Solar panel installation tips on rooftop


The newness of mainstream consumer solar power poses a challenge. If you want to buy a car, for instance, there are plenty of people who’ve done it and can tell you how the process works. Putting solar panels on your roof costs as much as a car, but the cohort of experienced buyers is far, far smaller. The number of customers who have owned a solar system through its full lifecycle is even more limited.

Besides that, the stakes are high—this is going on your roof, after all. “This is a big one. This is one where you can’t say, ‘well, if I make a mistake, the next time I’ll know better,’” says Jane Weissman, the president and CEO of the nonprofit Interstate Renewable Energy Council, which just released a consumer checklist and other resources for rooftop solar.

How Do I Know If My Roof Is Suitable For Solar Panels

The cost of solar keeps on falling and the number of installations keeps rising, so CityLab decided to chat with some solar experts to walk readers through the most important questions to consider before making the jump to solar energy.

  1. Do you have a roof that can support solar panels?

This is pretty key. If your roof is covered in shade most of the day throughout the year, it might not have a favorable enough “solar window” to justify the costs of panels. That’s something you’ll want to assess before you move forward. If your roof won’t cut it, or you can’t make the call because you rent your apartment or live in a multi-unit building, you don’t have to give up on solar power altogether. Instead of installing your own panels, look into shared or community solar. This approach lets many different customers buy a stake in a solar installation and receive credits on their electricity bills.

Do Solar Work In Places That Gets Snow

If you do have a suitably sunlit rooftop to work with, Weissman says, make sure it’s in good shape structurally. Solar installations these days can come with warranties for 20 or 25 years. If your roof will need a renovation a few years down the road, it’ll be easier to take care of that before the array goes up. That way, you won’t have to pay in extra time and money to disconnect your panels during the roof renovation and put them up again afterwards. While you’re at it, make sure you won’t run afoul of any homeowners’ association covenants that ban rooftop solar for aesthetic reasons.

Lastly, envision the future of your yard. If the roof is unobstructed now but you’ve just planted a battalion of leafy oaks around your property, you might run in to trouble a few years down the road. Be prepared to prune your foliage to keep the panels clear.

  1. Have you done everything you can to improve efficiency?

The amount of solar energy you need to produce depends on how much you use, so it makes sense to trim your usage as much as possible before paying for all those panels. Start with an energy audit and look for efficiency upgrades before you draw up blueprints.

  1. Which kind of solar makes sense?

The two dominant solar technologies to pick from are photovoltaic, which uses arrays of cells to turn sunlight into electricity, and thermal, which uses sunlight to heat water or air for use inside. If your home uses a lot of energy for heating, or you live somewhere where heating fuel is expensive relative to electricity, a solar thermal investment could break even sooner, says the engineer Timothy Wilhelm, who coordinates the electrical technology program and teaches solar installation at Kankakee Community College in Illinois. But, he adds, solar thermal is rarer for homes, so it might be harder to find a qualified installer.

  1. How do you connect to the grid?

The details vary depending on where you live, but the principle is that any time you’re connecting with a utility, there are a lot of logistics to sort out. Do you have to pay a fee? How long does it take for the utility to get you hooked up? Once you are connected, how and when will you be credited for the electricity you generate?

What are considered as solar attic fan pros and cons

That last one refers to net-metering, the practice by which utilities reimburse rooftop solar at the same rate as they charge users for electricity. This is politically fraught territory: some states, like Nevada, have adopted policies where utilities pay less for surplus solar, which makes it harder to recoup the cost of the installation. For a handy guide to where each state stands on this, check out this solar scorecard.

  1. Is your installer trustworthy?

This applies any time you hire someone to come into your home, but solar combines the logistics of a home improvement project with the risks of electrical work. Credentials and references are especially important. “You wouldn’t hire an electrician who had never done electrical work to come into your house and change things around,” says Kelly Larson, an electrical contractor in California with 20 years of experience doing solar installations. In particular, look for accreditation from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). And this is a big expense, so don’t be afraid to get a few different quotes before you ink a contract.

How to Calculate My Solar Power Needs

This is harder to predict, but, ideally, you want a company that will stick around for the lifetime of your installation. Since solar cells don’t have moving pieces, they tend to need very little maintenance, Larson says. Still, in the event that anything does stop working during the warranty period, you don’t want to realize that your installer isn’t around to fix it.

  1. Lease or buy?

Every household will need to run its own cost-benefit analysis on this basic trade-off. Buying your own system costs more up front but pays bigger dividends; leasing lets you access cheaper electricity with little or no money down, but the benefits are more limited. If you lease, the company you contract with owns the system, and you pay them a certain rate for the electricity; when the lease is up, they might take the system away. When you own the system, it can keep working for you long after it pays off the cost of the purchase. Make sure you compare the total lifecycle cost of the lease and weigh the savings against the benefits you would get from ownership.

In your financial analysis, keep in mind that the panels can function for decades, Wilhelm says, but other electronic equipment in the system, like the power inverter, has a shorter lifespan. Don’t forget to factor in replacements for those other system components when budgeting the cost of the project.

  1. What should you see in your contract?

The contract you sign should spell out all the details of financing, ownership, and performance expectations. Also, because these systems can include web-enabled devices, you should check if anyone is collecting data on your home energy production and usage and who has access to it.

Best consumer guide for solar panels


Solar energy is one of the biggest and most effective kinds of renewable energy in the world. We harvest the natural power of the sun to create electricity to heat and light homes and businesses. Your system can either produce electricity or heat your water whilst reducing the amount of carbon dioxide you produce.

Solar panels give us a greener alternative to other forms of power, such as central heating, as they do not pollute or emit greenhouse gases whilst operating. There have been many advancements over the years into the technology of pv modules and more recently battery storage. They are now more than ever accessible and affordable. Solar can save homes and businesses hundreds of pounds a year on electricity bills.

Solar power works using individual PV cells. These are joined together to form the solar panel systems that are made up of cells and conductive materials. They can then convert energy from the sun and generate electricity for use around your home.

How Do I Know If My Roof Is Suitable For Solar Panels

There are few things we can look at to help you decide if installing solar panels could be right for you.

Firstly, the types of solar PV panel, and which one you choose, does depend of what you need it for, as well as the space you have available and the money you are able to spend on them. Solar cells have come a long way since they first began. They are now much more advanced, making them not only more efficient but more aesthetically pleasing too. The main types of solar panel available are:

Monocrystalline solar module: these kinds of solar panels take up less space than the polycrystalline panels but are about the same efficiency. They can be more expensive, however.

Do Solar Work In Places That Gets Snow

Polycrystalline solar module: the process of making these panels is much simpler. This makes them cheaper, however they are slightly less efficient at high temperature but not enough for residential purposes to worry about. They do, however, require more space as you tend to need more of them.

Thin film solar cells: these work by using substrate and photovoltaic cells and using several layers of the material onto a substrate base. There are various materials that can be used, they are simple to produce en mass and can be cheaper and more flexible.

Amorphous silicon solar cell: these usually have several layers which are stacked to increase their efficiency, however, compared to other types these are less efficient.

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Biohybrid solar cell: these have been made to utilize a more natural method of photosynthesis by combining organic and non-organic matter. This means almost 100% efficiency, but they do produce less power overall.

You can also buy roof tiles that are solar. These look just like normal roof tiles and can incorporate a battery. If you have a listed property these can often be the better option, and they are most popular amongst those who feel solar panels don’t look very attractive. The tiles are considerably more expensive than photovoltaic pv as you’re probably looking at around £10,000 for an average home of 3 people.
There is also a difference between solar panels and solar cells. Solar cells contain all the necessary parts to convert sunlight into electricity. The cells are connected to create a solar panel which generates more electricity.

Energy storage is becoming increasingly efficient. With solar batteries becoming more popular, energy your system produced during the day can be stored for use at night or on cloudy days when less power is produced. This is a good way to ensure your home is even more energy efficient and you get the best out of your panels.

It is a common misconception that the sun must be directly shining on a solar panel for it to work efficiently, but this is not true. They can still produce electricity even on dull days, but their efficiency will be much more on sunny days in the summer than winter as the sun is higher in the sky. The best panels can have an efficiency of around 22%. This is very high efficiency as most are around 15%.
The benefits of solar panels
There are many benefits to generating solar electricity, here are few:

  1. It’s green: there are no pollutants produced while solar panels operate, so by using them you are using clean energy to power your home or business, reducing your carbon footprint.
  2. Save on cash: any electricity you produce is totally free of charge and you can use it to power anything within your home or business for free. This will of course lower your energy bills and save you cash in the long term. You can also make money from the tariffs available, meaning a quicker return on investment.
  3. No planning permission: solar panels don’t require special permission. There are some rules that need to be followed but mostly it’s simple.
  4. Its renewable: the sun won’t be running out any time soon and they even work on cloudy days, so you should have plenty of free electricity all year round. Add a battery storage device to save your electricity produced for the evening too. It will cut your carbon footprint as a bonus too.
  5. Efficient all year: they can produce energy all year, not just when the sun shines most.

Are there disadvantages?

Yes, there can be some, the main one being cost. There is initially a high cost to installing them, this has decreased over the years and will continue to do so. They have become cheaper and easier to manufacture meaning the cost of purchasing them has significantly lowered. Also, the savings you make on energy bills will in the end outweigh this initial cost.

How to Calculate My Solar Power Needs

The next thing to consider is dependence on sunlight. They are most effective in bright sunlight; however, they do work on cloudy days. They cannot work during the night so some power from the grid will need to be used during certain times. The best way to maximise their efficiency is by using a battery to store power ready to use during the evening.

The long-term benefit of installing solar does outweigh the initial investment as it can save you money. Their maintenance costs are low, and warranty lasts for around 25 years – that’s 25 years of lower energy bills! The panels themselves could last even longer, potentially up to 50 years if serviced at least every3 years by a certified installer. The inverter, however, will probably need to be changed after 15/20 years.

Always check what is suitable for your home before you make the investment. You should think about location and which way your roof faces. In the UK south is best as they will be receiving sunlight all day. Also look at your roof. How big is it? How many panels do you need? Will they fit? make sure they won’t be shaded too much by things like big trees. It is important to get good quality quotes that take all these things into account
Initial cost for a photovoltaic system can be around £4000/£6000. The more roof space you have available the more you can get out of your pv system.

For a 21m2 roof with a 4kw system you could see a return of £700 in the first year and £6,750 after 20 years. This is the kind of system an average house would need at a cost of around £6000/£8000. Once your initial cost is covered, you can see that you start making money and saving money. There are many things to consider when looking at the price of solar – it does vary depending on a range of circumstances.

Planning for home solar electric system

There are a number of steps to follow when planning to power your home with solar energy. After choosing which option is best for you to use solar (see step 3), follow the steps afterward that apply to you. Your solar energy installer and local utility company can provide more information on the exact steps you will need to take to power your home with solar energy.

  1. Investigate your home’s energy efficiency
  2. Assess your solar potential and any limitations
  3. Assess your options for going solar
  4. Estimate your solar electricity needs
  5. Obtain bids and site assessments from contractors
  6. Understand available financing and incentives
  7. Work with your installer and utility to install the system and set up agreements
  8. Investigate Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

Before starting the process of powering your home with solar energy, homeowners should investigate their energy use and consider potential efficiency upgrades. Homeowners should be well aware of their total electricity usage, and consider low-cost and easy-to-implement efficiency measures before choosing solar.

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Explore the following resources to reduce your electricity use:
• Home energy audits: A home energy audit can help you understand where your home is losing energy and what steps to take to improve the efficiency of your home.
• Appliances and electronics: Use your appliances and electronics more efficiently, or consider investing in highly efficient products.
• Lighting: Switch to energy efficient lighting, such as LED light bulbs.
• Heating and cooling: If you use electricity to heat and cool your home, your heating and cooling needs will significantly affect the amount of solar energy you need. Weatherizing your home and heating and cooling efficiently will reduce the amount of electricity you need to produce with solar.

  1. Assess Your Solar Potential

Before deciding on the best way to use solar electricity at home, assess the potential solar energy that can be produced at your address. Because PV technologies use both direct and scattered sunlight to create electricity, the solar resource across the United States is ample for home solar electric systems.

Do Solar Work In Places That Gets Snow

However, the amount of power generated by a solar energy system at a particular site depends on how much of the sun’s energy reaches it, and the size of the system itself.

Several mapping services and tools are available to help you determine your home’s solar energy potential. Some of the services also offer information on the estimated system size, potential costs and savings, and local contractors.

These tools are an excellent starting point and can help you determine whether your home is suitable for solar, and if not, the best path forward for still benefiting from solar. While these tools are helpful, they don’t account for all of the variables that need to be considered for your particular system. For that, you will need to work directly with a solar installer who can provide an accurate assessment of your solar potential as well as detailed recommendations, estimates, and equipment expertise.

Consider the following:

• Nearby shade trees. Contractors will also help evaluate shading, but also consider your own or your neighbor’s trees that are still growing and could shade your system in the future.
• The age of your roof and how long until it will need to be replaced. If you expect to need a new roof within the next few years, you may want to consider making that improvement before installing solar.
• Neighborhood or homeowner association (HOA) restrictions or approval requirements. Some states now have “solar rights provisions” limiting the ability of HOAs to restrict solar installations or limit solar access. These provisions vary state to state, and by municipality; check into your own HOA covenants and state laws.

How Do I Know If My Roof Is Suitable For Solar Panels

  1. Assess Your Options for Using Solar

Purchasing and installing a system that you fully own and maintain is no longer the only option if you want to go solar. Even if you rent your home or don’t want to purchase a rooftop system, there are many programs will enable you to still benefit from solar electricity.
Below are some of the options available for using solar energy at home; check with local installers and your utility for programs available in your area.

Purchasing a Solar Energy System

Solar Leases

Power Purchase Agreements (PPA)

Solarize Programs

  1. Estimate Your Solar Electricity Needs

To help your contractor to provide recommendations for your system’s type and size, gather information about your home and electricity use.
• Review electricity bills to determine annual electricity needs. Your usage will be shown in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Review each month of the year; you may use more electricity in some months than others (e.g., if you run the air conditioner in the summer). Some utilities offer tools that can help with this review.
• Consider any planned changes. If you will be purchasing an electric vehicle or are planning a home addition, your electricity needs may increase. If you are continuing to make significant changes to improve your home’s energy efficiency, you may need less electricity than you used in the past.

  1. Obtain Bids and Site Assessments from Solar Installers

When researching installers, be sure to find qualified and insured professionals with the proper certification—the solar industry standard certification is from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. You can also ask friends and family members who have recently gone solar for references and check online resources for reviews. Before you make any commitments, ask for proof of licensure before working with an installer.

There are also online tools that can help you easily find and compare solar installers. Obtain at least three bids for the PV system installation and make sure the bids are based on the same characteristics and metrics to enable comparison shopping.

When interviewing installers, consider asking the following questions:

• Is your company familiar with local permitting and interconnection processes? Often obtaining building permits and receiving permission to interconnect can be long and tedious processes. Ensure that the installer is familiar with these local processes will ensure that your system is installed and connected in a prompt manner.
• Can the company provide references from other customers in your area? Talk to other customers in the area to learn about any challenges they faced and how the company helped resolve them.
• Is the company properly licensed or certified? PV systems should be installed by an appropriately licensed installer. This usually means that either the installer or a subcontractor has an electrical contractor’s license. Your state electrical board can tell you whether a contractor has a valid electrician’s license. Local building departments might also require that the installer have a general contractor’s license. Call the city or county where you live for additional information on licensing. Additionally, solarize programs may require you to work with a specific installer to receive the discounted system price.
• What is the warranty for this system like? Who ensures the operation and maintenance of the system? Most solar equipment is backed by an industry standard warranty (often 20 years for solar panels and 10 years for inverters). Ensuring that system is backed by a strong warranty is often an indication that installer is using quality equipment. Similarly, the homeowner should establish whose responsibility it is to properly maintain and repair the system. Most lease and PPA arrangements will require the installer to provide system maintenance, and many installers offer competitive O&M plans for host owned systems.
• Does the company have any pending or active judgments or liens against it? As with any project that requires a contractor, due diligence is recommended. Your state electrical board can tell you about any judgments or complaints against a state-licensed electrician. Consumers should call the city and county where they live for information on how to evaluate contractors. The Better Business Bureau is another source of information.

Bids should clearly state the maximum generating capacity of the system—measured in Watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). Also request an estimate of the amount of energy that the system will produce on an annual or monthly basis (measured in kilowatt-hours). This figure is most useful for comparison with your existing utility bills.

Bids also should include the total cost of getting the PV system up and running, including hardware, installation, connection to the grid, permitting, sales tax, and warranty. A cost/watt, and estimated cost/kWh are the most useful metrics for comparing prices across different installers, as installers may use different equipment or offer quotes for systems of different sizes.

  1. Understand Available Financing and Incentives

Small solar energy systems are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit through 2019. The tax credit decreases to 26% in 2020, then to 22% in 2021, and expires December 31, 2021.

If you opt for a solar lease or power-purchase agreement, remember that you will not be eligible for this tax benefit, since you will not own the solar energy system.

You can search for additional state, local, or utility incentives on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE).
In addition to incentives, be sure to explore all of the available solar financing options. Every situation is different, and what is best for your property depends on a wide range of factors. The Clean Energy States Alliance guide helps homeowners understand their options, explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each. Also visit the Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar for more financing options.

running a mini fridge on solar power

  1. Work with Your Installer and Utility

If you decide to install a solar energy system, your installer should be able to help you complete the necessary permitting and steps.

Your installer will determine the appropriate size for your system. The size will be based on your electricity needs (determined in step 4) as well as the following:

• The site’s solar resource or available sunlight
• The system’s orientation and tilt
• The system’s efficiency at converting sunlight to electricity
• Other electricity sources, like a utility, a wind turbine, or a fossil fuel generator.

Your installer will also ensure that all equipment is installed correctly and oriented and tilted in such a way to maximize the daily and seasonal solar energy received and produced by your system.

Be sure you understand how billing and net metering will work, as well as any additional utility fees you will need to pay.

What is about solar set ups?

This is a simple introduction to help you decide what you need and how to do it.

Firstly there are two different types of set-ups Off Grid and On Grid. If you live remotely and want your own independent power source then you want an Off Grid set-up. If you have a house and are connected to the mains electricity grid then you probably want to use an On Grid set-up, unless you want to use solar to become independent from the grid and have your own power.

As the majority of our customers are off grid we will start with that.

Off Grid

Off grid set-ups allow you to live remotely whether it’s in a van, boat, or remote house you can generate your own power and live independently. The most important thing to start with is working out how much power you use or need. You need to consider your power as a valuable resource and design your power usage to be as efficient as possible. Or you can install a huge system to power a normal house with full appliances if you have the budget to do so.

solar attic fan pros and cons

So to start with you want to estimate your power usage and then work out the size of solar system that you might need. We have created a solar calculator for you to help do this, you simply add in each item that you use and how much power it uses and how long you use it for.

Alternatively you can enter an estimation of morning, afternoon, evening usage.

Once you have decided on how much power you need then you can spec out the system that you need. The solar calculator will give you an indication of how much solar and battery power you might want to consider. Then next thing is to consider winter, if you have long dark winters like in the UK you need to consider how reliant you are on your power system, and if you want to add additional panels and batteries to allow for the days where there is very little sun. On a dark winters day you will see 10%-20% of your solar capacity, so you will want to add more panels and/or more batteries to allow for these periods, or consider having an additional renewable source such as wind or hydro or a back-up generator to run from time to time.

System Voltage

You will need to decide on what system voltage is best for you; this is the voltage that you want to run you battery bank at and all the various items that will be connected to it. You can use 12V, 24V or 48V.
If you have an existing 12V system like in a van or boat and use 12V equipment on it then you will want to stick with 12V. If you are wanting to only use 230V AC power then you should probably use 24V for a medium sized install (1Kw-5Kw) or 48V for a large install (2Kw – 15Kw+), the advantage of using a higher voltage battery bank is that is saves you money in the long run as you need less charge controllers and can use thinner cables for the same amount of power. Large off grid house’s will use 48V.

Do Solar Work In Places That Gets Snow

So with all of that in mind then you have to decide on all the aspects of your solar set-up. We have built a system to help you design your solar system which will help you calculate what is needed. Or we have created various packages that we have already spec’ed out for you.

1) Solar Panels – This might come down to physical space that you have available or the amount of power you need or your budget. We offer a range of panels all at great prices for you to choose from. You will need to decide on how many Watts or Kilowatts of panels you need and choose the ones that fit you best.

2) Charge controller

Firstly you will need to calculate how many amps of charge controller you need. This is a simple calculation of Solar Panel Watts divided by Battery Voltage. Eg, if you have 1,400W of solar and a 24V battery bank then 1400W/24V = 58A so would want to use 60A of charge controllers.
• You are best to use an MPPT (Maxium Power Point Tracking) charge controller if your budget will allow, the advantages are that it will give you around 30% more power, and that you can run your panels in chains of 2-3 panels at a higher voltage, this means you can use less cable and the Panels running at a higher voltage mean that you have less loss of power from volt drop across the line.

How Do I Know If My Roof Is Suitable For Solar Panels

• The alternative is PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) controllers, these are a cheap and cheerful option, they send spikes of charge into the batteries. They can take higher voltage panels than your battery bank and send higher spikes of power into the battery, this will be accepted by the battery and also disulphates the plates which is good for the battery. But we would highly recommend using MPPT where ever possible.

3) Batteries – You have the choice of batteries

• Flooded batteries have a longer design life and are much cheaper, but you have to maintain them and make sure they are topped up on a semi regular basis. Depending on the size of battery bank you need you can use 6V or 12V batteries and link them together to form a large bank. Or you can use 2V traction batteries if you have a need for a very large bank.

• Sealed batteries are great if you want to set it all up and not have to think about any maintenance, or if you need to air freight batteries these are the only way you can. They are significantly more expensive than flooded batteries.

• Nickel Iron NiFe Batteries are the longest life and most ecological batteries available. Invented by Thomas Eddison 100 years ago these batteries have a design life of 40 years. They are more costly to start with but if you consdier the cost of having to replace other batteries after a number of years then then actually work out cheaper in the lifetime of your system.

We have some wiring diagrams for how to wire your batteries on the website.

If using large banks of 6V or 12V batteries you are best to wire them into a bus bar rather than just linking them together. This spreads the load more evenly between the batteries giving the battery bank a longer life. It is good to alternate the batteries and the solar input and inverter output across the bus bar, again to give as much distribution of power across the bank. We have bus bars available as well.
All the batteries we offer are deep cycle and designed for use in solar systems.

4) Inverter – If you want to run normal mains 230V AC power
appliances then you will need an inverter to convert the DC battery power into 230V AC power. You will need to decide how much power you need from your inverter, if you are only running a laptop and a couple of small things then you can use a small 350W inverter, or if you want to run large appliances you want to use larger 3Kw inverter. The Outback and Victron 3Kw inverters can be stacked together to give greater outputs when necessary, including making a 3 phase supply. You want to use a Pure Sine Wave inverter to give a smooth power curve to your appliance to ensure it runs properly and is not damaged. Do not use Modified sine wave as they will cause damage to motors and sound equipment if run from them. We only sell pure sine wave inverters. The outback and victron inverters can be programmed to auto start a generator, or connect to the grid if necessary when the batteries are running low. We would highly advise using the Outback and Victron inverters in preference to the cheaper models we offer where you can afford to, for example if you can cope with 1.2Kw then go with the victron rather than the cheap 3Kw inverter.

Those are the 4 main parts of your system, you will then need cable, connectors and mountings. Most of our customers make up their own mounting systems to suit their needs as it is much cheaper than any of the commercial systems, and we offer cable and connectors on the website.

running a mini fridge on solar power

On Grid

An on grid set-up is very simple, you simply put some solar panels on your roof and then connect them to a grid inverter which is then connected to your existing electrical network in your house. This can be on any scale depending on your need and budget. If you just would like to add a few panels to start using renewable power and reduce your bill a bit then you can add what you can afford and use a micro inverter to get started. This is very easy, you simply wire the panels into the micro inverter and wire the micro inverter into in your house consumer unit. As power will always take the shortest route you will use the power you generate before any power from the grid, thus reducing your bill.

For medium and large installations you have an array of panels (in Kilowatts) and a grid inverter. You connect up the panels into a long string making a high voltage array and connect them to the inverter, which is connected to your electrical mains consumer unit. If you are not familiar with working with high voltage and mains AC power you should seek assistance from an electrician for connecting up the grid inverter.

The size of your on grid set-up will mostly come down to roof space and/or budget, most houses you can get around 4Kw of solar on, and if you use MCS approved equipment and get it installed by a registered MCS installer then you can claim the government FIT payments. But many of our customers just use our cheapest equipment and install themselves to get the free power and reduce their bills.

This can be taken to a larger scale with installations of 10’s or 100’s of Kilowatts or even Megawatts. Installations of over 50Kw do not require MCS equipment or MCS installation, you register for the ROFIT as the system owner, not the installer.

Positioning of Solar Panels

You want to position your solar panels facing south, on an angle of approx. 30 degrees to give you optimum coverage throughout the year. You want to avoid shading on the panels at all times, and if there is an area that is likely to get shaded regularly you should separate it off into its own charge controller or grid inverter.

If you have a house that only has East and West facing roofs then you can install on both to get coverage throughout the day. In an on grid set-up you would need a grid inverter with a duel tracker. In an off grid set-up you would put the panels on different charge controllers.

PWM vs MPPT charge controller test

We often get asked about the actual difference you get between an MPPT and a PWM controller so we setup a side by side test using our Yingli part used panels onto 2 separate 12V batteries, 1 with a PWM controller and one with our tracer MPPT. Panels were set-up side by side angled south.

With early March sun the MPPT was giving 3.7A into the batteries while the PWM gave 2.5A which was 32% lower than the MPPT.

In cloudy conditions the MPPT was giving 1A when the PWM was giving 0.8A (20% lower with PWM)

Both charged the batteries well, but 20%-32% more power was gained by using the MPPT.

Tips choosing a Solar Power Provider

There are a lot of solar power providers in the industry. As a result, it can often be difficult for consumers to differentiate between companies. In reality, though, choosing the right provider, one who will meet all your projects specific needs, can make all the difference in your transition to solar.

In this blog, we’ll answer all the most important questions you may have regarding choosing a solar provider, and also guide you through the process of landing on the company that’s right for you. Here are the most important things you should look for when choosing a solar power provider.

Do They Have Experience?

In the solar industry, experience is king. There is no better way to predict how a company will handle their future business than by looking at how they’ve performed in the past. That’s why at Sunpower by BlueSel, we have an entire page dedicated to the work we’ve done, and testimonials from satisfied clients.

solar attic fan pros and cons

Understanding the past is the way we can come closest to predicting the future. If a company has tons of satisfied clients, it’s relatively safe to assume you’re in good hands. If a company has a long list of unhappy customers, it may be best to exercise caution in moving forward.

The Quality of their Panels

The quality of a solar provider’s panels is also undoubtedly crucial to the success of the project. High quality solar panels, such as our Maxeon technology panels, are roughly 30% more efficient than the industry standard, conventional panels. Another benefit of these panels is that if a segment of the connection breaks, the rest of the panel will continue to function.

High quality products are the mark of any successful company. Be sure to do your research on a company’s products before deciding on your provider.


In the solar industry, the value of warranties of the hardware as well as craftsmanship, can’t be overstated. A solid way to determine the quality of a company’s warranty is by comparing it up against industry standard warranty.

solar attic fan pros and cons

The conventional solar panel warranty is typically around 10 years. A company that goes above and beyond, though, can offer warranties of up to 25 years on their panels. Regardless of the quality of the panels, accidents can happen, and a solid warranty can make all the difference when they do.

There is no blueprint to picking a solar provider, but there are ways in which you can limit your risk, and identify quality providers. Following the tips in this blog is a great way to begin your search for a solar provider.

We have sold tons of products to many cabin and cottage owners. They are a creative group of free thinkers. They have been a pleasure to work with all these years. in this guide I hope to share some information on solar setups for cabins.

Most example will focus on cabins without other power sources. There will be one example for a cabin with generator for additional power.
Most example will focus on cabins without other power sources. There will be one example for a cabin with generator for additional power.

running a mini fridge on solar power

Solar Cabin Guide

We all like to get away. Some of us like to really get away. This is where small off grid cabins are found. These are cabins found in the middle of the woods where power and cable lines are few and far between.

Solar power is perfect for these small cabins. Solar can provide basic power for lighting, power inverters, and battery charging.

Most solar setups will require that your cabin meet certain basic solar requirements.

• Cabin must have southern exposure that receives full sunlight.
• Owner must be able to bring solar panels to cabin, even if one at a time.
• Solar panels should be able to be secured for inclimate weather.
• Solar Exposure should be within 50 feet of cabin to reduce wire size.
• Owner should expect to also need batteries, power inverter, and charge controller.

A basic solar cabin uses the following components.

• Solar Panels
• Cabling from Panels to Battery
• Wire connectors
• Fuses
• Ground Wire
• Grounding Rod
• Battery Bank
• Power Inverter
• GFCI Outlets or Breaker
• Cables from inverter to Battery Bank
• Solar Charge Controller
This diagram does not include every feature or design item, but is a simple layout to help you understand what components are included in setting up a cabin for off grid solar use. Many people use DC lighting in combination with higher quality AC lighting to fill in when needed.

We can help you calculate a system for you. Expect to buy a really large solar setup to run even a small air conditioner, electric heater or normal refrigerator. However other loads can be done even with a modest solar panel setup.

As technology continues to advance, access to green and renewable energy such as solar energy is quickly gaining popularity. This is because green energy is more reliable and cleaner than most of the other power sources available. This makes it environment-friendly and capable of saving you money. Typically, a solar generator converts sun energy captured by solar panels into electrical power and then stores it in a battery. The stored power can later be used through an inverter.
Deciding to purchase a portable solar generator is a noble undertaking. However, choosing the best solar generator for rv is never a walk in the park. This is because you will find different varieties of portable solar generators in the market. To be able to pick the best, you will need to determine what your energy requirements are.

solar panel kit for shed

Since you have a price range in mind, consider choosing a solar generator with features that make it more efficient rather than more expensive.

Without keeping you waiting, here are solar generator reviews that you can use to find a reliable solar generator.

1. Goal Zero Yeti 400 Portable Power Station

Goal Zero is one of the most popular brands in producing portable solar power panels, generators, and accessories. The Yeti 400 Lithium portable power station is one of their powerful and sturdy solar generators.

It has a 396Wh lead-acid battery that can power up to seven 33Ah at 12V devices simultaneously. Moreover, its versatile array of power output such as AC, 12V, and USB makes it more convenient. It features an informative LCD display that allows you to know your power input and output, estimate your runtime, and position your panels appropriately.

The Goal Zero comes with an original integrated design that enables a chainable connection with other 33Ah lead-acid batteries to ensure a long-lasting power. As such, you don’t have to worry about frequent recharging. This makes Goal Zero 400 an impeccable alternative power source for people who don’t want to deal with fumes, noise, and the maintenance issues of a gasoline generator.

Best features

• Chainable with other lead-acid batteries
• Easily rechargeable – 5 hours
• Portable
• 396 Wh
• Sturdy design

Tips to buying a home solar power system

Buying a home solar power system can be a very exciting experience, but don’t get too carried away by advertising. Be sure to focus on the important aspects of your purchase as it’s a substantial investment and one you’ll be living with for a long time. The following are some buying solar tips on what to look for when purchasing a system.

Ask friends, family neighbours or colleagues who have had solar PV systems installed. Often the best buying solar tips com from right in your neighbourhood. They’ll be able to tell you about their experiences and perhaps alert you to any problems they experienced. Problems that you’ll be able to avoid. Learn more about potential issues in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.

solar attic fan pros and cons

Length of manufacturer’s warranty

Take note of what guarantees the manufacturer offers. If the manufacturer is reputable and the warranty period on the panels is substantial (at least 25 years) you would naturally expect your solar system to last long for a long time, long enough to pay for itself and make you a profit. However, for a warranty to be honoured, the manufacturer needs to be still operating. So, be cautious of brands without a track record in Australia.

Have realistic price expectations

If you are paying substantially less than many other similar size systems quoted, you may find poor quality equipment and/or poor installation work. Quality equipment and installation isn’t cheap and, like all other purchases, you often get what you pay for.

Compare components and warranty periods and check into the company providing the installation. While large, well established companies can pass on substantial savings due to increased buying power, other companies often reduce costs by cutting important corners.

Do Solar Work In Places That Gets Snow

Solar panel certifications

This applies to all solar panel purchases, but especially to the purchases that could attract a government rebate. The certification on solar panels indicates the type of testing that they have undergone. For instance, TUV IEC 61215 confirms that the solar panels have gone through testing by an independent laboratory and have met their advertised specifications. Other certification types are often self-assessed. Therefore, they rely on the company being honest in what it claims.

Decide on the type of panels

It used to be the case that if you had limited roof space you would need highly efficient (and very expensive) mono-crystalline solar panels. This is rapidly changing with advances in polycrystalline panel technology and some thin film technologies. Still, even if you have ample roof space you may still want to consider panel sizes vs. output. Filling up your roof with inefficient panels will affect your ability to add more panels at a later date, and does not maximise the power output of the space.

It’s also important to bear in mind that regardless of claim, no solar panel technology will produce a significant amount of power in full shade. Learn more about monocrystalline vs. thin film panels.

running a mini fridge on solar power

Solar panel mounting

Make sure that the roof, ground mounting or tracking system is engineer certified for the area you are in. For example, if you live in a cyclone prone area make sure the mounting system and mounting brackets are also cyclone rated. Quality systems are wind certified. After all you do not want your system to take off during a wild storm . The mounting system is a very vital component and some suppliers skimp on this item. Make sure you ask about wind certification, warranty arrangements and get copies of relevant documents.

Solar inverter efficiency

A power inverter is the box between the panels and your appliances that converts DC electricity from solar panels to AC suitable for use in your home.

Not all solar inverters are equal and inverter efficiency will have a direct impact on the amount of time it takes for a system to pay for itself. Look at the inverter efficiency before purchasing a system. Obviously, the more efficient the inverter the better. Less electricity will be wasted as heat during the conversion from DC to AC. Industry leading solar inverters for grid connect systems in Australia include SMA, Sungrow and Fronius. Be cautious of generic type brands.

Get a few solar quotes

It always wise to gather a few solar quotes when making a major purchase as you will find that prices vary widely between providers. But don’t be just swayed by price as inferior components can reduce the up-front cost of the system. However, they may wind up costing you more in the long run in terms of reliability and efficiency.

Avoid high pressure sales people

High pressure sales tactics are unfortunately common in the solar industry. Try not to make decisions on the spot, just ask the person to let you consider the offer. If it’s as good as they claim, it will still be a good deal tomorrow. Pressured decisions on the spot often turn out to be less advantageous in reflection.

solar panel kit for shed

High pressure sales people are only one of the pitfalls that may await you when you shop for a solar power system. Learn more about the potential issues and how to avoid them in our consumers guide to solar power – avoiding tricks and traps.

One of the best buying solar tips is to make sure to use an accredited solar power system installer, certified by the Clean Energy Council.

Need more buying solar tips?

Need some help with selecting a home solar power system? Try our solar quotes tool. You can also contact our friendly team of experts for no-obligation, no-pressure and free advice including more buying solar tips.

Solar energy and its cost

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to save money on your electricity bills and/or lead a more green life, you might consider switching to a renewable energy such as emission-free solar power.
According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, in the next two years the amount of solar power used in the United States is expected to double, with more than 16 states expected to have more than 100MW installed in 2016.

But smart consumers don’t just sign up with the first solar company to knock on their front door. Just as you’d do some research before buying a computer or a new car, you’ll want to do your homework before deciding which solar power system is right for your home or business.

running a mini fridge on solar power

SunPower has been a leading solar technology innovator for more than 30 years, so we like to think we know a few things about harnessing the sun to power our world.

We’ve compiled a short guide to our most popular “How to Go Solar” content to help answer some of the most common questions we get asked about our solar panels.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar 101: How Do Solar Panels Work?

This post explains the amazing science behind solar energy, such as how photons from the sun are captured by silicon cells in a solar panel and converted into electricity. When photons hit a solar cell, they knock electrons loose from their atoms. If conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides of a cell, it forms an electrical circuit. When electrons flow through such a circuit, voila, you have electricity.

solar attic fan pros and cons

Cost of Going Solar

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?

While we often get asked, “How much will a 3kw system cost,” for example, it’s important to understand that you’re not just buying solar panels off a shelf. SunPower will actually custom design your very own solar power system. The cost of your solar power system depends on several factors, including how much sun your rooftop receives, how much power you use and the roof size. This article will help you determine the cost of going solar and how much money it could save you over time.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

The cost of your solar system — and your question: Are solar panels worth it? — depends on the number of panels you need to generate enough electricity to serve your demand. This post explains in four steps how to answer this question. To calculate how many solar panels you need, you must determine how much energy your household uses; your roof’s usable surface area; the climate and peak sunlight in your area; the wattage and relative efficiency of the photovoltaic (PV) technology of your panels; and whether net metering is available. If this sounds daunting, don’t worry. A SunPower® solar advisor can give you a free evaluation to help you figure out if solar is right for your home or business.

solar panel kit for shed

How to Install Solar Panels

Choosing a Home Solar Installation Company
Ready to go solar? This post outlines six tips for finding an expert to install your solar panels. It outlines questions to ask about solar panel installation, such as which products the installer uses, whether a warranty is offered and what it covers, payment options and what are the local utility rules for solar power.

Solar Panel Installation in Seven Steps

Once you’ve signed your solar contract, this graphic explains in very simple and visual terms the seven steps to installing a home solar system so you’ll know what to expect along the way.

Solar Power Pros & Cons

Having some healthy skeptism about a major household improvement project such as going solar makes sense. Afterall, you’re investing in a technology with a useful life of 40 years! This video, and a more in-depth blog post, take a look at four pros and cons of going solar and debunks some common myths.

Solar DAO is a closed-end investment fund created on the basis of blockchain technology to finance construction of PV solar plants around the world.

Thanks to Solar DAO, investors with modest budgets will be able to enter the industry and participate in construction, management and capacity expansion of PV solar plants. At moment, Solar DAO is in the middle of its Pre-ICO for tokens that closes on August 31st. Tokens will grant access to the project’s 100% profit through dividends distribution.
• Solar DAO white paper:
• Bitcointalk thread:
• Telegram channel:
As different from many other ambitious startups, Solar DAO business model is firmly rooted in the real economy. The project is about building and managing PV solar plants globally, while continuously expanding their capacity. But how exactly do PV solar pants work? This article will explain.

best direction for solar panels

Generating Energy from the Sun: Photovoltaics
George Porter, the winner of the Nobel Prize of 1967 in chemistry, once said:

I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun’s energy. If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago

Thankfully, we now live in the age when solar energy is used efficiently, sustainably, and peacefully. The key technology that allows us to use the sun’s energy is solar photovoltaics.

Solar photovoltaics is used to convert sunlight into electricity. Solar photovoltaic cells are made of semiconductor materials (for example, silicon). When exposed to sunlight, the semiconducting material causes electrons in the materials’ atoms to be knocked loose. The electrons that are knocked loose then flow through the material to produce an electric current known as a direct current (DC).

In short, the light separates electrons from atoms to create an electric current.The following picture illustrates the process schematically. Red wavy arrows on the picture represent sunlight, and encircled minuses stand for electrons — negatively charged particles. Red arrows symbolize the direct electric current.

Why choose portable solar panels?

With spring just around the corner, many outdoor enthusiasts are starting to map out all of their camping adventures for the season. Although camping is an excellent way to connect with Mother Nature, the activity also necessitates that you plan ahead and arrive at your campsite prepared with all of the essentials. One of the most popular modern camping accessories is a set of portable solar panels. These portable solar panels will help to power your campsite in a way that naturally complements the power of nature. Here are a few things that you need to know about how to use portable solar panels for camping.
Why choose portable solar panels?

These types of portable solar panels allow you to immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of nature while still enjoying some of the modern comforts of home. Savvy campers understand the balance of feeling like you are getting away from it all while still feeling connected. With portable solar panels, you can sit outside at night by the campfire and stare at the stars but do so with the peace of mind of knowing that your cellphone is fully charged. Many portable solar panel kits also come standard with a waterproof cover. This ensures that the portable solar panels can be used in a myriad of weather conditions. Although there is a significant investment to purchase the solar panel kit, the panels cost nothing to operate. Once you own the solar power kit, you no longer have to spend money on fuel for a generator or access to electricity.

running a mini fridge on solar power

Why settle for a noisy generator that ruins the ambiance of enjoying the peacefulness of the great outdoors when you can choose a noise-free solar option? By harnessing the neverending power of the sun, you can charge up your entire camping vacation. Lastly, solar power is an environmentally-friendly way to harness the electricity that you need to enhance your overall camping experience.

best direction for solar panels

How do portable solar panels work?

Portable solar panels are smaller and more compact versions of regular solar panels. These miniature solar panels are easy to install and are extremely portable. Like a regular solar panel, the technology works by converting the power of the sun into electricity or heat. A series of photovoltaic cells are made with layers of silicon. When the rays from the sun land on the panel, a channel sends the electric field to the battery or the grid for power. While there are varying sizes of solar panels available for consumer use, most portable solar panels will fit easily in a vehicle. Depending on their size and volt reading, most solar panels can provide up to a watt rating of 320. The user-intuitive set-up process makes it a breeze for anyone to set up and operate.
This $14 solar-powered charger is an eco-friendly way to keep all your devices powered.

solar attic fan pros and cons

How to choose the right portable solar panels

Be sure to keep in mind that you do not need to limit your use of these portable solar panels to camping alone. If you plan on using the portable solar panels for any other purpose, it is important that you purchase the right type of product. It is clear that solar energy is here to stay, making these panels a good investment of your money. If you choose a fully portable solarpanel kit, you can count on a setup that will provide power for nearly all of your camping needs from tools to a portable stove to various electronics. You can also choose to add outdoor solar lights to strategically place around the campsite so that you can safely light your surroundings. This additional lighting will deliver added security.

If the only thing that you want to charge is your cell phone, you don’t have to invest in portable solar panels. You can choose a specially designed solar-powered phone charger. This option will keep you connected to the outside world if you do not want to bring along the portable solar panels. With so many options in solar light, it is easy to find the best fit for your personal needs and travel preferences. For those needing help deciding what type of portable solar panelsto purchase, it is important to read through the product’s solar panel guide so that you can ensure you have the right power output for your needs. This guide will provide invaluable information to help you to make an informed purchasing decision.

solar panel kit for shed

Regardless of if you are using portable solar power panels for your next camping trip, it is vital that you always check the weather before heading out on your outdoor adventure. In addition to your electricity needs, you need to know how to prepare for the other elements of camping that depend on the weather. Keeping informed of developing weather conditions will help you to have a safer and more comfortable camping experience.

Everything you need to know about home solar systems

The past decade has engendered the era of solar panels for home use. Homes and businesses across the country are transitioning away from a fossil-fueled electricity grid towards a clean energy economy, necessitated by emissions reduction targets in a time of global climate change. Amidst this period of energy reform, solar panel systems for houses are taking off at a remarkable rate. It’s time to give residential solar the credit it deserves. Learn everything there is to know about the booming residential solar industry in our list of home solar FAQs.

Everything you need to know about home solar systems in 10 questions

  1. How much has the price of solar for residential dropped in recent years?

If you’re an optimist looking for feel-good statistics, the cost of solar electricity in the past decade is a great place to start. U.S. solar installation cost has dropped by around 70 percent over the past 10 years. In the last year alone, the residential market saw a five percent decrease in cost. There’s no question that solar has evolved from a cleantech commodity to a sensible home upgrade that millions of Americans are considering in 2020. Getting solar panels for your home is one of the smartest decisions you can make in today’s age.

running a mini fridge on solar power

  1. What is the difference between solar for business and solar for home use?

A commercial solar project might power a town or a company’s operations. As a result, they vary dramatically in terms of scale and cost. By comparison, residential solar systems tend to hold a consistent size (6 kilowatts on average). Thanks to their relatively small scale, rooftop solar panels for home are an attainable energy upgrade that can generate serious electric bill savings for homeowners at any income level. Commercial solar, on the other hand, necessitates a major investment and a collective group of investors.

  1. What do residential solar panel systems typically cost?

The answer to this question depends on state and system size. However, there is data that can help you estimate what solar panels cost in 2020 in the U.S. The easiest way to calculate cost of solar electricity across different system sizes is in dollars per watt ($/W), which indicates how many dollars solar will cost per watt of available electricity production. In 2019, homeowners are paying an average of $2.96/W. To put that figure in perspective, in 2008 the average cost of solar was just over $8/W. For an average 6kW system, a price of $2.96/W means you’ll pay approximately $17,760 before tax credits and rebates in 2020.

solar attic fan pros and cons

  1. Will my solar panels be connected to the grid? What is net metering?
    The vast majority of home solar systems will be connected to the grid. With grid-connected solar, net-metering serves as an efficient solution to the question “how will I power my solar home at night?” Net metering is a solar incentive where you receive bill credits when your solar system overproduces electricity. During times when your panels aren’t producing enough electricity, you can use those bill credits to cover the cost of your grid electricity use.

If you are off-grid, you won’t have access to electricity from your utility. This means that, in order to build a completely off-grid project, you will need extensive energy storage capabilities, an extra-large solar panel system, and provisions for backup power to cover you when your panels don’t get enough sun.

  1. How long does a residential solar system take to install?

Once you have met with the installers and done all necessary site visits and planning, the actual installation of your home solar system will only take a few days of work. The exact time depends on a number of factors. For example, if you are setting up net metering, that process will tack on additional time until your panels are properly connected to the grid. Overall, while the decision process for solar panels can take some time, the installation timeframe is very quick and fairly simple.

solar panel kit for shed

  1. Can you get a solar panel system for your home if your roof doesn’t qualify?

Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the residential solar sector is the list of options for homeowners who want to go solar but do not have a suitable roof. Ground mount solar installations and community solar gardens are two common ways to access power from the sun without actually installing anything on your rooftop. Community solar involves connecting with members of a group or your neighborhood to share a solar system, while ground-mounted arrays are an easy way to own and install your own system while bypassing any roofing hurdles.

  1. What are the tax credits for residential home solar systems? Who qualifies?

There are two simple ways to think about tax credits for solar panels. The major tax credit associated with solar panels for home is the federal investment tax credit (ITC), more commonly known as the solar tax credit. The ITC gives you a tax credit equal to 26 percent of the total cost of your system, as long as you buy the system. The next option will be state solar tax credits, such as New York state’s tax credit that cuts an additional 25 percent off the price of the residential system. Depending on which state you live in, the opportunity for beneficial tax breaks and solar programs could be significant. Some states and municipalities also offer other more complex options that will be case-specific – do some research into SRECs and other location-specific solar rebate programs.

  1. Does solar make sense if I don’t plan on being in my home for 25 years?

best direction for solar panels

A common concern for homeowners who are considering solar is, “What happens if I move after installing solar panels?” A typical solar panel system lasts for 25 to 30 years. If you don’t plan on owning their house for that long, you may wonder if solar still makes sense. The good news is that solar increases the value of your property and can actually expedite the process of selling the property when the time comes. The housing market is filled with buyers excited by the prospect of acquiring a solar home that comes with the benefit of zero utility bills.

  1. What percentage of your home can you power with solar electricity?
    Ideally, the answer to this question would be 100 percent. However, although a solar panel system can theoretically offset all of your energy use, it’s not realistic to expect that level of panel production every day of the week. Leading U.S. solar manufacturer SunPower recommends that homeowners factor in a 25 percent cushion when calculating their target for solar panel offset. The main reason for this: solar panels cannot operate at maximum efficiency all the time. There will be certain days when grid connection is necessary to fully cover your power usage. However, the beauty of net-metering is that you can benefit from surplus production days and never pay anything to your utility while still relying on the grid for backup storage.

  2. When will your home solar system reach the “break-even point”?

Many homeowners are very interested in calculating their solar panel payback period, which is the amount of time it will take for electric bill savings to offset the cost of solar panel installation. The expected breakeven point ranges across the country, but on average, U.S. homeowners break even on their system cost after about 8 years.

Figures like this illustrate why the residential sector might be the hottest in the solar industry. When solar panels are installed for home, the ROI is high and the payback period can be very short despite the upfront cost. If you’re looking for a personalized estimate for what solar would cost you, try our free Solar Calculator. Once you’re ready to start comparing quotes from local, pre-screened installers in your area, register your home on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace and let the bidding begin.

Facts and information about solar panel

Solar energy is the technology used to harness the sun’s energy and make it useable, the technology produced less than one tenth of one percent of global energy demand.

Many are familiar with so-called photovoltaic cells, or solar panels, found on things like spacecraft, rooftops, and handheld calculators. The cells are made of semiconductor materials like those found in computer chips. When sunlight hits the cells, it knocks electrons loose from their atoms. As the electrons flow through the cell, they generate electricity.

On a much larger scale, solar-thermal power plants employ various techniques to concentrate the sun’s energy as a heat source. The heat is then used to boil water to drive a steam turbine that generates electricity in much the same fashion as coal and nuclear power plants, supplying electricity for thousands of people.

running a mini fridge on solar power

How to Harness Solar Power

In one technique, long troughs of U-shaped mirrors focus sunlight on a pipe of oil that runs through the middle. The hot oil then boils water for electricity generation. Another technique uses moveable mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on a collector tower, where a receiver sits. Molten salt flowing through the receiver is heated to run a generator.
Other solar technologies are passive. For example, big windows placed on the sunny side of a building allow sunlight to heat-absorbent materials on the floor and walls. These surfaces then release the heat at night to keep the building warm. Similarly, absorbent plates on a roof can heat liquid in tubes that supply a house with hot water.

Solar energy is lauded as an inexhaustible fuel source that is pollution- and often noise-free. The technology is also versatile. For example, solar cells generate energy for far-out places like satellites in Earth orbit and cabins deep in the Rocky Mountains as easily as they can power downtown buildings and futuristic cars.


Solar energy doesn’t work at night without a storage device such as a battery, and cloudy weather can make the technology unreliable during the day. Solar technologies are also very expensive and require a lot of land area to collect the sun’s energy at rates useful to lots of people.

solar attic fan pros and cons

Despite the drawbacks, solar energy use has surged at about 20 percent a year over the past 15 years, thanks to rapidly falling prices and gains in efficiency. Japan, Germany, and the United States are major markets for solar cells. With tax incentives, and efficient coordination with energy companies, solar electricity can often pay for itself in five to ten years.

Solar power is energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy. Solar energy is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available, and the U.S. has some of the richest solar resources in the world. Solar technologies can harness this energy for a variety of uses, including generating electricity, providing light or a comfortable interior environment, and heating water for domestic, commercial, or industrial use.

Solar Technologies

There are three main ways to harness solar energy: photovoltaics, solar heating & cooling, and concentrating solar power. Photovoltaics generate electricity directly from sunlight via an electronic process and can be used to power anything from small electronics such as calculators and road signs up to homes and large commercial businesses. Solar heating & cooling (SHC) and concentrating solar power (CSP) applications both use the heat generated by the sun to provide space or water heating in the case of SHC systems, or to run traditional electricity-generating turbines in the case of CSP power plants.

solar panel kit for shed

How solar is used

Solar energy is a very flexible energy technology: it can be built as distributed generation (located at or near the point of use) or as a central-station, utility-scale solar power plant (similar to traditional power plants). Both of these methods can also store the energy they produce for distribution after the sun sets, using cutting edge solar + storage technologies. Solar exists within a complex and interrelated electricity system in the U.S., working alongside other technologies like wind power to transition the U.S. to a clean energy economy.
All of these applications depend on supportive policy frameworks at the local, state and federal level to ensure consumers and businesses have fair access to clean energy technologies like solar.

The solar market today

There are more than 71 gigawatts (GW) of solar installed in the U.S., enough to power more than 13.5 million homes. Over the last decade, the solar market in the United States has grown at an average rate of 50% each year. There are more than 2 million individual solar installations in the U.S., ranging from small home rooftop systems to large utility-scale systems that add hundreds of megawatts of clean electricity to the power grid.

Solar Power Systems

A photovoltaic solar power system (or ‘PV System’) includes solar panels as the main component, and includes all of the Balance Of System (BOS) components needed to make your own energy. We work with top quality solar panel brands such as SolarWorld, Canadian Solar, Seraphim, and our own altE solar panels. The majority of solar power systems include an inverter, which takes the energy that the photovoltaic system produces in direct current (DC) form and converts it to alternating current (AC), so you can run appliances in your home.
Our solar power kits are complete systems, and include the racking and any equipment or Balance Of System components needed to generate power. Whether you’re considering staying connected to the grid to save money, or living off grid for freedom and independence, we have the solar system for you!

Want a custom-designed solar system for your home?

best direction for solar panels

Watch our introduction to solar power systems video, and learn which type of solar power kit is right for you and your specific situation. We offer a variety of solutions—not a one-size fits all approach—because no two homes, individuals or families are alike. Get introduced to the various types of solar power systems so you can identify the best solution for you, and start generating energy with the sun today!
Types of Solar Power Systems
• Grid-Tie Solar Systems – Best for those who already have electric utility service, but wish to significantly reduce their electric bill.
• Grid-Tie Solar Systems with Battery Backup – This is for those who already have electric utility service, but want the security of uninterrupted power in outage-prone locations.
• Off-Grid Cabin Solar Systems – Perfect for the scaled-down power needs of small homes and remote cabins, going off the grid.
• Off-Grid Solar Systems – Don’t want an electric bill? An off-grid system is designed for the power needs of mid-to-large size homes, going off the grid.

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