Solar 101: Solar For Beginners in Florida
WHAT IS SOLAR ENERGY
In Florida, the sunlight that reaches Earth is a valuable source of renewable energy. This sunlight is comprised of 50% visible light, 45% infrared radiation, ultraviolet rays, and electromagnetic radiation. Through the use of solar technology, this energy can be captured in the form of thermal or electric power.
Flat plate collectors are commonly used in solar heating to capture the sun’s energy and convert it to thermal energy. For electric energy, photovoltaic cells are used to directly convert the sun’s radiation into electricity. This allows for a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way to power homes and businesses in Florida.
The use of solar energy in Florida has the potential to provide significant long-term financial and environmental benefits. By capturing and utilizing the abundant sunlight in the state, Florida residents can reduce their reliance on nonrenewable energy sources and take a step towards a more sustainable future.
WHAT ARE SOLAR PANELS MADE OF
The most common solar panels are made from crystalline silicon(c-Si) that have conductive properties. They have smaller squares with blue or black rectangular grids. These little squares are the silicon solar cells that are linked together to form a circuit.
There are other thin-film solar panels designed with a semiconductor deposited on either glass or plastic.
HOW LONG DO SOLAR PANELS LAST
You might be wondering how long solar panels last if you have considered investing in them. Well, a P.V. solar module can last for up to 25 or 30 years. That means that the panels can produce at least 80% of rated power in 25-30 years!
HOW LARGE ARE SOLAR PANELS
Traditional P.V. solar panels have a 60 and 72 cell configuration with the following dimensions:
60 cell PV panels: 39″ x 65″ equivalent to 3.25 x 5.5 feet
72 cell PV panel: 39″ x 77″ equivalent to 3.25 x 6.42 feet
WHAT IS THE RIGHT SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM SIZE FOR ME
In Florida, the size of your solar energy system depends on your monthly energy usage. This information can be found on your monthly utility bill, and it’s important to size your system accordingly to ensure that you generate enough energy to meet your needs.
However, there are several other factors to consider when determining the optimal size for your solar energy system. These include the amount of available sunlight in your area, the orientation and angle of your roof, and any shading or obstructions that may impact the efficiency of your panels.
To determine the optimal size for your solar energy system in Florida, it’s recommended to consult with a specialist who can provide a free estimate and help you navigate the complex decision-making process. Whether you’re considering a grid-tie or off-grid solar system, working with a specialist can help ensure that you’re getting the most out of your investment in renewable energy.
IS INVESTING IN SOLAR WORTH IT
Going solar is often the most cost-effective choice for homeowners in Florida. In many cases, the cost of generating your own solar power is cheaper than relying on the grid supply. By investing in solar energy, you can break free from the endless cycle of monthly power bills and enjoy significant savings over the long term.
While the initial cost of installing a solar energy system can be high, the investment typically pays off within a few years. After that, your only ongoing charges will be for taxation, maintenance, and repairs, which are typically much less than what you would pay for traditional utility bills.
WHAT DO I NEED TO GET STARTED
To install a solar panel system, you will need several key components. Firstly, you will need solar panels that are sized appropriately for your energy needs and the available space. Secondly, you will need a mounting system to secure the panels to your roof or another suitable location. Thirdly, you will need an inverter to convert the direct current (DC) energy produced by the panels into alternating current (AC) energy that can be used in your home. Additionally, you may also need batteries to store excess energy and a monitoring system to track your energy production and usage.
A great place to start is to hire a licensed and experienced solar panel installer to ensure the system is properly installed and meets all safety and building code requirements.
HOW DO I CALCULATE SOLAR PANEL EFFICIENCY
Solar panel efficiency is a widely misunderstood concept. People assume that the 15-25% efficiency of P.V. solar panels means that the panel produces only a fraction of the rated power. In reality, the efficiency represents how much of the sun’s energy is converted to electricity.
You should go for high-efficiency panels if you have limited mounting space as they produce more power per unit area.
Smaller R.V./mobile use panels are available. Some companies are also experimenting with 96-cell solar panels, but they are not very common.
WHAT DOES NET METERING MEAN
Net metering, also known as net energy metering, is a utility resource usage and remuneration scheme whereby a consumer who harnesses their own solar power is compensated in monetary terms. If your home enjoys net metering and produces more energy than you need, you can send the extra power to the grid, so you use it when required.
ARE BATTERIES NECESSARY FOR SOLAR SYSTEMS
The inclusion of batteries depends on the type of solar system that you have installed. If the system is grid-tied, you do not have to include the batteries, unlike the off-grid systems. However, backup batteries are useful in storing excess power generated by your solar panels during peak times and using it in times of rolling blackouts.
WHAT’S THE BEST TYPE OF BATTERY FOR SOLAR
There are essentially three types of solar batteries; flooded lead-acid accumulators (FLA), sealed lead-acid accumulators (SLA), and lithium-ion batteries. FLA are the cheapest and the oldest but require regular maintenance for best operation. You just need to top up the battery with distilled water to account for the evaporation.
SLAs are advanced FLAs, where the battery is sealed to prevent evaporation. They are a little bit more expensive than the FLAs but do not need as much maintenance.
Lithium-ion batteries represent the best tech in batteries. These are known to charge much faster than the other two types. They also withstand deep discharge cycles and last the longest, in addition to being maintenance-free.
WHAT ARE AVAILABLE SOLAR INCENTIVES AND TAX CREDITS
If you’re considering going solar in Florida, you’ll be glad to know that the Federal Tax Credit can help make the transition more affordable. This incentive provides a 30% discount on your total solar energy system project cost after filing with the IRS. There may also be other state credits available, depending on the state’s regulations.
To take advantage of these incentives, it’s important to research and understand the requirements and application process. Check with your local authorities to see what incentives may be available to you and how to apply for them. With these incentives, going solar in Florida can be an even more financially smart decision.
WHAT ARE AVAILABLE SOLAR FINANCING OPTIONS
There are three popular approaches to financing a solar panel project. These are personal loans, solar leases, and solar power purchasing agreements.
A personal loan would enable you to own the system, so you can claim the federal tax incentive. The incentive would then allow you to repay the loan before the due period elapses. On the other hand, a solar lease is owned by the installer to claim the Federal Tax credit, reducing your revenue on investment.
HOW DO GRID-TIE AND OFF-GRID SOLAR COMPARE
A grid-tied solar system is ideal for homeowners as it offers some security and it is cheaper than electricity from utility companies. Grid-tied can save you money through net metering, low installation, improved efficacy rates, and equipment costs. On the other hand, an off-grid is very suitable for cabins and isolated localities but these systems cost more as they need additional batteries. You might also need to consult with installation professionals to avoid any vulnerabilities that may hinder it from performing efficiently.
DOES THE LOCAL CLIMATE EFFECT SYSTEM SIZE
P.V. solar modules convert sunlight into electricity. This means the more sunlight, the more power produced. Different areas experience different exposure times during the day. Regions near the equator experience the most extended exposure hours while Polar Regions may go without sunlight for days.
In the U.S., for example, the exposure varies between 3-6 hours. If you receive only three hours of sunlight, your system’s size would need to be twice that of a region receiving six hours of exposure to sunlight.
DOES SOLAR AFFECT THE VALUE OF MY HOME
If you’re a homeowner in Florida, installing a solar energy system can not only save you money on energy bills but also increase the value of your home. Recent studies have shown that homes equipped with solar panels sell at a higher price than homes without them, with an average increase of 3.74%. This percentage can make a significant difference in the value of your property, depending on the overall worth of your home.
It’s important to note that this increase in value applies only to solar systems that are owned by the seller, not for solar lease systems. So, if you’re planning to sell your home in the future, investing in a solar energy system in Florida could be a smart financial move that pays off both in the short and long term.
CAN YOU RUN AN ENTIRE HOUSE ON SOLAR ALONE
It’s possible to power your entire home with solar in Florida, but it can be challenging to achieve. Solar panels generate electricity during the day, but they can’t provide power 24/7 as they don’t produce energy at night or during cloudy weather. Therefore, a battery backup system is often necessary to store excess energy generated during the day for use at night or during low sunlight conditions. A battery backup system also provides a reliable source of electricity during power outages or other emergencies. Without a battery backup system, homeowners would still need to rely on the grid for electricity during periods of low solar production, negating the benefits of solar energy in Florida.
DO SOLAR PANELS AFFECT HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE
Solar panels can have an impact on homeowners insurance, as they can increase the value of a property and its potential replacement cost. As a result, homeowners may need to adjust their insurance coverage to ensure adequate protection. Additionally, some insurance providers may offer discounts or incentives for homes with solar panels, as they may be viewed as less risky due to the potential for reduced electricity usage. Homeowners should consult with their insurance provider to discuss any potential impacts on their policy and ensure they have the appropriate coverage in place.
WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS OF A PHOTOVOLTAIC (P.V.) SOLAR PANEL
Converting solar radiation to electric energy is a complex process. Photovoltaic solar panels are the root of the successful energy conversion process. But on their own, they are incapable of producing a reliable electric current. The panels require a channel of more components to make safe and usable energy:
- Photovoltaic module
This, as stated earlier, is the core element that houses solar cells. Every cell acts as a conversion unit that produces D.C. voltage when light from the sun hits it. Note that the P.V. modules can generate a voltage from any source of light, not just sunlight.
- D.C. & A.C. wiring
The solar inverter is responsible for taking D.C. from batteries and turning them to A.C.
These store electric energy chemically in renewable energy entities, also known as solar battery storage.
- Solar controllers
As its name suggests, the solar controller’s work is to regulate the current fed into the battery tank.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS AND SETBACKS OF USING PV PANELS
Solar panels are what comes into our minds when solar energy is mentioned. Here are some of their upside and downsides:
Advantages of PV Solar Panels
- They provide cheap, clean, and renewable energy.
- The maintenance costs for P.V. panels are relatively low compared to other energy sources.
- Photovoltaic systems are quiet, thus reducing the effect of environmental noise.
- Solar energy can be harnessed locally, thus reducing environmental disruptions associated with transportation.
- Solar power reduces the electricity bill as it costs you only a fraction of what you pay to the utility companies monthly.
- Solar power plants have fewer safety risks compared to fossil and coal plants.
Disadvantages of PV Solar Panels
- Photovoltaic modules produce variable energy. They cannot absorb energy during the night, and the amount of energy collected during the day also varies with weather seasons and time of the day.
- Though not significant, there’s the production of toxic chemicals like arsenic and cadmium during the production process. These pollutants cause slight environmental impacts that can be tamed through responsible disposal.
HOW DO SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS WORK
The solar P.V. unit houses 60 or 72 solar cells. When the cells are hit by light, electrons are scattered from the cell’s silicon atoms. The electrons then flow through the cell triggering direct currency (D.C.) electricity.
The D.C. electricity is then sent to an inverter, which then converts it to alternating current (A.C.) electricity. The A.C. electricity is the kind mostly used in offices and homes. In the case of solar power, the electricity can be used TO:
- Meet the electricity needs of a home
- Charging a battery storage unit
- Saved to the power grid for future use
WHAT TYPES OF PV PANELS CAN YOU FIND
The most available P.V. solar panels are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Each has its own unique properties, and they vary in appearance, performance, and costs. For instance, monocrystalline is highly efficient, unlike Polycrystalline and thin-film, which perform inefficiently.
HOW EFFECTIVE ARE MICRO INVERTERS
Micro inverters are devices used in Photovoltaic panels to convert direct current to alternating current. They are designed with one inverter per P.V. panel, and they harness maximum power. Their design can also withstand extreme weather conditions. If any inverter goes out, the others will generate the electricity to their full capacity. It is much easier to monitor any underperforming micro inverters panel and determine the exact problem.
WHAT IS A POWER OPTIMIZER
Power optimizers are gadgets installed in a solar system to control individual panel’s output independently from the rest of the mini-grid. Unlike others like micro inverters, this gadget doesn’t convert any electricity but maximizes the power before sending it to the string inverter. This way, should one of the P.V. solar panels become shaded during a given time of day, the energy produced by the rest of the solar panels can be maximized.
WHAT DO STRING INVERTERS DO
String inverters simply convert D.C. to A.C. power for the high voltage D.C. inputs. With a string inverter, the solar array is wired in series rather than in parallel.
When several P.V. solar panels are wired to a single output through an inverter, it is called a panel string. Inverters are usually rated for a specific maximum voltage. To safeguard against overloading the inverter, you must get the ideal string size that doesn’t waste any resources.
When doing a string sizing, consider local temperature conditions and the ratings of the P.V. modules to be used.
WHERE SHOULD YOU MOUNT YOUR SOLAR PANELS
You can mount your solar panels either on the ground or on the roof. Roof mount is usually the cheaper option, especially if you do not have much ground space for such a project. Roof mount utilizes the rooftop as the support structure, so you do not have to build a foundation for mounting. You can consult your roofing company if you intend to mount an array of P.V. panels on the roof. They can then decide the best type of roofing for you.
As the term suggests, a ground mount is built on the ground as a separate metal structure to hold the solar panels. These structures are preferably aluminum, which makes such a project costlier. The advantage is easier accessibility during repairs and maintenance.
ARE POLE MOUNTS VIABLE OPTIONS
Pole mounts are still a viable option in countries experiencing icy winters. A pole mount is a tall-standing pole that raises the solar panel above the ground. The high height ensures the winter ground snow doesn’t bury the solar panels array. The poles also allow the solar panels company to tilt the panels so that snow can easily slide off. The poles may be of variable height depending on proximity to obstructions.
SOLAR TRACKERS: WHAT ARE THEY
You might have observed some solar panels tilting towards the changing position of the sun in the sky. This is done by a solar tracker to maximize exposure of the solar cells to sunlight.
But is this investment worth it? It depends on your needs. Typically, the tracking hardware costs much more than the solar panels. If space is not of much concern to you, simply investing in more solar panels is recommended.
HOW MUCH DO SOLAR INSTALLERS CHARGE
In Florida, it is important to choose a reputable and experienced solar installer to ensure that your system is installed properly and efficiently. Additionally, there may be state-specific incentives or rebates available to further reduce the cost of your solar installation. Be sure to research and inquire about any potential savings or incentives before committing to a solar system.
Get a FREE QUOTE from our Semper Solaris installers.
CAN YOU INSTALL SOLAR BY YOURSELF
Definitely yes, even if you do not have any experience in it. This is because most of the components are designed to plug into dedicated ports. You should only expect to lift slightly heavy objects and tighten screws.
You can perform the above by yourself and then hire an experienced electrician to hook up to the panel for you. This way, you’ll significantly bring down the overall cost of installation. However, if you want things right from the bat, hiring an experienced solar panel installation company is the way to go!
DOES MY SOLAR REQUIRE MAINTENANCE
Sure, in Florida, it’s important to keep your solar panels clean and free from any debris, especially during hurricane season. Routine maintenance is crucial to ensure optimal performance, including checking the electrolyte levels of FLA batteries if you have them. Professional check-ups can help identify and fix any issues with your solar system.