The aim of this article is first to dispel any myths that you may of heard about solar energy, and also to remove any polish from the smooth sales talk of the company intent on selling you their product. Of course, no manufacturer or installer would be biased towards their products and would ever exaggerate to you about the efficiency of solar energy, nor mislead you about what solar production actually will do and their capabilities... would they?. However the one thing that the manufacturers and sales people probably won't do, is to voluntarily describe the negatives and limitations of solar panel
Many householders have a very rose tinted optimistic view of what a difference solar energy will make to their lives and their household energy bills, and whilst fitting solar panels will reduce your energy bills by a proportional amount, it will not totally free you from the grid, or remove your need for a connection to the Gas and Electricity utility suppliers. In short, Solar energy is not an alternative form of producing electricity or a means of living 'off the grid', solar energy is just a means of reducing your electricity bills.
Many householders are under the illusion that investing in solar energy will heat their house during the winter months. This is actually almost impossible to do, just consider for one moment the time of year where the days are coldest and shortest, and the sun is at its weakest and low in the sky. Inevitably, this occurs during the October to March periods, which inevitably are also the times of year where your household will consume more energy. Its kind of ironic that the time of year when you need the most energy for heating and lighting, is also the time of year when your solar panels output is the least, and are probably outputting a fraction of that magical figure which the nominated photo voltaic salesperson promoted to you.
An average household array of photo voltaic panels will produce up to 3900 watts (3.9kw) of usable energy, although this is a maximum figure under ideal conditions, such as during a strong cloudless sunny day in mid summer. Photo voltaic panels will still produce an impressive amount of energy on a cloudy day in the height of summer, although highly unlikely to produce 3900 watts continuously all day, every day. The real life figures are likely to be much less than that, and will certainly be constantly variable depending on the local conditions and of course the strength of the sun.
I often read on the internet, ludicrous ideas of panel owners wanting or thinking of running space heaters and radiant heaters during the winter months entirely from solar panels. At 6.00pm on a freezing cold December night, your photo voltaic panels will be providing zero electricity, certainly not the 2kw / 3kw required to power a single Electric space Heater!. Even during a typical winter day, with a weak sun in the sky, solar panels will only be producing a fraction of their summer output. Its actually quite perverse that photo voltaic panels produce the most Electricity and are at their most efficient during the baking hot peak summer months, often when household energy use is at its annual lowest. Of course you can still make back money from selling this unused energy back to the national grid during the summer months by using the feed in tariff system, however to gain the most from this, you need to have actually bought and own your panels, rather than 'rent' them from an alternative energy company.
Suffice to say, that in order to get the most from your Solar Panels, you actually need to buy them outright, rather than become one of the 'rent a roof' schemes, where in the United Kingdom the alternative energy company gets the lions share of the profit, and you only save around A�70 - A�100 ($150 to $180) a year from your Electricity bill, for a period of 25 years.
Consider also that most Electricity Costs are also rising every year in response to the feed in tariff hand outs to those who own their panels. Believe it or not, households with photo voltaic panels are actually, to some extent, subsidising themselves because the payouts they are getting back from selling their energy back into the grid are being clawed back by the energy companies increasing the cost of the Electricity which they sell to you, and of course even with solar panels, you still need to use electricity, especially during the winter months, and your bills will continue to rise, just like households without any form of Green Energy production.
If you can afford it, then buying these panels outright will always be the smartest and most profitable option, as opposed to letting a company rent your roof for 25 years in return for a small saving on your annual electricity bill, especially as that saving is likely to decrease each year as the electricity that you need to buy gets more expensive, largely as a result of more and more people fitting photo voltaic panels.
Another thing to consider when buying this type of product, is the length of guarantee which the panels come with. Its OK for the panel companies to promise a return on your original investment after 10 - 20 years, if their products work reliably and are at peak efficiency for the same amount of time. But what happens if the product fails or goes wrong outside of their guarantee period, and before that original 'investment' has been returned?.
Looking at the warranty period of some of the common brands of photo voltaic panels, I find that there are two commonly used expressions when referring to solar panel warranty periods, and these may be of some confusion to the householder. Therefore I will do my best to explain what these warranty terms imply.
Workmanship / Materials Warranty - Largely implies the period of which the installation is guaranteed for. Usually this is the longest of the two periods of warranties given by solar panel companies. This warranty covers the installation of the panels, in other words, the quality of workmanship in relation to fitting panels to your roof, the wiring between them and the inverter / meter etc. If the fixings holding the panels to the roof should fail, then this would be covered under this warranty.
Manufacturers Warranty - This is far more the relevant warranty period in nuts and bolts terms, as the panels themselves are inevitably the most expensive part of the entire solar panel installation, and should they fail, these are the things which will cost the most to replace.
From looking at the various solar panel companies around the internet, the average period of manufacturers warranty on panels is around 5 years, this means that if the panels fail because of a manufacturing defect then they will of course be replaced / repaired under warranty.
But lets for one moment, consider the fact that you have paid anything up to A�12,000 ($20,000) to have an installation on your property and that the product carries the popular 5 year manufacturers warranty. You work out that the payback period from the purchase of your panels will take 10 years to break even by selling your unused Electricity back to the utility companies. Effectively you have a 5 year period between the manufacturers warranty and the point where you have effectively paid back the installation cost, so what happens if the product(s) fail or require maintenance during the warranty expired 'no mans land'?
Well, in short, if you own your panels, then you will have to pay to repair them, and for any maintenance which will then add more cost to the original installation cost and extend the pay back period. If you require several repairs or panel replacements in the warranty expired period, then this period could be extended significantly. Perhaps the alternative energy product manufacturers would be better to have a warranty on their products for a life which accurately represents an average household payback time? or maybe the Government should also underwrite the costs, especially as it seems keen to roll out Green energy as a means of saving electricity.
Since some people are promoting solar panels to have a life cycle of up to 30 years, then why isn't this being reflected in the manufacturers actual warranty period?.
The other myth relating to solar panels is that it boosts manufacturing output. This may be true in America or Japan, where most popular solar panels are made, but the take up of solar panel installations is not benefitting UK Manufacturers, because there are few of them based here.
There are also veils of doubt slowly being drawn over the actual 'Green' aspect of Solar Panels and their place in the Energy Food chain. Yes, solar panels do in fact replace some of the Electricity which would otherwise generated by Gas or Coal burning, or the nuclear power industry, although Solar is always likely to only produce a fraction of the energy requirements of the UK or indeed any country as a whole.
There is also talk of the fact that Solar Panels require more energy to design, manufacturer and export than they are likely to return through producing green energy during their designed life cycle, which according to the figure given on some manufacturers' warranties, is only around 5 years!.
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solar panel has a very good repute over the global market.