Solar

solar-panel-roof-installation-dreamstime m 22960477-x-640x419
A while ago I debunked some common misconceptions about solar panels in another blog here, but it seems I missed one that has come to light several times recently, i.e. the myth that to have proper, serious, useable solar power on a boat one must use residential panels, as marine solar panels are just itsy-bitsy wimpy battery top-up trickle-chargers.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

How ITC works

The US Federal Government continues to offer a solar energy tax credit, applicable to your primary and second homes, i.e. your boat! As long as there is a head and galley onboard and it is docked in the United States, your vessel qualifies.

This federal tax credit, in place since 2005 (known as the Energy Policy Act of 2005) has been extended yet again to its current expiration through 2023 for non-commercial installations. Best grab it while you still can!

Pig car
I had a bit of hard job the other day trying to explain the workings of a solar panel to a colleague, and it got me searching for a suitable analogy. Yes, there is the well-used comparison of water to electrical flow, but that’s a tad drippy and wishy-washy in my view, and I was looking for something more illustrative and fun.

So, how about this:

solar-panels-question-mark-dreamstime m 26922771-480x621Are you confused about the wording on some solar panel guarantees and/or warranties? Well, you're not alone, but first let's define what is a guarantee and what is a warranty.

Guarantee: A formal promise or assurance (typically in writing) that certain conditions will be fulfilled, especially that a product will be repaired or replaced if not of a specified quality and durability.

Warranty: A written guarantee, issued to the purchaser of an article by its manufacturer, promising to repair or replace it if necessary within a specified period of time.


So a guarantee looks to be more like a loose promise, whereas a warranty is in written form and contains a guarantee with certain time limits. In this discussion we'll assume we're working with written warranties, whether packaged in with the product, or more likely these days, posted somewhere on a manufacturers' web site.

Residential and commercial solar panels come with warranties that are very different to those accompanying marine solar panels. These aluminum-framed glass panels are fabricated by automated processes in huge numbers where quality can be closely controlled and monitored, and so their construction is normally warranted for two years.

But there is also a warranty on the power output, where typically 80% of the rated output is guaranteed after 20 years or so in operation. This is feasible to implement due to the fact that the utility company or solar provider constantly monitors the output from day one, and so an ongoing record is available.

The power output of silicon solar cells naturally degrades slightly over time, and so this slow loss of performance is quite predictable.

So what happens if the power output of the panels on your roof of your house has degraded beyond the warranty limits after the 20 or 25 years or whatever? Will the solar company come and replace your 20+ year old panels free of charge? Well no, but they will offer to ship one or two panels, for you to install, to make up the difference!

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