Home solar systems have become quite popular in Pakistan over the last decade or so. They are considered to be an eco-friendly and renewable solution to Pakistan’s energy crisis. But what exactly are home solar systems, how do they work and are they worth the high price?
Solar Panels – A Brief History
Solar panels, also known as PV or photovoltaic panels, collect clean, renewable energy in the form of sunlight, which is composed of energy particles called photons, and convert it into electricity that can be used to power electrical loads. They can be used for a wide range of applications, such as telecommunications equipment, remote sensing, and production of electricity for commercial and residential use.
The development of solar energy goes back over a century. Solar energy was initially used for the production of steam that would then be used to operate machinery. But in 1839, a nineteen year old French experimental physicist, Edmond Becquerel, discovered that exposing certain material to sunlight can generate a weak electric current. This phenomenon was called the photovoltaic effect.
Though there were a few versions of solar cells invented in the decades after, it was Russel Ohl, an American inventor working for Bell Laboratories, who patented the world’s first silicon solar cell in 1941. This led to the production of the first ever solar panel in 1954 by the same company.
Solar panels were initially used in space satellites. Though most people saw the first solar panels embedded in their calculators in the 1970s! Today, solar panel systems are used to power entire homes and commercial buildings, such as Google’s headquarters in California.
Solar Panels In Home
The past decade has brought about an era of solar panels in home use. Many people are slowly transitioning away from a fossil-fueled electricity grid towards a clean energy solution – though the choice to opt for solar solutions in Pakistan is generally fueled by electricity shortages and energy crisis.
Experts state that for solar energy to be economically viable, there needs to be at least four hours of peak sunlight – meaning that the sunlight needs to be bright and shining directly upon the installed panels. Most of Pakistan has over 300 sunny days and the majority of the landmass gets over seven hours of daily sunlight every year, making the country an excellent candidate for solar-based solutions.
Yet, solar panels, though now rising in popularity, are not as common.
This is mainly because the cost of installing a solar panel system can be quite high, ranging from 200,000 PKR to 2 million PKR, depending on the capacity and power of the panels. The main expense comes upfront when buying the equipment. In addition to the main panels, other necessary equipment includes an inverter, metering equipment and various cables and wiring gear.
Even though the prices are high, homeowners should consider this a one-time expense, as generating electricity using sunlight will prove to be cheaper in the long term.
What are the benefits of Solar Panels?
- Solar power is eco-friendly.
Solar power is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. It does not release any greenhouse gases and only requires a source of clean water to function. Because of its self-sufficient and renewable nature, installing solar panels on your rooftop will help you contribute to a sustainable future.
- Solar power causes less electricity loss
Electricity needs to be transported from power plants to residential houses. Long distance transmission can cause power losses. Rooftop solar power systems help in increasing electricity efficiency.
- Solar power improves grid security
With a self-sustaining solar powered system, it is less likely that you will face any blackout when a natural or human-caused disaster occurs.
- Solar power is a ‘free’ source of energy
Once you have paid off the initial cost of installing a solar power system in your house, you will start to reap its benefits in the long term. You will have to pay lower electricity bills, depending on the size of your panels. As long as they are absorbing sunlight, they will keep on generating electricity to support your domestic needs.
- You can sell solar-generated electricity
The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) offers a billing mechanism called ‘net metering’, which allows homeowners to feed the surplus solar energy to the grid in exchange for a reduction in the regular utility bill.
To do this, you have to sign a net metering contract with your local electricity distribution company, who will work with NEPRA to grant you a renewable energy generation license.
- A home with solar power has more value
The growing trend towards ‘green living’ means that there will be a growing demand towards houses that have a smaller carbon footprint. That and the long term financial benefits of solar panels will raise the monetary value of a property.
Should You Get a Home Solar Electric System?
Solar energy can be quite beneficial, but it is not suited for everyone. Before you get a solar electrical system installed, take the following steps to ensure that it is a viable option for you:
- Make sure your home is energy efficient
Investigate your energy use by calculating your total electricity usage and consider implementing low-cost energy upgrades – for instance, install eco-friendly electrical appliances and switch to energy efficient lighting such as LED. Such measures will help you save electricity and potentially lower your bills. With managed finances and controlled energy wastage, you may not even need to invest in solar panels.
- Assess the solar potential of your home
The power generated by a solar energy system depends on how much direct and scattered sunlight reaches the panels. So, it is important to calculate if your house is in a location where you will be able to benefit from a solar electrical system. To do so, ask yourself the following questions:
- Would the location of your house allow good southern exposure?
- Is your roof strong, flat and roomy enough to hold solar panels properly?
- Are there any tall trees or buildings that would block the sunlight or cast a shadow over the panels?
3. Calculate your solar energy needs
Review your electricity bills to determine your monthly and annual electricity needs, and then consider any changes to your home that you may be planning in the near future, such as a room extension or addition to electrical appliances. This will make it easier for you to determine how big of a solar electrical system your house would need.
Getting a Home Solar Panel System
If you are planning on installing a solar panel system in your home, then It is imperative that you go to a certified seller. Discuss your needs and options with them in detail, and take into account the warranty they are offering before reaching a final decision.