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What You Need To Know About Installing Solar Panels

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Installing solar panels can be a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and save on your energy bills. It's not something you want to jump into without giving some serious thought to, but it is worth looking into. Solar power installers can fill you in on the details about their products when you're ready to make your decision. In the meantime, here's what you need to know about installing solar panels.

What is a Solar Panel?

Technically, solar panels are called photovoltaic panels. The "photo" half of that word is in reference to the fact that the energy that provides electricity comes from the sun. The "voltaic" part of the word refers to the fact that photvoltaic panels are designed to convert solar energy into electrical energy.

Solar panels are typically installed on the roof. They are strategically installed in a location that offers maximum exposure to direct sunlight. The number of panels largely determines the amount of electricity a solar photovoltaic system can produce. Solar systems are measured in kilowatts (kW), not square metres or the number of panels you purchase. A small system will be 1.5kW. A larger system designed to provide most or all of a family's electricity needs might be as large as 5.0kW or even more.

What is a Solar Power System

There is more to a solar power system than just solar panels. An inverter is an important part of the system. It converts DC electricity into AC electricity for household use. The size of the inverter should match or exceed the size of the solar panels as measured in kilowatts.

Solar power systems can be linked to your mains electricity or you can purchase stand-alone systems. Stand-alone systems often come with back-up batteries that store electricity for use at night.

Buying and Installing Solar Panels

When you buy a solar power system, you buy the complete system. The most important things to look for are the size of the system and the warranty on the panels and other components. After they are installed, solar panels begin to pay for themselves in the form of reduced energy bills. The "payback period" can be five years or more, so you want them to last long enough to save you money over the long term. Better solar panels have warranties of up to 20 or even 25 years and good inverters should 10 year warranties or more.

Installing solar panels is never a DIY job. For one thing, a variety of technical skills are needed to install them. Another important reason to have them professionally installed is that if you buy solar panels that are on the list of approved panels and use an installer accredited by the Clean Energy Council, you will be eligible for a substantial ""rebate"" after the system is installed.

The old rebate system was discontinued at the end of 2012. It was replaced by a newer system that offers Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) instead of a cash rebate. You can use your STCs in a variety of ways to help pay for your system. While it is possible to sell them on the open market, most choose to assign them to their solar power supplier/installer in exchange for a discount.

Yes, installing solar panels is more expensive than simply getting hooked up to mains electricity. The difference is that when you are on mains electricity, you pay far more for your electricity while your solar power system works for you, saving you money every day. Eventually, it pays for itself and the savings go straight into your pocket. At the same time, you are reducing your carbon footprint and doing something positive for the environment by using the cleanest renewable energy source available: the sun.

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