Rising energy costs and a growing desire to live more eco-friendly lifestyles has spurred interest in solar panels to power our homes. Although solar panels have been around for quite some time, only recently have homes cloaked in panels aimed at capturing the rays of the sunsolar panels begun to be so visible.
The World Meteorological Organization reported that the solar industry saw a robust expansion of 41 percent in 2013, and that popularity continues to grow. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association®, in 2015 the solar industry grew an 34 percent more than 2013 figures. Through the first half of the year, the solar industry supplied 40 percent of all new 2015 electric generating capacity - more than any other energy technology. Solar energy now has the cumulative electric capacity to power more than 4.6 million average American homes.
According to Green Tech Media, American solar companies are now installing one solar system every four minutes. If the market continues to grow at this pace, through 2016 there will be a system installed every 20 seconds. These gains in the solar industry may have been spurred on by the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which the SEIA says has helped to lower the cost of solar energy by more than 73 percent.
How does solar energy work?
Solar energy is turned into electric power through the photovoltaic (PV) cells located in the solar panels. The PV cells transform sunlight into direct electric current. An inverter built into the system converts the DC electricity into the alternating current (AC) that powers homes. The AC is sent to the home's electrical panel and used to power lights and other devices.
What happens at night?
Unless a home is self-contained and off the grid, the average homeowner will not have to worry about night usage or batteries to store energy. He or she will continue to use energy off of the traditional electrical system at night. Many electrical costs will be offset by the amount of extra solar energy put back into the grid. There are a variety of programs, and some homeowners may even reverse bills further based on how much electricity is generated.
Solar panel needs
Although it is ideal to have a south-facing location for panels, this is not an absolute necessity. According to SolarEnergy.net, positioning solar panels to face west or south will work, and even southeast-, east- and north-northwest-facing panels can produce adequate energy savings.
The type of roof may affect costs. Solar panels will not harm the roof when installed correctly, but ornate Spanish tiles or other roofing material may increase solar panel installation costs. Many homeowners find that the solar panels protect the roof from extreme weather, heat and cold, providing an extra bonus to solar energy.
Solar panel costs
The "soft costs" associated with solar energy can be substantial. Such costs include permits, installation and labor. Energy Informative indicates that the solar panels themselves are relatively affordable, at an average cost of $6,500. However, the entire process of installing residental solar systems can end up costing anywhere between $15,000 and $40,000. Homeowners may be able to lease solar panel systems to make solar energy a more affordable option.
Solar energy continues to be a hot topic and a growing trend in home energy solutions.