Solar panels are a type of photovoltaic (PV) system that collects energy from sunlight and converts it into usable energy for a building. Also called photovoltaic (PV) cells, solar panels typically contain no corrosive chemicals, do not pollute, require little maintenance, and operate silently from the roof of a building. During daylight hours, PV panels produce energy that is fed back into the electrical grid, sometimes causing the electric meter to run backward. At night, the building uses energy off the power lines as usual, but the building saves money in its utility bill from the energy produced during the day.
Solar panels come in a variety of sizes and are best installed on flat roofs where they can be angled toward the south-facing sun, but they can be placed anywhere within 1,000 feet of your home that receives plenty of sun. PV panels require light but not heat and can be installed in cold, sunny locations just as easily as warm ones. Although not very heavy, PV panels weigh about twice as much as typical shingles do. Building-Integrated PV (BIPV) panels can also be installed as an alternative to conventional shingles. The average payback period of a solar panel is five to ten years, but that number will vary depending on the amount of power you use, the location and area of the panels, and the geographic location of your home.
Learn about solar heating and cooling and how to use renewable energy in your home