Installing Solar Panels

by April Reinhardt
(last updated February 20, 2015)

A collection of individual silicon cells that generate electricity from sunlight, solar panels are comprised of those individual cells housed within a frame. The cells are wired together and connected electrically, framed by metal, and backed with either plastic, metal, or fiberglass. The entire unit—or panel—is covered by glass to protect it from the elements. Solar panels are pre-manufactured in many sizes, and can be mounted on a rooftop, on the side of a structure, or as a stand-alone unit.

There are basically three types of solar panels:

  • Monocrystalline solar panels are manufactured using monocrystals, also called single crystals. Monocrystalline solar cells combine unpolluted silicon and monocrystals to form their solar cells. Thus, this type of solar panel is the most efficient, yet also the most expensive, of the three types of panels. The individual cells are processed from thin wafers of monocrystals, and then wired together into a solar panel.
  • Polycrystalline solar panels, sometimes called multi-crystalline, also use crystals in their construction, but the crystals are slightly less efficient than monocrystals because they aren't as pure. Polycrystals are grown in a large block of many crystals, giving them a shattered glass appearance, and are less expensive than monocrystals.
  • Amorphous solar panels do not use crystals in their construction. Instead, a thin layer of silicon is distributed on metal or glass to create a solar panel. And although they are much less expensive than crystal solar panels, their energy efficiency is also mush less, requiring additional square footage to produce the same amount of power as crystal solar panels.

There are also three types of panel arrays to choose from; fixed, adjustable, or tracking. Tracking panels follow the sun's path continuously. Fixed panels are completely stationary, while adjustable panels are able to be adjusted a few times each year.

Typically, a 100-watt solar panel costs about five hundred dollars. You can run a microwave, refrigerator, computer, several lights, a color television, and an air conditioner using about five 100-watt solar panels. Some utility companies help defray the cost of installing solar panels and some people even "go off the grid" using solar energy—meaning, they use the public electric company only in times of emergency.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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