There are a lot of perks that come along with switching your home to solar energy, and one of the most popular is the potential to save money on monthly energy bills. Your expected energy savings will vary based on several factors like the area you live in, the placement of the panels, the design of your roof, and importantly, the efficiency of the panels you plan to install.
Scheduling an appointment with a pro will be the best route to evaluate all the variables and determine your potential cost savings from going solar. The experts can run the numbers for you, but it’s also helpful to go into your appointment with a basic understanding of what you need from your panels. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about solar panel efficiency and how it contributes to your goals for going solar.
In basic terms, the efficiency of your solar panels is how much electricity your panels can generate from the sunlight that hits them. Panels with high efficiency are able to convert more of the sun’s energy into usable electricity for your home, which contributes to your overall utility savings and helps determine how many panels you need in your solar energy system. More efficient systems also require fewer panels, which is ideal if you have a small roof.
Solar panel efficiency is measured by the percentage of sunlight reflected on your panels that is converted into electricity. This percentage is called the “efficiency rating.”
Solar panels are becoming more efficient over time thanks to technological advances. The current average is between 15 and 22%, with some of the most efficient panels even reaching nearly 23%.
Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight into electricity. The efficiency of the PV cells in your panels–also known as solar cell efficiency–varies based on the design of the individual cells and the silicon type used to make them. Solar cell efficiency is one of two important factors that determine how much energy your panels produce. The other factor is panel efficiency, which is determined by how the PV cells are configured and the size of the panel.
Solar panels are typically made of one of three materials; monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Here’s what you should know about each type of panel:
Monocrystalline solar panels are made from high-purity silicon and are typically known as the most efficient panels. The quality of materials used in these panels means they can last around 25 years, and they don’t take up as much space on your roof as the other types of panels. The only drawbacks? Monocrystalline panels are typically a bit more expensive and are not ideal for colder areas as snow can damage the cells.
Like monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels are durable and can last for a long time. The main difference is that they’re made of lower-purity silicon which makes them slightly less efficient, and means you’ll need more panels to produce the necessary amount of energy for your home. On the positive side, these panels are a bit more cost effective.
Thin-film PV cells are typically made of one of three materials, including Amorphous Silicon, Cadmium Telluride, and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide. Cells made from these materials are less efficient at producing solar energy than their silicon-powered counterparts in the crystalline category. While thin-film panels are lightweight and more cost effective, they’re typically not recommended for rooftop solar energy systems because of their low efficiency.
For most homeowners, the goal of going solar is to completely offset their energy needs, which means the efficiency rating they need for their panels will depend largely on how much energy they consume each month. You can find your energy consumption on your electricity bill, and bring it with you to your solar energy consultation to help determine the ideal efficiency rating for your system. Several other factors your solar pro will use to determine the ideal efficiency rating for your panels include the size of your roof, the amount of sunlight you get in your area, and your budget–more efficient panels typically cost more.
Panel efficiency is just one of several important factors that come into play when determining the benefits you’ll get from your solar energy system. A qualified installer will consider all the environmental factors as well as the efficiency of the panels they plan to use to design the best system to fit your home’s needs. Check to see if your home is a good fit for solar panels, then schedule a consultation with a pro to get started.