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Energy efficiency is a huge topic these days. Being energy efficient is a great way to save money on utilities, while also help protect the environment. There are different ways to utilize renewable energy. Wind power, water power, and solar panels.
What is Solar Energy?
Solar energy is a clean and renewable source of power. By having solar panels, you are able to utilize the power of the sun while saving money on an electric bill. You’ve probably driven by a solar panel farm before and never realized it. For billions of years the sun has provided our world with energy. Why not take advantage of a free power source? By having panels set up, you satisfy a global need for a whole year. What are solar panels exactly and how do they work? Can you get them for your home and how, exactly, much will they cost?
How do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels have been an alternative source of energy for decades now. We see them on top of roadside signs or on top of houses we may pass. They also keep our spacecraft powered. How, exactly, do they work?
Technically, one panel works by soaking up particles of light. This, in turn, allows photons to knock electrons around — sounds like a boxing match, right? The electrons then free themselves from their atoms creating a flow of energy.
One solar panel is actually made up of smaller units called a photovoltaic cell. When you have a lot of these solar cells together you create one solar panel. Sounds confusing, I know, but really it is simple. Other components of these cells turn electrons into usable energy. The conductive metal plates that are on the side of solar panels take the electrons and transfer them to wires. That is where your energy comes from.
Did you know that solar-thermal plants use solar panels to run their turbines? It is interesting to see the uses of solar energy. The technique that solar plants use is converting the energy from solar panels into a heat source. That heat source boils water, which then allows steam turbines to work. It is the same action as coal or nuclear plants, yet cleaner and safer. The energy gathered provided people with electricity in their homes.
Solar Panels for Home
If you have decided to go for solar energy, picked the company that best suits your needs. You can now purchase solar panels for home. However, it takes more than just solar panels to give you cleaner energy. There are four components to a PV system (photovoltaic);
- Solar Panels – capture the sun’s energy and turns it into electricity.
- Inverter – converts energy stored in a battery to voltage needed to run standard electrical equipment
- Batteries – store electricity for later use
- Controller – protects batteries by regulating the flow of electricity
This is where a lot of your cost is going to come in to effect.
There are steps you need to take when considering solar energy and buying solar panels for your home. You want to see how much energy your home uses to consider efficiency upgrades. This includes how much electricity your household uses. After that you can the best way to use solar energy for your home. It will also depend on how much sunlight will hit the area you place your solar panels, and the size of the system you get as well.
If you don’t own your own home, but rent, you want to check out programs that will allow you to still benefit from solar energy. This is the time you want to estimate how much energy you will be using. Since each home is different, knowing how much energy you use helps your contractor to provide any recommendations for types of solar energy systems to choose from. For more information about the steps you need to take, check out Planning a Home Solar Electric System.
Solar Panel Cost
A lot of people are interested in solar panels. For some, they might not know where to look, or how much they might cost. Solar panels are not cheap by any means, but in the end it does afford their owners to be more energy efficient and all them to use cleaner energy. Solar panel companies need to take your average utility bill cost per month to calculate the panel cost per watt that will be used.
Let’s Do the Math
Each month there are 730 hours, which makes the average cost of kWh of electricity $0.10. The average home consumes about 1 kW per hour of electricity. That makes an average bill around $73 for 730 kWh for electricity. This is going to differ depending on the type of appliances you have in the home or outside the home. Certain months will also be higher than average when you start using air conditioning and fans. You would want to use a conservative value a solar panel with a generating capacity is 10 watts/sq. ft. That is a representation of a panel conversion efficiency of about 12%. This means that for every kW you generate, you need about 100 sq. ft. of solar panels. For those not very good with numbers that seems confusing. Now you need to ask yourself a question, how much is it all going to cost?
Cost is going to differ from home to home. A few years ago an installation of solar panels cost between $7-$9 per watt. That means a 5 kW system could cost $25,000-$35,000. On the plus side of that cost, some utility companies will offer incentives that can subsidize as much as 50% of system costs. So, a system that will generate $75 per month could take a while to pay for itself. Today, a solar panel system generally costs around $3 per watt, and extra installation will bring it to a total of $5-$6 per watt. It really depends on which solar panel company you go with. This is just general information. Also, in 42 states plus DC, utilities have to buy the surplus of energy — power — from their consumers. That allows people with solar energy to wind up with negative bills — i.e. credits!
Solar Panels are Energy Efficient for the World
Solar energy is not only efficient but it’s cleaner. You are able to live off the grid and become more self-sufficient. Choosing the right solar panels will depend on the amount of energy you use and how big your home is. Make sure that you do all the necessary research because solar panels are not cheap. They are not something that can be installed by yourself unless you’re an electrician. With solar energy, it puts you a step forward in creating a cleaner environment for yourself and the people around you. Will you be getting solar panels soon?
Featured Image: CC0 by Carl Attard via Pexels