Solar panels are the world’s new favorite alternative energy source. It’s an entirely green, and cost-effective way to power up your home while reducing your carbon footprint. Plus, since it’s become so popular in recent years, installing your very own panel system is no longer as expensive as before.
However, before acquiring your own set of panels, there are a few things you should consider. First, there is the placement of your panels. While you can absolutely install your panels in the backyard, it isn’t always the most convenient place for them. For one, they may not get the most sun exposure when on the ground due to nearby trees or the shadows cast by your own home.
In that case, your best option is to install the panels on your roof. But a set of rooftop panels presents a whole new set of problems — how to fit them, can your roof handle them and the lens flare the panel’s photovoltaic surface creates. Also, will your panels reflect light into your neighbor’s house? Find out the answer and more in this complete guide to solar panels.
Solar Panels 101
Before getting your set of panels, you need to understand the basics of how the panels work. Solar panels are a type of technology that harnesses UV rays and converts them into thermal and electrical energy.
Manufacturers outfit the panels with a layer of photovoltaic cells that absorb sunlight. After taking in the energy, the cells generate a charge that responds to the cell’s own internal electrical field. The end result of this complex process is a flow of pure electricity.
On average, solar panels can generate more than enough power to supply a modest-sized family home. However, their exact electrical output will depend on the size of the system and where it’s located. As expected, solar panels perform best when you expose them to direct sunlight. But this isn’t to say that they will stop working if there is an overcast or when it’s cold.
The sunlight never completely disappears from the sky, so the panels will continue generating electricity, even if you live in a state that is under a blanket of storm clouds, 365 days a year. Yet that doesn’t mean you will get the most output from your set if you just set it in the shade.
This is why most solar experts generally recommend installing your panels on the roof. Not only does that give them maximum sun exposure during all hours of the day, but it saves you plenty of backyard space for other amenities.
Will Solar Panels Reflect Light Into Your Neighbor’s House?
So, solar panels will work regardless of weather conditions — which is fantastic news if you plan on getting your own system. But will your neighbor feel the same way? The panels’ photovoltaic surface is very similar to a mirror, as it reflects sunlight. Depending on how your panels have been positioned, this glare can end up reflected right into your neighbor’s bedroom window.
But, the good news is that solar panels aren’t nearly as reflective as you may think. Manufacturers outfit the PV surface with a layer of anti-reflective materials to help the cells absorb sunlight more efficiently. As a result, any glare the panels reflect is minimal.
In fact, when rating the reflectiveness of various surfaces, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory gave the solar panels a very low score. Mirrors were at the top of the list, while PV panels were near the bottom, their glimmer comparable to the surface of murky water.
So, if you’re worried about your neighbors complaining about the glare of your panels, rest assured. The glare they reflect is minimal and no brighter than most standard lights we encounter in our daily lives. Plus, if you point them skyward, then you remove the chance of any stray beam of light sneaking into your neighbor’s home to give them a rude awakening.