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Q1. What is the difference between Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline Solar Panels?

Rigid solar panel cells are usually made up of either monocrystalline or polycrystalline (aka multicrystalline) cells. Monocrystalline cells are cut from a chunk of silicon that has been grown from a single crystal. These are used in the more expensive types of solar panels and are more efficient in converting the sun’s rays to electricity.

A polycrystalline cell is cut from multifaceted silicon crystal. More surface area is required due to inherent flaws and these panels are less efficient in converting the sun’s rays. However, polycrystalline technology has closed up the performance gap in recent years.

Q2. Do Solar Panels Work in the Cold?

Solar panels actually generate more power at lower temperatures, other factors being equal.  Solar panels are really electronic devices and generate electricity from light, not heat. Solar panels actually operate more efficiently at a cooler temperature.

Q3. What effect does Shade have on Solar Panel Performance?

Shade means power interruption in a solar array.  If one row of cells is shaded you can lose up to 90% of all power to each module in the series.

Solar Pathfinder should be used to identify shading problems.

Micro-Inverters (like Enphase)  can help minimize the power loss due to shading. Modules should  be shade free between  9AM to 3PM.

Q4. Do Panels Work In Cloudy Weather?

Solar panels do generate electricity in cloudy weather although their output is diminished. They do not need direct sun and can even generate 50-70% of their rated output under overcast sky’s  Dark overcast can reduce rated output to as low as 5-10%.

Q5. How are Solar Panels Rated?

Solar Panels are rated at a well- defined set of conditions known as Standard Test Conditions (STC). These conditions include the temperature of the PV cells (25 C or 77 F.), the intensity of radiation (1 kW/square meter), and the spectral distribution of the light (air mass 1.5 or AM 1.5, which is the spectrum of sunlight that has been filtered by passing through 1.5 thicknesses of the earth’s atmosphere).

Q6. What Else Do I Need In My Solar Power System?

Solar panels are inherently DC devices, land  DC/AC inverters to supply AC power in standard voltages and frequencies.  On the electrical side, protective devices such as diodes, fuses, circuit breakers, safety switches and grounds are required to meet electric code safety standards. Solar systems require mounting hardware to support and elevate the solar panels.

Q7. Will Tracking Improve The Performance Of My System?

Tracking systems can improve efficiency anywhere from 25 to 40% depending on many factors.

The effectiveness of tracking depends a lot on the climate and the application. Areas with a lot of haze or clouds won’t get much benefit from trackers because the light is scattered. Under ideal conditions, trackers improve solar panel output from 25- 40%.  Local conditions will need to be evaluated to determine if tracking is the right decision.

Q8. How About Using Reflectors To Concentrate More Light On The Panels?

Reflectors can increase the output of solar arrays somewhat, however higher temperatures and light intensities can lead to premature failure of the module. The use of artificial reflectors is not recommended and in some cases can void the warranty.

Q9. How Long Will My Solar Power System Last?

Systems are designed to last 25 to 40 years.

Q10. Do Solar Panels Lose Power Over Time?

Typical power loss after 20 years is 20%.

Q11. How Durable Are Solar Panels?

Solar Panels are the longest lived component of a solar power system. They are designed to withstand desert heat, arctic cold, tropical humidity, and winds in excess of 100mph (160kph)

Q12. What Should I Look For When Purchasing A Solar Panel?

An informed buyer will look at a number of items when buying a Solar Panel. First, ask the seller what external agencies have tested, qualified, or otherwise approved the module. In Canada, look for a listing from Underwriters Laboratories (ULC) and look for products that conform to safety and performance standards.

Examine the warranty. Is it vague or does it guarantee a specific level of performance?

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