Solar energy panels are becoming cheaper and more accessible than ever. The democratization of previously expensive and advanced technologies means that solar electricity is an option for both the savvy home-owner looking to reduce his or her home energy expenses, as well as the traditional environmentally-conscious user, who's long been aware of the myriad benefits and advantages of solar energy production in the home and elsewhere.
Government investment, subsidization and increased consumer interest in green energy sources has resulted in decreasing prices to the point that now solar panels are a valid and reliable source to supplement energy consumption in the American home. In this article, I'll tackle some of the basics of solar panels for home use.
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What is a solar energy panel?
Solar energy panels are photovoltaic (â€˜electricity from sunlightâ€™) panels, generally constructed to last twenty five to thirty years, which convert approximately 15% of incidental sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. Given that, a typical solar panel at use in North America will deliver around 1.35kWh/m2/day (1.35 kilowatt Hours per meter squared per day) by collecting protons from the sun which displace neutrons and create electricity. An inverter transforms the resulting direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) for use in your home, providing you with a clean, green and renewable energy source.
What can they do?
Solar panels can heat your swimming pool, your hot water boiler, and in certain cases, depending on your annual energy expenditure, even power your entire house. Average solar panel use in an average home will reduce annual energy costs by around 75%, largely paying for their installation, and with energy production that will only decrease generally 25 years after purchase to 80% of its peak level you have many years before replacement will be necessary. (This is referred to as the longevity rating, and there are varying degrees for different manufacturers and types of solar panels.)
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A basic system (a 50w panel) will produce enough energy to power a television, a water pump and approximately several lights, and is generally priced around $800. Over the life-span of the solar panel, the energy savings are enough to justify the initial cost of the purchase and installation, and as more consumers adapt the technology to their homes, the price will drop substantially.
Where to buy solar panels
Solar panels can be purchased at most home improvement and garden centers for smaller applications, but for larger purchases, it might make sense to consult a local solar panel or green energy company, or comparison shop online.
Government grants are available to assist you. For example, in California in 2006, the state government launched the California Solar Panel Initiative, with the stated aim of installing 3k megawatts of solar panels on Californian roof-tops, offering home-owners incentives to adopt solar panels. Contact your state government to find out what incentives or discounts might be available to you.