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 Telsa solar panel. Courtesy Tesla Inc.
Tesla 400 and 425 watt solar panels: an overview
Tesla’s Energy division gets less attention than its vehicles, but it continues to plug along, with 345 MW of solar panels installed in 2021. For many years, Telsa (and SolarCity before it was acquired by Tesla) installed solar panels from other manufacturers, including Q Cells, LG, and Panasonic. For a few years, Tesla and Panasonic had a partnership to manufacture solar panels at the Gigafactory in Buffalo, but that relationship ended in 2020.
Solar panels in Reno, Nevada
Nevada net metering rules demystified
When it comes to solar energy potential, Nevada is one of the best places in the country. That’s why some of the largest utility-scale solar power plants are located in Nevada, such as the 552 megawatt Copper Mountain Solar Facility and the 392 MW Ivanpah concentrating solar facility. Utilities in Nevada, however, aren’t quite as keen when it comes to solar panels that are owned by homeowners. After all, every kilowatt-hour of electricity that a homeowner generates with their own solar panels represents lost revenue for the utility companies.
sonnenCore battery
California's SGIP solar battery rebate explained
As solar panels have become mainstream in the United States and especially California, energy storage has become more and more important. California is trying to deploy as much energy storage as possible, with gigawatts worth of batteries coming online. Homeowners can get in on the act too. Even if you have solar panels, your home won’t have electricity during a blackout unless you have a battery. The Self-Generation Incentive Program is operated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
Photo of a cracked solar panel
What can you do about a cracked solar panel?
Solar panels for home and commercial use are really tough. They’re designed to withstand hurricanes, rain storms, and hail, and will usually continue to work for 25 years or more. That doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. While they’re designed to withstand impacts from one-inch hail, a wayward baseball or unusually large hailstone can shatter the tempered glass. If this happens, you might notice the telltale spider pattern of broken glass. What can you do about it?
Photo of a north compass arrow
Can you put solar panels on a north facing roof?
If you live in the Northern hemisphere, solar panels will receive the most sunlight if they face south. (This is reversed in the Southern hemisphere, so if you live in Australia the preferred direction is north). If you’re a homeowner interested in solar, you might not have this option: maybe the south-facing part of your roof is interrupted by vents, skylights or gables, or is shaded by trees. West is usually the next best option (which generates electricity during the evening peak) followed by east.
Illustration of two thermometers
Solar panel temperature coefficient explained
If you’ve ever looked at the product sheet for a solar panel, you may have been confronted by tables of cryptic numbers and electrical terminology. Unless you’re an electrician or electrical engineer, you’ll probably find these a little bewildering. Fortunately, the average consumer can ignore most of them. Unless you’re an installer or hobbyist, many of the numbers are electrical specs that won’t matter to you. One exception, however, is power temperature coefficient.
Enphase IQ batteries: overview and specifications
If you’re looking for a solar storage battery for your home, Enphase offers several options with its IQ series. Enphase is best known for its microinverters. Most solar homeowners these days are choosing power optimizers or microinverters over conventional central inverters, and Enphase dominates the North American microinverter market with its IQ7 and new IQ8 series. Meanwhile, lithium batteries are getting cheaper all the time, utility companies are having scheduled blackouts (aka power safety shutoffs) due to wildfire risks, and utilities continue to attack net metering.
Taxes illustration
Can you get a tax credit for solar panels?
Homeowners who want to go solar are usually interested in helping the environment, but for many people the top reason for adding solar panels to their house is to save money. Fortunately, everyone in the United States can be eligible for a federal income tax credit, which is currently worth 30% of the total system costs. For example, if you have a solar system with an invoice price of $20,000, the credit can reduce the amount of federal income tax you owe by $6,000.
Photo of a HOA-type neighborhood.
Can a homeowners association prohibit solar panels?
A homeowner’s association (HOA) is a management organization for a private community that makes and enforces rules for that community. It collects fees that pays for the upkeep of common property of the neighborhood, such as landscaping costs and common areas. On top of that, an HOA often has bylaws designed to maintain a common appearance to homes. For example, it may dictate the type of roofing materials that are permitted or the color that you’re allowed to paint the exterior.