Building Solar Panels
Solar Panels now come in many shapes and sizes to reflect growing demand for the products. In fact, there are so
many companies out there and so many new products that figuring out which ones to buy has become much more
difficult than it should be.
In our own search for the right solar-panels we quickly learned that we just didn’t know enough about solar
energy and solar panels in general. We knew we needed help in understanding the new solar panels but where would we
find that help? We needed a simple guide that even we could understand.
We had decided to install solar panels in our home, we just didn’t know enough about them to make a good
decision. So we did an internet search, which quickly revealed a number of sources of information. We were relieved
that there was so much information out there to help us!
It looked like all of the books were basically the same so we bought one called ‘The Solar Energy Installation
Guide” The title sounded right on and we were excited to get started.
What a mistake!
In this book, Jane and I couldn’t understand the complicated installation drawings. The technical language
looked like it was designed to show us how much the author knew about solar energy, and that didn’t help us at all.
We hadn’t learned anything new, and we were now out $20.
A little wiser we continued our search for a simple guide to understanding solar energy and installing our own
We ended up buying another 4 books that really didn’t help at all. Yes, there was some useful information in
each one, but not one of the books really got down to showing us what to do and how to do it.
We had now spent $94 and still didn’t know how to install our own Solar Panels.
Our son Andre’ was just itching to get started on this latest project of installing solar-panels and we still
had not found a suitable guide book. We had searched every online book store and magazine rack we could find and
still no guide to understanding and installing solar panels.
Then our friend Bill told us that he would spend weekends with us and show us the ins and outs of installing
solar panels. We're very grateful for his help as he explained everything in laymans terms without that complicated
jargon that we had accustomed to reading.
We got started with our Solar-Panel selection the next day, and the next weekend Andre’, Bill and I were
installing the first SolarPanels on the house.
Here is some of what we learned:
Some basic choices…
Right now you can choose from three main types of SolarPanels- Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline and ThinFilm (
Tried and True Monocrystalline Solar Panels
For many years monocrystalline solar modules have been the mainstay of the solar market. Those iridescent blue
faced panels you have been seeing on rooftops are probably of this type of panels.
They have distinct rounded individual solar cells visible from all angles stacked in very uniform rows.
This type of solar panel is produced from a single silicon ingot or crystal. Manufacturing costs are very high
because of this process making them the most expensive solar modules on the market.
They are, however the most space efficient type of solar panel making them the correct choice when space is at a
Monocrystalline cells have a life expectancy far exceeding 25 years, probably over 50 years. The only real
problem with this type of cell is it’s fragile nature making it a requirement that it be mounted in a very rigid
Polycrystalline Solar Panels…
Polycrystalline modules are manufactured from a block of multi-crystalline silicon. They are usually square and
have a varied, almost mosaic-like appearance.
Only slightly less efficient than monocrystalline modules they are cheaper to manufacture and thus cost less
You can expect the same great lifespan as monocrystalline cells too.
Thin Film Solar Panels…
Recently a new product was introduced into the market that could provide some much needed answers for solar
power users. Amorphous silicon PV or thin film technology could make rigid solar panels obsolete if some better
research is done.
Thin film solar panels are produced by applying silicon material on glass or stainless steel, or more commonly
between two pieces of flexible laminate material.
Solid or rigid thin film panels are in use by flexible laminated thin film panels are more popular. The flexible
panels can be applied to any surface and sometimes used as roofing material.
Most customers like the almost seamless blending of solar panels right into their roof top. Saving you the cost
of regular shingles or steel roofing, thin film solar panels are a good choice.
These panels are not nearly as efficient at converting light to electricity when compared to mono or
polycrystalline solar panels- not nearly by half. You would need twice the space to accommodate their
From a manufacturing standpoint they do absorb light more efficiently though, allowing for a thinner design and
less material being used in their manufacture.
The real benefit, because less material is needed, is in the simplified manufacturing process resulting in
lowered costs to build. The lower price has pushed thin film panels to the lead in price per watt of output.
The panels may have to be slightly larger, but it costs less for the homeowner for every watt of power
production. They are flexible, light and rarely break during shipping. Add in the great price and this makes thin
film panels a great choice where space is not a consideration.
The jury is still out on the lifespan of these panels though. Some say they will last just as long as
monocrystalline panels, others point to their decreased efficiencies only a couple of years after purchase.
We've decided to put all of our hard earned information about installing solar panels into an easy to understand
guide for people who were like us and just could figure out how to set up their solar installation.
Did I mention this saves $3000?
The great part about this is that you can save a lot of money by installing and wiring the solar panels
yourself. Trust me, once you've been shown how to do it the rest is easy... it's getting someone who can explain it
without using rocket scientist lingo.