A solar panel is essentially a nicely packaged arrangement of solar cells that is able to be mounted on your roof. Solar panels have been all the rage for a few decades, but how do they work, and what are the chances that we can actually harness enough energy from the sun to no longer need traditional electricity?
What are Solar Cells?
Solar cells, also known as photovoltaic cells, are made of materials called semiconductors, most frequently silicon. When UV rays hit this package of solar cells, a certain percentage of the light is absorbed by the cells. This absorbed energy allows electrons to free themselves. PV cells also have specific electric fields that collect these freed electrons and make them flow in a certain direction. This is known as a current.
The last major portion of a PV cell is the set of metals that can be placed either on the top or bottom of the electric field. These metals transfer the current into usable electricity. The most popular form of PV cell usage is on smaller devices such as sun powered calculators or lanterns used for camping. However, we can now harness this power on a large basis in order to power homes.
The combination of solar cells and metal is a solar panel.
A photovoltaic cell package is not enough. In order to power a fully functioning home, you must purchase a photovoltaic system which includes a panel, an inverter, a battery, and interconnection wiring.
Powering a Home
The amount of photovoltaic systems you will need is completely dependent upon the size of your house, and your energy usage per month. On average, a home in the United States will use approximately 730 kWh of energy, which would cost around $75.
Another factor to take into consideration is the efficiency of your solar panels. On average, a solar panel package should have a 12% efficiency.
The third factor to take into place is your environment. If you live in a place like Seattle, you could only get around 3 hours of sunshine per day. However, if you live somewhere like Phoenix, you could get up to 12.
There are solar panel calculators available online that will take all three of the aforementioned factors into account and give you an estimation of how long it would take you to save what you paid for your system. You can get a system installed for approximately $18,000, which could be made back in a period of 20 years. For first time home buyers, this is an excellent long term payout.
For more information, check out businesses like Capital City Solar.