Latest articles by The Solar Nerd

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

Example of a solar powered garden light
Best solar landscape lighting for your garden or patio
Those little solar powered landscape lights that you can buy almost anywhere are convenient, and look great too. The best part is being able to add landscape lighting to your yard without having to run wiring. Just stake them into the ground wherever you want, and you’re done! Where are often aren’t so great is product quality. I’ve thrown away a lot of cheap solar lights before concluding that I needed to spend a little more money to get something that I wasn’t going to break after only few months.
Photo of chainsaw.
What are half-cut solar panels?
Solar panel manufacturers are always competing against each other to squeeze the most power out of the same size solar panels. If you installed solar panels on your home 10 years ago, you probably had panels with efficiency in the mid-to-high teens (by percentage of light converted to electricity). Today, you can commonly find solar panels that convert more than 20% of the incoming light into electricity, with the current best residential panels hitting nearly 23% efficiency.
a garage
Can you install solar panels on a detached garage or shed?
The average size of a home solar installation in the United States is around 6 kilowatts, which is about 17 high efficiency premium solar panels, or more if you go with a cheaper panel. That many solar panels takes up a lot of space, and you would need a large available roof area to accommodate them. But sometimes, your roof might not be ideal for solar. It might be oriented east-west (which generates less power than a north-south orientation) or, more commonly, you might have shading from nearby trees or buildings.
Photo of a Goal Zero solar kit with power station/battery storage.
Solar panel kits for RV, camping, and other off-grid uses
If you like to get off the grid, whether it’s roughing it in a tent, or you’re more of a “glamper” who likes to stay comfortable in a boat or RV, you probably still like to have electricity to keep your devices powered. We’ve written articles about some of the solar technology you can use to make this happen, such as flexible solar panels, charge controllers, and solar phone chargers. However, if you have big power requirements that involve keeping a larger battery charged, things get a little more complicated.
Photo of a home solar array.
What are the best solar panels for your home?
Are you a meticulous number cruncher who breaks out the spreadsheet whenever you’re planning a big product purchase? If you are, you might conclude after running the numbers that the all-in cost of a system based on budget solar panels is better than one based on premium panels. After all, high-end solar panels can cost roughly 50% more than budget panels, and the increase in electricity generation you get from premium panels might never pay back that initial difference in price.
Side-by-side comparison of Solaria and SunPower products.
Sungevity: a solar company back from the dead
At one point, Sungevity was the 5th largest residential solar installer in the United States. In 2017 it died (Chapter 11 bankruptcy), sold its assets, was reborn as a new company called Solar Spectrum, merged with another California installer called Horizon Solar Power, and then it brought back the Sungevity name. Along the way, it used debt and private equity to pursue a strategy of high growth - presumably to keep up with other high growth rivals like Sunrun and Vivint.