solar programs include a federal tax credit (ITC) to help you recoup an average of $9,000 on your solar panel costs and installation.

3: Making your investment count

Talk to an expert. Finding the right partner will affect the quality of your materials and the quality of the install. It can even affect how well your panels deliver solar energy and how efficiently they convert the sun’s energy for your needs. Over the course of the lifespan of your solar power system, these attributes will play a crucial role in making sure you pay less or nothing for longer.

4: The impact of solar on your property value

Adding renewable energy like solar to your home can make it increase in value. As new buyers look more and more for that eco-sustainable lifestyle, solar panels are likely to be a fantastic deal maker when it comes to selling your home for a little bit more than you otherwise would. The work is already done, the energy bill is lower, and they can feel good about buying a home that reduces their carbon footprint.

Reducing Your Solar Costs with Incentives and Tax Credits

Different states have different incentives for making a cleaner choice to power your home. Find out if your area has benefits you can cash in on when adding solar panels to your home. It could help reduce the overall costs of your solar system and help you pay it off faster.

Net Metering

Net Metering Concept

If you live in an area with net metering, look into what you could be paid for additional energy generated by your solar systems. With net metering, any energy your system generates more than your needs can be put back into the grid, and then you get paid for the energy provided. Any money you can generate through net metering will help reduce the cost of your solar power energy system overall. Explore all it means to go solar and what it can do for your bill. Solar panel production varies throughout the year according to seasons and your location on the planet. Still, no matter where you are, solar can produce savings and clean energy for decades. Invest in the future of energy with solar and help us provide a clean energy future for the next generation.

Tax Credits

Federal Tax Credits are one of the easiest ways by which you can reduce the cost of the Solar systems. To reduce the cost of your solar power systems is to take advantage of the Solar Investment Tax Credits available to you as a homeowner, which can be claimed on your federal income tax. The percentage of the total cost of the Solar Photovoltaic System can be claimed on your federal income tax as part of the Federal ITC put into place by the Federal Government. One of the few conditions that need to be taken care of by the homeowner is to place your system in service during the tax year, and solar electricity needs to be generated in the home.

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