How do solar panels work for your home?
What are the advantages of having solar panels installed?
How can you benefit from having a solar system installed on your rooftop?
Why is that?
Solar energy is a renewable energy source that has been here forever and it will stay here as long as our Sun continues to shine.
Solar panels generate electricity that you can use to power your home appliances or charge batteries for later use.
So, let’s learn more about solar systems, how they function, and how you can benefit from having a solar panel system installed at your home.
What Are Solar Panels?
Solar panels are technological devices that collect and transform solar energy into electricity.
There are many financial benefits to installing solar panels.
Taking the definition, we can say that a solar panel is „a panel designed to absorb the sun’s rays, the source of electric energy production.”
There are two different types of solar panels:
– photovoltaic panels;
– thermal solar panels;
Photovoltaic panels have the function of producing clean energy, while thermal solar panels make possible the production of domestic hot water.
A photovoltaic solar system is a system composed of one or more solar panels combined with solar inverters and other electrical and mechanical hardware that use energy from the Sun to generate electricity.
On the other hand, solar thermal panels are devices that are mounted on your roof to absorb the sun’s heat and use it to heat water, stored in a cylinder.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Technological advancement allows us to continuously improve solar technology, the efficiency of solar panels, and materials used for their production.
But how do solar panels work?
While a photovoltaic solar panel uses the energy of the Sun to produce electricity, and consequently, it lowers the electricity bill, a solar thermal panel, on the other hand, uses the sun’s energy to produce thermal energy, which is used to heat water at variable temperature.
The performance of solar panels depends on several factors:
- the quality of the components
- the absence of shading
- the tilt of the solar panels (the optimal inclination is about 30 °)
- the orientation of the solar panels (the optimal orientation is towards the South)
- the type of the module
What Type of Solar Installation To Choose?
If you plan to install solar panels, there are several factors that you should consider.
First, it depends on the energy consumption, which depends on the size of a house and the number of people living in it.
The yearly energy consumption of a small house with two people is around 3200 kWh.
To cover this need, solar panels must produce at least 3800 kWh.
To achieve this, you will need 15 solar panels of 260 Wp.
What Are Photovoltaic Solar Panels?
Now let’s see more specifically the first one: photovoltaic panels.
-The photovoltaic system and system solar thermal panels
The photovoltaic system is composed of modules that convert solar energy into direct current and are converted into alternating current through a solar inverter.
There are two types of photovoltaic systems:
- isolated (stand-alone);
- connected to the electricity power grid (grid-connected or grid-tied solar system)
Stand-alone systems are not connected to the electricity grid, providing a solution in those cases where the connection is not possible, such as in mountain shelters.
Grid-connected systems can greatly reduce electric bills, as excess energy produced can be fed to the grid.
In that case, many power companies give benefits to their users.
What Are Solar Thermal Panel Systems?
As we said before, there is a different operation regarding thermal solar panels.
There is often confusion between photovoltaic systems and solar collectors, also known as thermal solar panels.
Despite both exploiting the sun, Solar COl is used for the production of hot water and space heating.
There are two types of solar thermal panels:
- glazed floors;
- with a vacuum tube
The first has the advantage of being less expensive and is particularly common in Italy.
The second, on the other hand, offers greater performance and is, therefore, a bit more expensive.
Always talking about the solar thermal panels, there is the most used system whose name is: the flat collector.
The flat collector is the most used system to obtain low temperatures, between 50 ° C and 90 ° C, which is easily obtained by heating the flat sun surfaces.
A flat collector consists of:
- A transparent glass plate, which allows incoming radiation to pass and blocks outgoing radiation
- A copper absorber, which is a good conductor of heat, contains many channels in which water or air circulates
The Sun warms the plate, which in turn heats the water or the air.
Thermal insulation prevents heat dispersion.
There are other thermal solar systems, such as:
- flat non-glazed thermal solar panels
- glazed solar thermal panels
- vacuum thermal solar panels
- flat air thermal solar panels.
What Kind of Solar Panels Are There?
Solar panel modules play a fundamental role in the functioning of solar systems.
There are three different types:
- monocrystalline silicon panels
- polycrystalline silicon panels
- solar panels with amorphous silicon
Solar panels with monocrystalline silicon are the most expensive and those with the highest performance and are recognized for their black color.
Polycrystalline ones have a simpler and faster production process.
For this reason, their price, as well as their yield, is lower compared to monocrystalline panels.
However, the differences between the two variants aren’t so excessive – especially in the case of domestic installations.
Polycrystalline panels can have different colors and are generally blue or purple.
Between the two different kinds of solar panels, there is a difference in colors: monocrystalline panels are black, and polycrystalline panels are generally blue or purple.
Finally, panels with amorphous silicon are the type with the lowest performance and the lowest cost.
These do not use silicon crystals like the two previous types, but silicon powder, which makes them more flexible.
Because of their lower efficiency, they occupy a greater surface area than poly and monocrystalline panels.
In addition to economic reasons, many choose to install a photovoltaic system also for ecological reasons: the use of renewable energy sources makes it possible to reduce its ecological footprint, reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.
Talking about the benefits aspect, we can say that becoming part of the world of renewables involves a lot of advantages that touch our family as much as the environment in which we live.
Photovoltaics produce clean energy without CO2 emissions and reduce our dependence on the price of alternative raw materials on the market.
They also lead to a significant reduction in the bills and allow us to save money which we can then use for other purposes.
Furthermore, the value of a house equipped with a photovoltaic system increases, and this represents a strength because of a possible future sale.
Can You Recycle Solar Panels?
Most components of a solar module can be reused.
Because of recent technological advancements, up to 95 percent of some semiconductor or glass materials, as well as enormous quantities of ferrous and non-ferrous metals used in photovoltaic modules, may be recovered, which is surprising and extremely important fact.
Of course, recovering 15 kg of glass, 2.8 kg of plastic, 2 kg of aluminum, 1 kg of silicon powder, and 0.14 kg of copper from a normal 21 kg module is fantastic news.
For example, in Italy, there are over 100 million solar array systems installed. Given that the lifetime of a photovoltaic solar system is 20-25 years, the solar recycling industry will begin in a few years.
However, with the new technologies that have just been developed, it is already advantageous to replace the old modules with those of the latest generation, which ensures improved energy efficiency and improved electricity generation.
The Three Steps of Recycling Solar Panels
Let’s have a look at how solar modules are recycled.
It takes place in three steps: in the first one, the aluminum frame and the electrical branches are mechanically separated. In the second one, the EVA, the glass, and the Tedlar are separated from the cells, this can be done either by a thermal process or by a chemical process.
In the last step, the silicon must be purified from the antireflection layer, from the metals and the semiconductors, and so a chemical treatment or purification by laser is used, which, however, has high cost low efficiencies, and long times.
Till now, we’ve seen what the solar panels are, how they work, and in how many and which types they’re divided.
Of course, as already mentioned, one of the fundamental factors is solar energy (Solar energy is the energy associated with solar radiation and is the primary source of energy on Earth), without which the process of transformation into energy wouldn’t be possible.
Can You Heat Home With Solar Energy?
To have a house heated by solar energy, it must first of all be equipped with good thermal insulation.
This one has to be capable of reducing consumption for space heating.
Among the various types of thermal plants we have: the Combi (combined) plant that produces both ACS and energy to heat the house.
This type of system can also be used to provide a cooling system during the summer or to heat a swimming pool.
The size of the system is determined by energy consumption and other technical aspects of the home.
When we minimize a building’s energy requirements, it becomes more suited for heating with a solar heating system.
By lowering the demand for thermal energy, the solar system’s relative contribution increases while simultaneously mitigating the effects of potential summer overproduction.
A properly sized system can meet your family’s energy needs while also lowering your electricity bill, resulting in savings of up to 40% thanks to direct self-consumption.
The photovoltaic system’s electricity is fed directly into the home network and is ready to be used for lighting, TV, dishwasher, and all small and large appliances.
By incorporating a heat pump into the solar system, you can fully eliminate the cost of the gas bill in terms of domestic hot water and heating.
The latest generation of appliances functions as both water heaters and air conditioners, producing thermal energy and transferring it to the water system by utilizing the natural heat contained in the air.
They do not require gas, oil, or any other sort of fossil fuel, but they use the electricity generated by photovoltaic panels for kindling, allowing them to continue operating due to the heat available in nature.
Counting that 75% of a family’s consumption comes from heating, the heat pump is certainly a convenient and very advantageous solution for those who have already decided to exploit a renewable source such as the sun to satisfy their energy needs.
How Much Do Solar Panel Systems Cost?
A photovoltaic solar panel system comes with a cost.
As many are subject to think, numerous costs are part of the life span of the entire plant and are related to its functionality, its maintenance, it’s cleaning, and, its insurance.
An important starting point before buying and choosing a photovoltaic system for your home is to know all the primary factors that vary, increase, and reduce the initial price of a photovoltaic system.
Making a general estimate, it’s possible to say that a photovoltaic system for a standard house of around 100 square meters has a cost that is around € 3,000 per kW installed.
In the initial purchase of a photovoltaic system, there are additional costs to be considered, which are:
- the price of the photovoltaic panel
- the installation phase and the necessary components for its durability and resistance on the roof as the supporting structures of the photovoltaic panel
- the phase of planning and installation of the photovoltaic system on the roof
- installation phase and the need for masonry work on the roof to install the photovoltaic system
Solar power is clean energy and, equally importantly, a renewable source of energy that we can constantly use without harming the planet.
The future of the world is in renewable energy sources.
With the depletion of fossil fuels, we face a dead-end.
Solar technology continues to advance.
Today, we have lots of solar-powered gadgets, home appliances, as well as solar-powered vehicles.
Currently, most studies focus on new generations of photovoltaic cells that will have greater efficiency.
More ambitious research points to the development of orbiting solar power plants.
The energy obtained via the use of solar panels can provide numerous benefits, and as time goes on, it will become more common to see solar panel installations on homes, urban residential neighborhoods, and industrial facilities.