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How to Choose The Right Solar Panel

Poly vs. Mono

When selecting solar panels (or modules) for your PV system, one should choose carefully since it’s a major determinant of success in solar power generation. There are two major types of solar panels. These are: Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline. Polycrystalline panels are sold at lower prices, are sensitive to high temperature, and have a shorter lifespan. Many Polycrystalline panels also tend to be less space efficient. Monocrystalline panels are more expensive to buy but they are highly efficient, suitable for commercial use and have a longer lifespan than their polycrystalline counterpart.

solar panel types

Selection Criteria

One of the primary features of solar panels you should think about is the panel (and system’s) efficiency. Read more on that subject here (link). Other factors in your decision should be total cost and financing options, warranty features, and technology aspects.

This brings us to the discussion about solar panels manufactures. The current top three solar panel manufacturer and companies are JinkoSolar, Trina Solar and Canadian Solar. However, there have been changes in the last few years which have seen the introduction of some new up and comers into the solar manufacturing industries. It’s not a bad bet to go with one of the big three because if you ever need to replace a panel or add to your system down the road, there’s a better chance of finding a match.

Many Great Options

Because of the increase in demand for solar power, many more companies can now compete for market share and so the choice can be overwhelming. The question is, is it a must that the solar company you buy your solar panels from be one of the top manufacturing companies? Or is quality, regardless of manufacturer more important?

It’s important you know that the quantity of sales made is the major determining factor for ranking solar manufacturing companies and not necessarily the quality and cost-benefit the customers derive. Therefore, if you are choosing to go for one of the top manufacturing companies, be sure you are not just purchasing from them because they are a top company but also because they offer you quality and good value in exchange for money.

Long-Term Consideration

Your solar panels are supposed to be effective and last you a lifetime of at least two-three decades of use. Ask your solar contractor about the warranties offered and testing and manufacturing standards and histories of the product(s) you’re considering.

Solar Panels And Their Incredible Savings, See How Much You Can Save

Environmental improvement is not the only good reason why you should procure your solar panels, you can make a lot of incredible and mouth-watering savings over the lifetime from your solar panel system.

Can solar panels really help make good savings?

The advent of diverse available investment opportunities in this present time has raised a lot of skepticism for new promising products that can help consumers save a lot of money. Solar panels are also a very good way of saving. They help to reduce your electricity bill and serve as a means of upgrade for your house. So, if you’re asking if solar panels really help make good savings, the simple and straight answer is YES. And then, how much you will be able to save is dependent upon a lot of factors.

Some of these important factors are the size and angle of your roof and direct hours of daily sunlight. In addition, the local electricity rates are also key determining on how much you can save from solar.

Solar panels save how much from electric bills?

To understand how much solar can help you save, you need to first make a calculation of how much you are currently spending on electricity each year.

For example, 10,400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) is the medium electricity use that is needed for a U.S. household. As of October 2018, the national average electricity rate is $0.1287 per kWh. If you multiply the two together, you will realize that an average American family spends at least $1,335 a year just on electricity.

After that, you have to put into consideration the changeable character of electricity prices and ascertain what utility rates will be in the coming years. When you are making a comparison between the cost of utility electricity with home solar, bear it in mind that the electricity rates are likely to increase annually. In few years before, there has been an increased rate of national electricity costs at approximately 2.2% per year.

When you use solar, you don’t need to be bothered about utility rate inflation, this is one of its credible advantages. There are no variable utility rates if you generate your own energy with a rooftop PV system. Your energy costs stay at a constant rate.

Because of solar’s nature as an upfront investment, costs related with a solar system are installation cost and any additional electricity costs in the cases where your panels do not offset completely 100% of your electricity use.

 What primarily determines if your system will completely offset your electricity needs is the size accuracy of your PV system. To secure that percentage, you can make a calculation of how many solar panels will be requisite for that.

Will you still pay electric bill when you’re using solar panels?

People often think that when they install solar panels, it will completely wave off electric bill. No, it doesn’t work like that. You would still receive bill from your utility if you install enough solar to completely offset your electricity use so far your property remains grid-connected. Nevertheless, this doesn’t imply that you will forever be paying money on your bill, continue reading and see why.

solar panel
Solar panel at home

There’s a policy called net metering. This policy is available almost in all states and it allows the unused energy produced by your solar panels to be forwarded to the grid as an exchange for your electric bill credits. This permits you to draw from the grid at night when you aren’t powering your solar panels because the sun is not shining. If you draw back the same amount you provided to the grid or less amount, you do not pay any extra money.

Whenever you’re given your monthly electric bill, there will be an indication on the net metering credits you used and there would be no charges for that power.

Where you might see small charges for electricity is where you might have used electricity pulled from the grid that wasn’t offset by net metering credits.

To summarize it all, installing solar panels doesn’t stop you from receiving electric bill. It is possible that the bill you receive might ask you to pay nothing but only indicate how your usage was offset by net metering credits for the month.

If you supply more electricity to the grid than you draw, there would be a roll over of your unused bill credits to the following month that you can take advantage of.

Above all, the bone of contention is that solar panels will help to drastically reduce your average monthly electric bill charges, and in some cases, there might be a total elimination of your monthly electric bill.

What amount of carbon footprint can solar panels reduce?

Money isn’t the only considerably factor for going solar, environmental improvement is also one of the vital reasons.

By installing solar, you’re consequentially making an improvement in the environment and a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gas.

There are two ways to answer the question “What amount of carbon footprint can solar panels reduce?” These are – the amount of money you can save from solar and how much CO2 you can save from being ejected into the atmosphere. There is a formula that is given by the Environmental Protection Agency to make a calculation of how diverse green practices result in reductions of carbon emissions. You may try that out.

solar carbon footprint
You can make huge savings with solar panels

Either you want to make great savings or you want to reduce carbon emissions, a solar panel system will definitely yield huge savings for homeowners. However, one factor that determines how much you save is the cost of electricity at your place of residence.

All the same, solar will be a risk-free investment with major returns if you reside in a state with middle to upper-level utility rates.

Solar Evolution – How Has Solar Technology and Prices Evolved Over Time?

The energy from the sun in the form of light and heat has so much effect on the earth we live in. The sun is believed to be the earth’s power and without the sun, the earth becomes inhabitable. Plants use the sunlight for photosynthesis. Many other inhabitants of the earth also draw energy from the sun, not excluding man. The solar system has been in existence before man and as it is known of man to use the surrounding elements to his own advantage, the sun will not be spared as well. Man since time immemorial have found ways, no matter how crude, to tap energy from the sun. This energy is then used for different purposes. History has it that the energy from the sun was tapped by the humans many years ago in other to light fire. The magnifying glass is the instrument used to achieve this feat.

Also, the Romans and the Greek were said, according to history, to use energy from the sun to light touches for the religious celebration. They used mirrors to tap solar power. The Chinese were documented to use solar power for the same purpose. The concept of the sunroom in houses and buildings which is still popular today is an idea powered by tapping energy from the sun. The sunroom in a building uses huge windows to concentrate sunlight to an area in the house. The general idea behind tapping solar power in the early years revolves around the use of mirrors.

Regardless of the reasons solar power is interesting to us and what purpose we try to find in it, it is certain that solar power is useful to us. It is this usefulness that has triggered the desire to make research along this line. Today, solar power has a long list of usefulness to us with a major focus on how it can generate electricity for us. This has drawn us away from the use of mirrors and massive glass in other to concentrate the power of the sun, to the development of solar panels. The general idea behind the solar panel is to collect photons from the sunlight and then transform them into electrons to produce direct current. The direct current will then be inverted or converted into Alternate current which is the electricity we use. The materials from which the panels are made are different. However, the general idea is usually the same regardless.

New-age solar panel technology

Fifty to even just twenty years ago, the idea of going solar was much more novel and pricey. This is because of the low level of development and wide-spread manufacturing around the use of solar panels. Firstly, the challenge was how to translate from the use of mirrors which is majorly to produce heat and set a fire, to a component that will attract the solar energy and then give it out in the form of electricity. We scaled through that by the discovery of PV effect (Photovoltaic effects) which was of great influence and the first leap toward the development of a solar panel that generates electricity. From there, it was discovered that a material called selenium do generate electricity when it is been exposed to sunlight. This took us to a whole new level and served as the basis for the majority of the solar panels we have today as they are made from silicon. That was how the first challenge became solved. The use of silicon in making solar panel took effect and began to serve as a source of renewable energy about 15 years ago.

The bridge has been crossed and we now know how to tap solar energy to produce electricity. However, the first few years of this development was faced with two major challenges which are:

The efficiency of solar panels:

Solar panel efficiency refers to the fragment of sunlight energy that a photovoltaic panel can convert into electricity for consumption. The first generations of solar panels produced were of very little efficiency. The rate of conversion of solar light or photons absorbed to the electricity produced was very low. They were as low as having less than 1% conversions rate. This made the possibility of using solar energy a far cry and looks almost impossible. However, the relentless effort of researchers has brought about a great improvement in the efficiency of the panels. Today we certainly have solar panels that are 30% efficient and more work is still been done to develop more panel efficiency.

Recent development claims to have gotten a 42% efficient solar panel. Before the year 2012, the previous years, 1960 to early 2010, recorded a low efficiency of solar panels. It was in 2012 that things took a good turn when efficiency increased to about 17.8%. Late 2015 also gave the good news of 22% efficiency. Early 2016, NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) and CSEM (Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology) achieved a 29.8% efficiency rate. 2017 gave an increase in efficiency to above 40% and in 2019, there has been an integration of various mechanisms into the development of solar panels that has given a great increase in the efficiency rate and research still continues. The disadvantage of this great development is that these highly efficient panels are made from expensive materials and these materials are costly.

The cost of solar panels

1st generation solar panel

The first generations of solar panels were not only low in efficiency they were also very expensive. This added to the constraint of making solar power commercial. However, in addition to the increase in efficiency rate, manufacturers have improved their manufacturing process and this has made the cost of solar panels much more affordable. Manufacturers also put in some economic indices to minimize the cost of production. Today the concept of renewable energy has become wide-spread, thanks to relentless researchers and economies of scale making the technology accessible to the masses.

Solar Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We have made a sample list of frequently asked questions that covers the use of solar for your home or business.

Are there enough good reasons to go solar?

solar faqs

1. If I go for solar energy, what are the financial benefits ?

You save a lot of money on your electricity bills and get protected against increasing electricity costs in the future when you install a solar energy system on your property. The amount of savings you will make is dependent on the utility rates and solar policies in your area. Regardless of where you might be living, solar is a smart investment.

2. What are the environmental benefits of solar energy?

Just like other renewable energy resources, solar power has numerous health and environmental benefits. There is a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions when you go solar. Solar is a great contributor to climate change and air pollutants reduction. It also helps to reduce these attached environmental problems that can create health issues.

 3. How can I find out how much I pay for electricity?

We recommend that you take a look at your utility electricity bill to find out how much you pay for electricity and your monthly electricity use. It is the quickest and easiest method.

4. What is the meaning of net metering?

Net metering is simply explained as a system that allows solar energy system owners to be credited for the electricity produced by their solar panels. When you are on net metering, you are only charged for the electricity that you consume beyond your supplied unused generated energy. Please be informed that net metering policies are not the same in all states.

 5. Does solar impact my property values positively or negatively?

Diverse studies have revealed that homes that are installed with solar energy systems sell incredibly faster than homes without them. Nevertheless, you should note that leasing a solar energy system doesn’t increase your property value. Your property value increases only when you own your solar energy system.

How do solar panels work for my home?

6. How do solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work?

Throughout the day, solar panels absorb the energy in the sun and get it converted into direct current (DC) electricity. Majority of homes and businesses operate on alternating current (AC) electricity. This means that before the energy is converted to usable AC electricity, the DC is made to pass through an inverter. At this junction, you may choose to utilize the electricity in your house or send it back to the electric grid.

7. Do my solar panels produce power when the sun isn’t shining?

It is the availability of sunlight that will determine the amount of power your solar energy system can generate. This means that when the weather is cloudy, you get less energy produced by your solar panels and no energy at night. Nevertheless, even if you reside in a cloudy city, solar is still a good idea because of high electricity costs and financial incentives

8. What if there is a snow on solar panels?

If your panels are covered in snow,  they can’t produce electricity because solar panels convert sunshine into power. It is unlikely for snow to cause structural issues with your panels because it isn’t heavy enough and it is likely to slide off since most panels are tilted at an angle.

9. Can I go off grid with solar panels?

You will still be connected to the grid when you install solar panels on your property. This permits you to draw from the grid when all the power you need is not produced by your system. You can go off the grid with a solar energy system that includes battery storage but we don’t recommend this to homeowners because it’s not necessary and would cost a whole lot more.

10. Will I still receive an electric bill if I have solar panels?

Yes of course, you will still receive a bill from your utility unless you are fully off the grid and your solar energy system includes battery storage. However, it is possible to reduce your bill drastically or even reduce your owed amount to $0 if you procure a solar panel system that matches exactly your energy consumption.

11. Do solar panels work in a blackout?

In the case of a blackout and your solar panel system is connected to the grid, it will shut off. The essence of this is to curb your panels from injuring electricity utility repair-people and emergency responders. Still, you can make purchase of some inverters that give you backup power in a blackout.

 12. How much will solar panel maintenance cost?

Your solar panel system needs little or no maintenance for the 25 to 35 years they will be generating power because it is made of durable tempered glass. In fact, there is no need for you to clean your solar panels regularly. If something eventually goes wrong, there are warranties that cover them. These warranty terms however depend on the company.

What are my solar financing options?

13. What solar energy rebates and incentives are available?

Solar rebates and incentives differ based on your area of residence. The most substantial is the 30 percent federal investment tax credit (ITC), which gives you the freedom of subtracting 30 percent  of your solar energy system’s cost from your taxes. There are additional tax credits that are offered by some states.

14. What are my solar financing options?

Three solar financing options are available: you may sign a solar lease/power purchase agreement (PPA), take out a solar loan to buy your system or purchase your system in cash.

15. Should I buy or lease my solar panel system?

Your reasons for going solar are what would determine if you’re buying or leasing your solar energy system. If you want to maximize the financial returns of your solar energy system, we recommend that you purchase your system. If you just want to reduce your energy bills and help the environment in an easy and maintenance-free way, you may consider leasing a solar. The choice is yours.

16. Which is better – solar loans or solar leases?

Both solar loans and solar leases have their pros and cons. The major advantage of the two is that there is a reduction in your monthly electricity bills and an environmental improvement.

17. What is the difference between secured solar loans and unsecured solar loans?

The main difference between secured and unsecured solar loans is that you require to promise an asset as a collateral (which is usually your home) for secured solar loans while you do not require collateral to borrow money on unsecured solar loans but you will be paying a higher interest rates as compensation for the increased risk the lender is taking.

18. How do I choose the best solar loan?

To chose the best solar loan that is best suitable for you, we recommend you to make a comparison of distinct options from a few different financing providers.

Am I ready for solar?

19. Can I afford to go solar?

So far you can afford to pay your electricity bill, yes, you can afford to go solar.

20. Is my roof suitable for solar panels?

The ideal roof for installing solar is southerly facing roofs with little to no shade with sufficient space to fit a solar panel system.

 21. What size solar energy system should I get?

It is the weather of the area you live and your monthly electricity use that will determine the size of your solar energy system. We suggest that you take a look at your previous electricity bills and make comparisons from licensed solar installers to ascertain the perfect system size for your needs.

 22. Do I need to replace my roof before installing solar?

It can be very costly to remove and reinstall solar energy systems if you need to make a replacement. Solar energy systems can last for 25 to 35 years. Nevertheless, if there is a need to make repairs on your roof, do them and ensure the completion before you finish installing your solar.

23. How long will my solar power system last?

Solar panels are durable and resistant to wind, hail and snow. At different times, you will need to replace various components of your solar power system but your system should continue to serve its main function of generating electricity for 25 to 35 years.

24. What happens if I sell my solar house?

If you have your own solar energy system, you will sell your solar house at a premium because of its solar value. However, the case is different if you lease your system.

How do I evaluate solar quotes?

25. How do I choose a solar installer?

There are certain criteria you must consider when choosing a solar installer. Make sure you confirm that they are insured, licensed, certified and have enough experience.

26. How do I compare solar quotes?

It might be a bit herculean to compare multiple quotes from different solar installers because it’s not the same underlying assumptions and metrics that are used by all solar installers.

27. What are the different types of solar panels?

At NextLevelEnergy, we group solar panels into three distinct categories: Economy, Standard, and Premium. Premium performs best but with higher price tag, Economy panels are low-priced with low durability.

28. What are the different types of power inverters?

There are three types of power inverters. They are, microinverters, string/centralized inverters, and power optimizers.

29. What happens during the solar power installation process?

The first thing you need to do while going solar is to register on NextLevelEnergy where you can receive and make comparison of numerous installation quotes. The actual installation takes a day or two to complete.

30. Should I ask for a solar monitoring system for my solar panels?

If you need detailed information on the amount of energy your solar panel system is producing, you are at liberty to enquire from your installer about solar monitoring system options.

31. Do I need to install solar batteries with my solar power system?

For most solar homeowners, batteries are not necessary. In as much as you are connected to the grid, your system doesn’t require a battery.

 What is shared solar?

32. How is this different from rooftop solar?

You receive a part of the generated energy from a large solar panel system if you buy into a community solar project. In contrast to home solar panel system, you don’t install community solar project on your roof.

33. How should I evaluate my options?

Foremost, make a decision if you prefer to own your share or find a subscription-based program. If you decide to go for ownership, this implies that you’ll be making an up-front investment in order to save money in the future. If you decide to go for subscription-based programs, you can make savings over a set period of time.

34. What if I move or have to cancel?

You can keep your share of the community solar project if you move, provided that your new home is within the same service area. If you relocate outside the service area, you are requested to sell your share if they are yours, transfer a subscription to another account or you may make an early payment of cancellation fee (if you choose a subscription-based model). Terms for cancellation are different based on project and provider.

35. How does it save me money?

Your unavailability to install solar panels on your roof is no longer a problem when you invest in community solar. You save money and enjoy electricity in your home or business. You don’t have to buy electricity at standard utility rates when you’re participating in a community solar project because you’re paying less for solar electricity.

36. How will it appear on my electric bill?

If you subscribe to a community solar project or you own a share, you will receive virtual net metering credits on your electric bill from your utility.