The ability to use the sun to create an electric current or voltage was first discovered in 1839 by French physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel. By the mid 1970s in the U.S., solar panels on residential homes were part of an initiative to conserve energy and convert it from more natural sources. Today, over two million homeowners have solar panels installed on their homes – and counting. The cost vs. savings efficiency of solar panels is well-documented, although the area where you live and other factors have influence in this regard. Continue reading to learn about solar panel solutions for your home today.
Brief History of Harnessing Solar Power for Energy
Nineteen-year-old French physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel initially observed and discovered the photovoltaic effect in 1839. The photovoltaic effect can be described as the generation of an electric current or voltage through the exposure to radiant energy or light. Becquerel created this effect by submerging two metal plates (platinum or gold) in a conducting solution, then exposing them unevenly to natural sunlight. By the 1860s the French mathematician Augustin Mouchot, inspired by Becquerel’s work, registered a patent for the first solar-powered engine in history. News of the invention spread to the U.S., where patents for additional solar-powered devices were subsequently filed as quickly as 1888.
Jumping forward to 1974, the U.S. Congress passed the Solar Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Act, which addressed an emerging energy crisis across the nation. After the erection of the Solar One power plant in Nevada, homeowners began choosing solar panels as an energy source for their homes. Solar panel installations hit a lull in the U.S. during the 80s, when prices for traditional energy sources lowered once again. Since the Solar Investment Tax Credit was enacted in 2006, however, solar panel installations have grown by approximately fifty percent. Currently, more than two million homeowners have solar panels installed on their homes and sixty-thousand+ new requests for installation quotes were submitted during August 2021 alone.
Solar Panel Solutions Available for You (Types and Components)
Three main types of solar panels are available. Each type has a set of similar components. The first thing to do is acquire an understanding of the different panel types and systems available. Next, assess what type of solar system is compatible with your roof and home. After learning about the types, components and logistical compatibilities with your residence, the next step is to research pricing and match compatible systems with your budget. Read directly below to learn about the different solar panel types and components. Average prices and budgetary considerations are discussed in more detail directly after.
The three main types of solar panels available are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous silicon. Each panel type contains silicon, which is a material used due to its accessibility, efficiency, and durability. The silicon in monocrystalline solar panels is of a notably high purity. Therefore, monocrystalline solar panels are the most common types installed, in large part due to their high level of efficiency. Monocrystalline panels react well to high temperatures, have an impressively long lifespan, and require less space when installed. Monocrystalline solar panels also tend to be the most expensive, although some manufacturers provide a twenty-five year warranty to back up their products and protect your investment.
Polycrystalline solar panels are designed with a combination of cost-effectiveness and energy-efficiency in mind. While their efficiency is impressive, these more affordable options also generate less power than monocrystalline solar panels create. Polycrystalline solar panels also require more real estate on your roof and tend to last fewer years than monocrystalline panels. These panels are best suited for homes located in moderate climates where the sunshine is consistent and peak temperatures neither drop nor rise too high.
Amorphous solar panels consist of a thinner-type silicon material. They therefore have more flexibility and less weight than their mono and polycrystalline counterparts. Amorphous silicon panels are excellent at handling higher temperatures and low-light environments due to their ability to absorb broader ranges of the light spectrum. These panels are twice as large as monocrystalline panels and generate half the amount of power. Amorphous solar panels are therefore best suited for homes located in climates where temperatures either fluctuate, reach peak extremes or both.
Solar power system components include the panels and multiple other items. Inverters convert direct current (DC) electricity to the alternating current (AC) electricity required by standard appliances. Mounting racks secure the panels in place on your roof. Fixed mounting racks and tracking mounts are available. Fixed mounting racks are less expensive and are fixed in one, unmoving location. Tracking mounts cost more because they are adjustable to allow the panels to follow the path of the moving sun.
Average Prices, Savings and Benefits
Average prices for installing solar panel systems vary based on panel type, system size and your state. System sizes are calculated based on panel numbers and kilowatts (kWs). A twenty-six percent federal solar tax credit is also available. Using a dollars per watt ($/W) calculation method, U.S. homeowners are currently paying $2.81 per watt on average. An 8kW system with twenty-three panels at $2.85 per watt costs approximately $16,800 per year after the tax credit is applied. A 16kW system with forty-three panels at $2.60 per watt costs approximately $18,800 per year after the tax credit is applied.
Here’s How Long It Takes Solar Panels to Pay for Themselves – Benefits
Your solar panel payback period is considered the time it takes you to pay off your system via reduced costs and savings on your energy bill. Subtract any incentives or tax credits from the installation and purchase price. Divide the resulting number by your annual energy bill savings. For example, a $20,000 solar system purchase with a $6,000 tax credit costs you $14,000. If you save $2,000 per year on you energy bills by using your solar system, yoru solar panel payback period is seven years. Solar panel systems also convert and produce clean energy. By producing clean energy and reducing the use of other energy sources, your solar panel system helps preserve the environment and reduce pollution.
What Does It Take to Install Solar Panels?
The first step is to decide what type of solar panel system is compatible with your home and budget. Purchase the system and panels and research installation engineers. Comparison-shop between multiple providers to get the best deal possible in your area. You will need to sign a contract, solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) and other paperwork. Once the paperwork is completed the entire installation process requires only a few days’ time. Your system will be inspected by the installer and local government, connected to the power grid and activated once it passes all applicable tests.