EmPower Earth | Changing Lives With Solar

SolMaxx Off Grid Solar Panels

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Frequently Asked Questions

Check out our great FAQs and Answers for our SolMaxx Off Grid Solar Panels below:

What materials do you need to make a solar panel?

Generally the materials that you need to build a solar panel will include the following: A battery, some plywood painted with UV paint, wire, diode, Plexiglas, Jones plug, screws, super glue, silicon sealant and a solar cell and a guiding manual to get the job done! Also something to keep in mind for solar cells specifically is that trying to build your own solar cells will most likely cost more than it is worth, so its better to skip this step and buy legitimate solar cells if you are going to build your own solar panels.

How much electricity do solar panels produce in a year?

The answer to how much electricity solar panels will produce in a year is hard to answer because it depends on a number of different factors like weather, how clean the solar panels are, distance from the equator, what time during the day, shading and maximal output. But a very rough estimate for a 100 watt rooftop solar panel should produce about 240,000 watts a year.

How many solar panels do I need to run my house?

The amount of solar panels needed to run a solar system in your house can be estimated by how much you approximately pay for your monthly electricity bill. There are many solar panel calculators available online by which you can determine the approximate number of solar panels you will need for your home simply entering in the average amount you pay for your monthly electricity bill.

What percent of people use solar panel powered technology?

It is difficult to come up with the number of people that are using solar powered technology because generally the amount of electricity produced is what is measured and not how many solar panel systems are installed in homes.

Do solar panels work with artificial light?

Yes, solar panels will work under artificial light but not as efficiently. One concept that is worth considering regarding this matter between solar panels and artificial light is a fundamental law of physics. Whenever energy is changed from one form to another, what results is a net loss. It is highly recommended that you just stick with sunlight to power your solar panels.

How do I protect my solar panel?

In order to protect your solar panel from damage you must occasionally clean the panel and keep it free of debris.  If you are living in a colder climate make sure that you keep heavy snow off of your solar panel as much as possible.

What is a Marine Solar Panel?

A Marine Solar Panel is a solar panel that is made with an anti-corrosive material.  This means it will do well in a highly corrosive atmosphere, such as salt water.  This makes the Marine Solar Panel perfect for a boat or RV.

What is the differences between a Mono-crystalline and Polycrystalline solar panel?

The difference between mono-crystalline and polycrystalline solar panels is that one is produced from a single crystal of silicon and the other is produced from a piece of silicon consisting of many crystals.

How do solar thermal power plants work?

Solar thermal power plants work very similarly to nuclear and coal power plants. Except solar thermal power plants use a variety of techniques to maximize the concentration of the sun’s energy as a heat source. For example, one technique is employing the use of movable mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on a tower which collects the light rays. This heat is then used to boil water which drives a steam turbine that will generate electricity.

Why does my solar panel not seem to work even though only one small part of it is covered up/in the shade?

A solar panel is actually just a casing that holds multiple small solar cells. These are the blue or dark-blue squares inside the solar panel that are actually absorbing the light and producing the energy. Each individual cell has its own voltage and amperage that are normally both very small. By combining these small cells together, the voltage and amperage can be combined into the larger output which is what the entire solar panel is rated for. Connecting cells in series combines the voltage of each string of cells into one larger output voltage, and combining cell strings in parallel combines the amperage of each string. Cells combined in series are often visible by the metal strip running in a straight line down a few of these squares. When cells are combined in series, the voltage adds up but the amperage does not. Instead, the string takes the lowest amperage from the set. This is why covering up one small corner of a solar panel can cover one cell in series and drop the amperage of that particular cell to 0, which makes the entire string take that low 0 amperage value. This may drop the power that the panel produces below the operating level of the appliance which is why it turns off from a small bit of shade on the panel. To avoid this, make sure your solar panels are always placed in a bright, sunny area that is free of obstruction and shading from trees or any taller objects as the sun moves across the sky.


Is shade a problem for solar panel?

Yes, shade can be a problem because there are a number of individual solar cells within a solar panel that need to be expose fully to sunlight. This is mainly because of the way the wiring of the solar panels are designed. So for example if there were ten individual solar cells and due to shading, one of the cells did not receive sunlight exposure, this will affect the power output of the nine other individual cells, even if the rest may be fully exposed to sunlight. That is why the angle of the solar panels are crucial because solar panels work optimally when each individual cell is exposed fully to sunlight.

Which direction should I place my solar panel?

Direction and angles are the one of the most important factors in setting up a system. These issues can affect the performance and the efficiency of the whole system. Ususally we suggest people to place the panels facing south, that is the general direction. But tons of factors can vary the exact directions and angles, including latitude and climate in your location. Consult a solar specialist would be a good choice for you if you need help.

Can the cost of producing solar panels be covered from the benefits they will bring?

It was inefficient to produce solar panels when PV technology was young years ago, producing solar panels cost around $40,000 per Watt. Modern date solar technology enables highly efficient solar panels. Impartial studies have done to show that the payback time for average solar systems to save enough to offset their production cost only takes three to four years. Putting into consideration that most solar panels have a life span longer than 25 years, it is very wrong to call that wasteful.

What is the difference between monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film solar panels?


Monocrystalline solar panels are panels cut from single slabs of silicon. They are identifiable by their consistent color throughout the panel and are often a dark blue to almost black color. Historically, monocrystalline panels have had the highest efficiency (around 15-17%) because being cut from a single slab of silicon allows a greater level of purity in the silicon, but have also been more expensive for the same reason.

Polycrystalline panels are those created from many different pieces of silicon crystal. Because these panels can be essentially filled in they have historically been cheaper and also had a slightly lower efficiency level (12-14%). These are clearly distinguished between monocrystalline panels by their patches of color, and are also usually lighter blue in color compared to monocrystalline panels.

Thin film panels are panels are purposely made to be thin and flexible for a greater variety of applications. Small layers of semi-conductive material are coated over a more durable material such as metal or plastic and then covered by a transparent weatherproofed layer. Because thin film panels are made of much thinner layers of silicon their efficiency (6-12%) is typically lower than the rigid monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels as the thin layer cannot absorb as much of the light.

An additional type of extremely high-efficiency solar panel (up to 40%), called a multi-junction panel, is also available although typically not used in residential applications. Multi-junction panels work by incorporating different kinds of materials in the panel to capture multiple wavelengths of light that a regular monocrystalline or polycrystalline cell cannot. This effectively breaks up the light collecting process into multiple smaller parts, wasting less of the incoming light in the process. These cells are very expensive and normally only used for special applications.

What kind of maintenance is involved with solar panels?

Maintaining solar panels is very simple since there is no mobile parts. A few washes a year using a hose to remove dust and debris is all that is needed to keep your panels operating efficiently for decades . It is not recommended to spray cold water on the surface during a hot day because it can crack the cells. Automated cleaners can also be programmed to periodically clean the panels.

Will my solar panels work if there is a power outage?

With a on-grid system Iconnected to the utility company)  power will be lost, however you can switch to a backup generator for electricity. If it is an off-grid system with a battery bank to store excess created energy, then you won’t experience the blackout as long as the electricity supply is not depleted.

Does solar energy work all the time? What about at night and cloudy days?

The sun is needed for solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. During times when sunlight is not available, the solar panel goes into sleep mode or standby mode. There are two solutions if electricity is needed when sunlight is absent. Solution one is switching to a utility grid that can be simultaneously used along with solar power. Solution two is to install a battery that stores the electricity that was converted thoughout the day by the solar panels for later use when sunlight is not present.

What size solar system do I need?

You can view estimated system sizes depending on your home or business’s typical monthly electricity usage (kwh).  For example, the typical US residential home uses about 800 kWh/month, which translates to about a 5.5 kW system (Assuming average daily sunlight of 4.5 hours and 100% of electricity needs covered from your solar system).

What is the difference between On-grid and off-grid solar power?

On-grid means your solar system is tied to your local utility company’s system. This is what most residential homes will use because you are covered if your solar system under or over-produces in regard to your varying energy needs. All this means for you is that your utility system acts as your battery space. If you are producing more energy with your solar panels or system than you are using, the excess energy is sent to your grid’s power company, allowing you to build credit that you can cash out with at the end of the year, in a process called net metering. Being grid-tied is beneficial because you don’t have to buy an expensive battery back-up system to store any excess energy.
Being off-grid means you are not connected in any way to your grid’s power system or utility company. This is appealing because you are 100% self-sustaining your energy use. However, there are disadvantages because off-grid systems require you to purchase back-up battery which can be expensive, bulky, and not very environmentally friendly which defeats the purpose of going solar (save money and live greener).

How will my solar power work with my grid-connected utility company? What is net metering?

When the sun’s DC power is converted to AC output, a meter records the kWh of solar energy that your panels have produced.  When you are using the exact amount of power that your solar system has produced, the meter stays still.  If you are producing less than you are using, then you will draw electricity to use from your utility you are are producing more than you are using,  the excess power will spin backwards and collect credit for you with your utility company.  For example, on a sunny summer day you can build up a “storage” of energy credits with your utility, that you can redeem in the winter month’s when you won’t have as much sunlight but will be blasting the heater.  Or, if you still don’t use it all up in other parts of the year, most states offer to pay you anywhere from $.15/kWh to $.53/kWh for your excess energy that you produced, because they can use it to provide energy for their other customers.  This process is called net metering.

Will solar work for my home or business?

Contrary to common belief, solar power can work practically anywhere. Even if you live in a cloudy climate, there is usually enough sunlight to supply your electricity needs. Germany receives less sunlight hours than places like Seattle and Alaska, but still provides half of it’s country/s energy from solar. The second factor considered is the amount of available roof space on your building. However, it is surprising how much electricity can be generated from a small amount of surface area because our solar panels are consistently improving in efficiency . Solar systems work in most cases.

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels collect the sun’s energy in the form of photons and converts them to DC voltage, which becomes usable electricity.   The DC voltage is converted to AC power through the work of an inverter, which is usually mounted next to your electric panel.  Through a breaker in your electric panel, this AC power is connected to the electrical loads your home receives and uses.

What is the life span of solar panels?

Under the energy crisis nowadays, solar energy become one of the most sustainable energy in the world. To convert the sunshine into real energy and electricity, we need to use some tools – That is solar panels. The photovoltaic panel is one of the most common used solar panel in the world. With the development of the technology, a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel usually have a life expectancy of 20-40 years.
“20-40 years? Is it possible?” Some people would ask similar questions, but the fact is, if we put enough care and maintenance on them, photovoltaic solar panels can easily has a 40 years life expectancy. Although the performance and efficient would decline when the solar panels get older, but it is not even a noticeable degeneration.
Some photovoltaic solar panels can still able to produce more than 75% – 85% of original power after 40 years if it have been take care properly.
So next time, whenever someone said solar panel is not durable, you could tell him/her the truth and let more people know about the sustainability of solar energy.

1) What is the difference between an off-grid PV system and a grid-tie system?

While grid-tie systems are directly connected to the utility grid, off-grid systems operate as completely independent systems.  From a practical standpoint, this means that off-grid systems require a battery bank to store the energy captured during the day to enusre that the electricity can be accesed around the clock.

2) How do I size an off-grid system for my needs?

Sizing an off-grid system greatly differs from sizing a grid-tie system.  A grid-tie system can be sized to cover all your energy needs (effectively zeroing out your electric bill), only part of your energy needs (reducing your bill, but not entirely eliminating it), or more than your energy needs (selling energy back to the utility if your local regulatory scheme allows for it).  However, because an off-grid system consists of three separate systems working together to create, store, and deliver energy for your specific loads, it must be properly sized for your specific energy needs and environmental conditions.

3) Is an off-grid system right for me?

Off-grid systems are typically used in remote locations where it is difficult, cost-prohibitive, or impossible to connect to the utility power grid.  Off-grid systems tyrpically require a larger up-front investment than grid-tie systems.  The batteries create an additional expense, require maintenance, last only around ten years, and reduce the efficiency of the system.  Grid-tie systems only require the panels, mounting materials, and inverters, and thus grid-tie systems typically provide a higher return on investment than off-grid systems.

Category How-To Guides

Check out our great DIY and How-To Guides for our SolMaxx Off Grid Solar Panels below:

How to Select Your Own Off-Grid Solar System:

To begin, an off-grid solar PV system requires the proper sizing of a number of components in order to prevent damage to the system or the home on which it is installed.  Hence, most systems should be sized and wired by licensed solar professionals.  Installing your own off-grid PV solar system will involve properly sized electrical wiring to reduce the risk of electrical fire, a proper grounding system and proper battery installation and venting to prevent damage to the batteries, loss of battery life, and ever gas explosions, and a properly installed solar array to maximize performance without damaging the home or roof.  That said, the following steps should educate you about the very basics of solar off-grid systems and assist you with sizing the various components in the system and selecting the right products for your system.

1) Determine Your Daily Load Requirement:

List the electrical requirements of each device you plan to power with the PV system.  For example, a 12 watt Compact Fluorescent Bulb in operation for 5 hours per day will use 60 watts per day.  Calculate the average daily use of every light, refrigerator, television, fan, etc., and add them all up to find your average daily load requirement.

2) Determine the Size and Number of Panels Needed

PV panels are rated in watts.  Multiply the watt rating of the panel by the number of hours of direct sunlight you receive on an average day.  Our 90 watt SolMaxx off-grid panel will produce 360 watts in 4 hours of direct sunlight.  Thus, if your daily load is 3600 watts, and you receive 4 hours of sunlight in your location, then you will need 10 of thee 90 watt panels to meet your need.  However, due to system losses, it would be wise to increase your panel array output to 20% larger than your load requirements.  Some suggest even greater increases to compensate for periods of extended cloud cover.  Installers should be able to make recommendations regarding your particular needs and the climate in your location.

3) Determine the Size of Your Battery Bank

Batteries are rated in amp/hours.  Begin by converting watt/hours to amp/hours by dividing watt/hours by 12 (for 12 volt batteries).  This will allow to calculate the amp/hours required for your battery bank.  Again, it would be wise to increase the size of your battery bank about 20% above your load requirement to compensate for system losses.

4) Select and Inverter

An inverter converts the low DC voltage from your battery bank to 120-volts AC. To determine the size of the inverter needed, add up the power requirements of all of the loads that you intend to run simultaneously.

5) Select a Charge Controller

A charge controller controls the rate of battery charging and prevents overcharging. You should not connect any solar module directly to the battery without a charge controller in between.  Choose a charge controller that best matches the size of your system. For small systems, the charge controller should consume very little current for its operation.  For large systems the charge controller should have the ability to track PV panel output and adjust to provide the most efficient charging.

6) Select Solar Panel Mounting Location and Supplies

Panels should be installed such that they receive direct sun exposure.  A good rule of thumb is that fixed panels should be mounted on a south-facing roof or other surface at an angle roughly equal to the latitude at which the panels will be installed.  Shade is the solar panel’s worst enemy as it drastically reduces panel efficiency, so be sure to place panels in unobstructed sunlight.

7) Consider Wiring and Installation Safety

Be sure to use wire that is large enough to handle the maximum current that will flow through it!  At times it is best to upsize the wiring to reduce the resistance and system waste.  If you have no background as an electrician, please do not try this at home.

Category Learning Guide

Check out our great Information & Learning Guides for our SolMaxx Off Grid Solar Panels below:

Category Videos

A New York Times writer installed an off-grid system for his family’s cabin all the way up in MAINE!  He found that not only was it possible to meet his needs with a solar off-grid system at such a high latitude, but also affordable.  Read the full article here.

Additional & Related Resources

Check out our great Documents & Additional Resources for our SolMaxx Off Grid Solar Panels below:

  1. 12V 30W Automotive and Marine Solar Panel
  2. 90 Watt SolMaxx Portable Solar Panel
  3. SolMaxx 100 Watt 100w W Monocrystalline Photovoltaic PV Solar Panel Module 12V Battery Charging
  4. GridMaxx 250 Watt PV Solar Panel
SolMaxx Off Grid Solar Panels

Our SolMaxx off grid solar panels come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles…however, most are small solar panels designed for small off grid and portable solar power, solar charging and solar lighting applications.

Our off grid solar panels include flexible solar panels, aluminum framed small solar panels and OEM small and mini solar panels.

Regardless of your specific, if you need a small solar panel, our selection of off grid solar panels is almost certain to have exactly what you need.

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Silicon Solar
2917 State Hwy 7
Bainbridge, NY 13733
P: 1.800.786.0329


Why Shop With Us

Why Shop With Silicon Solar

Silicon Solar is, and always will be, a family owned and operated solar company dedicated to providing the highest quality solar powered products which have completed our rigorous quality inspection. We also manufacture a full line of solar powered products right here in our production facility; enabling us offer faster delivery and priority technical support.

Search our online catalog for hundreds of solar lights, solar fountains and many other products, including solar cells and solar panels. We also manufacture custom solar kits upon request for professors and educational programs.

Call us today for your solar request, 1.800.786.0329

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Contact Silicon Solar

Silicon Solar
2917 St Hwy 7
Bainbridge, NY 13733

P: 1.800.786.0329

Contact Silicon Solar