Solar Panels

Solar panels are at the top of the list of “Going Green.” There’s nothing like removing your home from the grid. The up front cost is more than hooking up to the grid but in the long run it is a better investment. Of course some people have no choice because of their location it is the only way to go.

This website discusses and displays differnt panels on the market. It’s also expanded to include entire systems for homes, boats, RV’s, cabins, etc. Hopefully you find something useful.

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A lot of solar cells or panels are actually solar PV. Solar cells are the individual blue things, solar panels are a collection of a bunch of solar cells (probably 24). PV is jargon for Photo Voltaic or solar cells that convert light directly into electricity and last but not least is solar thermal. Solar thermal is when something gets hot as a result of being in the sun.

Unless there’s some sort of scientific breakthrough, the expensive sort of PV solar is about 20% efficient and the cheap sort is about 10% efficient. You need fewer of the expensive cells, naturally. The more expensive solar cells are rigid (and brittle) and called ‘single cell’. The cheaper solar cells are flexible or can be applied to a curved surface and called ‘thin film’.

One can even get house roofing shingles with a thin film solar PV built in. These shingles look and behave like ordinary housing roof shingles, so you could have PV on your roof, silently working for you and they look pretty much like your average blue shingle.

One particularly cool application seen is a roll of PV paneling that is conveniently sized to fit the flat rows on a tin roof. One company is even producing solar shingles for houses and I’m waiting for the price to come down a bit. And of course it will over time.

Often seen is the notion of adding solar panels to a house as a DIY project. Don’t do it. Get someone who has done it before. To be sure, get references, but pay for someone else to do the job. They will know all the in’s and out’s of the job correctly the first time. To get maximum output from your solar array is a must.

Once you have solar panels on your roof or pole mounts, you really don’t have a lot to worry about if a hurricane blows off all the roofs in the town. Because a roof has to be beefed up to handle the extra weight of the panels, it’s a lot more likely to survive bad weather.

And you can be a good neighbor when bad weather strikes. Bad neighbors are the ones that run a loud, very smelly generator when the power is out and everyone else in the neighborhood is sleeping with open windows. Solar cells are silent and odor free.

Federal and State tax credits vary all over the map for every location and situation, but can substantially lower the cost of your new source of ‘green’ power.

There is also the use of solar that makes things hot. That is solar thermal. An example would be water getting hot in a garden hose. If mirrors track the sun, focused on a hollow tower, the tower is gonna get hot. And the air in the tower gets hot, too. The hot air naturally rises and the rising hot air spins a turbine, making electricity.

A very simple solar water heater is a black hose with water in it thrown up on the roof.

The next simplest is a ‘batch’ water heater. Solar water heaters can get very complicated, but the complication usually adds some convenience, feature or efficiency.

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