Are Solar Panels Reliable?
Residential solar energy systems have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, and nearly 4% of US homes have solar panels. They harness the power of the sun to generate clean energy, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. However, one doubt that often lingers in the minds of potential solar homeowners is solar panel reliability.
Are solar panels a dependable source of energy that can withstand the test of time and extreme weather conditions? Read on to learn about solar panel reliability, durability, and performance for meeting your energy needs for decades to come.
Are solar energy systems in the Pacific Northwest reliable?
Solar energy systems in Oregon and Washington are highly reliable despite the region’s reputation for frequent cloudy and rainy weather. In fact, high-quality solar panels are known for their dependability.
One of the reasons is that solar panels contain no moving parts. Unlike some other energy generation technologies, like wind turbines, solar panels do not move. This means fewer components can wear out or break over time, reducing the likelihood of system failures.
Additionally, advancements in solar panel technology have made them even more efficient in producing energy in cloudy or overcast conditions. Modern solar panels are designed to capture diffused sunlight, which is common in Oregon and Washington. These solar panel advancements ensure that even on cloudy days, your solar energy system can continue to generate a significant amount of solar power.
Proper solar installation is critical for reliable solar power. As long as the solar system is properly installed and maintained, it can consistently generate electricity for 25 to 30+ years. However, some solar installation companies do not properly size or wire solar arrays, creating performance issues for homeowners.
Selecting a knowledgeable and skilled solar company to install your system is critical. At Smart Solar Energy, we have many years of experience installing rooftop solar panels, and we believe in completing high-quality installations.
The solar arrays we install will generate clean energy for decades, and we back our work with a 25-year labor and service warranty! Contact us today to learn more about Smart Solar Energy installing a rooftop solar system on your home.
How do solar systems generate renewable energy?
Solar systems generate energy for your home while reducing your reliance on fossil fuels and lowering your electricity bills. They are a sustainable and cost-effective energy solution. Let’s examine how a home solar panel system works:
- First, install a rooftop solar array to capture the free sunlight falling on your property. The solar modules contain photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity.
- The DC electricity generated by the panels is then sent to your solar inverter, which converts it into alternating current (AC), the type of electricity used in your home.
- The AC electricity is then distributed throughout your home’s electrical system, providing power for your lights, appliances, HVAC system, and other electrical devices. This dramatically reduces the amount of electricity you need to pull from the power grid.
- Any excess electricity generated by your solar system can be fed back into the electric grid through net metering, allowing you to receive solar credits from your utility company. Power companies throughout the Pacific Northwest have net metering programs, including Portland General Electric (PGE), Clark Public Utilities (Clark PUD), and Puget Sound Energy (PSE).
- During periods when your solar panels are not producing enough electricity, like at night, you can still draw power from the grid to meet your home energy needs.
How do I know if a solar panel stopped working?
At Smart Solar Energy, we want you to get the most value from your solar system for decades. Thus, all the solar panel systems we install contain solar monitoring systems, so we can track how much solar electricity you are generating.
Solar monitoring systems are essential tools for reviewing the performance of your solar panels and identifying potential issues. Here’s the information your PV monitoring system can provide:
- Real-time Solar Production Data: Solar monitoring systems continuously collect real-time data on your solar panel’s electricity production, providing instant feedback on their electricity output. You can view this data online or through a mobile app.
- Historical Solar Energy Generation Data: They also store historical data, allowing you to track your system’s power generation over time and identify any long-term trends or issues.
- Renewable Energy Output Metrics: Solar monitoring systems measure key performance metrics, such as energy production, voltage, and current, and compare them to expected values.
- Solar System Alerts and Notifications: Monitoring systems can send alerts and notifications via email or mobile apps when they detect abnormal performance patterns or a sudden drop in energy production.
- Remote PV System Diagnostics: In many cases, solar monitoring systems can help diagnose problems remotely, enabling you or your solar installer to take action quickly to address any issues and ensure your system operates efficiently.
By utilizing solar monitoring systems, you can proactively identify and resolve any problems with your solar panels, maximizing their efficiency and lifespan. This allows you to get the most out of your investment in solar energy.
Can I install my rooftop solar system myself in Oregon or Washington?
Some handy homeowners are interested in installing a solar system themselves instead of hiring a solar contractor. As you can guess, there are some pros and cons of DIY solar projects.
Advantages of a DIY Solar System:
- Labor Cost Savings: DIY solar systems can potentially save you money on installation costs, especially if you are handy with tools and can do the work yourself.
- Solar Learning Opportunity: Installing your own solar system can be a valuable learning experience. You can gain knowledge about solar technology and electrical systems, which can be useful in the future. This hands-on experience can also help you troubleshoot and maintain your array more effectively.
- Solar System Design and Customization: With a DIY approach, you have greater control over the design and components of your solar system. You can tailor it to meet your specific energy needs and budget, choosing the type and number of panels, inverters, racking systems, and other components that suit your requirements.
Disadvantages of a DIY Solar System:
- Solar System Complexity: Completing a home solar system installation is complex, requiring knowledge of electrical systems, the permitting process, and the national electrical code. Some DIYers may encounter challenges during installation, potentially leading to safety hazards, permitting, and performance issues.
- Solar System Warranties & Support: When you install a solar system yourself, you may miss out on equipment warranties and the support offered by professional installers. If something goes wrong with your system, you’ll need to troubleshoot and address issues on your own, potentially incurring additional costs. If the solar system isn’t properly installed, you could void equipment warranties, leading to costly repairs.
- Oregon Solar Incentives: There is a solar incentive program in Oregon, but an ODOE-approved contractor must install PV systems to receive the solar rebates. Therefore, DIY solar installations usually do not qualify and could miss out on thousands in solar rebates.
- Solar System Permitting & Interconnection: Installing a solar system in Washington and Oregon requires pulling permits. Then, a certified electrician must sign off on the solar project before it can feed surplus electricity to the power grid. If your PV system isn’t properly approved for net metering with PSE, PGE, Clark PUD, or your local utility company, you could miss out on tens of thousands of dollars over the system’s lifetime.
- National Electrical Code (NEC) Compliance: Your solar panel system must comply with national and local code requirements. For example, it must adhere to Article 690, Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Systems, and have rapid shutdown capabilities. It can be difficult for many DIY homeowners to understand this code and follow all these critical guidelines required to pass inspection.
- Solar Installation Safety Concerns: Installing a home solar system usually involves climbing on the roof and working with electrical current. Without proper training and safety gear, this can be dangerous.
We recommend hiring an experienced solar installation company that uses licensed electricians to maximize the benefits of going solar. This ensures your solar system is installed per NEC requirements and meets solar panel and equipment warranty guidelines.
What do I do if a solar panel stops working?
If a solar panel stops working or is not producing as much electricity as it should, here are steps to help you diagnose and potentially resolve the issue:
- Review Solar Monitoring Performance Data: Review your monitoring data to see if there has been a noticeable drop in energy production. This can help you pinpoint when the issue began and its extent. Consider if there is a logical reason that one panel produces less solar power. For example, your chimney or dormer might shade one panel more than the rest.
- Check Your Solar Inverter: Examine the inverter display or interface for error messages or unusual readings. The inverter is often a culprit when panels aren’t working correctly. Often, power cycling the inverter per the manufacturer’s instructions can help.
- Contact Smart Solar Energy: If you cannot identify or resolve the issue, we recommend you contact us right away. The Smart Solar Energy technicians have the expertise and equipment to diagnose and repair solar panel problems safely.
How can I increase the output of my solar PV system in the Pacific Northwest?
You can take several steps to ensure your solar system produces as much electricity as possible. Let’s explore the top things you can do in the Pacific Northwest to maximize your solar investment.
Ensure that your solar panels are installed at the correct angle and orientation to capture the maximum amount of sunlight. In the Pacific Northwest, the ideal mounting angle for panels is about 45 degrees. However, this varies a bit by your longitude. For example, the ideal tilt angle for a system in Vancouver or Olympia, Washington, is a bit greater than a system further south in Newberg or Eugene, Oregon.
When going solar, consider using high-efficiency monocrystalline solar panels, which can generate more electricity from the same amount of sunlight. These panels are often designed to perform better in low-light conditions and after decades on your roof. At Smart Solar Energy, we install premium solar panels, including Panasonic, REC, and Silfab.
Solar panels do not typically need to be cleaned regularly in Washington and Oregon. However, if your solar panels are covered with debris or moss, it is critical to remove it for optimum solar energy production.
There are many tree-lined properties across Oregon and Washington. This is great for the environment and beautification, but it can reduce your solar power generation. If there are trees or branches shading your panels, consider trimming them to allow more sunlight to reach your solar array.
Do not plant trees that will eventually shade your solar array, especially on the south, east, and west sides of your home. Remember, your solar panels can last 25 to 30 or more years, and some tree species can grow quickly. If you do want to plant trees without shading your solar panels, it’s best to plant them far away from the home or on the north side.
We also recommend reviewing your solar monitoring data periodically to determine if there are any issues with your solar power system. Early detection can help stop issues before they significantly impact your solar energy production.
Finally, hire an experienced solar contractor to install your solar system. At Smart Solar Energy, our solar experts are skilled in designing and installing solar systems for optimum solar power production. Our solar panel systems are backed by an extensive 25-year guarantee because we stand behind our work.
We have an extensive service area across Washington and Oregon, including Seattle, Olympia, and Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Roseburg, and Bend, Oregon. Our goal is to help you virtually eliminate your power bills with solar power.