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PV Panels: Understanding the Basics

Whether you are looking for renewable and green solutions to power your home, want to reduce your carbon footprint, or just want to make some money instead of paying the utility company month after month, solar panels, also known as photovoltaic panels, are a great option for you. 

The technology for PV systems is getting better and better, which means that materials and installation, as well as all of the devices, are getting cheaper every year. They are also getting more efficient, which means you are getting a higher power output from the sunlight with the same number of cells and solar modules. 

A water turbine and a wind generator are also efficient options for power but are not as easy or cheap to install as a PV system can be.

Keep reading to learn more about PV cells, and the details of the current product and module options so that you can join the market as potential customers and save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the panels.

How Much Do Residential Solar Panels Cost?

There are a lot of factors that determine the cost of solar panels for your home. You have to look at a variety of things like:

roof with solar panels
  • Type of panels and products
  • Size of the solar system
  • Brands
  • Shading
  • Installation process
  • Amount of PV modules 
  • Materials and components
  • Type of PV panel used
  • Whether you want to be connected to a grid or not
  • If you want any options parts such as a voltage and circuit checker and a charge controller 
  • The efficiency of your system

However, for the most part, you can expect the total cost to be about $3 to $5 per watt. That means if you want a 6 kilowatt-hour [kWh] system or about 6,000 watts, you can expect to pay anywhere between $16,000 and $21,000. 

This may seem like a lot, but you can usually buy back the system in as little as 6 to 10 years, and save an average of $2,200 per year on your electricity bills after that. 

However, to figure out if getting solar panels is worth it for you, you have to follow 5 key steps. 

Understand How Much Sun You Get

First, you need to see if you get enough sun where you live. You want to look at both your location and your home itself. For example, if you live in an area where it is often rainy and cloudy, it may not be worth it to get solar panels. 

solar panels mounting in the ground

Additionally, even if it is sunny in your area, if your home is blocked by a bunch of trees, your solar panels won’t be able to work right. Unless you have a large system, most homes get solar panels installed on their roofs, preferably on the south-facing side. 

Make sure that you have enough space to put solar panels in the right area so they get full sun throughout the day. Even partial sun can cause your panels to have much lower efficiency, so if anything is going to block them that you can’t move, you may not get the savings you want. 

Find the Solar Panel Manufacturer or Installer You Want and Estimate the Costs

There are many kinds of solar panels out there, and many different companies. Most installers usually only work with a brand or two as well. This means that you can research the solar panels you want in two ways. 

You can either look at your local installers, find the best ones, and use the panels that they have, or you can find a company you like and then search for an installer in your area. 

Once you figure it out, you can get an estimate from the installer of the cost of everything, including the parts and the labor.

Historic house with modern solar panels on roof

Certain panels can cost more due to the manufacturing process and the manufacturing costs, but the price increase usually comes with higher module efficiency, resistance, power generation, and battery charging capabilities. 

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Look at Your Electric Bill

Now that you know the cost, look at your electricity bill. Calculate the power drawn in a day, and the total cost of your power per year. This can help you to determine the size of system you may want, and how much you will save a year. 

Determine All Incentives You Get for Solar Panels

Next, you’ll calculate the total incentives you’ll get back. Most of the time, these incentives won’t be given to you until the end of the tax year, but sometimes you can get discounts. 

For example, if you tie back to the grid, you can get rebates from the energy company and get discounts on your remaining energy bill, especially if you don’t use all the power that your solar panels provide. 

house with solar panels

Look at federal, state, county, and city incentives to make sure you get everything. 

Decide on Whether Solar Panels Are a Good Option for You or Not

Now that you have calculated all of the information, you can decide whether solar is a good idea for you. The best way to determine this is to decide if you have enough money for the initial costs and if you will reach buyback in time to make a profit. 

Can Pv Panels Power Your Home?

Most people want to know if solar panels can fully power your home. The answer for the average household in the United States is, no. It could easily take upwards of 30 panels to cover all power, and you would need to invest in battery banks as well, which adds a lot to the expense. 

However, if you are frugal with power, or can get a solar panel array, then it is indeed possible to power your whole home.

Advantages of Using Pv Panels

There are many benefits of using PV panels:

  • Can save you, and even earn you money in the long run
  • Increases home value
  • Better for the environment
  • Get tax credits and rebates
  • Protects you from increased power costs
  • Can protect you from power outages, if done right
  • Low maintenance

How Do Pv Panels Work?

PV panels work by taking the light and solar energy from the sun and converting it into energy. This is usually in the form of DC electricity, which often has to be converted via an inverter into AC power, which is what your house runs on. 

PV panels

On a scientific level, the photons from the light knock electrons free from the atoms of semiconductors in the panel, creating electricity. 

Taking Care of Your Pv Panels

There are some basic steps to take care of your PV panels:

  • Keep them free of debris and dust
  • Get annual maintenance and cleaning from a professional
  • Check the conditions of your inverter and the circuit
  • Keep track of your solar panels’ performance to make sure nothing is wrong
  • Trim any tree branches that are creeping over your panels
  • Follow any directions provided on the care of your equipment and arrays

What Are the 3 Types of Pv Panels?

The three main types of solar panels are:

  • Monocrystalline – These are the most efficient solar panels, as well as the most expensive since they only use one PV cell. They can handle high temperatures and get power even in limited light. Finally, they last the longest out of all solar panels. They also have a long manufacturer’s warranty. 
  • Polycrystalline – These are fragments of panels, instead of one solid panel. They aren’t as efficient, as the electrons can’t move around as freely. However, they don’t have to be cut, which produces less silicon waste, and they are often much cheaper. They don’t handle heat as well, don’t last as long, and aren’t as efficient in low light. 
  • Thin Film (Amorphous) – These panels are used a lot with RVs and vehicles as they lie flat against whatever they are placed against and have more range and sites they can be placed around the world. They are about 350 times thinner than other panels. They have the lowest conversion efficiency and degrade quicker than any other panels and have shorter warranties, but have more applications for any roof and a thinner surface design for those that don’t like to see the equipment on top of their homes.