What Are the Different Types of Solar Panels?

In 2019 the U.S. surpassed 2 million solar installations nationwide with forecasts expecting that number to double by 2023. With so many people eager to embrace this new wave of clean energy, it can be difficult to know what types of solar panels are best suited to your specific needs.

Thankfully, this simple guide should help orient both first-time and returning solar power users to the pros and cons of each solar panel variant and allow you to discover which is the best solar panel choice for your home, business, or otherwise.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

The first and most common type of solar panel is the monocrystalline solar panel. These are typically used for smaller, residential building projects. These panels are noted for their higher efficiency rates when compared to alternatives. They also sport a much sleeker appearance.

Monocrystalline panels are produced using single-crystal silicon. This means that the electrons flowing through the material have more room to move and generate electricity. This results in an efficiency rate ranging from 17% to 22%. This is the highest of the three major types of solar panels on the market today.

The appearance of these panels is attributed to their creation using the Czochralski method. This method involves dipping a “seed” silicon crystal into a large vat of molten silicon. The seed is then removed from the vat. The molten material is allowed to cool around the seed and create a single silicon crystal. This results in a uniform, dark black color across all monocrystalline panels.

This unique process means that monocrystalline panels are generally sold as “premium” products. This makes them one of the most expensive types of solar panels on the market today.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels are a frequent choice of the homeowner looking to install solar panels on a budget. These panels are noted for their moderate energy rate. They also tend to be generally less “attractive” than their counterparts.

Polycrystalline panels are produced using multi-crystal silicon. This makes it difficult for electrons to flow freely through the material. This results in an efficiency rate ranging from 15% to 17%. This puts it slightly below monocrystalline’s output.

Similar to monocrystalline, polycrystalline panels are formed by dipping a “seed” crystal into a vat of molten silicon. However, instead of removing the seed from the vat before allowing it to set, the entire vat is allowed to cool and set around the seed. This method creates a panel with multiple crystal structures. This results in a marbled blue-ish tint to the material which some homeowners view as an eyesore.

However, This more streamlined creation process makes polycrystalline solar panels much more affordable. Unfortunately, they also have a slightly lower energy output.

Thin Film Solar Panels

Thin film solar panels are completely unique from other crystalline solar panels. They are the only type of solar panel constructed without the use of silicon crystals. These panels are rarely used in residential installations as their efficiency is low. However, they make a popular choice for large-scale or industrial construction projects.

Thin film solar panels can be produced using a variety of substances. Each substance results in different variants of thin film paneling. Despite this, thin film panels still have the lowest efficiency rating of all. Their efficiency can range anywhere from 10% to 13%.

In place of crystals, thin film solar panels use what are known as “photovoltaic substances.” The panels are produced by placing a thin layer of a photovoltaic substance onto any preferred material type. Common paneling materials include glass, metal, and plastic. This results in a solar panel that is not only dark black and incredibly lightweight but also flexible.

Because of their simplistic design, thin film solar panels are the most affordable option for solar energy on the market. However, due to their low efficiency rating, most homeowners use crystalline panels instead.

Which Types of Solar Panels Are Best for You?

Now that we have covered the general pros and cons of each solar panel type, you are probably wondering how to decide which solar panel is the perfect fit for you. Well, the final answer is completely dependent on your own energy needs, roof space, and budget.

To make your decision a little simpler, unless you are planning on building a skyscraper or condominium in your backyard any time soon, you can more than likely rule out thin film solar panels as an option. Their low efficiency rate is only made up for on buildings with a large enough surface area, which residential roofing does not provide.

When comparing solar panels, remember that the higher the efficiency of each panel, the fewer panels you will need to meet your energy needs. Therefore, if you have a smaller home with limited roof space, monocrystalline panels may be the only way to meet your energy needs.

Likewise, if you have a larger home with more roof space, you may be able to meet your energy needs with the less efficient polycrystalline panels. Just keep in mind that you will not be getting the sleek, dark black look of the monocrystalline panels.

So What’s the Right Choice?

Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. However, with the information provided here, you should be well equipped to decide which types of solar panels best suit your needs.

If you still have some unanswered questions, or you are interested in getting a free quote on your own solar panel installation, feel free to reach out to us at Altair Solar!

Roof with solar panels

Residential Solar Panels: Weighing the Costs and Savings for Your Home

Did you know that solar energy offsets over seventy million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year? Besides the positive environmental impact, residential solar panels can also help you save a lot of money on your monthly energy bills. However, it’s important to remember that the initial installation costs will be a little costly.

If you’re interested in residential solar panels, then you may be wondering whether or not they’re worth the investment for your home. Luckily, we’ve organized this article to help you break down the costs and savings that come with installing a system. That way, you can be sure whether it’s the right decision for your home. Let’s get started!

How Much Do Residential Solar Panels Cost?

Before we go into the costs of residential solar panels, it’s important to decide whether they’re right for you or not. Luckily, we’ve organized this guide to help you decide. If you’re interested, then your next consideration is likely how much a system will set you back. The exact cost of solar panels depends on a variety of factors.

The most important consideration is how big you want your system to be. Some people simply want to offset their traditional electricity bill by a little every month. Others want to rely solely on solar for all of their energy needs. Ultimately, the size of your system will play a big factor in how much the initial investment costs.

However, it will also play a big factor in how much you save each month on bills. In California, the average cost of a solar system is between $12,900 to $17,400, or around $2.91 per Watt of energy. If this sounds like a lot, then don’t panic. There are a variety of ways you can save on these costs.


What is the Average Payback Period For Solar Energy?

A payback period refers to the amount of time it takes for the solar system to pay for itself. It does this through savings in monthly energy costs that would typically go toward your traditional electricity bill. The average payback period takes around seven years. However, ultimately, it depends on how you pay for your system.

The size of it also plays an important factor. However, the payback period isn’t the only amount of savings you’ll receive. In the next section we’ll go over some of the other incentives you can get.


Ways to Save On Your Residential Solar Panels

Many people are initially intimidated by the large price tag attached to most solar systems. However, it’s important to remember that you can cut this cost down through a variety of savings. These savings come in the form of tax incentives, rebates, and financing options. In this section, we’ll take a look at three of the popular ways you can save on solar panels in California.


Federal Tax Credit

The Federal Tax Credit for solar photovoltaics is one of the best ways to save on the final price of your new solar system. So how does it work? Essentially, a percentage of the price you paid for your solar panels will be taken out of your federal income taxes in the form of a tax credit. As of right now, you will be able to claim 26% credit on the price of your system.

So, let’s say you purchase a residential solar panel system for $15,000. 26% of $15,000 is $3,900. So, your final federal income tax would be reduced by $3,900. Talk about savings!

However, it’s important to take advantage of this tax credit before 2021. Why? Because in 2021 the percentage of tax credit will decrease to 22%. While you’ll still save money, it won’t be as much as the 26% incentive available in 2020.


California Solar Rebates

Many cities and counties in California offer what is known as the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Financing Program. This program is offered by the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). It allows homeowners to finance their solar panels and pay them back in the form of property tax.

If you live in Rancho Mirage, then the Rancho Mirage Energy Authority will pay $500 to cover the cost of your permit fee. Finally, you can still take advantage of net metering in California.

This program allows you to take bill credits for any extra solar capacity your home generates that isn’t used. However, this net metering does have a capacity of 5%. This is based on the accumulated customer peak demand for the metering program.

$0 Upfront Leasing 

If the expensive price tag is still worrying you, then consider going with a company that offers $0 upfront leasing. When you go with this option, the leasing company technically owns the solar system. Instead of paying in one massive chunk, you pay as you go. This option is ideal for people who want solar but can’t afford the initial investment.

The only downside to this is it will take the longest amount of time to see an ROI (or, return on investment). If the return on investment is really important to you, then your best bet is with an upfront cash purchase.


Need Solar Panels in the Orange County Area? Contact Altair Solar

We hope this article helped you decide whether or not you want to install residential solar panels. Ultimately, if you’re willing to put in the money for a good system, then you’ll eventually see energy savings from it. But how do you find a good solar panel supplier that you can trust?

If you live in the Orange County area, then look no further than Altair Solar. Our engineers, manager, and installers have over thirty years of experience in the solar industry.

As such, we can provide you with a detailed analysis of your home so you get the best system for your needs. On top of that, you get a lifetime of monitoring from us, so you always know if a problem occurs. So what are you waiting for? Contact us today and schedule your free site visit. 

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Going Green: How to Finance Solar Panels in Los Angeles for Your Home

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Are you struggling with massive utility bills? Wondering how you can keep your family afloat in an age of rising costs, and rising temperatures?

Well, you are not alone.

Energy costs and average temperatures are on the rise all over California. Many homeowners in Los Angeles are deciding to go green and make the smart switch to solar energy.

Solar power comes with tons of great benefits, both for the environment and for your wallet. Going solar is a great way to help the heating planet while saving thousands on energy bills in the long run. Plus, the cost of installing solar panels in Los Angeles is much lower than you might realize.

Want to make this affordable switch? This detailed breakdown makes it easy to start the process:

Understanding the Major Tax Incentives of Going Solar

One of the biggest advantages of getting solar panels in Southern California is the major tax credits that come with making the switch to solar.

If you install your system before the end of 2021, you could see massive savings on your federal and state taxes, thanks to The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), created in 2006.

Solar Investment Tax Credits offer homeowners a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their federal and state income taxes. For example, when you claim a $1,000 federal tax credit, the amount you owe to the government is reduced by $1,000. Those are some major savings!

Also, homeowners could get tax rebates that cover many of the costs of solar panel installation. These include, but are not limited to, site preparation, assembly fees, inspection costs, any sales taxes, and the installation of the system itself. Claiming these tax credits could save you almost $5,000 on your solar panel system installation costs, on average.

For more questions about the ITC, download the U.S. Department of Energy’s Guide to Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics.

Installing Solar Panels in Los Angeles With a One-Time Cash Payment

Purchasing your own solar panel system comes with big upfront costs. But, it also comes with the shortest Return on Investment (ROI), and the ability to own your very own system.

Owning your own solar panel system is the easiest purchasing option. It can mean you pay almost nothing for your monthly electrical costs. This could save your family thousands of dollars a year.

The average cost of installing a solar panel system completely out-of-pocket is around $18,000. But with that cost comes virtually free energy for life.

Even if you decide to go the cash payment route, it is still wise to hire professionals to install your home system. The dangers and costs of installing solar panels could be way too extreme for a DIY project.

$0 Upfront Solar Leasing

Paying out-of-pocket for a solar panel system can get expensive. If your family is unable to afford a one-time payment, there are still plenty of zero-down financing options. One of these, called a solar lease, can help to mitigate the cost of installing solar panels in Los Angeles.

With solar leasing, you enter into an agreement with a leasing company for the solar panel system. This means the company you lease from owns and maintains your system, in exchange for you paying a fixed monthly “rent.”

In this type of agreement, the leasing company would receive all tax cuts, rebates, and other solar incentives. But, your electrical costs could be anywhere from 10%-30% lower than a traditional energy bill. That means major savings for your family, plus free installation of your system.

Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs)

Another zero-down solar panel system financing option is the Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA). This type of agreement is like a solar lease. The PPA provider owns and maintains your system, while you pay a low monthly cost.

The major difference between a PPA and solar lease is the way your monthly costs are calculated. With a PPA, you agree to pay a set per-kWh rate for the amount of energy generated by your system, instead of the fixed monthly “rent” you would pay with a solar lease.

Much like a solar lease, your PPA provider would receive all tax benefits. Still, you could see energy costs that are 20%-30% lower than a traditional energy bill. Again, that is with no upfront installation costs.

Learn more about the differences between solar leases vs. solar PPAs. This way you can determine the perfect fit for your family.

Financing Your System With a Solar Loan

The fourth option to pay for the costs of installing solar panels in Los Angeles is the solar loan. With a solar loan, you borrow money from a third-party lender to pay for your system installation. Then you pay back the loan plus interest in monthly installments.

If you use a solar loan to buy your solar panels, you become the sole owner of your system. Much like a cash purchase, this means you get all the tax benefits and incentives. This also brings your monthly energy costs down to almost nothing.

Plenty of solar loans come with a $0-down lending option, though monthly payment installments are still required. Your monthly payment amount is calculated based on the costs of your system, your interest rate, and the type of loan you choose.

Now Is the Time to Save

It is a critical moment, both for the planet and your pocketbook, to go green and make the switch to solar energy.

Luckily, installing solar panels in Los Angeles is easy and affordable. There are plenty of $0-down options. In every case, monthly payments can be up to 30% lower than your current utility bill.

Ready to get started?

Contact us to begin the process of making the switch today. The sooner you go solar, the sooner you will start seeing major savings. Your wallet, and the planet, will be glad you did.


FTA: PTASP Deadline Extended to December 31, 2020 - Missouri Public Transit  Association

Why You Need to Install Your Solar Panels Before 2021

FTA: PTASP Deadline Extended to December 31, 2020 - Missouri Public Transit  Association

Why You Need to Install Your Solar Panels Before 2021

Converting our energy use to more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy sources is growing in strength and demand – both with homeowners and as a manner of national importance. While you may be considering the benefits of installing a solar system in your home in the future, there is a compelling reason why you will want to act now and get it installed before December 31, 2020.

There is a Federal Tax Credit Reduction in 2021

The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) was created in 2006 to support the implementation of more solar energy use within the United States. It initially granted a 30% tax credit. In 2020, the ITC was reduced to 26% for both residential and commercial installations. The tax credit will be further reduced from 26% to only 22% in 2021.

The Residential Tax Credit Ends in 2022

The Solar Investment Tax Credit drops to 0% for residential installations in 2022. The commercial tax credit will be reduced to 10%. It doesn’t look like there is going to be another extension such as was granted in 2015.

What is the Solar Investment Tax Credit?

If a homeowner installs solar panels before the end of 2021, they are given a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their income taxes. For example, an average solar system costs around $18,000. If solar panels are installed in your home during 2020, you will be able to subtract $4,680 from your federal tax bill.

Who is Eligible to Claim the Solar Tax Credit?

Anyone who meets the federal qualifications is eligible to claim the ITC. Under the residential credit, you must be the property owner, a member of a condominium, or a tenant-stockholder in a cooperative housing corporation who directly contributed to the solar PV system and meet all the following criteria:

  • A solar photovoltaic (PV) system must be installed between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2021.
  • It must be an “original installation” of new equipment, not used.
  • The solar panel system must be located at your primary or secondary residence within the United States.
  • The solar system can be purchased with cash or financing but it cannot be leased nor can any solar power be purchased by the homeowner from another solar system.

What Solar Installation Costs are Included in the Tax Credit?

Homeowners can calculate the tax credit off the material and installation costs of any solar PV panels or cells, storage devices, wiring, inverters and mounting equipment. Installation costs can include site preparation, assembly, permitting fees, inspection costs, developer fees and includes any sales taxes plus the actual installation.

If you will receive a rebate or a tax credit from your state, it will not affect your federal tax credit. (Your state credit will, however, reduce your state taxes which will increase your federal taxes. So, there is a small impact.)

If you will receive a rebate from your utility company for installing a solar system, the rebate is subtracted from the installation cost and the federal credit is calculated off the remainder. If your utility company agrees to purchase excess current from you or provides you with a cash incentive, this is considered as taxable income and it will not reduce your tax credit.

Do You Have More ITC Questions?

Download the Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy.

If you want to save an average of $4,700 on your solar energy system installation, make sure you have it installed before December 31, 2020!