How solar power can cut your bills and your carbon footprint

15th May 2020 | Residential Energy

Fitting solar panels can be expensive, but it will reduce the amount spent on electricity. As concerns around protecting the environment continue to increase, more of us are having solar panels fitted to our homes to generate out own electricity. Solar panels, or photovoltaics (PV), capture the sun’s energy using photovoltaic cells and then convert it into electricity.

Fortunately for those of us living in the UK, the cells do not require direct sunlight to work – they can still work on a cloudy day, although less electricity will be generated. Having said that, the Met Office recently reported that April 2020 was probably the sunniest April on record, with the solar power industry reporting its highest ever production of electricity in the UK at 12.30 on 20 April.

Solar power

Solar PVE cells are nestled between layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on them, electrons are knocked loose, and this creates a flow of electricity. When solar cells are combined they form solar panels, while multiple solar panels connected together form a solar array. To ensure solar panels are exposed to as much light as possible it is best to have them installed on a south-facing roof, although east-and west-facing roofs are also suitable.

Solar panels should be pitched at an angle of between 10 and 50 degrees, with the optimum angle sitting between 30 and 40 degrees. You should also ensure there are no buildings or trees close by that could leave the panels in the shade. Most solar panels are installed on rooftops, but it is also possible to have them installed on walls of the ground, or to have solar tiles fitted. Be aware, however, that solar tile systems are less cost-effective and typically cost around twice as much as a panel system.

When solar panels are fitted, an inverter will be installed as well to convert the electricity generated from a direct current (DC) to an alternating current (AC), which is used by most home appliances. The biggest benefit of having solar panels installed is that you will save on electricity costs. If your solar panels are large enough, you may be able to produce enough electricity for your whole home.

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