Residential solar panels continue to be one of the largest trends in green building and energy conservation. With new government tax credits in place to those implementing green practices, solar panels are quickly becoming one of the most affordable ways to lower utility costs for the homeowner. No longer eyesores on the roof, home solar panels are now available in several styles that blend with tiles and shingles to create a seamless roof line and attractive streetscape. But how exactly do they work?
Solar roof panels consist of modules that contain solar cells and convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. An inverter within the panel converts the DC power into alternating current (AC) electricity that is used to heat and cool the home, and also operate any home appliance or device. Homes connected to the utility electrical grid are known as grid-tied homes or on-the-grid systems, while off-grid homes rely on batteries and need to be a safe distance from power lines. Most homeowners choose to work on the grid due to the added security from the utility company. Depending on your electricity provider, you may be allowed a credit, or net metering, if your solar-powered panel produces an excess of energy.
For those concerned about bad weather or dark skies, no additional plan is needed. Residential solar energy systems still function on cloudy days by drawing upon backup electricity from the utility company (for on-the-grid systems), and the same is true during night hours. For off-the-grid systems, the panels are usually connected to a battery storage system as the backup power source and will extract energy if there is a deficiency that day.
Before installing solar power panels into an existing roof or new home, it is recommended to work with a custom home builder or general contractor. Many builders have existing relationships with solar panel integrators and can assist in determining the best position of the panels based on the amount of available sunlight in the various seasons. Although composition shingle roofs are easier to work with than tiled roofs, don’t worry if your home has the latter. There are now several solar modules available in gray, brown or terra cotta frames that are aesthetically pleasing and blend in with the home’s roof.
Not only are solar power panels becoming more attractive and saving the planet, they are also making daily living more affordable for homeowners. New federal tax credits reimburse homeowners 30% of the cost of their residential solar energy systems, while state and local incentives are in place to promote green building. The cost for upkeep is also very little as solar panels require very little maintenance other than battery replacement and a non-abrasive cleaning agent. With government support, low maintenance costs, more attractive products and lower monthly bills, residential solar systems are more widespread than ever before.