How Effective Are Solar Panels For Your Home?
Imagine that your home or business could generate its own clean and sustainable electricity. Besides drastically reducing power bills, a solar power system can significantly improve a building’s market value. Many consumers can also qualify for tax programs and loans that make installing solar panels extremely affordable.
What kind of solar panels do you need? The solar panels on the market today vary by type, efficiency and cost. Geographic location and the size and kind of installation should inform the choice of solar panels to maximize benefits. Take the time to understand the differences between common solar panel types to help inform discussions with solar power installation companies.
Which Solar Panels Work Most Efficiently?
Scientists and engineers have engineered several types of solar panels. However, most residential or commercial solar power companies will offer one of three main types to residential and commercial customers. Compare the pros and cons of monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-panel solar panels to see which option offers the best returns.
Consider monocrystalline solar panels for maximum efficiency. Most commonly used for larger installations, smaller monocrystalline panels sometimes appear in smaller ones. Highly purified silicon can boost efficiency to over 22%. These panels also don’t require as much space as other types, so generating more energy per area is possible. This durable choice can offer long life spans, up to 25 years.
This kind of solar panel requires a complex construction process, costing more than the others. Monocrystalline solar panels also don’t offer the best choice for cold climates because they’re vulnerable to damage from snow.
As the name implies, manufacturers melt multiple silicon crystals together to develop polycrystalline solar panels. The simple process makes these panels cheaper but less efficient than monocrystalline ones. Polycrystalline panels also enjoy long lifespans. They come in various power ranges, from 5W to 250W or more, making them an excellent option for large or small installations.
Polycrystalline panels use less pure silicon than monocrystalline panels, so they tend to top out at 17% efficiency. Thus, an installation to produce the same amount of electricity as one with monocrystalline panels would require more space. They also may not perform as well in extremely hot climates as monocrystalline panels.
Manufacturers make thin-film solar panels without silicon. Instead, they add layers of photovoltaic material to various substrates, such as metal, plastic or glass. This process makes these thin, lightweight solar panels cheaper and faster to produce than silicon ones. Lighter weights and flexibility make them a good option for transportation applications, like powering bus display panels or refrigerated trucks.
On the other hand, thin-film panels don’t have the durability of silicon panels. Typically, manufacturers offer much shorter warranties on these. They would also require more space than monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels to produce the same energy output.
What Else Impacts the Efficiency of Solar Panels?
Various solar panels may perform better than others under the same circumstances. However, several factors can impact the efficiency of any solar panel, including these:
- Inverters: Inverters convert DC into the AC power that homes require. Look for inverters rated at 97% to 99% efficiency to maximize power generation.
- Components: Panels contain components made of various materials, which may expand in the heat or shrink at cold temperatures. Pay attention to weather ratings for different products.
- Orientation: For example, installations facing south can maximize the sunlight they receive, while those facing north will perform worse.
Some environmental factors will also affect the durability and efficiency of solar panel systems. For instance, most panels work best at temperatures between 59 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Snow and hail could damage panels, and clouds can block sunlight. Likewise, dust and other contaminants can build up and reduce efficiency, so solar panels installed in dusty or windy areas need more frequent cleaning and maintenance.
What Else Should You Consider Before Installing Solar Panels?
Most buildings today use monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels. Monocrystalline panels cost more but also work more efficiently. Typically, experts also suggest using monocrystalline panels for hotter climates and polycrystalline panels for colder ones. In general, consider thin-film solar panels for applications that can benefit from their lighter weight, like transportation.
All solar panels perform the best in sunny and reasonably temperate climates. That explains why solar panel installation in California have grown more prevalent than in any other state. Texas, Florida and Nevada rank second, third and fourth in popularity, respectively. Still, colder states such as New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts rank in the top 10 for solar panel generation.
Solar panels can provide beneficial power from the sun in various climates. However, different types and installations of solar panels perform better for some locations and applications than others. This fact underscores the importance of educating yourself and consulting with professionals to maximize your investment in free, clean and sustainable energy from the sun.