Summer is here and homeowners all over are getting outside and soaking up the sun's rays. It is great to have solar panels during this time of year, although they do work all year round, the longer summer days mean more electricity production and lower utility bills. If you're looking for a way to lower your electricity bills maybe it's time you get your own mini electricity plant. Depending on where you live, your adventure with green energy can be a very simple process. However, make sure you gain as much information as you can about green energy before you start.

How Solar Panels Work: Most people know that solar panels somehow make the sunlight into electricity, but how exactly do they do this? Well the solar cells capture the sun’s rays and convert them to DC electricity. You’ll tend to notice that the pricing on solar panels can vary. This is because there are different materials that the solar cells can be made of, monocrystalline silicon and polycrystalline silicon. The more expensive, and most effective solution would be getting the monocrystalline silicon. This material is typically what people will use when they have limited space on their roof for panels due to the fact you get more energy per square area. However, polycrystalline silicon is used more for widespread area such as farms. Although, the greater area means more maintenance and more chance of failure.

Setting up your panels: There are a variety of different ways that you can configure your panels, each depending of how you want your energy to be used.

Photovoltaic Direct This is the type of solar power that you used on a calculator and wouldn't be much helpful for you for a home.

Off-Grid Off-grid photovoltaic systems are not hooked up the grid and are typically used to provide entire power needs. A battery bank is used for the long, dark nights as well. Off- grid systems can be good for temporary set ups or even very remote ones.

Grid-Tied with Battery Backup With this set up you store your own power, but you can also pull it from the grid if you don’t make enough. You’ll be able to continue to use the system in an outage because you have stored some electricity.  

Batteryless Grid-Tied This will be the most common system today, because your solar energy goes into your house. Whatever is needed in the home is taking in and then sent back out while the meter will keep track of both what comes in and what goes out. The main downfall to these systems is there is no backup in the case the power were to go out.

How to get the most out of your system: There are several things that are recommended you should do before installing your solar panels. Waterproof your home so that the tiny leaks won't change how much you benefit for solar in a big way. Upgrade your windows finding the best U-factor for you home. Invest in Energy Star appliances, it is a lot easier for the solar panels to power these rather than trying to power a 50 year old washing machine. Depending on where you live, it can be extremely beneficial to plant trees and bushes, strategically of course, so they can shade problematic parts of the home.