Latest articles by The Solar Nerd

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

Photo of a home with REC solar panels
REC solar panels: the unofficial product guide
According to Berkeley Lab, a large majority of homeowners are now choosing premium equipment for their home solar systems, including high efficiency solar panels and microinverters. When it comes to panels, one of the brands that’s producing some of the highest efficiency solar panels is REC Group. Founded in Norway in 1996, the company went through the kind of financial difficulties that many solar manufacturers have experienced, culuminating in their acquisition by the Chinese company BlueStar in 2014.
Photo of a calculator
What is light induced degradation in a solar panel?
Solar panels don’t have any moving parts and they last a really long time - but they don’t last forever. There are a lot of reasons why solar panels go bad, from physical failures such as the layers in the panel separating to chemistry-related phenomenon such as potential-induced degradation. It may take decades for the drop is power to be significant, but over time all solar panels lose efficiency. (A solar panel’s 25 year power warranty reflects the manufacturer’s confidence in its long-term performance.
Photo of a solar home
What's the deal with Tesla solar panels?
Tesla Energy, the division of Tesla responsible for solar and home battery products, makes the well-known Solar Roof that looks like sleek roofing tiles but generates clean electricity. But the Solar Roof is an expensive product that is best installed on a home that needs a new roof. If you have a newer roof that doesn’t need replacement, it typically doesn’t make financial sense to install a Solar Roof. In fact, Tesla recently dramatically raised the cost of the Solar Roof - double the price, according to some.
Petersen-Dean logo
Petersen-Dean goes bankrupt: what this means for consumers
Petersen-Dean, a roofing and solar company founded in 1984 that operated in nine states, went bankrupt in 2020, leaving many of its customers in limbo. The company operated in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas. They started as a roofing company, then began offering solar installations, especially in California where solar installations are required on some new homes. While the COVID pandemic was perhaps the straw to break its back, the company was apparently in poor financial health for some time.
A photo of 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 an Anker portable solar panel.
5 Portable solar panels with USB ports
Does your life involve taking lots of little electronic devices with you? Do you constantly worry about how much battery charge you have? Is the nearest outlet sometimes too far away? The solution that people typically reach for is an external battery. These are great and cheap, but suffer from a couple major flaws. First of all: you need to remember to keep them charged. If you have difficulty remembering to charge your phone, with an external battery now you have two things to keep track of.