One of the best ways homeowners can make a big impact in reducing their carbon footprint and saving energy is by installing solar panels on their roofs. Solar panels aren’t just for large corporations and big buildings. Residential solar panels are becoming popular and providing clean energy to homeowners across the country.
How Photovoltaic Cells Work

solar panels on a roof
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When you see a shiny solar panel lining the roof of a building, you’re looking at photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells are made of layers of semiconductors, usually silicon, which are then given positive and negative charges. When light shines on the cell, the photons essentially knock free the electrons, creating an electric charge. Conductive plates collect the electrons and move them into wires. The energy a solar panel collects is DC power, but an attached inverter converts that to AC, which is the type of power your home appliances use.

How PV Panels Power a House
You have two options for collecting the energy from your solar panels: you can stay connected to the grid, or you can disconnect and use batteries to store excess power. Though batteries used to be the only way you could collect solar power, today most residential homes with solar panels are connected to the power grid. Instead of storing unused energy in a battery, grid-connected homes use solar power when the sun is shining and grid energy when it isn’t. Most often, you’ll get credits from the power company for any surplus power your solar panels generate, which can offset the cost of the grid power you use, sometimes until they pay you!

The Right Setup for Residential PV Panels

solar panels

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Certain conditions have to be met for solar panels to work well. In the northern hemisphere, they do best when they’re facing south on an angled roof. The amount of shade on the roof has to be negligible to nonexistent. Solar panels are at their most efficient when the sun is shining bright, and you’ll already have to contend with cloudy days and bad weather making them work less efficiently sometimes.

Eliminate any shade that might fall on them.
If your roof is angled well and faces the right direction, you then have to determine the area to be covered by panels to meet your energy needs. For this, chatting with a professional is the best course of action. Professionals will know not only whether your roof is suitable for solar panels but also how to convert your home’s energy requirements into the number of solar panels you need. You may also discuss simply reducing your dependency on the power grid rather than eliminating it completely, depending on how much you can invest and other considerations.

The Cost and the Savings
You may think that installing solar panels on your roof is very expensive. While the upfront cost isn’t cheap, you have to consider many other factors before deciding that solar energy is too expensive for your home. First, you’ll save considerable money in the long term powering your home with solar energy. If you consider that the average solar panel is designed to last for decades, that’s years of savings adding up. Solar panels will reduce your energy costs by up to 40 percent, which is a huge savings when multiplied over decades.

Many financing and leasing options exist for people who want to use solar energy to power their homes. Get a lease, a loan, or a “power to purchase agreement,” which means you’re buying the solar energy, rather than the solar panel itself. On top of that, both federal and state governments offer tax incentives in the form of rebates or credits if you go solar. Once you calculate the cost with all this in mind, you’ll see that the savings are worth it, and so is the reduction in carbon dioxide production.

Investing in solar panels is the smart choice. It saves on energy costs and provides you with a clean source of energy that’s much friendlier to the environment.

If You Still Have Questions!
ConsumerAffairs – a leading consumer news and advocacy organization. Solar energy is taking the world by storm, but finding credible resources that cover the topic can be difficult.

The ConsumerAffairs Solar Energy Guide helps consumers determine whether or not “going solar” is right for them. Here are a few topics the guide covers:

1. What are the different types of solar energy companies – and which one will meet your specific needs?
2. Going solar can be expensive, so what are your financing options?
3. Does the company offer service beyond installation?