Frequently Asked Questions

What do we mean by photovoltaics? The word itself helps to explain how photovoltaic (PV) or solar electric technologies work. First used in about 1890, the word has two parts: photo, a word derived from the Greek phos, which means light; and volt, which is a measurement unit named for Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), a pioneer in the study of electricity. So, photovoltaics could literally be translated as ‘light-electricity’. And that’s just what photovoltaic materials and devices do; they convert light energy to electricity, as Edmond Becquerel and others discovered in the 18th Century.

A PV system is made up of different components. These include PV modules (groups of PV cells), which are commonly called PV solar panels; one or more batteries; a charge regulator or controller for a stand-alone system; an inverter for a utility-grid-connected system and when alternating current (AC) rather than direct current (DC) is required; cables; and mounting hardware or a framework.

A PV system that is designed, installed, and maintained well will operate for more than 20 years. The basic PV module (interconnected, enclosed panel of PV cells) has no moving parts and can last more than 25 years. The best way to ensure and extend the life and effectiveness of your PV system is by having it installed and maintained properly. Experience has shown that most problems occur because of poor or shoddy system design, installation and maintenance.

PV can be used to power your entire home’s electrical systems, including lights, cooling systems, and appliances. PV systems today can be blended easily into both typical and atypical homes. The most common practice is to mount modules onto a south-facing roof or wall. For an additional aesthetic appeal, some modules resemble traditional roof shingles.

PV systems can be blended into virtually every conceivable structure for commercial buildings. You will find PV being used outdoors for security lighting as well as in structures that serve as covers for parking lots and bus shelters, car ports; generating power at the same time.

The size of solar system you need depends on several factors such as how much electricity you need (load profile) and how many hours of the day (run time) you want it to supply electricity, the size of roof/ground space available and how much you’re willing to invest. Furthermore, your consideration on whether you want the system to supply your complete energy usage or to supplant a portion of your higher cost energy usage is also a major point of consideration.

Roof-mounted tends to be less expensive as they require no support structures and are most often not visible to passersby. On the other hand, ground-mounted systems can usually be oriented and tilted to optimize production. The choice of which mounting type you need also depend on the kind of structures/obstructions you have in your vicinity.