The recent decade has seen a flood of appeal in alternative, renewable energy sources. Due to the instability of fossil fuel prices and a growing awareness of the prospective harm such fuels could cause the planet, homeowners are looking at ways to render use of alternative energy. Solar panels are an accepted consideration amongst people interested in going entirely or somewhat “off-grid”. There are many factors to keep in mind, however, as you explore the likelihood of investing in solar panels. This article takes a look at the pros and cons of going solar, the cost involved, the installation task, and various other factors.
What are solar panels, and how do they work?
There are basically, two types of solar panels, photovoltaic modules (PVs) and solar thermal collectors. Solar thermal collectors do not in fact convert sunlight into electricity; they make use of the sun’s warmth and channel it into the dwelling, particularly for heating water. Because the hot water tank is a noteworthy source of electricity consumption, installing solar thermal collectors to warm up your water will probably decrease your utility bills.
Solar thermal collectors can also provide space heating inside a home, but since the need for heat is highest in parts of the country when the sunshine is least likely to shine strongly for the duration of the winter, they are not typically used for this function. Also, a very huge quantity of south facing panels would be necessary to provide space heating using solar thermal collectors, which is more than most homeowners are able to tackle. Solar thermal collectors are commonly less expensive than PVs, but they can take up more space and require direct, unbroken sunlight. Solar thermal collectors are particularly suited to huge ranches or farms.
On a grander scale, the heating of water by solar thermal collectors can be used to generate steam to spin the turbine of a generator, thus producing electricity (rather than burning nonrenewable fossil fuels to produce steam). But this is commonly an industrial use and has not been adapted for home usage as yet.
The most widespread solar panel system for home usage is the PV type. It works by converting sunlight into an electrical current. PV panels are connected to a module, and are made up of two halves of a silicon crystal which has been coated with two separate substances known as “dopants”. (Aluminum and phosphorous are examples of dopants.) One half of the crystal has fewer electrons than the other, creating an electric field between the halves. Electrical charges pass from the electron-rich side to the electron-poor side, creating currents that flow in equal but opposite directions. Sunlight sets the process in motion.
Other Solar Device Uses
Just as a side note, solar or photonic sensitive devices are used everyday in many of the common products we use. Light sensitive cells detect oncoming traffic, set timers for outdoor lighting and many, many other uses.
Setting Up Your Personal Grid
PVs are compatible with your regular power grid. The module to which the panels are connected puts out anywhere from 10 to 300 watts, and the modules are connected to an inverter. The inverter, in turn, changes the current from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current), which is the sort of power that is compatible with the regular power grid, and can be used to run normal household appliances. Without the power being converted to AC, you would have to exchange all of your electrical appliances with DC-compatible ones, which would be very expensive. If you decide to go off-grid entirely, you will still need to convert to AC.