I won't live in my home long enough to see a return on my investment
A solar installation will pay for itself in six to fifteen years, depending on where you live. That's just the energy savings. Once you factor in the government incentives and tax breaks, you could see a return on your investment in two to four years. Solar panels increase the value of your home, so you could also see a significant return ($15,000 or more) when you sell your home.
Solar panels don't function on snowy or cloudy days
A well-designed solar panel system will be installed at an angle to allow snow to slide off, so snow shouldn't be a factor. It's true that solar panels won't generate as much electricity on a cloudy day as it will on a sunny day, but your solar panels will continue to generate a moderately reduced amount of electricity on even the cloudiest day.
Solar panels require constant maintenance
Quality photovoltaic installations are designed to be durable and virtually maintenance-free. Most installers recommend an annual inspection to ensure optimal performance and efficiency. Many offer lifetime warranties on the equipment. If the equipment is leased, maintenance is often included in the lease agreement, so there's nothing to worry about.
Solar panels don't work well in cool climates
Photovoltaic cells don't collect heat energy, so temperature is not a factor. In fact, solar power systems often work more efficiently in cold weather because the cells' conductivity actually increases to allow the electricity to flow more freely.
The price of solar panels is prohibitive
Solar panels are less expensive now than they have ever been, and many homeowners see $100 or more in monthly energy savings. When you factor in government incentives and tax breaks, along with the increased value of your house, you'll find that solar panels will start saving you money sooner than you thought possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How does solar energy provide us with electricity? Sun is composed of small energy particles known as photons. A solar power system, or photovoltaic (PV) system, uses materials such as silicon to absorb these photons and transfer their energy to electrons. Known as the photovoltaic effect, this is the basic physical process by which PV cells convert sunlight to electricity.
- What does photovoltaic mean? PV is the abbreviation for photovoltaic. The word photovoltaic means the energy, or electricity, derived from sunlight. The first part of the word, photo, is derived from the Greek ‘phos’ meaning light. Volt is a unit of electrical measurement named forAlessandro Volta (1745-1827), a pioneer in the study of electricity.
- What is the difference between PV and other solar energy technologies? Solar energy technologies fall into four main categories:1. Photovoltaic (PV) systems convert the sun’s energy directly to electricity through thephotovoltaic effect.2. Concentrated solar power (CSP) uses reflective devices such asmirror panels orparabolic mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy thereby producing heat which is in turn usedto generate electricity.3. Solar thermal or solar hot water systems heat water or a working fluid by directlyexposing it to the sun, usually by means of a solar thermal panel interlaced with tubing whichcontains the fluid to be heated.4. Transpired solar collectors, also known as solar walls, usethe sun’s radiant energy to preheat the ventilation air in a building’s HVAC system.
- What are the basic components of a PV system? A PV is made up of various components. These include:1. Panels – groups of PV cells called modules2. Inverter – for a grid connected system or when AC current rather than DC current is desired3. Hardware – including wiring and racking4. Batteries – to store the energy collected (For battery backup systems only)5. Charge regulator or controller – for a stand-alone system (For battery backup systems only)
- How do you store solar energy for use on cloudy days or at night? For power systems that are connected to the grid, the answer is simple. Like a bank savings account, you feed any excess solar power that you generate into the utility company’s grid system and pull out what you need when you need it. If you are off-grid, then you will need a storage device such as batteries in which to store the excess energy to use later. If you have a solar thermal water-heating system, then your hot water is stored in a hot water heater.
- Explain the term “energy conversion efficiency” Photovoltaic cells normally have a solar conversion efficiency of between 15 and 27 percent. The balance of the energy is converted to waste heat. Energy conversion technology captures that waste energy and returns it to heat the building through a heat pump. In hot weather, the heat can be stored in a ground thermal energy storage system, which can be used to heat the building during cold weather.
- Where are solar power systems being used? PV power systems are producing clean power in numerous ways around the world, ranging from providing electricity for metropolitan skyscrapers to powering the wells of remote villages in developing countries. Virtually any sort of power can be handled with solar energy from a PV system: computers, appliances, pumps, manufacturing, even lighting. Lighting is one of the most important and immediately beneficial applications for solar energy. Uses range from small garden lights to street lights, lighting for recreational areas, remote highway signs, and lighting for businesses and homes.
- Will photovoltaic systems replace coal and nuclear power plants? The driving force behind the growing use of solar power is public demand for clean energy. Oil-and coal-based energy is a major cause of environmental pollution, which is responsible for climate changes and global warming. Nuclear energy creates toxic waste, which can pose a threat to the surrounding environment if released into the atmosphere. When compared to oil or nuclear sourced energy, one quickly sees that solar energy provides a safe and sensible alternative. In developing countries, where conventional energy is unavailable for economic or logistical reasons, solar energy is being used extensively because it is less expensive than other options. The environmental benefits from implementing and using this clean form of energy are significant.
- Will I need to change my lifestyle if I go solar? That isn’t necessary, however you may want to. Alpenglow Solar can audit and make suggestions to help you reduce your energy footprint.
- Will I need to buy new appliances and fixtures if I go to solar produced energy?
No. Your appliances will never know the difference.
- Why should I use PV-generated electricity? For a growing number of users, particularly those who are environmentally aware, PV is the clear choice. PV provides sustainable energy, operates silently, produces no toxic emissions or greenhouse gases, and causes no hazardous waste. PV systems generate electricity using the sun’s free energy, so the ongoing costs are minimal. Moreover, advances in solar technology mean installation costs are gradually being reduced. Some people would rather invest capital in an energy-producing improvement to their property than continually send money to a power company. If you are interested in saving the environment, saving money or both, a solar electric system is the smart choice.
- Why should I install a solar electric system on my home or business? New state incentive programs and federal tax credits can reduce the cost of a solar electric system by as much as 40%-50%. Solar power is a renewable resource. Solar electricity is clean and non-polluting. Solar energy produces no greenhouse gas emissions. Help clean up Utah’s air one rooftop at a time. Spin your electric meter backwards and reduce your monthly electric bills. A solar electric system may increase the real estate value of your home by $20 for every$1 in annual utility bill savings.
- Are there disadvantages to using solar energy? Solar energy technologies often have a higher initial cost outlay. This means that a person is likely to pay more money up front to purchase and install a solar system. Still, in nearly all cases, the initial cost is recovered through substantial fuel savings over the life of the product (15-30 years).
- What is the expected life span for a new solar panel system? As with other items you own, solar panel system longevity is directly affected by the level of care and maintenance it receives. Currently, a properly maintained system is expected to last 25 to 35 years. At Alpenglow Solar our ongoing system inspections and annual servicing can help keep your solar power system running at its optimum for many years to come.
- Can you explain Net Metering? Net metering is the practice of producing as much power as you use in a given year. Solar electric systems produce more power during the summer months and that additional unused power is fed back into the electric company’s grid and stored as a credit for future use. Generally speaking, your power production and consumption are averaged out over a one-year period with higher production months feeding leaner months.
- What are the ideal conditions that need to be met in order to add solar to a home or business? Alpenglow Solar is a professional solar installation company with years of experience in evaluating properties for solar installation. We can help you decide whether your home or business will be a good candidate for solar and how much you would benefit from a system installation. Location, building codes, clear sight lines, and shading issues all factor into our evaluation.
- Can I use solar to power my home? Modern solar power systems will power all your home’s electrical systems including lights, cooling systems, and appliances. Today’s systems are designed to blend easily into both contemporary and non-contemporary homes. Typically, installation calls for the panels to be mounted on a south-facing roof. Ground mount systems may be employed instead of the roof mount system in the event that roof exposure is not ideal.
- Can I use solar to power my business? Absolutely. Modern solar power systems can be designed to implement into a wide variety of commercial buildings. Additionally, you will notice solar being used to provide power for a range of outdoor applications including signage, bus shelters, parking areas and remote lighting needs. Architects and engineers can use building-integrated solar power to create environmentally responsive buildings that are both aesthetically pleasing, and generate their own power. In fact, building-integrated solar power reduces system costs by using the building as the mounting or support structure at the same time it is reducing utility bills through on-site power generation.
- How does rainy or cloudy weather affect my solar power? In inclement weather, your solar power system will generate less electricity, however, you shouldn’t see any difference inside your home. Remember, grid-tied solar power systems never run out of electricity, they just fall back on the grid to provide the power you need. As you probably realized, solar panels can only generate maximum output in full, unobstructed sunlight; solar panels will still produce power on rainy or cloudy days just less than normal. On days like this, you would simply buy the additional power needed from the utility company. A well-designed system takes into account variations in weather as well as location, thereby allowing for accurately planned monthly solar electric production.
- How do you install a solar panel?
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- How should I prepare for solar panel installation? Alpenglow Solar will first check with your local city or county planning/building departments to ensure the zoning and building codes permit the solar installation you desire. We then obtain required permits. We also check with your (HOA) and/or review neighborhood covenants (CCNR) to determine if restrictions may exist that prohibit certain types of solar installations. If we find that there are restrictions, we can often work to get them changed. More and more HOAs are changing their rules to allow renewable energy. Alpenglow provides technical data, manuals, and engineering sheets to HOAs and municipal permitting offices as a service to all our clients.
- Does my house/building need to be modified in any way to utilize solar electricity? Little if any modification needs to be done. Structural modifications are seldom needed because of the minimal weight of the solar panel components. Naturally, installation of wiring from the solar panels to the electrical panels will need to be done but electrical downtime is usually minimal.
- Do solar panels cost less than my normal utility bills?
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- How much do solar panels cost? What sort of return should I expect if I decide to install solar power? Solar energy begins paying you back the moment you switch on the system. Even though the cost of standard types of energy continues to rise, your cost will always be offset by the energy produced by your solar electric system. One of the great aspects of solar power is that your property is attached to the utility company’s grid. The power that you over-produce is fed back into the grid and you can use these future credits in winter months, when days are shorter andelectric use increases. A typical return on investment for a solar electric system is less than 10 years, with savings accumulating immediately with reduced monthly energy costs.
- If I install solar panels will my power bills disappear? With today’s new solar power technology in and high output solar panels, a net zero result isn’t out of the question. However, selecting the right system for your specific situation will have an impact on the outcome. When the pros at Alpenglow Solar work with you we will focus on your location and how your property is situated, and design a system to best suit your needs. We can then determine with considerable accuracy the amount of power you can expect to produce from your new solar panel system.
- How much can I realistically save by using a solar power system? In 2012, residential systems were running about 17% efficient and commercial grades were up to 27% efficient. An average 20% efficient PV system will generate up to 360 kilowatt-hours per square meter. A PV system rated at 1 kilowatt will produce up to 3600 kilowatt-hours a year. Allowing for a loss of efficiency of less than 1% per year, a PV system could generate close to 72,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity over 20 years and close to 108,000 kilowatt-hours over 30 years. This means that a 1Kw PV system generates more than $20,000 worth of electricity over 30 years.
- What sort of grants or other financial incentives are currently available in the state of Utah? There are several available. Currently, Utah residents and businesses can take advantage of both Federal and State incentives:1. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 provides a 30% federal tax credit for solar electric systems installed on homes and businesses through December 31, 2019;2. The state of Utah provides a tax incentive that equals 25% of the system’s installed cost with a cap of $2,000 for residential systems and 10% of a system’s initial installed cost with a cap of $50,000 for commercial systems.
This type of system has no connection to an electric utility. Off-grid systems charge battery banks which power loads as needed. The source of the electricity can be renewable sources such as solar, wind, or micro hydro, or a backup generator. A backup generator may also be used in the event a source does not provide enough energy to charge the batteries. These types of systems are the most complex and expensive and require a significant amount of analysis and design.
- Grid-Direct with Battery Backup
This type of system operates the same as the grid direct solar system as described above, with the addition of batteries to provide electricity during utility outages.
Solar power PV modules (solar panels) can be mounted on your roof or on the ground to help power your home. The power generated by these modules runs through an inverter and can then be used to help power your home or business. Sun shining on the solar panels generates electricity, which will then be sent into your home helping to lower your power costs. One advantage of the grid-direct type of solar panel system is that you can use the sun's energy during the day and the power company's power during the night. Even when you are away when there is no or low power demand in your home the excess power being generated from your solar power system will back feed onto the utility, earning you credits for future use. This is known as net metering.
- Photovoltaic (Solar Electric)
Photovoltaic (PV) refers to the conversion of the sun's energy into an AC current that can be used to power anything that uses electricity. The sun's energy is collected through solar panel systems and directed into storage facilities for later use into the power grid for a credit against power consumed. This is the most widely implemented system for homes and businesses due to its affordability and reliability.
- Solar Thermal
Solar thermal technology (STE) concentrates the light from the sun to create heat. This technology is widely used in residential and commercial applications. Solar panels or evacuated tubes can be mounted on a roof or installed as a stand-alone system. These panels and tubes are incredibly efficient at absorbing the heat of the sun and transferring that heat to water running into your home or business. Water then flows down to a storage tank and through a heat exchanger to heat water for daily use. This storage tank acts as a battery, storing up the sun's energy for use when its needed. Systems like this are attached to a back-up water heating system in the event of cloudy days or excess hot water needs.
- Solar Energy
The terms "solar energy" and "solar power" are familiar to most people. Defined simply, solar power is the transference of the energy produced by the sun into energy we use on a daily basis. In an age of declining fossil fuels and increasing climate change harnessing clean energy from the sun has become the easy and intelligent choice.
This type of energy is clean, renewable, and can be captured efficiently. Unfortunately, it can only be sourced in a few places near centers of energy consumption, and it must be used where it's found.
- Bio Fuels
Biofuel production represents another renewable energy option. This Involves converting biological material, called biomass, into a usable fuel. Ethanol is an example of a bio fuel created from corn. Other biofuels currently in development include algae and seaweed, both abundant and renewable plant sources.
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into electrical power. As an alternative to fossil fuels wind power is plentiful, renewable, and clean. On the downside, wind turbines are rarely found in residential applications due to system sizing and sound pollution issues.
- Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels are currently used for the majority of the world's energy needs, including the majority of electricity production. Environmental issues aside, fossil fuels are a finite resource and are increasingly difficult to extract.
- Solar Power
Solar is the most eco-friendly energy available to consumers today. A completely renewable resource, solar power does not produce any harmful emissions that can contribute to global warming.