Ray of hope; solar energy in more detail with Modern Attics

You may already be aware of how environmentally conscious we are here at Modern Attics, and that we recommend the inclusion of solar panels with most of our attic conversions. We thought it was about time we provided explanations of exactly what these are and how they can benefit your home.

Solar cells and solar panels work through two processes – the photoelectric effect and the photovoltaic effect, first discovered as early as 1839. These terms are more simple than they sound; ‘photo-‘ means ‘light’, and respectively these refer to the production of electricity and electrical current in a material if that material is exposed to light. The most popular and widely used of these materials is crystalline silicon, and this is usually what a solar panel from one of our especially ecologically friendly loft conversions would consist of.

The first solar cell was developed in 1883 using copper, not modern silicon, and technology in this area has been slowly improving since – with the emphasis on ‘slowly’. The next big step came in 1931 when a German engineer discovered that selenium was a more efficient material to use than copper, although less than 1% of incoming light energy was transferred to electricity even by these improved cells. These were incredibly expensive, and still had a long way to go before being called efficient. Silicon was first used in 1954, improving efficiency to between 4.5% and 6%. This was certainly a step in the right direction – but these panels were still far from commercially viable.

Fortunately, development of solar power (and other renewable energy sources) has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. With a greater emphasis on saving energy and cutting down on the use of fossil fuels, research into solar panels went through something of a boost in the 1970s and 80s. This area of scientific development has grown and fallen in popularity along with the commercial availability of fossil fuels such as coal – as it was perceived that fuel reserves were running low, research into solar technologies increased.

Solar panels are used in homes to provide additional electricity, cutting down on energy bills to be financially beneficial and cutting down on fossil fuel usage to improve the environmental impact of a given home. Modern solar panels, such as those recommended by Modern Attics, are considered to be up to 29% efficient, meaning that – on average – they will have paid for themselves through lowered electricity bills in between one and four years, depending on maintenance and weather. With an average lifetime of 20 to 30 years, though, there’s plenty more energy saving to be had!

If you require any more information don’t hesitate to contact us on 020 7254 5222 or send us an email. We hope you keep your environmental impact in mind when choosing your attic conversion company wisely!

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