Latest articles by The Solar Nerd

Keep up to date on industry news and articles relevant to green living and the solar homeowner.

Wind damaged solar array (Credit: FEMA)
Strong winds and home solar panels: installation best practices
Solar panels intended for use on homes and businesses are remarkably strong and designed to withstand many different kinds of abuse from the weather, including rain, hail, and severe wind. In North America, test standards require that solar panels must be able to support 5,400 Pascals (Pa) of force on the front of the panel. That works out to 0.783 pounds per square inch. An average sized solar panel is about 2,500 square inches, which means that one panel can support about 2,000 pounds!
SunPower SunVault battery
AC vs DC coupled battery storage for the home: buyer's tips
Due to prices that continue to fall, new incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act, and power outages that are becoming routine in places like California and Texas, storage batteries are increasingly popular with homeowners. Homeowners can use batteries to keep the lights on during a blackout, store their excess solar electricity for later use, or to save money by lowering their reliance on the grid during utility peak hours. Consumers now have several battery manufacturers to choose from.
Panasonic EverVolt solar panels
Panasonic solar panels: a consumer guide
Panasonic is a big company that is best known for its consumer electronics, but it’s also one of the most popular brands of solar panels. With panel efficiency exceeding 22% and a 25 year warranty that¬†includes labor, Panasonic solar panels are positioned at the “premium” end of the market and compete with other high end manufacturers such as SunPower and REC Group. Though popular, Panasonic has made some changes to its solar division that have created some confusion among consumers.
Investment
Solar ROI: how long does it take for solar to pay for itself?
Going solar is a big investment for any household. An average sized home solar system will cost several thousand dollars even after incentives, so knowing how long it will take to pay back the investment is a key question for most people. On average, an investment in home solar panels will be paid back in roughly six to eight years, but this will depend on the amount of sunlight the system receives, the net metering agreement, and other factors.
Photo of a pole-mounted dual-axis solar tracker
Solar panels that follow the sun: are solar trackers right for you?
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun rises in the east, spends a bunch of time in the southern sky, and then sets in the west. Some plants have developed an ability, called heliotropism, to track the sun as it makes this daily trip across the sky. A young sunflower will point east in the morning, track the sun until it sets in the west, and then reorient themselves so they’re ready for the sun again in the morning.
Photo of house with solar panels.
How to install solar panels over plumbing vents
That’s my house in the photo above. As you can see, it’s got a nice, neat array of solar panels except for one spot where a pipe is sticking out. Darn it! My array doesn’t cover all of my electricity needs, so having one more panel would have been nice. Plus, it would simply look better if there wasn’t a gap in the array. I wasn’t a solar nerd back when I had my solar installed, and I’ve learned a few things that might help you if you’re facing a similar situation.
Photo of partly sunny sky
Do solar panels require direct sunlight?
Solar panels work by turning photons (ie. light) into moving electrons (ie. electricity). Known as the photovoltaic effect, this continues to work under even very low light conditions. Because of that, solar panels don’t need direct sunlight to generate electricity. They’ll continue to generate power even if its cloudy. If your panels are being used for non-critical applications, such as keeping the house battery of your RV topped up, indirect sunlight and cloudy conditions might be just fine.
Generac PWRcell battery and inverter
Generac Power Cell (PWRcell) review
The Generac brand is best known for their fossil fuel-powered generators, which range from small portable generators and home backup units, all the way up to huge industrial-sized generators. Generac has also jumped into the home battery market. This makes sense: batteries paired with solar panels fulfill a need that had previously only been met by natural gas or propane-powered generators. Even though the initial cost is higher, many consumers are choosing the clean energy alterative.
News
Mission Solar expands San Antonio factory to 1 gigawatt
Mission Solar Energy, a solar panel manufacturer based in San Antonio, Texas, shared news last week that it will soon expand its manufacturing capacity. The factory, which is colocated with Mission Solar’s headquarters in south San Antonio, will be adding 300 megawatts of manufacturing capacity immediately. Given that Mission’s highest output solar panel is 375 watts, that works out to about 800,000 panels annually. The factory currently has a capacity of 300 MW, so that means the company is immediately working on doubling the capacity of its 246,000-square-foot factory.
Illustration of an electric home.
Electrify your home? A guide for solar homeowners
All-electric homes are fast becoming one of the latest home trends. If you want to have cleaner indoor air, the latest technology, or save money (and who doesn’t?), an all-electric home might be right for you too. It also makes a lot of sense if you have solar panels, or you’re thinking about it. If you can generate enough electricity from rooftop solar panels, you can power all of the appliances in your home and still have a monthly electric bill that’s near zero.