The 9 key questions you should ask yourself before installing solar panels at home
Installing solar panels at home has become an increasingly popular option for those looking to reduce their energy costs and lessen their environmental impact.
Solar power is a renewable and sustainable energy source that can provide both economic and environmental benefits. As solar technology has become more advanced and affordable, more and more people are considering installing solar panels in their homes.
If you’re considering installing solar panels on your home, there are a few important things to keep in mind to make sure the investment pays off. In this article, we’ll explain some of the key things to consider before installing solar panels in your home.
1. Are solar panels the same as photovoltaics?
Yes, solar panels and photovoltaic panels are the same type of device, which converts solar energy into electricity through the photovoltaic effect.
However, the term “solar panel” is commonly used as a generic term for any device that converts solar energy into electricity, while the term “photovoltaic panel” is used specifically to describe panels that use photovoltaic cells to convert energy. solar in electricity.
Therefore, solar panels can refer to any device that converts solar energy into electricity, such as solar thermal panels that heat water or fluids, while photovoltaic panels refer specifically to panels that use photovoltaic cells.
A photovoltaic cell is a semiconductor device that converts solar energy into electricity.
When sunlight hits a photovoltaic cell, photons of light excite electrons in the semiconductor material, generating an electrical current. Photovoltaic solar panels are made up of multiple interconnected photovoltaic cells, which work together to produce a usable electrical current.
2. What elements make up a residential photovoltaic solar installation?
A typical residential photovoltaic installation consists of the following elements:
- Solar panels: are devices that convert solar energy into electricity.
- Inverter: It is a device that converts the direct current generated by solar panels into alternating current, this electricity is used in homes.
- Energy meter: It measures the amount of energy generated by the photovoltaic system and the amount of energy that is consumed by the electrical network.
- Batteries (optional): if you want to store the energy generated during the day for later use (for example, overnight or on cloudy days), batteries can store the energy.
- Electrical cables and conduits: These are used to connect the solar panels to the inverter and the household electrical grid.
- Support structures: these are the supports and frames used to install the solar panels on the roof or on the ground.
- Electrical and safety protections: include switches, fuses, and circuit breakers to protect the photovoltaic system from electrical surges and ensure home safety.
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3. What types of photovoltaic solar panels are there?
There are several types of photovoltaic solar panels, each with its own characteristics and benefits. Some of the most common types are:
Monocrystalline solar panels: They are the most efficient in converting sunlight into electricity and take up less space than other types of solar panels.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels: These are less efficient than monocrystalline panels but also less expensive and easier to produce.
Thin Film Solar Panels: These are made of semiconductor materials that apply in thin layers onto a substrate. They are lighter and more flexible than crystalline silicon panels.
Bifacial Solar Panels – These can capture sunlight on both the top and bottom of the panel, increasing its efficiency and power output.
Concentrating Solar Panels: Use lenses or mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto smaller photovoltaic cells, increasing their efficiency. However, these panels are more expensive and require more maintenance.
Currently, monocrystalline panels are the most used because they provide a better balance between performance and cost.
4. How many solar panels do I need for my house?
The number of solar panels depends on several factors, such as the average energy consumption of the house, the geographic location, the orientation and slope of the roof, the efficiency of the solar panels, and the budget available for solar installation.
A detailed analysis of the energy consumption of the home must be carried out to determine the number of solar panels needed. That involves reviewing electric power bills to determine how much energy is used each month and identifying the appliances and equipment that use the most energy.
The number of solar panels needed will depend on the power needed and the number of hours of sunshine available in the area.
However, a typical monocrystalline photovoltaic panel for residential use offers a power of between 350 and 450 W.
In addition, to cover the average energy cost of a standard-size single-family home, a photovoltaic installation of between 3 to 6-kilowatt peak (kW) of power is usually needed, which can contain from 7 to 15 solar panels, depending on the type of panel and the energy efficiency of the system.
5. How much does a residential photovoltaic installation cost?
The cost of a residential photovoltaic installation can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the size of the system, the efficiency of the solar panels, the geographic location, the complexity of the installation, and the cost of permits and legal paperwork.
In any case, the usual thing is that a standard 3 kWp photovoltaic installation costs around 5,000 euros. It is always advisable to request several estimates and pay attention to the qualities and qualities of the materials included in them.
6. Do I need permission to install solar panels on my house?
In Spain, the need to request permission to install solar panels will depend on the legislation in force in each Autonomous Community.
However, the usual thing is that self-consumption installations of less than 10 kW of power do not require authorization, although it may be necessary to make a prior notification to the administration.
What is necessary to do is undertake the legalization of the installation, which must be taken care of by the installation company. It will be possible to take advantage of the surplus compensation modality to further lower the electricity bill after the process is completed.
7. What type of maintenance does a photovoltaic installation need?
A photovoltaic installation requires regular maintenance to guarantee its optimal operation and prolong useful life.
- Regular cleaning of solar panels to remove dirt, dust, snow, or ice that may accumulate on their surface and affect their ability to generate power.
- Periodically check electrical cables and connections to make sure they are not loose, corroded, or damaged.
- Checking the status of the inverters, which are the devices responsible for converting the direct current generated by the solar panels into alternating current suitable for use in homes or businesses.
- Verification of the storage capacity of the battery, if the installation has one, and verification of its state of charge.
- Constant monitoring of the performance of the installation to detect possible failures or anomalies and carry out the necessary repairs.
Maintenance must be carried out by qualified and experienced personnel in handling this type of facility to avoid damage to it and ensure correct operation.
8. How does dirt affect solar panels?
Accumulated dirt on solar panels can significantly reduce their efficiency and power generation capacity.
That is because dirt such as dust, pollen, leaves, bird droppings, and other debris can coat the surface of the solar panel and block some of the sunlight that must be absorbed by the PV cells to generate power electricity.
Even a small amount of dirt can have a significant impact on the performance of solar panels. According to some studies, a layer of dust barely 1 mm thick on the panels can reduce their efficiency by 5 to 7%. In areas with high levels of pollution or the presence of birds, dirt can accumulate more quickly and further reduce energy production.
For this reason, it is carried out regular cleaning of the solar panels to remove dirt and keep them in optimal working condition.
It is cleaning to be done at least once a year, although it may be necessary to do it more frequently in areas with a high accumulation of dirt. Cleaning must be done carefully and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid damaging the solar panels during the process.
9. How long do solar panels last?
The duration of solar panels varies depending on several factors, such as the quality of the materials used in their manufacture, the technology used, the environmental conditions, and the type of maintenance carried out.
It is estimated that the average useful life of a solar panel is between 25 and 30 years. Some manufacturers offer guarantees of up to 25 years on the panel’s power production, indicating that the panel will continue to generate at least 80% of its original capacity after that period.
That means that solar panels do not “turn off” after their useful life, but rather their power-generating capacity gradually reduces as they age. Therefore, they can still be useful and generate power after their estimated useful life, although they may need to be replaced or repaired at some point.