All You Wanted to Know About Solar Panels

Solar panels on roof of house

You may have seen advertisements for solar energy incentive programs in Michigan. There are quite a few of them.

The newest ads for this year promise a no-initial-cost installation. You can claim your solar panel installation as a federal tax credit. Presumably, many more of Michigan’s residents are thinking about adding solar panels to cut down on energy bills and as a way to ensure power “off-grid.”

The Way Solar Panels Work

Solar panels use a technology called photovoltaics – turning light into electricity. To do this, solar panels use individual photovoltaic cells made of silicon and an electric field.

Silicon absorbs light energy very quickly in the form of electrons, and then the electric field directs them into an electric current. The current can be used right away, be directed into the utility grid, or stored in batteries.

Silicon is naturally shiny, so it must be dulled to keep it from reflecting sunlight. It also has to be prodded into releasing the electrons into the current.

Many variables, such as exposure time, cleaning, and maintenance, make solar energy a more complicated form to rely on as your primary source of power.

How and Where to Install Solar Panels

Do solar panels even make sense in Michigan?

This has to be one of the first questions from anyone thinking to install them, because if you live here, you know Michigan has many cloudy days per year. Sometimes, we don’t see the sun for weeks!

Generally, you want to install your panels on your rooftop. However, it doesn’t always work best that way.

If you have a shaded roof, find another spot on your garage or in your yard where sunlight is plentiful, and the panels can point in a southerly direction.

Incline, direction, and shade all impact and can reduce the effectiveness of your solar panels and make it take longer for you to pay them off. In an open field, solar panels can be installed in their most useful arrangement and direction. However, most people don’t have access to an open field.

Not all existing rooflines will work with solar panels. However, if you are having a house built, you can capitalize on it. Make your new roof design work the best it possibly can for solar panels now.

Alternately, you can explore the option of rebuilding and replacing your existing roof to be more solar-friendly. The initial investment could make it faster to pay off the work, while you get the benefits of solar energy for many years to come.

Benefits of Solar Energy

Did you know that generated electricity is either used or wasted? A lack of reliable battery storage means that your local electric company is playing an elaborate guessing game about how much its customers will use on a given day.

If the power demand exceeds what is being generated, massive power outages occur. To counteract that, the company will create more than is needed on any given day. However, there are always outages in different areas unconnected to storms or excess demand.

Even if you live in a cloudy state like Michigan, solar energy can make sense for you. One way it makes sense is if you connect your solar powers to the utility grid and also store some in battery form.

By doing this, you can actually make your power meter run backward by feeding energy into the grid. The electricity company will pay you back for the power your panels supplied in credits on your next bill.

On sunny days, your solar panels will generate much more energy than you need. You can store some of the extra in battery form. However, most of it will be lost if you try to live completely using only the energy you generate. Then, on rainy days, you will have limited or no power.

Can You Switch Back and Forth Between the Grid and Solar?

The answer is yes. You can get an additional switch installed that will make your system go around the grid when you need it. If your solar panels are connected to the grid only, the utility company has to have a safety shutdown in case of outages.

For the safety of their workers, they can’t run the risk of electricity going back up an otherwise dead line from customers’ solar panels while they are trying to fix an outage.

So, your access to your own panels will be gone as well right when you need them! The additional switch, while adding more cost upfront, makes it possible to use your own power when the grid power is out.

Bringing it Home

Between connection to the grid, battery power, and the ability to get around the grid, solar panels could pay you back before you know it if you have them installed right and maintain them.

Is your home located in Southeast Michigan? Do you have any questions about your roof’s ability to support solar panels? Or making modifications to make them more productive? Please call! We’re always glad to be of service.

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