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The Truth About Solar

There have been quite a few rumors about solar panels. We need to break down the facts. What are some of the myths about solar panels and the actual truth?

 


 

winter_solar
Do Solar Panels Produce Energy in The Fall & Winter?

Yes, they actually work better in cooler climates. Cool and sunny weather is best for solar. Just make sure they are not covered in snow.

 


 

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Are Solar Systems Too Expensive?

The answer is no. Right now it is at an all-time low and is the best time to go solar. You can purchase or lease solar panels. 

 


 

moving_solarhome
Can You Move After Installing Solar Panels?

If you purchased your solar panels it will make it easier to sell your house and add value. If you leased you solar panels it may be harder to sell your house and it does not add value to your home.

 


 

Solar Homes are Complicated & High Maintenance.

Solar home systems are reliable. They do require caring for and being clean to stay in top shape. Nature does happen such as fallen trees, strong winds and other things. Other than dramatic occasions they should last you 25 plus years.

 


 

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Solar Panels are Outdated Rather Fast.

Solar panels are a big investment but not to worry about being outdated fast. Typically an installation will last 25 plus years. This doesn’t mean the system will stop creating electricity after a couple decades. Solar panels made in the 80s are still producing clean energy today.

 


 

After reading the following myths and truths, starting a solar journey won’t just help you take control of your electric bills but could also save you thousands of dollars in electricity costs during the next 25 plus years. If you’re interested, give us a call at ReNu Solar & Roofing.

 

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Two Myths About Solar Power Busted

Believe it or not, the first method for generating solar power was invented almost 200 years agoCommercially viable solar panels, on the other hand, only emerged in the last decade. So, it’s no surprise to see a lot of misconceptions about solar energy still floating around.

Today will focus on two of the most common myths we encounter.

 

Myth #1: Your Solar Panels Won’t Produce on Cloudy Days

Many people believe that generating solar energy requires a constant stream of direct sunlight. But, while the first solar cells were pretty much useless on cloudy days, technological advances have made them vastly more efficient today. And part of that increased efficiency comes from the capacity to generate power from indirect sunlight. 

Moreover, when the wispy edges of cumulus clouds pass in front of the sun, they can act as a magnifying glass and intensify its rays. That’s called the edge of cloud effect. It means, on partly cloudy days, your solar system will actually be delivering more power at various points. 

Despite these factors, however, it’s still true that you’ll be generating much more solar energy when the sun is shining.

 

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When it’s partly cloudy, you can expect to see a 10% to 25% drop, depending on how often clouds wind up passing between the sun and your panels. On fully overcast days, you’re likely to see a much larger 70% to 90% drop. The upshot is that, even with the vast increases in efficiency, most homeowners still won’t be generating enough solar energy to fully power their homes when it’s very cloudy.

Fortunately, however, most will wind up generating surplus energy on sunny days. There was a time when taking advantage of that extra power required installing an expensive and environmentally unfriendly battery system. But in Pennsylvania and many other states, something called net metering is now the law of the land. That means your utility company has to compensate you for any extra power your system produces.

And the sunny-day surplus is usually enough to balance out any cloudy-day or nighttime deficits. 

 

Myth #2: Solar Panels Are Most Efficient on a Roof

The vast majority of the solar systems you see popping up on your drive to work are likely to be roof-mounted. So, it’s natural to assume that mounting panels on a roof somehow increases efficiency. 

But while there are a lot of good reasons roof-mounted systems are popular, efficiency isn’t one of them. 

Though everyone has a roof, many homeowners, especially ones in more densely populated areas, simply don’t have enough unobstructed space on the ground to fit a solar system. And many of those who do prefer to keep it available for reaction.


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Rooftop installations have other benefits as well. 

  • Because roofs are low access areas, your solar panels will be better-protected.
  • Solar panels return the favor by protecting your roof from snow, hail, and other sources of damage.
  • Since roofs are high off the ground, sunlight is also less likely to be obstructed by any nearby objects.

 

ground mounts
But ground-mounted systems also have advantages of their own. 

  • The technicians doing the installation don’t have to do any climbing or work on a tilted surface. So, ground-mounted systems wind up being significantly less labor-intensive and, hence, a lot cheaper.
  • Roofs sometimes need repair or upgrading before panels can be safely mounted, increasing installation costs.
  • How much electricity a roof mounted system generates is limited by (i) the size of your roof, (ii) the number of surfaces facing the sun, and (iii) their tilt. Whereas it’s no work at all to set up ground mounts so that every panel is optimally positioned. If you have enough space for a ground-mounted system at all, you’re also almost certain to have enough room for the exact number of panels needed to meet your annual energy needs.

 

Space considerations mean that roof-mounted installations will be the best option for most homeowners. But if you live in a less densely populated area and have a bit of land, ground mounts are definitely worth considering.

We’ll debunk other common misconceptions about solar energy in future posts.

 

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Should You Buy or Lease Your Solar System?

Solar panels are fast becoming a regular feature of the American landscape. But a lot of people are surprised to learn that not all the installations popping up on their daily commute actually belong to the homeowner.

Though many who make the switch to solar power do either buy the system outright or get financing from a bank, a significant number find it’s better to lease theirs instead, through what’s called a Solar Power Purchase Agreement or PPA.

 

How PPA’s Work

PPA’s are different than a typical lease for, say, an apartment or construction equipment. You don’t pay a yearly, monthly, or weekly fee. Though the developer does retain ownership, a PPA is a contract to buy electricity from them at a certain rate for a specified period of time—usually 10 to 25 years.

 

Weighing The Costs & Benefits 

That electricity rate in your PPA should, of course, be lower than what your local utility company is charging. Who would want to sign a PPA, otherwise?

And therein lies its beauty. You get a reduction in your monthly energy bill for the life of the lease without putting a cent down or incurring any responsibility for maintenance should the solar system wind up needing service. Many homeowners who aren’t even all that interested in the other benefits of going solar find a PPA attractive simply because it’s a totally no-cost, worry-free way to lower their monthly electric bill.

The amount you’ll wind up saving with a PPA does, however, turn out to be less than if you’d bought the system outright or with the help of a finance company. If that weren’t true, no developer would offer a PPA. The developer is essentially taking a cut of the money switching to solar power will save in exchange for assuming both the burden of financing it and responsibility of maintaining it.


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But it’s important to realize that a PPA doesn’t remove all the expenses that may be involved in fitting your home with solar panels. While the developer pays the cost of installing and maintaining your system, any repairs or alterations required for installation or efficient operation still fall on you. So, for example, if your roof needs repairing before it can support solar panels or any trees need to be removed so sunlight isn’t obstructed, those expenses would fall on you.

Moreover, there other savings you give up in exchange for the no-hassle convenience of a PPA.

 

Solar Renewable Energy Credits 

Every time a solar system generates a certain amount of energy, its owner gets something called a Solar Renewable Energy Credit or SREC. When enough SRECs are collected, they can then be sold to utilities companies to help meet government renewable energy standards.

 

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Accumulating and selling SRECs may sound like a tedious affair, but there are brokerage firms that handle everything. And if you buy your system outright or finance it, the money left after they take a small cut for their efforts goes to you. Whereas if you lease your system through a PPA, the developer realizes any profits from selling SRECs.

Any available special tax incentives to install a solar system also go to whoever owns it.

 

The Decision

Finally, though PPA’s can be transferred to new owners and, hence, will likely increase your home’s market value, it won’t be as much as when ownership of the solar system is transferred along with the rest of the property.

Though there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether to own or lease your solar system, a general rule applies. The more you’re just looking to reduce your energy bill with the absolute minimum expense and hassle, the more a PPA will be right for you.

The more you’re looking to realize as many financial benefits as possible, on the other hand, the more owning the system yourself will be the better option. 

 

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The Design & Construction of Solar Panels

How Solar Energy Works

electrons_atom

  1. Electrical current is a flow of electrical charge created by the movement of sub-atomic particles called electrons.

  2. A material like copper conducts electricity because it contains electrons that aren’t bound to any particular molecule and, hence, are capable of moving through it.

  3. Sunlight is composed of subatomic particles called photons. If a photon in a beam of light striking a conducting material has enough energy, it can “knock” any freely moving electron it impacts completely off the surface. This scientific process is called the Photoelectric Effect.

  4. We’re able to convert sunlight into clean, cost-free, and completely renewable energy to power your home because scientists and engineers, building on Einstein’s theory of light, created solar panels that channel the random Photelectric Effect into a controlled scientific process known as the Photovoltaic Effect. That’s when the electrons impacted by sufficiently energized photons of light, instead of being randomly “knocked” around, get channeled into wires by an electrical force, creating DC electrical current.


But solar panels don’t just channel electrons “knocked” free by sunlight into wires. They’re designed to do so with maximal efficiency. And the central principle involved is something you’ve no doubt heard: “Opposites attract.”

 

Positive & Negative Charges

Besides electrons, which have a negative charge, the molecules composing matter also contain positively charged subatomic particles called protons. In its ideal state, a molecule’s total negative and positive charges balance each other out. But it’s possible for a molecule to acquire an extra electron, giving it a negative charge, or to lose one and wind up with a positively charged hole. Positively charged holes, are repelled by each other and attract negatively charged electrons. And, conversely, negatively charged electrons likewise repel each other and are attracted to positively charged holes.

Each solar panel is made up of several dozen wafer-like solar cells. Each cell is , in turn, composed of a negatively charged top layer containing additional electrons and a positively charged bottom layer containing holes where electrons are missing.

 

construction

 

The Two Types of Silicon

Two different types of silicon are generally used to make the two layers comprising a solar cell.

In its pure untreated state, silicon is like plastic. All electrons are tightly bound to their molecules, making it a very poor conductor.  In a solar cell, however, the top layer is composed of N-TYPE Silicon, which has been altered or doped by injecting phosphorus. Phosphorus has one more electron in its outer shell than silicon. So, phosphorus doping gives the top layer of a solar cell extra negatively charged electrons that are free to move around among its molecules.

The bottom layer of a solar cell, on the other hand, is made of P-TYPE Silicon, usually doped with boron. Boron has one less electron in its outer shell than silicon. This creates positively charged holes in the bottom layer, which are also free to move around.

Though it’s easiest to think of the negatively charged n-type silicon being stacked on top of a separate layer of positively charged p-type silicon, in practice, any gap between the two layers will reduce the amount of electricity generated. So, to maximize efficiency, solar cells are constructed by taking a single slab of silicon and doping its top side with phosphorus and the bottom with boron.

 

The P-N Junction

The key to generating solar power lies in what happens in the region where the two types of silicon meet, called the p-n junction. Free electrons from the top layer of n-type silicon are attracted downward and start to fill holes in the bottom layer of p-type silicon. But, importantly, the process stops before all the extra electrons in the top cross to the bottom side.

 

PN_junction


Once the densely packed first layer of electrons transferred from top to bottom becomes large enough, their repelling force becomes so strong that it reaches across the newly created holes in the bottom layer of the n-type silicon above it and stops new electrons from entering. Conversely, the newly formed holes in the top layer of n-type silicone repel any more holes from the bottom layer from moving up. 

At that point, a state of equilibrium is reached. The top layer of electron-rich n-type  silicon has developed a region at the bottom densely packed with holes; and the bottom layer of p-type silicon has a densely packed region at the top where all the holes have been filled by electrons. This combined boundary region forms the p-n junction

 

Generating Current

Perhaps surprisingly, the top visible layer of a solar cell isn’t where the electrical current produced by sunlight is coming from. Instead, current is generated when some of the photons in sunlight pass completely through the top layer and strike the densely packed layer of electrons at the bottom of the p-n junction. Because electrical current is generated below the surface, the top layer of n-type silicon is heavily doped with extra electrons and very thin. That allows as many photons of light as possible to pass through. Whereas the bottom layer of p-type silicon is much thicker and more sparsely doped with holes. This makes the lower negatively charged layer of the p-n junction thicker, giving the photons passing through the thinner top layer of the cell plenty of opportunity to impact electrons. But even “much thicker” isn’t very thick when you’re talking about a solar cell; both layers together are still thinner than an eggshell.

Finally, a wire is run between the top layer of n-type silicon to the bottom layer of p-type silicone creating a circuit between them. If there were no circuit, when a photon of light impacted an electron in the lower part of the p-n junction, it would be attracted to the positively charged upper layer but eventually be repelled back to the hole it filled in the initial equilibrium state. However, the circuit running between the two layers allows the electron to be pulled through the p-n junction and back into the upper layer of n-type silicone. Equilibrium can be maintained by pushing another electron into the wire, which in turn eventually leads to an electron at the other end of wire re-entering the p-type bottom layer and rising back up to the n-p junction. 

Thus, when a lot of photons from sunlight start continually impacting electrons in the lower half of the p-n junction, a flow of DC electrical current is created running through the wire connecting the top and bottom layers of the solar cell.


If you’d like to visualize the process in action, check out the video below.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_q6LRgKpTw


If you’d like to see the complex technology involved in combining dozens of solar cells into a single solar panel, check out this video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=144&v=ckFieEHG7TU&feature=emb_logo

 

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A Technological Breakthrough Just Brought Us Closer To A Day When Solar Power Is Even Greener

The Efficiency of Organic Solar Panels

Solar panels composed of organic materials like carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, fluorine, oxygen, and sulfur have been around since 1954 and feature a lot of advantages.

Besides being easy to recycle, the materials are cheap and abundant. So organic solar cells are actually cheaper to produce than the silicon-based ones in commercial use today. They’re also lighter and more flexible, making them easier to transport and install as well as less prone to damage.

Despite all these advantages, however, there’s one crucial factor that’s stopped them from becoming commercially viable – efficiency.

The most efficient solar panels currently on the market are rated at close to 23%, meaning that 23% of the power contained in the sunlight that hits them gets converted to electricity. 

But squeezing out those last few percentage points of efficiency is expensive. So maximally-efficient panels don’t turn out to be very efficient at all from an economic perspective.  As a result, most solar panels currently used in home systems are rated between 15% and 20%.

The first organic solar cells, on the other hand, were only 6% efficient. And scientists have struggled to create a purely organic one that’s anywhere close to the 20% mark.

Until now. 

 

The Breakthrough In Organic Solar Cells

organic cell
A group of Lithuanian scientists in Saudi Arabia just announced they’ve constructed a completely organic solar cell with a record-breaking 18.4% efficiency.

The seed for their ground-breaking discovery was planted in 2018

Lithuanian researchers at Saudi Arabia’s Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) produced a material which self-assembles into a molecular-thin layer. Their invention binds easily to a wide-variety of surfaces and creates the electricity-generating middle slice between the top and bottom oppositely charged layers of a solar cell. 

Their remarkable discovery was first used to create highly efficient solar cells composed of a semi-organic material known as perovskite

But further developments by Lithuanian scientists at another Saudi Arabian institution, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), led to last week’s break-through announcement.

 

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As KTU’s, Dr. Artiom Magomedov explained:

“Last year, we noticed an article published by researchers from KAUST, where they described the remarkably high efficiency of an organic solar cell they achieved with our self-assembling molecules. We contacted the scientists and offered to collaborate in enhancing the capacities of the material. Due to the pandemic restrictions, all cooperation was remote – we sent the synthesized materials by post and our colleagues in Saudi Arabia built the organic solar cells and measured their properties.”

 

The Future of Organic Solar Panels

We’ve probably still got a bit of wait before organic solar panels hit the commercial market. 

Unfortunately, the same properties that make them easy to recycle also means they degrade quickly when exposed to oxygen. If they aren’t completely sealed off from air the organic materials can start to significantly decay in a matter of hours, raising manufacturing costs.

Finding an efficient way to mass-produce Dr. Mamedov’s self-assembling monolayers will also be crucial to making organic solar panels commercially viable.

But there’s no question that his team’s ground-breaking invention of an organic solar cell that rivals today’s commercially available inorganic panels in efficiency means we’re much closer to the inevitable day when solar power will be even more environmentally friendly.

 

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26% Solar Tax Credit Extended Through 2022

The $1.4 trillion federal spending package signed into law at the end of 2020 contained some good news for Americans looking to convert to solar energy. The 26% solar investment tax credit (ITC) that was just a few days away from expiring got extended for another two years. So, any solar installation that begins construction before 2023 will still be eligible for the full 26% tax credit.

Though a lot of folks don’t know about the ITC, it’s one of the most important actions congress has taken to encourage the growth of clean and renewable energy. And you’ll definitely want to factor it in when calculating your return on investment for going solar.

So, what is ITC and how does it work?

 

A Brief History of Solar Incentives

The ITC was first enacted as part of 2005’s Energy Policy Act. It’s been a major contributor to the over 10,000% growth the solar industry has experienced since, as well as the hundreds of thousands of jobs created and billions of dollars invested in the US economy along the way. 

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 granted a 30% tax credit to solar installations but was only in effect for a year. At the end of 2006 it was supposed to expire. The ITC, however, proved to be very popular. So, Congress passed the Tax Relief and Health Care Act in 2006 to extend it another year.

Since then, the ITC has been extended just on the brink of cancellation several times, with a few amendations along the way. One important change was in 2008. A $2,000 cap for residential solar installations that severely limited the ITC’s benefit to homeowners was thankfully removed.

Now the tax credit for residential or commercial solar systems stands at 26% and applies to the full cost of the system with no caps whatsoever.

 

How It Works

But it’s important to realize that the ITC is a tax credit not a payment. That means you get to deduct 26% of the full cost of your solar installation from your tax bill. 

But the catch is that you have to pay federal income taxes to benefit at all. And you’ll only be able to recoup your full ITC if you pay at least that much in taxes. 

The good news, however, is that you can carry over the ITC for up to five years.

 

How The ITC Works

After filing your taxes for the year your system was installed, you’ll get a 26% tax credit for the following year. If your tax bill winds up being equal to or greater than 26% of the full cost of your installation, that amount will be deducted from your bill. In that case, you’d be recouping the full amount right away. 

But if 26% of the total cost of your installation turns out to be less than the amount of federal income taxes you owe the next year, the balance can be applied to your future tax bills until its exhausted for up to five years. The upshot is that the vast majority of homeowners will wind up recouping the full 26% of the total price of their solar installation, usually the very next year. 

But a small percentage won’t get the ITC’s full benefit. And you’ll want to find out which category you’re in and how much of the full potential refund you can expect to recoup if you wind up falling in the latter category.

Another important caveat is that the 26% solar ITC goes to the owner of the solar installation. So, if you wind up deciding to lease your system from the installer through a solar power purchase agreement (PPA), you won’t be eligible for any refund. You also need to own your home since renters don’t qualify either.

To get your credit, whoever does your taxes will need to file IRS Form 5695

 

Reduced ITC Through 2024

But there’s more good news contained in the most recent ITC extension. Though the full 26% tax credit is only available if your solar installation begins before the end of 2022, reduced ITCs are still available through 2024.

  • Solar installations that begin construction in 2023 are still eligible for a 22% tax credit on their full cost. That’s a 4% drop from the current rate.
  • Those that begin in 2024 are still eligible for a 10% tax credit on full cost. That’s a fairly substantial 16% drop.

After 2024, the ITC is scheduled to be entirely phased out.

 

ITC schedule

 

Given its  history, there’s a good chance some form of ITC will be extended again. But nothing is certain, especially given all the recent upheavals America and the rest of the world have experienced.

So, if you’re thinking about going solar, now is the time to start getting estimates. Remember, the tax credit you’ll be eligible for depends on the year construction starts, not the one in which you sign the contract. And, as things stand, homeowners whose solar installations don’t start till 2024 stand to lose a pretty penny.

 

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Understanding Your Solar Proposal: kW vs. kWh

If you’re like most people, you probably use the terms solar power and solar energy interchangeably. And that’s perfectly fine in casual conversation.

Scientifically speaking, however, power and energy are actually quite different concepts. And understanding that difference turns out to be absolutely crucial when trying to determine the savings you’ll realize by generating your own electricity from the sun instead of buying it from a utility company.

 

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Kilowatts (kW) vs. Kilowatt-hours (kWh)

Just as length can be measured in either feet or meters, there are various different but equally good ways to measure both power and energy.

One common source of confusion when evaluating a solar system proposal, however, is that the terms typically used to measure electrical power and energy not only sound almost exactly the same; the slight difference between them makes it easy to get confused and reverse their meanings once you do understand the distinction.

Electrical power is typically measured in kilowatts, abbreviated as kW

Whereas electrical energy is typically measured in kilowatt-hours, abbreviated as kWh.

The amount of power (kW) a system produces at any given time is equal to the amount of energy (kWh) it would produce in an hour. So, even though power is the concept that involves how much is produced in an hour, the term for energy is the one that actually contains the word hour.

 

The Speed vs. Distance Analogy

It’s helpful to think of power (kW) as analogous to the speed at which a car is traveling and energy as analogous to the distance it actually travels.  

Just as power (kW) is the amount of energy (kWh) that would be generated in an hour, speed (miles per hour) is the amount of distance that would be traveled in an hour. 

Notice that both power and speed are what scientists call instantaneous measurements. Both the power (kW) generated by a solar system and the speed at which your car is traveling are measurements taken at one moment in time. Whereas both energy (kWh) and distance are measurements taken over an interval of time rather than a single instant. 

So, just as we can ask, how much distance your car was driven last month, we can ask how much energy (kWh) it took to run your home last month. 

But it makes no sense to ask what the speed of your car was last month—at different times it will have been traveling at different speeds, ranging from zero when it was at rest to whatever maximum speed you wound up driving. And, similarly, once we rigorously distinguish power from energy, it makes no sense to ask how much power (kW) your home used last month because power, like speed, is measured moment by moment.

 

Understanding Your Solar System Proposal

When looking at a solar system proposal for your home, you’ll get figures for both power and energy. For example, the system you’re looking at might deliver 8.5 kW of power and provide an estimated 1000 kWh of monthly energy. 

We can compare the monthly energy (kWh) estimate to how many kWh of electricity your utility company bills you for on average each month and factor in what they charge per kWh to see how much money a proposed solar system that fits your roof (or, if you have the space, a ground-mounted system) will save you.

In most cases, we’re able to provide homeowners with a system that will generate 100% of their electricity needs. But sometimes, either because of a small roof or one that doesn’t get a lot of sun, the best that can be done is to meet a percentage of the homeowner’s monthly energy consumption. But even having less than 100% of their monthly energy needs generated by solar panels, nonetheless, frequently yields substantial savings.

The power (kW) your system will deliver actually varies from moment to moment, depending on how much sun is shining on your panels. The number of kW provided in your proposal will be the maximum power that would be generated if the sun were optimally positioned on each panel. It’s basically a convenient shorthand for the overall size of your system. 

Determining the maximum power your system can produce is also a fairly simple matter. All you have to do is multiply the number of panels by the amount of power each will produce under optimal circumstances. And the latter is provided by the manufacturer in watts, where each kilowatt equals 1000 watts. So, for example, if you have 20 solar panels and each is rated 300 Watts, the size of your system will be 20 x 300 watts = 6000 watts = 6 kW of power.

Figuring out the amount of energy (kWh) your solar system will generate annually is, on the other hand, an extremely complicated process since each of the following must be factored in:

  • The slope of your roof surfaces.
  • The directions they face.  
  • Year-round local weather conditions.
  •  Any trees or other objects that will wind up obstructing the sun’s light at any time of the day throughout the year.

But that’s pretty much all there is to understanding the power (kW) and energy (kWh) estimates you’ll find in a solar system proposal for your home. Using satellite imagery of your roof and state-of-the-art software, our trained analysts can design a solar system for your home from their desks. We can also tell you exactly how much money you’d be saving on your monthly energy bill and, hence, how good an investment going solar will turn out to be for you.

 

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What Direction Should Your Solar Panels Face?

More and more people are turning to solar power in these uncertain times. 

Apart from decreasing or outright eliminating electric bills and the environmental benefits of a clean and renewable source of energy, many homeowners want the security of knowing they’re not dependent on the power grid for their essential electricity needs that going solar brings.

But is every home amenable to a solar system? 

In particular, what direction does your roof need to face?

Well, whether you live in Pennsylvania, California or anywhere else in the US,  there’s only one answer to that question: south. 

But if your roof doesn’t face directly south, don’t despair. Fortunately, there’s a fair bit of leeway here.

 

The Arc Of The Sun

suns movement

If you’re looking to have solar panels mounted on a roof anywhere in the northern hemisphere, ideally it ought to be facing south for the same reason “southern exposure” is considered a perk: you’ll get more sun. 

Though during summer the sun rises and sets slightly to the north, its east-to-west arc always places it to the south when it’s higher in the sky and shining most brightly. 

Moreover, in winter months, the sun’s arc moves much further south, meaning it’s providing less solar energy and, hence, making it even more crucial that your panels get at least some southern exposure. 

 

What If Your Roof Doesn’t Face South?

But obviously not every home comes with a roof that faces directly south. 

So, what happens if yours doesn’t? Is solar power still feasible?

20 years ago, you might have been out of luck. But thankfully, solar panels have become vastly more efficient in the last couple of decades and most homes with roofs that tilt to the south-east or south-west are able to generate significant amounts of power with a few additional panels.

But going solar isn’t out of the question even if your roof faces only directly north. 

Though it won’t get enough sun to make it a feasible surface for solar panels, if you have some unobstructed space, you can generate a lot of power with a ground-mounted system.

 

Ground-mounts

ground mounts

Since roof-mounted systems are by far the most popular, a lot of people just implicitly assume a roof is the only place solar panels can go. But thanks to the incredible increases in efficiency over the last couple of decades, it doesn’t take nearly as much space to generate a significant amount of power. So, if your house is on a bit of land, it’s very possible a ground-mounted system will work for you even if your roof won’t.

And, though roof-mounted systems have the obvious advantage of not taking up any space, ground-mounts also have a number of advantages of their own.

  • Cost: Because there’s no need to for technicians to affix them to your roof, ground installations involve significantly less labor costs.
  • Efficiency:  Since their tilt and direction are in no way dependent on the structure of your home, there’s no difficulty at all in setting up a ground-mounted system to get maximal sun exposure so each panel is generating power at its maximal capacity.
  • Aesthetics: Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. And tastes vary considerably here. But some homeowners prefer ground-mounts because they want a pristine panel-free roof.

 

What’s Right For You?

Whether it’s on the up on the roof or down on the ground, determining how much energy a solar system will wind up giving you requires an extraordinary amount of very complex math. 

The tilt and direction of each panel must be plugged into equations describing the suns ever-changing arc throughout the year. Local whether conditions and the effect of trees or any other objects that obstruct the sun at any point in its yearly arc also need to be rendered mathematically and factored in.

Fortunately, however, solar panels aren’t the only technology that has seen amazing improvement. Computers now have vastly more computational power.

Though it’s for all intents and purposes impossible for any human to calculate how much energy a roof or ground-mounted system would generate annually, nowadays, using the latest software and satellite imagery, our trained technicians can do it without even leaving their desks. 

So, if you’re looking for energy independence, give us a call. We can tell you how much monthly power you can expect to get from a roof or ground-mounted system, taking the guess-work out of your decision and making it matter of simple, straightforward, and easily-comprehended numbers.

 

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Choosing A Solar Installer: Local vs. National

It’s a basic law of economics that when demand starts to seriously increase the number of suppliers is bound to follow suit.

So, given the enormous growth in the solar energy market, it’s not at all surprising that consumers and business owners alike looking to go solar find themselves with more and more companies to choose.

Nor is it surprising that huge corporations, sensing an opportunity for massive profits, are going into the solar energy business on a nationwide scale.

Because corporations out to dominate a burgeoning market spend an enormous amount on advertising, you may be more likely to think of them. Indeed, their business strategy relies on the fact that most folks will just reflexively call the first name that comes to mind.

But, as with most things, when looking for someone to convert your home or business to solar power it pays not to be lazy. When a company’s strategy for growth is focused entirely on establishing an image, the reality of the service they provide can fail to live up to it.

 

A Local Installer’s Reputation Is Crucial

The biggest reason local solar providers are likely to do a better job is that they simply can’t afford not to.

Whereas a single bad review won’t impact a company doing business on a national scale, a local firm’s reputation in the small market they service is the only thing keeping it afloat. As such, even one bad installation is going to have serious consequences for a local installer’s bottom line.

In homegrown companies, the person answering the phone, the installation specialist who provides the estimate, the installers, and even the head of the company are all likely to all know one another.

Indeed, having everyone involved in your installation from the first phone call, through the installation process, till the meter is finally turned on working as team to deliver the best possible service has to be the explicit goal of any local company that wants to succeed.

Anyone’s whose been in the unfortunate predicament of having to contact a huge corporation to remedy a problem with one of their products or services, on the other hand, knows that the exact opposite is true. 

Phones are answered by people in another country. They contact employees thousands of miles away whose names they don’t even know. Those employees themselves have no connection to the ones who provided the product or service. And the executives in charge couldn’t be further removed from day-to-day operations if they were living on Mars.

When you choose a local company, you’ll be dealing with human beings in your community working as a team, not a ruthless system spread out across the planet.

 

Local Knowledge Is Crucial

Converting your home to solar energy involves a lot more than installing panels on your roof. 

Permits have to be secured to make sure the installation meets state, county, and city requirements.

Any alterations to a residential roof are subject to local safety guidelines.

Fire codes stipulating how panels have to be laid out differ from one jurisdiction to another.

A local firm in business to do a lot of installations in your area is much more likely to be on top of all the complex and ever-changing bureaucracy involved than a national firm that makes its money by doing a few installations in many jurisdictions spread out across the country.

If you’re in a Homeowners Association, the requirements can become even more of a burden. Local solar installers develop expertise in working with HOA’s and may even have experience with yours.

But there are local bureaucratic benefits as well as costs. 

Many government incentives exist for homeowners and businesses converting to solar energy. Moreover, the list is constantly changing as old incentives are phased out and new ones are created. 

Incentives provided by local and state authorities and even your local utility company can seriously impact your  return on investment. And, just like building codes, a local company is far more likely to be on top of the incentives relevant to you and, hence, be able to provide a much more accurate estimate of your bottom line.

 

Building Your Community

Choosing a local solar company gives you a tighter more human relationship to the people you’ll be entrusting with a very serious responsibility and ensures that they’ll be aware of your special circumstances.

It also means investing in your community. From your first phone call to switching on your meter, you’ll be providing a living for people who live, work, and play in your area. And even business profits will wind up getting spent locally and help keep your community thriving.

You might say that going local helps our human environment thrive in just the same way that going solar benefits nature.

 

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