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Solar Panels and Solar Power Buying Guide

Whether you are looking for an entire system for your home or farm or you are just interested in supplying power to a hard-to-reach, or "off the grid" structure, Tractor Supply can help with your solar powered energy needs.

What Are Solar Panels?

Solar panels convert light from the sun into energy that can be used to power every type of device that you would normally power with "grid" power, or electricity you purchase from your local electric utility company. There are several types of solar power panels on the market today that offer as much power as you need, as long as you are willing to make the investment up front and install your solar power system properly. If you have a building that is not connected to your electric utility, installing a small solar panel to power lights in a barn for example may be much more cost-effective than running a power line. For home solar power, the cost of solar panels can be compared to the amount of money you spend each year on electricity or gas, and the break-even time in years for an entire home solar power system depends on the type of solar panel system you install, the size of the structure you want to power, and the amount of energy you normally consume. With improvements in solar power technology, break-even time will continue to decrease as the cost of more efficient solar panels and other solar power materials goes down.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar power panels gather light from the sun using an array of solar cells that are spread out over a large area. The more direct the exposure to light, the more power can be collected by the solar panel. Solar cells are photovoltaic, meaning that they produce electricity as they absorb photons from sunlight. As photons are absorbed into photovoltaic material, electrons from the photon atoms escape from their orbit around the atom and are pulled into the current of an electrical circuit.

Most home solar power systems are able to produce electricity 24-hours a day using battery back-ups that get charged by the sun during the day so energy can be available even when the sun is not shining. Some home solar power systems even produce more energy than a family can consume, allowing that family to sell electricity back to their local utility companies.

Here is a solar map of the United States showing areas of the country where there are high vs. low amounts of sun exposure. Areas with low amounts of sun exposure would be less likely to reap the benefits of solar panel power than areas of high sun exposure.

How are Solar Panels Commonly Used?

Many people use solar panels for automatic gate openers and out buildings that are not connected to the main electric wiring. Many times it is not cost-effective to run electricity to the "back 40", so installing a solar panel to power a few lights or appliances pays for itself immediately.

Others install complete solar power systems on their home, farms or businesses to supplement or replace grid-based electricity. Developing solar panel technology is continually driving down the cost of solar panels, and the break-even point of installing a solar power system in your home could be worth the investment.