Solar Panel Use in the Mid-Atlantic
Solar technology is improving in power and efficiency. New financing opportunities and government incentives have also contributed to lower costs.
Significant price reductions have made solar a good choice for home owners. With the cost of electricity rising throughout the Mid-Atlantic, solar panels reduce your energy expenses, while providing safe green electrical power for your home.
Since 2010, solar use has increased at a rate of 200% per-year in the Mid-Atlantic, exceeding one gigawatt, enough to power more than one million homes on sunny days.
Types of Solar Panels
Major types of solar panels are:
- Monocrystalline solar panels (MSPs): With the highest energy efficiency rating (15%-25%), MSPs are also the most space-efficient, requiring the least amount of roof-space to provide the highest level of electric power. However, their high cost can limit their value for residential use.
- Polycrystalline silicon solar panels (PSSPs): With an efficiency of 14%-17%. PSSPs demonstrate a marginally lower heat-tolerance than MSPs, which effects their residential performance only minimally. Lower cost is a real advantage for some home owners.
- Thin film solar panels (TFSPs): Cheap and easily mass-produced, TFSPs have efficiencies of 8%-14%, but are of limited residential use because they require more roof-space than other models to produce equal quantities of electricity; they also degrade faster than other panel types.
- Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPVs): Solar energy built as integral components of walls, windows, facades of homes, as well as the roof. BIPVs efficiency is offset by its expense, excessive for most home owners.
- Amorphous silicon cells (a-Si): With a low power output and efficiency rating (6%-8%), a-SI cells are seldom used in solar panels or for residential purposes, although these applications exist. Their function is generally confined to smaller uses, like calculators.
- Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGs): Less toxic and more efficient than most panel types, CIGs have only recently (2011) begun commercial production. CIGs are suitable for residential use, but remain expensive, a condition that will diminish with wider-scale production in the future.
- Organic photovoltaic panels (OPCs): Like CIGs, OPCs have only recently become practically viable for large-scale use.
- Calcium telluride panels (CdTe): Although they have a peak efficiency of 15%, lower-cost CdTe panels average 8%-12%; their thin-film version has many residential uses.
Selecting Solar Panels for Your Home
Critical judgment needs to be exercised when choosing the best type of solar panels for your home. Among the most important considerations are:
- Product capabilities: The standard solar panel measures 5 1/2-feet high by 3 1/3-feet across. Power output varies between 250-345 watts per panel. Lower wattage is less expensive to purchase but also generates less power; higher wattage is more costly, but provides more energy for home use. They cost about the same to install and maintain.
- Local energy rates: You’ll pay less for electricity with solar. Homes using more electricity experience a higher return on investment (ROI), with solar, as their bills decrease proportionally to their non-solar bills.
- Impact on your home: Panels have long-term effect on your roof’s durability. Properly installed, they actually protect the areas underneath them from potential damages caused by bad weather and the elements. They also provide an additional level of insulation for rooms directly beneath them.
- Panel maintenance: Post-installation maintenance of your home solar array tends to be minimal, since panels have no moving parts requiring repair or replacement. Cleaning panels periodically prevents build-up of residue that can interfere with their efficiency and performance. Panels lose as much as 0.5% of their function each year; in 30 years, they’ll be only 15% less efficient than they were when new, another indication of favorable long-term ROI.
- Warranties, insurance, taxes: Panel warranties run between 20-25 years. Home insurance for panels ranges between $10.00-$15.00/month. Panel installation does not add to residential taxes.
Crystalline MSPs and PSSPs remain the optimal choice for most homeowners. More efficient MSPs are also significantly more costly to install and use; PSSPs work better for many. TFSPs are efficient, but their spacial requirements limit their residential application. CdTe panels may be plausible if your home can support their use. BIPVs, CIGs, and OPCs should expand market share in the future, but MSPs and PSSPs are the best current choices for most homes.