Chapter 10: Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the best way to mount a solar panel?
A: Solar panels should face the midday sun at an angle approximately equal to the latitude at the specific location. In other words, if your city is located at 28 degree latitude, the ideal installation is at a 28 degree angle. A variation of approximately 15 degrees is acceptable and should not make much difference in efficiency. Solar panels should never be positioned less than 5 degrees from the horizontal, as this results in too much dirt, dust and debris accumulation that can decrease the effectiveness of the panel.
Q: Should photovoltaic panels get hot?
A: No. Photovoltaic panels should not be confused with thermal panels, which rely on the heating of a fluid medium to generate stored energy. In contrast, photovoltaic panels operate based on the sunís light, not heat. As they become hot, efficiency of photovoltaic panels can actually decrease. Because of this, they should be installed away from tin roofs and adequate ventilation should be available to them at all times.
Q: How much power is produced by a solar panel?
A: An 83 watt solar panel should produce approximately five amps in sunny conditions. Thus, there should be about 23.5 amp-hours produced per sunny day.
Q: How much of the average energy bill is attributed to hot water?
A: A lot. Between showers, laundry, and dishwashers, a summer utilities bill can be up to 70% due to heating water. In the winter months, the use of central heating can increase the bill far beyond this.
Q: Can solar panels be installed on a flat roof?
A: Yes. Solar panels can be installed using an A frame, similar to how most roofs themselves are mounted. This permits their installation on flat surfaces and also enables the angle to be adjusted on any roof in order to maximize solar efficiency.
Q: What are some estimates for solar power costs?
A: A solar powered house can cost approximately $12 per watt, installed. A total system installation can cost upward of $20,000. A basic system can cost less than $10,000. A portable solar panel for powering computers or other small items can cost $700-1000. A solar hot water heater can cost up to $5000. A prefab solar system for heating swimming pools can cost a few hundred dollars.
Q: Can solar power be used to heat above-ground pool?
A: Yes. Swimming pool thermal systems are available for either in-ground or above-ground pools. It is not recommended that the two types of system be interchanged.
Q: How do I know how many solar panels I need?
A: There are many factors to take into consideration. If you live in the northern hemisphere, south-facing panels will be most efficient and vice versa. The ability to install them with these criteria in mind will make a difference in the efficiency of your panels. In addition, the square footage of your house, the available sunlight in your area, and your energy usage are all determining factors. Calculators available online take all of these variables into account in order to provide estimates for your individual power needs.