Solar panels are increasingly becoming popular additions for many homeowners interested in renewable energy. But with many different types of solar panels and arrangements in residential spaces, it can be a bit confusing to decide if you should get them for your home. The geography of where you live (how close you are to the equator and how much sun you regularly get) can also make a big impact on how profitable a solar panel system will be for you.
In this article, we’ll look through how solar panels work and explore some of the different types of solar panels. We’ll investigate the pros and cons and hopefully help you decide if you should get solar panels for your home.
How Do Solar Panel Systems Work?
At a very high level, solar panel systems work by capturing sunlight and converting that into energy that your house can use. The panels capture the photons from sunlight and generate direct current (DC). Most homes work on alternating current (AC) however, so a solar panel system will also include an inverter that can convert DC to AC that your house can use.
Many solar panel systems will also have large photovoltaic batteries that can store the solar energy. This is because the sun does not shine all the time, and you’ll probably want to still have electricity at night and when it’s cloudy. Depending on the type of solar panel system that you have, it may also connect into the local electrical grid, which can help you with your electric bill.
Types Of Solar Panels
There are several different types of solar panels. They all work in roughly similar ways, but there are some important differences you’ll want to be aware of.
Monocrystalline solar panels are the oldest design for these systems. Because monocrystalline solar panels have been around the longest, their development is more stable. As the name indicates, monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single crystalline structure. Monocrystalline installations are generally more efficient and have a longer lifespan. They’re also generally the highest priced system.
Polycrystalline solar panels are a newer design for solar energy. Polycrystalline solar panels are made up of several silicon crystals. Polycrystalline systems are slightly less efficient than monocrystalline ones, but are also less expensive. The lower efficiency of polycrystalline panels means that you’ll need to have more of them in your system to achieve the same amount of energy.
Instead of being made up completely of solid silicon wafers, amorphous solar panels are usually thin sheets of silicon that are attached to another substance, such as metal, glass or plastic. Historically, amorphous solar panel systems gained popularity because they were much less expensive than monocrystalline or polycrystalline systems. However, as the price of the other types of solar panels have come down, the lower efficiency of amorphous solar panels have made it a niche product – not used in most residential applications.
Types Of Residential Solar Panel Systems
In addition to there being several types of solar panels that you can use for your home, there are several different ways that you can configure your solar panel system.
The simplest way to configure your solar panels is with a grid-tied system. In a grid-tied system, your solar panels are connected directly to your utility company’s power grid. Because your energy is stored in the power grid, you don’t need to purchase an expensive battery bank.
Typically, your utility company will have a special kind of meter that measures both the amount of electricity that you generate and the amount that you use. This is called net metering – you’ll only be charged for the net amount of electricity that you use and might even receive a credit on your electric bill if your solar panels produce more than you consume.
In an off-grid solar panel configuration, there is no grid to connect to. Instead, you must purchase a battery bank to store your solar energy. The size (and cost) of your batteries depend on how much electricity you use and how much your solar panels will produce. Unless it’s physically or financially infeasible to connect to a utility power grid, most people choose a grid tied system.
Grid-Tied With Battery Backup
If you decide that you want to go with a grid-tied system, it still may make sense to purchase a battery bank to store some of your power. One reason is that you may want to store power in case of disruptions in the electric power system. Another can be if your utility has different rates for power usage depending on the time of day or amount of usage. A battery backup system can help ensure that you minimize your total electric bill.
Pros And Cons Of Home Solar Panels
If you’re trying to decide whether you should get solar panels for your house, here are a few pros and cons to consider.
- You’ll decrease (or possibly eliminate) your monthly electric bill
- Converting some of your usage to solar lowers your overall carbon footprint
- Solar panel installation may be eligible for federal, state or local tax incentives
- You may increase the overall value of your home
- Solar panels can come with an expensive upfront installation cost
- Having solar panels can impact your ability to refinance your mortgage.
How Much Do Residential Solar Panel Systems Cost?
Residential solar panel systems can have a wide range of costs, depending on how big of a house you have, where you live and whether you plan on installing the solar panel system yourself. For an average house, the installation cost may range from $15,000 – $25,000 or more.
The good news is that most solar panel systems are designed in such a way that they shouldn’t need much ongoing maintenance – most of the cost is upfront. Also, depending on where you live, you may be eligible for tax incentives for installing them. So, check with your local, state or federal governments to see what options you might have to help defray some of the installation cost.
Who Are The Best Candidates For Solar Panels?
There are a few factors that make a home a good candidate for solar panels. The first thing you’ll want to consider is how long you plan to be in your home. Since most of the cost with solar panels is an upfront cost, the best candidates will be someone who is planning on staying in their home for a long time (to reap the long lasting rewards). Another indicator of a good candidate is someone who lives in a sunny place. The more the sun shines, the more electricity you’ll generate and the more money you’ll save. Having a south-facing roof will also help.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully this article has helped you determine the pros and cons of getting solar panels for your home. Installing solar panels for your house can be a good long-term investment that comes with an upfront cost but pays monthly returns on your electric bill.
For more information on this and other aspects of homeownership, visit the Rocket Mortgage Learning Center.
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