1. What is solar energy?

Solar energy takes advantage of the sun's rays to generate heat or electricity. It is an infinitely renewable resource and unique for its ability to generate energy in a quiet, clean, and consistent manner.

2. How do solar photovoltaic cells work?

In layperson terms, photovoltaic cells are comprised of a semiconductor material such as silicon. Added to the silicon are the elements phosphorous and boron which create conductivity within the cell and activate the movement of electrons. The electrons move across the cell when activated by the sunlight's energy into the electrical circuit hooked up to the solar panel.

3. How much will I really save on my utility bills from a home electric solar power system?

Of course this is a relative question. It depends, in part, on how much electricity you use and how efficient the appliances are that you operate. That said expect to generate excess electricity in the summer (when days are long) which can potentially offset the energy you use from the grid in the winter. A combination of energy efficient appliances and light bulbs can help reduce your homes energy bill by over two-thirds.

4. Can I use solar power to heat my home?

Absolutely! Radiant heating applies solar thermal technology. Transferring solar energy through pipes into an under floor radiant heating system is a wonderful way to stay warm. Radiant floor systems are typically 40 percent more efficient than their forced air counterpart and can be zoned to match thermal comfort to each room.

5. How much maintenance do solar energy panels require?

Solar photovoltaic panels require little maintenance - no need to wash or dust. It is, however, important to place panels where they will remain clear of shade and debris. Thus you will have to wipe them off if too much snow or leaves fall on them.

6. Can I use a financing system?

Yes. Consider using a home equity loan for the purchase and installation costs of a solar photovoltaic or solar hot water system to take full advantage of federal tax deductions. Solar energy systems are viewed as a major home energy savings upgrade and there are financial tools out there that reward you for your efforts. Remember, installing a solar energy system is comparable to any other upgrade you might do to your home, such as installing a new deck or remodeling a kitchen.

7. Do I need special insurance requirements?

Standard homeowner's insurance policies usually suffice to meet electric utility requirements. Electric utilities usually require that homeowners who take advantage of net metering sign an interconnection agreement.

8. How long will it take to install a solar power system in my home?

Planning, configuring, and doing any custom ordering for your solar energy system can take up to a few weeks. However, the installation process itself can typically be completed in only a few days time, in many cases even less.

9. How much space do I need for a solar photovoltaic system?

In bright sunlight, a square foot of a conventional photovoltaic panel will yield 10 watts of power. That's a helpful rule of thumb for calculating a rough estimate of how much area you might need. For example, a 1000 watt system may need 100 - 200 square feet of area, depending on the type of PV module used.

10. How many solar panels do I need for an electric solar power system?

The size of the photovoltaic system is correlated to your home's energy-use needs, available space for a system, and overall costs for the system components and installation. Solar contractors in your area can help determine the best size for your solar photovoltaic system.

11. How much shading is too much for solar photovoltaic panels?

Unfortunately shading a photovoltaic system dramatically decreases its output. Just shading the bottom row of wafers alone amounts to an 80% reduction in efficiency. So above all, don't shade your array!

12. What happens when the sun does not shine?

The effect of little or no sunlight on a home or business using solar power varies greatly depending on the physical location of the building and the nature of the solar system being used. For instance, if the system uses PV and solar thermal, and is connected to the standard electricity grid, a period of no sunlight will simply mean relying on grid power. On the other hand, buildings that are not connected to grid power must either be able to rely on other energy producers, such as a fuel cell, wind turbine, diesel generator, or on a supply of electricity stored in batteries.

13. What other factors are important to consider when installing a home solar energy system?

The location of your home and the local climate will play into where you place and how you install your solar electric or solar hot water system. Wind speeds, heavy snow loads, and salt water can all affect a solar array. Understanding how those inputs effect performance will determine the types of mounts or how the arrays are angled. A solar pro in your area is likely quite knowledgeable about your local conditions and can help you design that works well for you.

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