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Five things to know about solar panels

If you’re building a house, or renovating the one you’ve got, something you may be considering is the installation of solar panels. Here are five things to know about solar panels for when you’re making this decision.

Words: Lara Wyatt

What do they actually do?

The sun offers a free source of renewable energy that we are able to harness in a variety of ways, one of which is via the use of solar panels. These panels, usually placed on the roof of buildings, generate electricity from sunlight. According to Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority (EECA), light energy hits the solar panels and causes movement of the electrons in the atoms of a semi-conducting material. The movement of these electrons results in an electric current.

How long do solar panels last?

Generally, solar panels should last around 25 years under warranty. Warranties may differ depending on the company you choose, and other warranties may apply, for example for workmanship or material. Generally solar panels should work at their peak efficiency for about 25 years.

How expensive are solar panels and using solar energy?

There are many variables that define the specific cost you’ll pay for solar panels plus the installation. According to EECA, the price for solar has been falling for many years. As with solar panels, there are variables when it comes to using solar energy. Depending on how much you’re generating, you may be able to sell excess energy, however many homes who have solar panels will still need to buy electricity when the solar panels aren’t charged enough.

How many solar panels do I need?

More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to the amount of solar panels you install. It all depends on the amount of energy you’ll need for your home. It’s best to discuss with a solar panel expert as to how big your “solar system” needs to be.

How will using them reduce my carbon footprint?

Now this one’s an interesting one. Yes, using solar panels means you’re using the sun’s energy and not relying on energy from fossil fuels. In the near term this will reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, EECA says that in the long term, solar panels may not be the greenest option for New Zealand. A Concept Consulting report found that “solar will modestly increase greenhouse gas emissions in the longer term, as more fossil fuel power stations will be needed to meet peak electricity demand.”

There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to installing solar panels for your home. It’s important to do your research and talk to the experts to find out what you’ll need or if they’re right for you.

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