Latest articles by The Solar Nerd

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

Images of Maxeon/SunPower solar cells.
SunPower solar panels: the unofficial product guide
Among the premium solar panel manufacturers that are popular in the US, California-based SunPower stands out. Their solar panels are at the top end of efficiency, but they also have an extensive dealer network to support a 25 year product warranty. The strong warranty and installer certification program are some of the reasons why The Solar Nerd network includes several SunPower dealers. While this might make it seem like we’re biased toward SunPower, there are other excellent brands worthy of consideration, such as LG and Solaria.
Photo of umbrellas.
Are solar panels covered by homeowner's insurance?
You’ve got homeowner’s insurance, right? If you have a mortgage, you almost certainly do, because lenders require it. If you’re thinking of adding solar panels to your home or already have solar, it’s definitely a good idea to pull out your policy documents and get familiar with what is and isn’t covered. Insurance plans are personalized, so the coverage in your neighbor’s plan might not be the same as yours, even if you use the same company.
Which are the most popular solar panels?
There are a LOT of solar panel manufacturers out there, and knowing which one is the best for your project can be a little daunting. This is especially true if you’re doing a DIY project. If you’re a homeowner who is getting multiple quotes for a solar installation, you’ll be faced with a few choices, but those will usually be limited in scope. Your installer might be a certified installer for one of the premium brands such as SunPower, LG, or Panasonic, in which case that brand will usually be their first proposal to you.
Photo of a closed business.
What happens if your solar company goes out of business?
Residential solar has taken off like crazy in the United States in the past decade. About 162,000 people in the US work in jobs directly related to solar installation, while solar in general employs a quarter of a million people. That’s a lot! It’s a huge new sector of the economy. But like any other business sector, there are excellent companies, and some not-so-excellent ones too. With thousands of solar installers around the country, it’s inevitable that some operations will be poorly run, fall behind their competition, or generally face challenges that cause them to close up shop.
Solar array on the ISS
How efficient are solar panels?
The photovoltaic effect was first discovered in 1839 by Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel when he was 19 years old. Becquerel’s early experiments involved silver and platinum and generated only tiny amounts of electricity. It wasn’t until decades later that the first true solar cell was built using selenium by Charles Fritt in 1883. Those first cells still weren’t very efficient, only converting about 1% of the incoming light into electricity, but were a significant advancement.
Fraud alert
5 types of solar installer scams (with real examples)
There are thousands of rooftop solar installers across the United States, and most of them are honest companies that do good work. Unfortunately, like any industry, there’s always a few bad apples. There are great plumbers out there, but you could also end up with a company that tries to fix a leak with silly putty. This is why when you hire any type of contractor, whether it’s to install solar panels on your roof or fix a leaky toilet, it’s always a good idea to do a little research so that you can become a better informed consumer.
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.