Answers to some of your solar questions ...
What are photovoltaic cells? — Jacob K., Atlanta, GA
Photovoltaic cells were developed at Bell Laboratories in the early 1950s as a spinoff of transistor technology. Very thin layers of pure silicon are impregnated with tiny amounts of other elements. When exposed to sunlight, small amounts of electricity are produced. They were mainly a laboratory curiosity until the advent of spaceflight in the 1950s, when they were found to be an efficient and long-lived, although very expensive, power source for satellites. Since the early ’60s, PV cells have slowly, but steadily come down from prices of over $40,000 per watt to current, low retail prices.
What is a PV module? — Larry H., Tampa, FL
This is what you might call a “solar panel” that makes electricity when exposed to direct sunlight. PV is shorthand for photovoltaic. We call these panels PV modules to differentiate them from solar hot-water panels or collectors, which are a completely different technology and are often what folks think of when we say “solar panel.” PV modules do not make hot water.
How long do PV modules last? — Laura L., Dallas, TX
PV modules last a long, long time. How long, we honestly don’t yet know, as the oldest terrestrial modules are barely 45 years old and still going strong. Most full-size modules carry 25-year warranties, reflecting their manufacturers’ faith in the durability of these products.
What is an inverter? — Jerry S., Gainesville, FL
An inverter is an electronic device that converts (transforms) the low-voltage DC power we can store in batteries to conventional 120-volt AC power as needed by lights and appliances. This makes it possible to utilize the lower-cost (and often higher quality) mass-produced appliances made for the conventional grid-supplied market. Inverters are available in a wide range of wattage capabilities. We commonly deal with inverters that have a capacity of anywhere between 150 and 6,000 watts.
I'm not sure if my house gets "full sun". — Janet H., Santa Fe, NM
Most people seldom see 100% full-Sun conditions. If you are not getting full, bright, shadow-free sunlight, then your PV output will be somewhat reduced. However, most of us actually receive 80%-85% of a “full Sun” (defined as 1,000 watts per square meter) on a clear sunny day. As long as your home is not covered by a tree canopy, and you live in the sunny south, then you should see good results from solar technology.
What is the maintenance on a home solar power system? — M.R., Nice, FL
It’s almost laughable how easy the maintenance is for PV modules. Because they have no moving parts, they are virtually maintenance free. Basically, just keep them clean. Generally, if it doesn’t rain for a while or if the birds leave their calling cards, just hose the modules down. But do not hose them off when they’re hot. Wash them in the early morning or evening. For PV maintenance, that’s it!
What will it cost for me to go solar? — Kathy S., Ocala, FL
Many factors can come into play, such as your energy usage, roof orientation, and shading. Several locations also offer rebates, which can dramatically affect the install price. Recently, Congress extended the Federal Tax Credit, which takes an additional 30% off the net system price (after rebates). You can go to www.dsireusa.org to find out what grants or incentives area available in your area. The best way to get an accurate cost is to call 1-877-399-SOLAR and schedule a FREE site visit from one of our sales technicians.
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One of the smartest investments you can make right now is in energy. Costs of traditional energy resources are rising and the dollars we pay every month offer no return.Solar dates back thirty years with no harmful effects on the environment. High efficient AC, solar water heating, low watt lighting and solar attic ventilation are all easy investments with high returns.
Energy efficiency measures are a smart investment for many companies to stay competitive in today’s market and to reduce the cost of operating procedures, cut back on waste, and empower employees to do the same. Companies need to get the community involved in their efforts to show everyone you are the leader in securing our environmental future.
It is important to understand the technology behind our product offering, why it is necessary, and what incentives may be available. Mr. Jamerson is also a solar instructor, helping the next generation of contractors to learn the proper installation of products to give the customer the highest return on their investment