Are you a homeowner thinking about investing in solar panels because the financial benefits are just too good to pass up? Maybe you’re a concerned nature lover trying to lessen your carbon footprint. Either way, taking a step in the direction of alternative energy is taking a step in the right direction, but before you finalize that paperwork, be sure to read through this guide for any problems you might not have expected otherwise.
With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility
It can take as little as six months to start noticing a significant drop in your electricity bill due to your solar panels, and you might even find that PG&E is now paying you money! This is just one of the many benefits of switching over, but even this can quickly turn into a problem when consumers begin to lose track of their energy output, ultimately wasting more energy than they would have had they stayed on the grid.
Just be conscious! Actively monitor small, energy-wasting habits like leaving the lights on in an empty room, using your washer and dryer to clean small loads, looking through the fridge when you’re bored, or turning off any appliances while not in use, and work on phasing them out.
Solar Panels are Hard to Recycle
Not much is said about what happens to old or broken solar panels. That’s because right now, the US stuck in a paradox where there aren’t enough solar panels available to be efficiently recycled yet, but there also aren’t enough solar panel recyclers in the US to make it a widely available service, since there isn’t really a demand for them.
Solar panels from the 70’s are still going strong – a testament to their claims of longevity and continued productivity.
Before buying a solar panel array for your home, find out how far a solar recycling center is from you, or talk to your third party installer about their recycling policy.
Not all Panels Are Created Equal
Most new buyers don’t stop to consider who produced their new solar panels or where. Asking these questions though, are really, really important.
Refining silicon requires the use of hazardous materials, while creating toxic by-products, like silicon tetrachloride. Silicon Tetrachloride, which becomes hydrochloric acid when mixed with water, can raise the acidity of the soil or water that it’s contaminating, simultaneously releasing poisonous fumes into the air in the process.
Since the solar industry is still so new, companies in the US and abroad have been exploiting its lack of regulation by dumping their hazardous materials in oceans, rivers, and other ecologically harmful places, ultimately doing more harm to the environment than good.
Ask! Ask! Ask! The most important thing that you can do as a consumer is to ask your third party installer whether or not they go through an eco-friendly manufacturer for their solar panels.
Take this a step further by do your own research about the product and the company before making your final decision. Doing this pushes installers to only work with eco-friendly suppliers, making sustainability just as important as price.
Solar Panels Need More Maintenance Than You Think
There are several factors that potential buyers don’t even take into consideration when buying solar panels, and one of those things would be maintaining them to keep them efficient. As a new owner, you might think that after they’ve installed your solar panels, all you have to do is sit back and bask in free, clean energy.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Dirt, dust, bird droppings, and water marks can all cloud the face of your solar panels, decreasing their efficiency. This means that your solar panels should be washed and dried at least twice a year to keep them as productive as possible.
Another thing you want to protect your solar panels from are animals. Squirrels especially have been known to chew on the PV line, but other animals like raccoons, mice and even birds have all been known to tamper with solar panels as well.
So make sure to secure your solar panels, because if they are seriously damaged, and you don’t have a warranty, finding someone certified to fix it in your area could prove to be a real challenge.
Make sure you’re under warranty! Every third party installer should offer you some type of equipment warranty for anywhere between ten to twelve years, although a lifetime warranty, like the one that is offered by Rod Johnson Solar, is a much better option. When trying to keep animals away, using something as simple as chicken wire around your solar panels should be enough.
Contracting Silicosis is a (minute) possibility
To be fair, the chances of you, a consumer, contracting Silicosis as a result of installing solar panels to your home are slim, but can happen with improper use or installation. For those miners who dig for the quartz used to produce silicon, however, Silicosis is just another fact of life. Silicon dust can be extremely dangerous to human respiratory health, greatly affecting the lungs ability to draw in clean air through a growing barrier of inhaled solid particles.
Leave all serious adjusting and tampering of solar panels to professional installers. When handling solar panels yourself, make sure to cover your mouth and nose with a cloth or a dust mask.