An occasional solar panel cleaning is a good idea, as build up of debris can block the sunlight from reaching your solar cells. Dirt, dust, and even pollution can cloud the surface of your solar panels, and prevent them from absorbing the maximum amount of solar radiation. Adding regular solar panel cleaning to your spring cleaning routine will help maintain the efficiency of your panels, and keep them in good repair.
How Not to Clean Your Solar Panels
When cleaning your panels, you want to be careful not to damage them, or leave any sort of residue that will attract the rapid buildup of dirt and debris. Some of the bad ideas for solar panel cleaning include:
- Pressure washing them
- Scraping them or scratching them with a broom
- Damaging the surface with bleach, or other harsh chemicals
How to Clean Your Solar Panels
Cleaning your solar panels is a task that you can do yourself, or you can hire a professional service. Solar panel cleaning kits are available (try searching an online retailer, like Amazon.com), and cleaning solutions that are designed specifically for the surface of solar panels are available as well.
For professional solar panel cleaning services, try asking your solar power system installation company, or research local window cleaning companies, which may offer special services for solar panel customers.
Don’t forget, Solar Energy World customers are offered an annual maintenance plan for solar power systems, which includes a full system inspection and cleaning.
At Solar Energy World, when we analyze property for a solar array, we take into account several factors, including energy usage, and available roof space or land for maximum sun exposure. Indeed, exposure to sunlight is the most important factor when it comes to generating solar power, simply because without sunlight, solar panels cannot work.
Deserts are a desirable location for large scale solar installations because of their sunny climates, and the amount of space available. According to the DESERTEC website, more solar energy hits the deserts of the world within six hours than is consumed around the world in one year.
The European Union is poised to take advantage of the immense amounts of solar radiation in the Sahara. Covering an estimated 6,500 square miles of the Sahara with solar panels and wind turbines, the EU will begin importing electricity by 2015. It may sound like a lot of space, but considering the vast size of the Sahara, it would take only one percent of the surface area covered in solar panels to provide enough electricity for the entire world.
Another development in the world of solar power is the concept of using the ocean and other bodies of water for solar power. The oceans make up the majority of the earth’s surface, and, similar to deserts, they are exposed to a lot of sunlight. There are no trees, or buildings to worry about on the high seas, after all!
Of course, there are a few obvious obstacles to placing solar panels on the ocean, namely finding somewhere to put them in the first place. According to this article, several companies are planning to build floating solar islands of steel and plastic, that will be set to drift on placid bodies of water.
Another risk to floating solar arrays? Hurricanes and tropical storms could pose a threat. Included in the design for these solar islands is the ability for the entire floating structure to submerge, in order to avoid storm force winds.
Referenced in this article:
“Europe Will Be Powered by Solar Panels in 5 Years“, ImpactLab
“This Island Paradise is for One thing Only, Solar Power“, FastCoExist
A major deciding factor when considering solar power is money– how much will a new solar electric system cost, and how much will it save?
The good news is that solar power is significantly less expensive to install than it was just ten years ago. Government incentives, plus attractive financing or leasing options, make solar more affordable for homeowners everywhere. Even better, an expected return on the initial investment is seven years or less.
Still, many people question what exactly it will take to make solar panels even less expensive. Researchers are actively pursuing new technologies that increase the efficiency of solar panels, and reduce the cost.
One idea is to create solar panels from cheaper and more widely available materials. The solar cells of today are made of silicon, which reacts to sunlight to produce the photovoltaic effect that solar electric systems rely upon. This effect is magnified by doping the silicon with impurities. Any semiconductor, such as silicon, can be doped, but not all semiconductors are created equal. Cheaper alternatives to silicon do not maintain the “doped” effect as well as silicon, so other methods of enhancing the photovoltaic effect on cheaper semiconductors are currently under development. You can read more about the UC Berkley study regarding this, here.
Other ideas for improving the efficiency of solar panels include designs that trap sunlight within the structure of the cell, instead of reflecting it. This would improve efficiency by absorbing more of the sunlight that hits the surface of a solar cell, rather than absorbing a percentage and reflecting the rest.
The key to reducing the cost of solar panels is to improve their efficiency so that fewer panels are needed to meet electricity demand, and to use less expensive and more readily available materials to reduce the cost of the panels themselves.
Solar power is now more affordable than ever. Solar Energy World can help you on your way to energy independence. Call us now to set up your free solar analysis.
Solar panels rely on solar energy in order to produce usable electricity for home and property owners. It seems like common sense would dictate that solar panels would be best used in hot, sunny weather. This logic would mean that solar production would significantly drop in colder weather, meaning that homeowners should only rely on their solar panels in the summertime, right?
Actually, solar panels perform even better in colder temperatures. This means that during the wintertime, sunny days and chilly air will benefit homeowners that have chosen energy independence. The reason for this is that cooler temperatures allow solar panels to produce a higher voltage, which results in higher wattage for your home.
What does reduce solar power production is the decrease in daylight hours. Because solar electricity runs on sunlight and not heat, the winter sunlight is enough to create energy. The catch is that the amount of daylight is decreased, and production time is shortened. However, home and property owners will still see a significant benefit from the installation of a solar electric system, and reduction or elimination of their energy bills during the winter months.
One of the many benefits of solar power is that the industry has the potential to help boost the economy. But how exactly could this happen, and what is the reasoning behind this statement?
Solar Creates Jobs
A demand for solar power means that more materials will need to be manufactured, and more systems will need to be designed and installed. These tasks all require skilled and specially trained employees, which means that higher demand for solar power will lead to job growth in the renewable energy sector. In fact, various news sources have recently reported that job growth in the solar energy industry has outpaced the overall growth rate.
Solar Power Reduces Energy Dependence
A buzzword in the recent election was “energy independence”. The sun belongs to no one, and its energy is present everywhere. The sun cannot be taxed or tariffed, and once your solar panels are installed, there are no price fluctuations or negotiations about the cost of fuel. Solar energy is not owned or supplied by any entity in particular. Therefore, using the sun to our advantage is a step toward energy independence.
Solar Power Saves Money
No one enjoys paying bills, and your electric bill is probably a large expense. The cost of heating and cooling your home will make up the largest portion of your energy bill, and, depending on how energy efficient your home may be, the heating or cooling system may be running most of the time. These necessary expenses add up quickly, and that means that homeowners have less of their hard earned money to spend on other goods and services, because it must be paid to to gas and electric companies.
Solar power can free up more spending money, because it can significantly reduce or eliminate an electric bill. This means that homeowners that choose solar will have more money to spend, instead of being tied to rising electricity rates. Just imagine how much money could be saved by homeowners with a home solar system, and an electric vehicle!
You may also be interested in:
With the possibility of a winter storm later this evening, you may be wondering how the snow could affect the performance of your solar power system.
Your solar panels will continue to function when conditions are less than sunny, so while heavy cloud cover may slightly decrease your solar power production, the solar panels will still produce electricity using the solar energy that does reach them.
Luckily, it does not look like we will get too much accumulating snow (but you never know!), so this particular winter event should not interfere with solar power production very much. However, during a more significant snowfall, a blanket of snow would effectively block the sun’s rays, halting power production.
So what could be done to fix the problem, and start generating power again? Usually, the snow will melt relatively quickly, and this is accelerated on steep rooftops as the melting snow tends to slide off of the surface. Otherwise, the snow will have to be manually removed, either by sweeping it off (safely, of course), or using a leaf blower or other device to move it or melt it.
by Joe Wateski, Manager, Energy Services Division, Solar Energy World
Quiz time! What do summer and winter have in common with regards to keeping your home comfortable? Answer? HEAT. Here at 3rd rock from the sun, nearly all heat comes from – you guessed it – the sun. Let’s call him Mr. Sun. He helps your home in the winter, but hurts it in the summer. So what are we to do to help ourselves? Get an understanding of the management of HEAT.
Summertime means Air Conditioning (A/C) so question number 2 – Does an air conditioner make cold air? Answer? NO! An air conditioner removes heat . Why is that important to know? Because if you can keep heat out of the home in the 1 stplace, your A/C doesn’t have to work as hard in the 2 nd place. Temperatures in Maryland are nearing 90 degrees F today. Let’s say you want your home at a comfortable 75. So your A/C system needs to overcome 15 degrees.
Heat gain in summer for most homes comes from three (3) primary sources:
- Radiant heat from Mr. Sun entering the home mostly through southern and western facing windows.
- Heat bleeding down from the attic (which can reach over 130 degrees F). This arrives via conduction, through insulation and building material, and especiallyconvection, air flowing through openings to the attic.
- Latent and appliance-generated heat. Latent heat is that heat and humidity coming off of our bodies. Appliance heat comes from pretty much anything that plugs into an electric outlet (including your A/C system).
Let’s start with number 3. The air temperature near a 60W incandescent light bulb is about 120. The air temperature of an equivalent 13W compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) is about 84. That’s a difference of nearly 40 degrees. Is it hot in your home especially at night? Then change out your light-bulbs. CFL’s also put out an equivalent amount of light at about ¼ of the power in. LED lights are even cooler and more efficient. As for the heat coming off of your body, try to keep your cool by thinking happy thoughts. Moving on to number 2…
Heat building up in your attic (which is usually outside of your conditioned living space) will tend to migrate into your home when the A/C is on. This is because your living space at 75 is cooler than the outdoors which might be 85 or hotter. What to do? Make sure your attic has adequate ventilation. Sometimes soffit vents can get blocked by insulation or debris. Check to correct this. Adding mechanical ventilation in the form of a fan on a thermostat is another corrective measure. However, having your attic AIR SEALED and making sure you have an adequate thermal barrier are critically important as well. If you have recessed lights, a whole house fan, or other numerous openings to the attic, heat will readily pass through these and work against you during both summer and wintertime.
Now let’s talk windows. Over 1/3 of your heat gain will come from mostly south and west facing windows. This works for you in winter but against you in summer. While blinds on the inside of windows will let you think you are more comfortable in summer, they only go so far. Once the heat from Mr. Sun has pierced the glass, it’s in your home. Closing the blinds does help because you won’t feel heat on your face as much. However, the heat will tend to build around the window area and eventually meander through the rest of your home. A better solution is a Solar Reflective Screen. This material is installed in a frame that is outside the glass. Why does that matter? Because the heat doesn’t pierce the glass in the 1 st place. Your A/C system doesn’t have to work as hard or as long in the 2 nd place. Just put Solar Reflective Screens up at the start of summer, take them down in the fall.
What if you don’t fully understand everything you just read? What if you find attics uncomfortable in summer? What if you don’t have the time or can’t be bothered? If you live in Maryland, you are in luck!
The Maryland Home Performance with Energy Star Program (which all Marylanders pay into through Empower MD) allows you to get a Quick Home Energy Check up (Q-HEC) for free. If your budget allows and you know you need improvements, a better option is to schedule a comprehensive Energy Audit. This will cost most homeowners only $100 and will yield a report that not only gives you a roadmap towards improvement and lower energy costs, but also includes health and safety items like checking for natural gas leaks or the presence of carbon monoxide. It gets better…both of these services include installation of CFL’s, water heater insulation, even low flow showerheads FOR FREE! The full audit also sets you up to get rebates of up to 50% on energy improvements installed in your home by a qualified energy professional.
If you’re in Maryland check out http://www.mdhomeperformance.org/ or call your utility company for more information on this remarkable program. If you’re not in Maryland, a similar program may still be available to you so check with your local utility company.
Save money, keep comfy, and do something good for the planet.
“Like” Solar Energy World on Facebook to stay informed about energy audits and solar power services, and to be notified of future articles in our blog.
By Samantha J. Majka
Solar Energy World is the fastest growing installer of solar power systems in the region, and we are pleased to see such an increase in both solar power installations and interest in solar power in general. Naturally, interest tends to generate a lot of questions, and some of the most common questions are in regards to the performance of solar power in what some may consider “less than optimal” conditions. This is a great question, and it is completely understandable that consumers would be concerned about the performance of their solar panels in cloudy weather, or after sunset. Rest assured, if you make the switch to solar power, you will not be left in the dark after sunset, or have to worry about “running out” of power when the sky is cloudy. Your solar panels will continue to generate electricity, even on cloudy days, and, just like electricity that is generated by other means, solar electricity can be stored for a later use.
The solar energy that hits the Earth’s surface every hour is enough to power the entire world for one year. The trick is to capture this energy, and while solar panels do not collect every bit of energy that hits them, efficiency is improving. Fortunately for consumers, as the efficiency is improving, solar power is becoming more and more affordable (especially with solar lease). Needless to say, it is entirely possible, depending on the size of your solar panel system, to generate more energy per day than is required to satisfy the energy needs of your home.
So where does the excess energy go? One way to store this energy is through the use of battery systems. Batteries store the solar electricity for use at times when the sun is not shining, such as at night.
An easier and cheaper solution is store solar power in the existing electrical grid in a process known as net-metering. Your home is already connected to the electrical grid when you use power from a conventional source. The excess electricity generated by your solar panels “overflows” back to the grid, and back to the electric company. This builds up an electricity “credit” that you can tap into when the sun is not shining. You can see proof of this for yourself, as the electric meter on your home will actually run backward when you are generating more power than you are using. In some states, you can sell this excess electricity back to the electric company in the form of “SREC’s” or “Solar Renewable Energy Credits”. This means that you can be paid for having solar panels on your home or business, which shortens the payback period for the initial cost of installation.
You can learn more about solar energy and solar power by liking Solar Energy World on Facebook.
By Samantha J. Majka
At Solar Energy World, we focus on bettering the planet. Usually, and most obviously, this is through the installation of solar power systems. In addition, under the umbrella of creating a better, greener planet, falls community outreach. This year, for Earth Day, Solar Energy World partnered with two Maryland schools for events that focused on educating students about the facts and benefits of solar power.
Solar Energy World representatives visited Eagle Cove School in Pasadena on Tuesday April 24th, and St. Joseph School in Cockeysville on April 25th. Students participated in a presentation by Jose Cespedes, Solar Analyst, and then competed in a race with solar powered race cars that they had built themselves.
The presentations consisted of an educational speech, a small experiment, and a question and answer session. Students also passed around mini versions of the solar panels that Solar Energy World installs on homes and buildings. We were particularly impressed with the excellent questions posed by student participants!
The second half of the events was especially exciting, as students and teachers moved outside for the solar car race. A week before the event, Solar Energy World provided solar powered race car kits to both schools, and teams of students assembled and decorated their cars. The winning teams from both schools received a prize of a pizza party provided by Solar Energy World.
Please visit Solar Energy World on Facebook to see more pictures and video of the races. A special thank you goes out to the staff of Eagle Cove School and St. Joseph School for inviting us to participate in their Earth Day celebrations.
By Samantha J. Majka
Solar power is undoubtedly a great choice for eco-conscious homeowners that are seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. Furthermore, solar energy is free, meaning that investing in solar panels can reduce your monthly electric bill to zero dollars (or even less, with net-metering). But the benefits of solar energy reach far beyond those reasons. In fact solar installation can significantly increase the resale value of your home, meaning that not only will you be saving money now, but you can expect financial stability and security in your family’s future by increasing the value of one of your most important assets: your home.
The value of solar can be found in the fact that it reduces pollution, leading to a cleaner, better world for future generations, and it saves money, which is an obvious benefit. But the interesting thing about solar power is that its value increases over time. As the price of traditionally supplied electricity rises year after year, this translates to more money saved by using solar power. In fact, according to American Solar Energy Society, each $1000 saved in home operating expenses (such as electricity) translates to a $20,000 increase in home value.
During its lifetime your solar power system will pay for itself more than once. Even when the value of the equipment has depreciated, experience shows that homeowners will still pay more for a home with the system already installed than they will spend to buy a different home and have a system installed themselves. The appeal of solar is strong, but so is the convenience of a home that is already determined to be energy efficient, and ready to be lived in. This demand actually causes homes that are energy efficient, boasting features such as solar power systems, to sell much faster than their less efficient counterparts.
The benefits of solar are obvious, and they only stand to increase as technology improves, and as the price of conventional electricity continues to increase. Solar Energy World is available to answer your questions about going solar. Follow us @solareworld on Twitter, and “like” us on the Solar Energy World Facebook page.