Even though solar panels have been around for decades they’ve seriously exploded in popularity within the last few years thanks to improvements in technology and affordability. With so many newcomers to solar you can imagine how many questions we get on a daily basis.
Here are just a few of the most frequently asked questions we get about solar.
How do solar panels work?
Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic/solar cells that are composed of semiconductors that generate electricity. Semiconductors are the same thing that make up computer chips. They’re made of silicon and they’re great for controlled conductivity.
When sunlight hits a solar panel, it absorbs the light’s energy by exciting electrons within the panel creating a direct current (DC) electricity. Most homes however run on alternating current (AC) electricity so an inverter is used to convert the DC electricity to AC electricity. Now the energy that your solar panels produced can be used in your home or sold back to the city.
How long do solar panels last?
Many solar panels come with a 25-year warranty so your panels are guaranteed to last you at least that long. Chances are though that your panels will keep running long after your warranty runs out. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “the average
degradation rate still allows reasonable performance after 25 years.”
They won’t be as efficient as the day you bought them but they’ll likely still produce 75-85% of their original output. Keep in mind that most solar panel systems pay for themselves way before the warranty runs out. In some cases if you install the panels yourself you can expect the payback period to be as short as 5-7 years.
How many solar panels do I need?
The number of solar panels you need for your personal array depend on many factors from how much power you use to the direction that your roof faces. The energy that solar panels produce is measured in watts (W). Panels can range in capacity from 250-350 depending on what type of panel you purchase. Purchasing 10 350 W panels would give you a 3,500 W or 3.5 kilowatts (kW). Solar panel systems are most commonly measured in kilowatts.
To get an idea of how much solar you can fit on your roof and to see how much electricity it will produce you can use NREL’s PV Watt calculator tool. You can also get in touch with us and we’d be happy to help you figure out what size system would fit your needs.
Will solar array put holes in my roof?
Solar panels are mounted on racking that is attached to your roof by the rafters. This creates a sturdy system that won’t go anywhere anytime soon. While there are holes in your roof to attach the mounting these holes are then sealed to prevent any leaks. Solar panels can be attached to just about any type of roof with no issues.
If you have a large yard or land you also have the option of doing ground mounted panels. This allows you to avoid putting holes in your roof if that is a concern of yours.
Can I install my solar array myself?
While some solar companies will discourage you from doing it yourself, we help our customers with self installs. We provide classes that you can attend for free to learn how to install your very own solar array. We even offer an EZ Solar Permit and Design option where we design your array for you for optimal energy output and help you get the proper permitting for your city.
You can follow us on Facebook to get notifications on our latest events and DIY classes.
Do my solar panels produce power when the sun isn’t shining?
Solar power is obviously dependant on the sun. Your panels will produce less energy if it’s cloudy or if they’re in shadow or somehow covered up. With the use of micro inverters or optimizer inverters you can maximize the efficiency of your solar array even if part of your system is in shadow.
Solar panels can still produce energy on a cloudy day but the output will be much lower. Utah and Idaho have some of the best solar energy potential thanks to our desert climate.
Do solar panels work during a power outage?
Unfortunately most solar panels are tied to the power grid so if there’s a power outage your panels will also stop producing power as well. Your panels are shut down to prevent them from sending power back to the grid. This is actually a safety precaution to keep the grid and emergency workers safe while they’re trying to make repairs. If you’re concerned about blackouts there is the option to include a battery in your solar panel system to store extra energy that can later be used.
Do solar panels require maintenance?
Most solar panels don’t require any maintenance at all. Solar panels are durable and long-lasting but most come with 25-year warranties if there are issues early on. Warranty terms depend on the company though so if maintenance is a concern be sure to check what’s covered and what isn’t.
Solar panels in general don’t need to be cleaned either. And while panels can’t produce energy while they’re covered in snow, most will “self-clear” with no issues.
Solar panels aren’t a new technology but they might be new to you and that’s ok! We know you have a ton of questions and we hope we answered a few of them for you. If you have more questions or you’re ready to go solar, contact us!