Switching to solar energy is a big step. Despite the high cost of electricity from conventional stations and its constant price rise, you need to weigh everything before buying a panel. It is important to understand how complicated this process is, what must be considered before buying, and when and how the system will pay off.
Below is an all-encompassing guide to buying solar panels. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this life-changing purchase.
What is a Solar Panel, and How Much Can It Save for You?
Solar panels on residential homes – located on the roof and sometimes in the yard – convert sunlight into energy. The good news is that solar panels are made of silicon and don’t necessarily need bright sun to generate power.
The produced energy is sent to the electrical network or accumulated in storage batteries for future use. The excess energy that cannot be distributed can be sold, or you can receive a federal tax credit or benefits.
The average savings on electricity when buying a solar cell is around 20%.
How the Solar Panel Works
Solar panel operation is based on the absorption of solar radiation by photocells and conversion into energy. Solar energy produces electrical charges, which move depending on the electric field and direct the flow of photons. Part of the installation converts the received DC into AC, allowing installing energy panels at home.
Solar Panel Cost and Savings
To know how to get solar panels for home, you need to clarify all the nuances about the cost of the system itself and its installation. The average total price is $15,000 to $20,000.
Before purchasing solar panels, calculate:
- Electricity costs.
- Installation costs.
- Savings on energy consumption.
- Readiness of the installation place (roof, yard, etc.).
- Anticipated repair costs.
To calculate the total costs versus future savings, use this PVWatts tool designed by the national renewable energy laboratory (NREL).
The savings after buying solar panels for home will depend on many criteria, including system dimensions, installation type, consumed electricity, costs of electricity, repairs and maintenance, generated energy, and more.
The cost of buying solar panels has been declining since 2009. At the same time, the price for installation, maintenance, obtaining permits, and so on, also decreased. It is now much cheaper to buy and maintain the system, making it more affordable and cost-effective for the public.
Full payback is achieved in an average of 4-8 years with a system service life of 20-25 years.
The Benefits of Solar Panels
What to know about solar panels? The first and foremost thing is the benefits of their installation:
- Savings: the ability to receive electricity off the grid and loans from utility companies for generating additional electricity.
- Increasing the value of your own home: buying a solar system can significantly increase your home’s price.
- Safety: solar panels are safe and meet all international standards.
- High level of environmental friendliness: solar panels reduce the carbon footprint and release other pollutants into the environment.
Is it Worth Purchasing Solar Panels for Home, or Is It Better to Rent?
The best way to get solar panels is to buy them. Renting the installation will save money in the first stage. That is, you do not have to pay a large amount for a solar panel right away. When renting, you only have to pay a fixed rental fee, which can increase annually by a maximum of 5%. But in terms of recalculation, the savings when renting will be much lower than when buying solar panels.
When renting, you will not be able to increase the value of your home. In addition, even with an excess of energy generation, only the owner of the system, namely the tenant who provided you with the panel, will be able to receive credit and benefits.
Therefore, when choosing between renting or purchasing solar panels, it is better to be guided by your ultimate need.
Buying Solar Panels for House
Before we explain what to look for when buying solar panels, let’s examine the solar panel system’s main characteristics.
Types of Panels by Structure
There are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels:
- Monocrystalline panels are made of solid silicon wafers cut from one crystal, as their name suggests. These panels are highly efficient, but only work if the sunrays hit them at 90 degrees. To cope with this drawback, it is enough to install the system on rotary trackers.
- Polycrystalline panels are also made of silicon, but no longer from a single material. For manufacturing, many fragments are taken and connected by fusion. These panels are much cheaper, but also have low efficiency.
- Thin-film solar panels are the thinnest layers of photovoltaic or photoelectric materials, 300-500 times thinner than silicon. They have the lowest efficiency and lifespan when compared with other types.
It is better to choose single-crystal type options.
Your region may have power restrictions, including the maximum network load. Keep this in mind when choosing your solar panel.
When choosing solar panels, this is a very important characteristic, because the higher the battery’s efficiency is, the more energy it can produce. Most systems are limited to 15-20% efficiency.
The verdict: consider models with an efficiency of 20% or more.
Types of Panels Depending on the Principle of Operation
- Network panels. Connected to the common utility network, network panels are cheaper, but unable to provide the consumer with energy without sunlight.
- Hybrid panels. Connected to the common utility network, hybrid panels have a backup battery, allowing them to operate during a power outage.
- Autonomous panels. Located outside the public network, autonomous panels can operate longer during outages, making them the most expensive.
If you’re wondering whether you can buy stand-alone solar panels for a small house, the answer is yes. But they will pay off longer.
Consider the following factors before buying solar panels for your home:
How to Choose a Solar Panel?
Your Energy Needs
Before you choose solar panels, calculate the monthly amount of electricity you need for living. For example, if you already have an annual amount, divide it by 12.
Most solar panel systems come with a solar panel buyers guide and two warranty options:
– The hardware warranty: covers manufacturing defects, wear and tear, and unintentional physical damage.
– The performance warranty: covers situations where the system does not perform properly for a specified time.
Installation should be done by professionals certified to work in your state. The installation itself must take into account the peculiarities of the region, such as climatic norms.
There must also be documents confirming that the installation has passed the appropriate tests from the manufacturer and an independent laboratory.
Before choosing a panel, be sure to consult with friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, as well as read reviews on the Internet.
Nuances to Take Into Account Before Buying a Solar System
Here are the nuances to consider before buying solar panels:
- Rooftop Suitability. Not all rooftops are suitable for solar panels. For example, trees covering part of the roof may be an obstacle. Likewise, the size, shape, and level of inclination must be taken into account.
- Roof Readiness for Installation Damaged or shabby roof parts must be repaired to mitigate the risk of collapse. Luckily, solar panels can be easily dismantled whenever you need repairs. The rule of thumb is that installation is possible if the tiles have been replaced during the last 5-7 years.
- Installation Permission. Sometimes permission is required to install solar panels, but it depends on the state and municipality. For further clarification, please contact the relevant authorities.
- Tax Incentives. Before purchasing solar panels for your home, check if your state offers installation incentives and discounts while keeping in mind that perks are usually available exclusively to solar panel owners, not renters.
- Backup Batteries. You may need backup batteries if you want to use electric energy at night.
- Maintenance. For maintenance, cleaning the panels from possible accumulations of mud, sediment, snow, and leaves is sufficient.
Life Cycle of Solar Panels
The approximate lifetime is 20-25 years, but it also depends on the solar panel model.
We analyzed the solar panels buying guide in detail. Use this information when choosing your ideal solar panel.