Latest articles by The Solar Nerd

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

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I have solar panels installed. Why is my electric bill so high?
Do you already have solar panels on your home? Normally that’s a great thing, but maybe you’re looking at your monthly utility bill and wondering why it’s not lower. For most people, helping the environment is one reason why people go solar, but the top reason according to market research is saving money on your electric bill. This is why it can be so frustrating if you’ve spent thousands of dollars on a solar installation or committed to a 25 year solar lease and you’re looking at a monthly electric bill that’s still pretty high.
Sunrun: The complete review and consumer guide
If you live in a city where home solar is popular, like any of the big cities in southern California or the Bay Area, you’ve probably heard about Sunrun. Maybe you’ve seen their blue vans rolling around town, or had their sales people knock on your door. Sunrun is the largest home solar installer in the US by a wide margin: they currently have about 14% of the US market. Not only that, but they recently acquired Vivint Solar, adding another 6% market share to their total.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Photo of a girl clearing snow off solar panels
What happens when there is snow on your solar panels?
I live in Buffalo, a city known for chicken wings and wicked snowstorms. Despite my city’s reputation for snow, much of the year is great for solar production. Still, I can expect to lose at least a couple weeks of energy production in the middle of each winter due to snow collecting on my panels and blocking out sunlight. It doesn’t take much snow to curtail electricity production. If there’s just a light dusting, there might be enough residual heat energy in the glass to melt the snow.
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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.