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Getting Started With Solar Panels

Residents of the Sunshine State or those who live in the hot, beaming desert have likely given thought to solar-powered energy. Of course, year-round sunlight is most conducive, but even the cooler climates can take advantage of nature’s purest source of power. Learning how to use solar panels in your home can be overwhelming, so follow this guide to get started.

Terms You Need to Know

Terms You Need to KnowInstalling solar panels may be the most complicated energy-saving tactic, but it also has the largest payoff. If you’re ready to take on the project, there are a few terms to learn before you get started:


Photovoltaic (PV) cell: The building block of solar panels, this electrical device converts light into electricity.

Solar panel: A compilation of photovoltaic cells, which are situated in a way that harnesses sunlight and transforms it into usable energy.

Inverter: The unit that converts direct current (DC) energy from the solar panel into an alternating current (AC) that’s compatible with the electricity system in your home.

Factors You Should Consider

Factors You Should ConsiderThe top two factors to think about before diving deeper into solar power are 1) the climate in which you live, and 2) whether or not you have open and direct access to sunlight during the peak hours of the day (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.).

Once you’ve determined your location is perfectly suited for solar energy, you’ll want to calculate how many kilowatts you use on average each month (your utility bills should help). You’ll also want to know the surface area of your roof to help determine how many solar panels will fit on top.

Power You Can Replace

Power You Can ReplaceIdeally, you’d power your entire home with solar-sourced energy. However, easing into it with smaller projects can still offer big benefits. From the simplest installation to the most complex, here’s where you can use solar panels around your home:


Outdoor lighting: You’ve seen them at your local hardware store. Solar-powered torches can be easily placed in the ground to light walking paths or driveways. Advances in PV cell technology have made these miniature solar panels much more powerful than the first generation.

Indoor lighting: Solar-powered desk lamps, wall-mounted lights and floor fixtures are easy to install and require a relatively small investment.

Water heating: Solar water heating systems not only cut down on your energy bill, but they don’t contribute to any greenhouse gas emissions. recommends finding a solar-powered system certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation. If you have a pool or hot tub, solar water heating is usually comparable to the cost of conventional systems. According to, heating a pool is the most efficient use of solar panels.

Home heating system: Known as an active solar heating system, this process uses solar energy to heat liquid or air. The hot liquid or air then travels through a collector, further heating up as it moves. These collectors are not your typical solar panel, but the concept is the same – just much more intricate. Solar liquid collectors are best used for central heating.

With several state and federal tax incentives in place, many homeowners have made the hefty investment to power their entire home. A article noted that installing solar panels can cut your carbon footprint by an average of 35,180 pounds of carbon dioxide each year – the equivalent to planting 88 trees. In money terms, you could save $84 on your monthly electric bill. Not to mention, the value of your home significantly increases with the smart decision to use renewable energy.

Comments - 10 Responses to “Getting Started With Solar Panels”

  1. Thanks for the information. I’ve been hearing a lot about solar panels, and I really think they could do my home some good. It’s good to know that you need to have “open and direct access to sunlight during the peak hours of the day”. Well, it’s a good thing I’ve got that! Sounds like solar panels will be perfect for my home.

  2. Great Article! Solar panels is one of the very best alternative for regenerating electricity. because Solar energy will save our fortune from regular energy bills and is not only good for our home but it helps for our environment.

  3. The terms you need to know section was very useful. I’ve been wondering what a Photvoltaic cell is and most websites about solar panels expect you to know. Now I can more easily read all the articles about home solar panel systems. Thanks for explaining these solar panel terms!

  4. Thanks for talking about ways solar energy can be used for indoor lighting. I’ve never thought about having solar desk lamps, before! I think when it comes to energy, every little change that you make to be more efficient is what makes up the difference. When you replace just one light at a time, eventually your home will be completely efficient, which will save you a lot of money. We’ll have to consider how we can use solar panels in the design of the home we’re building.

  5. Thanks for mentioning that if you want to start using solar power, you need to make sure you live in an area where you have open and direct access to sunlight during the peak hours of the day. There are some trees that block the top of my house, so that might be a problem should I decide to switch to solar power. I bet if there were an electrician who specialized in solar power, they’d be able to help me figure out what needs to change at my house so I can best use the solar power options.

  6. I want to be more energy efficient and install solar panels on my house. I appreciate the advice about how you should consider the climate that you live in and make sure that it is well suited to solar power. Something else to consider is to talk to a professional and have them install the panels so that you can be sure that they are in the best spot.

  7. Thanks for the insight you gave about calculating how many kilowatts you use on average. As you suggest, using your utility bill will help you to do this! Doing your research and being thorough in knowing exactly how many panels you need so that you know how much energy you’ll be using will help you to ensure that switching to solar is beneficial for you. Additionally, this will help you to be more cost effective, too! Thank you for sharing!

  8. I really like the two different factors that you talked about, “the climate in which you live and whether or not you have open and direct access to sunlight during the peak hours of the day.” My husband and I have been thinking about getting solar panels for a while now. We will have to keep these tips in mind while we do more research, thank you for sharing!

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