The cost of solar panels has declined during the several decades that this technology has existed, and demand for solar products has never been higher. China is churning out solar panels at a rapid pace, Germany gets a huge percentage of its electricity from solar panels, the US is having moderate but steady growth in solar, and in fact, President Obama recently installed new solar panels on the White House. Everyday homeowners are being increasingly drawn to this hot new trend, a trend which can easily save thousands of dollars in electrical bills, once the upfront investment is paid for. A homeowner considering installation of rooftop solar panels must ask themselves: which brand is the most efficient? This question is critical to consider, for such a relatively expensive investment decision. Where can you find the most efficient solar panels? This is a question we’ll attempt to answer, and we’ll explain just what are solar panels, and how they work?
How do solar panels work?
Let’s back up for a moment, and start with the sun. All energy on Earth comes from the sun, the star we orbit: the sun’s heat causes air and ocean currents to move, and makes possible photosynthesis for plants and certain single celled organisms. The sun’s powerful ultraviolet rays reach our planet from across over 92 million miles (or 149 million kilometers) of empty space. These “UV” rays can be harmful to human skin due to the high amount of energy they contain. Examples include sunburns and skin cancer. That high amount of energy from UV rays, if we know how, can also be put to work to generate electricity in two different ways.
Ultraviolet radiation can generate electricity for us through thermal solar power. In this method, a collection of large mirrors (usually out the in the desert,) reflect and focus the sun’s rays onto a single point. At that point, is a large metal tank of water gets heated by the focused rays. The heated water begins to boil off into steam, and (as in other methods of electrical generation, such as coal, hydro, or even nuclear,) the pressurized steam moves a generator to produce an electrical current, which we put into wires and transmit off for use in homes and businesses.
The method of generating electricity directly from solar radiation, (rather than from channeling the heat of the sun,) and the method which this article focuses on, is through photovoltaic solar panels. Photovoltaic solar panels are made up of solar “cells”, made most commonly of silicon. Ultraviolet radiation light photons from the sun hit the panel, and these photons knock loose electrons on the panel. You can make the solar panel have a positive and a negative side, just like with a battery, and then attach conductive wires to both of these sides. This forms an electrical current, and as long as light from the sun keeps hitting the panel, you will keep getting useful electricity! You may install these solar panels on your roof, and use them to generate your own electricity, thus saving you money on each and every monthly utility bill!
What are the differences between a non efficient vs. an efficient solar panel
The more efficient the solar panels are the less space they need in order to provide you and your family with the electricity you all need. So if you have a limited roof space or a small yard you may want to get panels on the plus side of the efficiency scale. You should also think about that you may want to upgrade your solar system in the future, a more efficient system takes up less space and will allow upgrades.
If you don’t get very much sun, buying the most efficient solar panels you can afford will probably be right for you.
Is a certain type of panel more efficient?
If we don’t go into the fancy stuff like fresnel lenses and genome modified mutated nano materials, and just stick with the standard types of PV panels, the monocrystalline are generally the most efficient solar panels right now. The monocrystalline are followed by the polycrystalline and then last comes the cheep thin film panels.
So really, where are the most efficient solar panels?
The absolutely most efficient solar panels are made by the company Fraunhofer. The good news? These cells provide a whopping 44.7% efficient. The bad news? There’s no way you’re getting them for your home. These cells are only made for spacecraft, they are not even available (or really necessary) for commercial or residential use. Moving on.
There are other non-residential solar panels which are also very efficient, made by companies such as Sharp, Amonix, and SunPower. If you want to look at the solar panels you can actually install on your house, here are the top three most efficient solar panels for residential use:
- SunPower Modules provide 19% efficiency
- Sanyo at about 17.5% efficiency
- Kyocera at about 15.5% efficiency
Of course, if one wants the buy the most efficient solar panels available on the market they are still going to cost quite a bit. These efficient, high-quality brands are going to cost you more than cheaper panels, but they may be worth it in the long run for you, depending on how well you maintain them, how long you stay in your home, and how much you spend on electricity consumption per month.
So there you have it: some information on what solar panels are and how they work, and on what the most efficient solar panels (for residences) are. It’s unfortunate that you can’t get the same solar panels as on the International Space Station, (wouldn’t that be cool?!) but then again, you don’t really need them, either.