Frequently Asked Questions
How Do Solar Panels Work?
How do solar panels convert the sun’s energy into electricity?
The sun transmits energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation. When this radiation is absorbed by the solar cells, rapid electron movement occurs within the atoms of the material. Because of the way the cells are manufactured with layers of material with differing atomic structures, the electrons are forced to move in one direction, creating direct current, or DC. It then flows into an inverter which converts the DC into alternating current, or AC, to be usable in your home or business.
What Size Solar Power System Do I Need?
It depends on how much electricity you use. Two homes the exact same size will use different amounts of electricity and therefore require different size systems. Major electrical loads within a home are air conditioners, electric heaters, pools, and other heating elements or motors.
That being said, an average 2,500 sq. ft. single-family home uses about 5,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. A 3 kilowatt (AC) system will generate nearly all the electricity required for such a home on an annual basis. Sometimes a PV system can be installed that is slightly over-sized to allow for the possibility of a growing family or other factors that may play a part. When a system overproduces electricity, the unused portion is fed back into the grid and will actually be credited back to your utility account in a program called net-metering.
The actual amount of electricity produced is dependent on how much solar energy reaches your site. An optimally located array would face south and have nothing obstructing the sun’s rays from reaching the solar panels, such as trees or other structures that produce shading. Actual system production can easily be calculated by a Solar Consultant at a free site analysis, or we’d be happy to provide you with a free quote over the phone: 877.607.6527
How Much Does Solar Cost?
Solar Panel System Cost
Since every customer’s needs are unique, the exact solar panel system cost will depend on system size (see What Size Solar System Do I Need?), ease of installation, and state rebates or incentives. Each installation is custom built depending on the unique power needs of each residence.
Another option you may want to consider is leasing a solar panel system. Initial costs for installation can vary and lease payments are on a monthly basis, typically lower than what you currently pay for your electricity from the utility company. To learn more about leasing, please see Purchasing Or Leasing a Solar Panel System.
We’d be happy to provide you with a free quote over the phone: 877.607.6527
Financing Solar Power
Solar for Homes
When purchasing, most people decide to finance a solar power system. However, you are welcome to pay cash, find your own financing solution, or use our lending program. The Solar Company offers several different lending options that are designed to meet your economic situation. If you do decide to finance, it is important to use a lender that understands what you are buying; this will allow you to get a better loan. Our in-house Financial Advisor can assist you in choosing the best method to purchase your solar power system.
Solar for Businesses
There are even more great benefits for our commercial clients. And there are extra incentives for most commercial businesses – including an accelerated depreciation, tax credits, and state rebates – which makes this a great time to explore solar for the long-term benefit of your company.
What If My Power Goes Out?
If your solar panel system is connected to the electric grid only without any type of battery backup system, then your panels will not be able to power your home. Also, when your utility company loses power, your solar panel system will automatically turn off as a safety precaution.
What Kind of Maintenance do Solar Panels Require?
Solar panels generally require very little maintenance since there are no moving parts. A few times a year, the panels should be inspected for any dirt or debris that may collect on them. Always make sure you are safety conscious when inspecting panels and don’t take any needless risks! If your panels are too high up on the roof to see very well from the ground, use caution with ladders.
For a general cleaning, simply use a standard garden hose to wash the face of the panels during either the early morning or in the evening. Avoid spraying cold water onto hot panels or you could risk cracking them!
There are also automated cleaners that work similar to sprinklers, such as the Heliotex system, which can be programmed to clean your panels as needed – a good choice if you are in an especially dusty area.
I Love My Solar offers solar panel cleaning services – please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our professional cleaners. This is a better choice for panels that are too high to reach well with a garden hose or if you want a more thorough cleaning.
Standard solar panel maintenance is the best way to make sure they are always producing efficiently.
Can Solar Panels Work at Night?
During the day, the sun shines brightly and solar panels get busy absorbing rays and generating electricity. But what happens when the sun goes down? Can solar panels work at night?
Even though solar panels are not actively producing much at night (maybe just a little bit if the moon is bright enough), appliances are still getting power in your home. How?
Your home is connected to a utility grid. Think of the grid like a giant bank that you can draw power from or even deposit power to from your solar power system. During the day, extra power that your system produces but doesn’t use gets sent back into the electric grid that everyone shares. Your utility company will pay you a set amount for energy you “sell” back to them. And during the nighttime when your system is not producing enough to power your appliances, you can draw power back from the grid. This process is called net-metering.
For some areas that do not have an efficient electrical grid to rely on, a battery back-up is also a good choice. Power is generated during the day and then banked in the batteries to be used when needed. This is a great option for agricultural systems.
Solar power technology is ever-expanding and who knows if maybe someday we’ll have panels that can generate 24/7. But for now, we’ll stick with net-metering!
Do Clouds Affect Solar Panels?
A common question we get asked is:
What happens to my solar power production when it’s cloudy?
Well, obviously light equals power, so the more direct light the panels receive, the more power will be produced. Which means less direct light will produce less amounts of power. Bright, sunny days will contribute to your system working at peak capacity. But on a day with thick cloud cover, power production will be much lower than average.
Besides direct light, solar panels will also absorb diffused light and albedo, or reflective, light. As an example of diffused light: a cloud may briefly cover the sun, but we still receive light from the whole sky. That light, though not directed in a beam towards the panels, will still be absorbed. Power production will be reduced by about half, but will not come to a complete standstill. Panels can also absorb reflective light from shiny or light-colored surfaces, such as we see with bodies of water or snow.
An unusual phenomenon also exists when there are patches of cumulus clouds drifting through the sun’s beams. Called the edge of cloud effect, as the sun peeks out of the spaces in between the clouds, the direct light combined with the reflective light will briefly boost your panels’ power production. The increase is relatively small and short-lived but interesting to note. Most inverters allow for this brief surge of power so there is little danger to your solar panel system.