Home Solar Power: Frequently Asked Questions 2024

By the team at EnergyPal
Updated by Brett Stadelmann

Home solar power systems have gained immense popularity due to their environmental benefits and potential for cost savings. But making the switch can be complicated, and rightfully so. Every home and family’s electricity needs are different. There’s a mirage of different options available. Which makes it hard to compare and find the best choice. This article provides answers to common questions on home solar. From the best solar panels, system size, panel types and longevity to inverters, efficiency, and the feasibility of running a house solely on solar power.

Home Solar Power: Frequently Asked Questions

Home Solar Power: Frequently Asked Questions 2024

Which solar panel is best for a home?

When selecting solar panels for your home, it’s crucial to consider factors such as efficiency, durability, and cost. The best solar panels depend on the specifics of your home location and roof characteristics. Currently, some of the leading solar panel brands for residential use include SunPower, Q Cells, and REC. These brands are renowned for their high efficiency and reliable performance.

What size solar system do I need to run a house?

Determining the appropriate size for a solar power system depends on various factors, such as your energy consumption, geographical location, available roof space, and desired level of energy independence. A typical annual electricity consumption for a residential homeowner in the United States is about 11,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh).

Here’s a general approach to sizing a solar system for residential use:

Determine your average electricity consumption: Review your electricity bills to determine your average monthly or annual electricity consumption in kilowatt-hours (kWh). This will provide a baseline for estimating the size of the solar system you need.

Consider your location: The amount of sunlight your location receives throughout the year affects the energy production of a solar system. Areas with more sunlight generally require smaller systems to generate the desired amount of electricity.

Calculate system capacity: A rough estimate is that a 1 kW solar system can generate around 900 – 1,500 kWh per year, depending on various factors. Divide your average annual electricity consumption by this estimate to get an initial system capacity. For example, an average US household consuming nearly 11,000 kilowatt hours annually requires a 6-9kw system.

System capacity = Annual consumption / kWh per kW

System capacity = 11,000 kWh / 1,220 kWh per kW

System capacity = 9 kW

Account for roof age, space and panel efficiency: Consider the age and available roof space for installing solar panels and the efficiency of the panels you plan to use. If you have limited roof space, you may need to select higher efficiency panels or consider other options like ground-mounted systems or solar carports.

Consult a solar professional: It’s highly recommended to consult with a solar professional or installer who can assess your specific needs, perform an on-site evaluation, and provide an accurate sizing recommendation based on your location, energy consumption, and other factors.

How big is a 6kW solar system?

A 6kW solar system typically consists of approximately 16-24 solar panels, depending on the wattage of the individual panels. On average, each panel can be around 300 – 450 watts. The physical size of the system varies based on the specific brand and model of the solar panels. An average household may need between 450-850 sq. ft.

What are the 3 types of solar panels?

The three primary types of solar panels used in residential applications are monocrystalline, polycrystalline (or multicrystalline), and thin-film.

  • Monocrystalline panels are known for their high efficiency (dark black color)

Monocrystalline panels are the most space-efficient and longest-lasting among all solar panel types.

  • Polycrystalline panels offer a cost-effective option (blue color)

These panels are known for their distinctive blue color. They are less efficient in terms of energy conversion and space, since their silicon purity and construction are lower than monocrystalline panels.

  • Thin-film panels are flexible and you guessed it thin.

Thin-film solar panels are not used often in residential applications due to the limited roof area and relatively low efficiency of thin film per unit area.

How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels are designed to be durable and long-lasting. Most reputable manufacturers offer warranties of 20-25 years, which is an indicator of their expected lifespan. However, a solar panel’s lifespan can continue to produce electricity beyond their warranty period, with a gradual decrease in efficiency over time. Solar panels lose efficiency at a rate known as the degradation rate. The industry average is about 0.5% up to 1% per year. The accumulation of dirt, dust, and debris on the surface of your solar panels can diminish their power output and have a negative effect on their longevity. If you want your solar panels to last longer try cleaning them adhering to your solar panel manufacturer’s recommendations.

Which solar panels last the longest?

Several factors influence the longevity of solar panels, including the quality of materials, manufacturing processes, and overall design. In general, monocrystalline solar panels are often considered to have the longest lifespan due to their high-grade silicon composition and robust construction.

Here are the Top 4 Solar Panel Manufacturer Warranties

  • SunPower – 25 years, 92.0% original production
  • REC – 25 years, 92.0% original production
  • Solaria – 25 years, 86% original production
  • Hanwha QCells – 25 years, 83% original production

Which solar inverter is best?

Choosing the best solar inverter depends on your specific requirements, system size, and budget. Your inverter choice can also affect which batteries you can use. Some popular inverter brands known for their reliability and performance include SolarEdge, Enphase and SunPower.

String inverters are widely used in solar energy systems as they are designed to handle a series of solar panels and convert their DC power into AC power. These inverters are cost-effective and easy to install, making them a popular choice for residential and commercial installations. However, they do have limitations in terms of scalability and efficiency. Since all panels in the string are connected in series, the performance of the entire string can be affected if one panel is shaded or underperforming.

Microinverters, on the other hand, offer greater scalability and efficiency by being installed on each individual solar panel. This independent operation ensures that the failure of one panel does not impact the overall system performance. Moreover, microinverters optimize the performance of each panel in varying weather conditions, enhancing the overall system efficiency. However, they tend to be more expensive than string inverters, and their installation can be more complex.

Power optimizers combine aspects of both string inverters and microinverters. Installed on each solar panel, they enable individual panel optimization while still utilizing a central inverter. Power optimizers can enhance the efficiency of a solar energy system and are generally less expensive than microinverters. However, they do require more maintenance compared to string inverters and can be pricier as well.

How efficient are solar panels in 2023?

Solar panel efficiency has continued to improve over the years, and in 2023, the average efficiency of high-quality panels ranges from 18% to 23%. However, it’s important to note that efficiency alone is not the sole determining factor for panel selection, as other considerations such as cost and available roof space should also be taken into account.

Here are the Top 5 Solar Panels based on Module Efficiency

Are higher wattage solar panels better?

Higher wattage solar panels can offer advantages such as increased power output and potentially reduced installation costs. However, it’s important to consider factors such as panel size, available roof space, budget and overall system design when assessing the suitability of higher wattage panels for your specific installation.

Can you run a house on solar power alone?

Running a house solely on solar power is possible, but it requires careful planning and consideration of various factors. The feasibility depends on your energy needs, the size of your solar system, available sunlight in your area, and energy storage capabilities. To achieve full independence on solar, you would need to install a solar system large enough to generate sufficient electricity to meet your household’s energy demands throughout the year. Additionally, you would need to incorporate a battery energy storage solution that stores excess energy for use during periods of low sunlight or at night when the solar panels are not actively producing electricity.

Home solar FAQ conclusion:

When considering solar panels, it’s important to prioritize factors such as efficiency, durability, and cost-effectiveness. The size of the solar system required to power a house depends on various factors and should be determined through a consultation with a solar professional. The longevity of solar panels can vary, but reputable brands and high-quality monocrystalline panels often have longer lifespans. For most, home solar power systems offer an environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution for generating electricity.

Still got questions? Check out even more answers in this article here: Home Solar FAQs

To learn more about solar for you and your home connect with EnergyPal for a free custom quote.