Solar power is becoming an important alternative energy source – but it’s not just about lowering your electricity bills. Solar power has heaps of positive effects on the environment, the economy, and on communities, so it’s no wonder that you’ll find solar panels everywhere from Ikea superstores to Tiny Homes.
How do Solar Panels Work?
Simply put, Solar panels convert sunlight to electricity. The panel’s photovoltaic cells allow particles of light, also known as “photons,” to knock electrons off of atoms, which creates electricity. This electricity comes in the form of DC, or direct current electricity, which is then converted to AC (alternating current) electricity by an inverter so that it can power your home.
Do Solar Panels Work When It’s Not Sunny?
Surprisingly to most people, solar panels still produce electricity even on cold, rainy, or cloudy days. Even during New York winters. How is that possible? First, solar panels are powered by light, not heat, so the temperature outside makes no difference. Second, even on cloudy or rainy days, there’s still quite a bit of light in the sky. Did you ever notice how it’s just as easy to get a sunburn on cloudy days as it is on sunny days? While these days might not be the ideal conditions for energy production, solar panels can still generate enough power to remain a viable source of electricity, even when there are clouds in the sky.
How Long do Solar Panels Last?
Most solar panels used in homes are guaranteed for decades – typically around 25 or 30 years, although they are known to last for quite a lot longer.
Solar panel parts don’t wear easily. First-generation solar owners have reported that even some of the oldest solar panels they own are still producing electricity daily after more than 40 years. In fact, a study by the NREL released in June 2012 found that, on average, a solar system loses only 0.5% of its efficiency annually – meaning that even after 25 years, your solar panels are still operating at 88% of their original capacity.
Do Solar Panels Need Maintenance?
Solar panels can last a long time without much maintenance. You should keep them free from debris and snow and wash them off with a garden hose two to four times a year to keep the dust and dirt on them minimal. You may need to replace the inverter a few times throughout your system’s lifespan. Inverters usually come with a 25-year warranty. If the inverter fails, the system will shut down so it will have to be replaced to get the system working again.
New technological developments such as “micro-inverters,” which are installed or included with each solar panel, are replacing the more-common central inverters that handle the output of all your panels at once. Micro-inverters are not exposed to as much high power and heat loads as central inverters, so they tend to last a lot longer. And it won’t shut your entire system down if one does fail.
Can You Really Save Money with Solar Panels?
The answer is yes. Electricity savings over 20 years from solar can be significant, ranging from the low end of $50k to almost $100k.
There are many tax incentives available on solar installations. For example, there is still a 30% federal investment tax credit for new solar installations (it will go down after 2019, so move fast!), which can greatly offset your upfront investment. Many states and counties also have their own tax incentives to encourage homeowners to install this clean energy alternative.
A solar energy system adds substantial value to your home as soon as it’s installed and operational. Your savings will vary, based on factors like average sunlight in your region, your usual electricity cost, and the scale of the system you install. But, in as little as four years, depending on the final cost of your system after federal, state, and local incentives, your system will have paid for itself.
That is an impressive return on investment.
If you’re interested in knowing more about what solar power can do for your New York home, get in touch with New York Power Solutions. Learn how you can save thousands of dollars in energy costs with no money out-of-pocket.