How they work
A solar panel collects solar energy from the suns rays and converts it into electricity. This produces a supply of clean green energy that uses no fossil fuels and therefore leaves no carbon footprint. A panel is constructed of several individual solar cells, these are made from wafers of silicon. The wafers are made by heating the silicon to extremely high temperatures and then adding phosphorous and boron. The adding of these chemicals results in the silicon atoms becoming unstable. When photons from the sunlight are absorbed by the solar cells the energy dislodges electrons from the unstable silicon wafers. These electrons are forced to flow along wires within the cells by electric fields in the panels and so create a flow of electricity.
Things you need to consider
If you are contemplating the installation of solar panels there are several considerations that have to be given due thought. To produce adequate electricity it is recommended that a roof space of at least five square metres is available for your solar panels and that this space receives sunlight for most of the day. You may also need to install a dedicated solar water heating cylinder with a solar heating coil. Your existing boiler may not be compatible so may also need replacing and if you have a combination boiler a hot water tank will also be necessary. You will have to investigate whether planning permission is needed as well, therefore it is recommended that you get your home assessed by an accredited installer to help you choose the best system before you proceed.
The main benefit from having solar panels installed is that sunlight is a free source of energy so your energy bill will be reduced. You will also have hot water available all year round provided that there is sufficient sunlight (a boiler may have to be used to top up during the winter months). Another reason for having solar panels is that they are environmentally friendly and reduce your carbon footprint.
Costs and savings
The total price of an installation for the average home is approximately five thousand pounds but there are grants available to help with the costs. Ongoing maintenance costs are negligible but it is recommended that you should check your panels annually and have maintenance checks by accredited installers every two to three years. Savings of up to eighty five pounds can be made on your water heating bill and this can equate to a reduction of five hundred and seventy kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions.