Solar panels are a proven and reliable way to produce clean electricity where it’s needed – on a home, RV, boat, farm, or anywhere else that receives at least moderate sunlight.
altE has been a trusted solar panel retailer since 1999 with low prices on top quality brands like Canadian Solar, Q Cells, REC, Trina, and our own altE solar panels.
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Note: While the term 'solar panels' can also refer to products that use the sun's energy to heat water or air, but here we’ll limit the definition to the products that convert sunlight directly into DC electricity (a process technically known as 'solar photovoltaics', or PV).
Solar panels are made up of dozens of individual cells called photovoltaic cells (or PV cells or solar cells). PV cells are treated with different materials on each side to create an imbalance of electrons from one side of the cell to the other. When rays of sunlight (photons) contact PV cells, electrons in the cells are knocked loose and begin moving, creating direct current (DC) electricity. Positive and negative wires connected to the sides of the cells allow the electrical current to be directed toward whatever you want to charge or power. Photovoltaic is just a compound word meaning "voltage from light".
DC electricity from the sun is great, but nearly all home appliances run on alternating current (AC) electricity. This is why an inverter – whose job is converting DC to AC – is needed in most home solar panel systems.
We have a more in-depth overview on our blog of how solar panels work with more detail on how the photovoltaic process works, how PV cells work together to create different voltages, and on understanding the various ratings on solar panels’ technical spec sheets.
Over the last 10 years, solar panel cost per Watt has fallen tremendously while the electric utilities’ prices have only gone up. With more electronic gadgets and appliances in the average home than ever before and solar incentives and rebates available in many areas, the current conditions are excellent for most homeowners to reduce their electricity costs with solar panels. Grid-tied solar systems typically pay for themselves in just a few years. Off-grid systems are more expensive due to the added cost of battery storage, but are still usually much more cost effective than paying for utility service to be brought to your off-grid location.
If you own a home or cabin with a roof (or land) unshaded by hills, trees, or other structures from about 9am – 3pm, then you have some prime real estate for a solar PV system. The best roofs for solar panels are shade-free; south, southeast, or southwest facing (north if you’re in the southern hemisphere); and less than 10 years old. If your roof is problematic, ground-mounting your panels could be a great option.
Solar panels last a long time. 25 years is a standard warranty length, but they can be expected to keep producing power many years beyond that (though at a diminished rate). For the price of a few years’ worth of utility electricity, a solar PV system can give you 25 to 35 years of electricity.
The first video helps with understanding solar panel voltages and why they matter if you’ll be charging batteries.
The second video explains other solar panel specs and touches on the differences between monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panel cells.