Latest articles by The Solar Nerd

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

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.
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.
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? I certainly am. The last time I bought a car, and made a spreadsheet with the specifications of all the car models I was considering. I rank-ordered them in each of the categories that were important to me, and made my decision based on which one performed the best. Figuring out which solar panel is best for you is a little like that, although with this article I hope to make is less complicated for you.