So you’ve probably been hearing a lot of solar panel talk in the papers, on the news and possibly from your neighbours recently – as it seems the US cant resist solar at the moment. But if you’re unfamiliar with solar your most probably wondering what are solar panels? Why solar? And what all the fuss is about right… So I thought I would put something together to explain all you need to know about solar panels and also show you some useful resources that you may find useful.

So what are solar panels?

Solar Panels are a form of renewable energy that allows you to generate your own energy. Solar panels come in two different types (more on this further on) which have different purposes, but the principle remains the same. Solar panels are simply used to absorb energy from the sun to generate energy for a property/ building.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels are mounted to the roof of a property – the way in which they are positioned impacts on the amount of energy they will collect and so its beneficial if your property is south facing (this is certainly not essential). Those solar panels positioned on your roof work by collecting energy from the sun, this energy is then converted by an inverter connected to your system – the conversion takes place to allow you to heat or power your property.

What Types of solar panels are available?

Solar PV (Electricity)

Solar PV is the most popular type of solar energy; this allows you to generate your own electricity for your home or property. It works by collecting direct current from the sun which is then converted to alternating current – again this conversion takes place to allow you to power your home and appliances within.

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Solar Thermal (Hot Water)

Solar Thermal is less common than Solar PV but this shouldn’t be the case as the benefits from it are fantastic. Solar Thermal allows you to generate your own hot water, which is used to heat your property and provide hot running water. If you see a property with just a few solar panels mounted to the roof it is most likely solar thermal as only a few panels are required for maximum results (amount of panels depends on property size).

What are solar panels good for? (What’s the hype about?)

So, now you know what solar panels are and the types available you’re probably wondering why you would have a system installed and what all the recent fuss has been about. Well first off lets start with some benefits of the two types of solar panels I have just explained:

Benefits of Solar PV (Electricity)

  1. Save on electricity bills
  2. Receive Tax FREE payments from the Feed-in-Tariff
  3. Reduce your Carbon Footprint
  4. Sell surplus energy to the grid
  5. Increase the value of your property

Benefits of Solar Thermal (Hot Water)

  1. Reduce you heating bills
  2. Receive a Tax FREE payment from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
  3. Receive Monetary Help from the Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP)
  4. Reduce your Carbon Footprint
  5. Possibly increase the value of your property

So, as you can see there are many benefits from both technologies but the fuss has escalated over recent years because – First off solar pv (electricity) allows you to receive a tax free payment for 20 years (secured & index linked) with thanks to the Feed-in-Tariff incentive, this means you can earn thousands in tax free cash. Secondly the RHI will be released next year which allows those with solar thermal (hot water) to receive e a similar payment from the RHI. This means these two technologies are exceptional lucrative which is the reason why your hearing the hype and probably seeing your neighbours roofs covered in solar panels.

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Here are some resources and useful sites that I think may help you out some more:

First off if you’re looking to have solar panels installed then you must check out our solar panel calculator – this will allow you to calculate your potential earnings over the 20 years and provide you with an estimate of how long the payback would be. Also you should check out Charging The Earth, basically a blog by Dr Nicholson-Cole who has his own home which takes advantage of renewable energy in every way possible and frequently posts about the benefits he is receiving. It’s a great resource and I think it would be good for anyone considering solar to get real information from a domestic home.

I hope this posts helps and that you now know what you need to know about solar panels – but if you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments section.