What should you consider before having solar panels installed in San Diego ? How should you decide which installation company is right for you? What type of solar should you choose? photovoltaic or solar thermal? Are there upkeep or maintenance costs?
All of these are valid and common questions when considering solar panels. It’s a big investment and so it’s understandable that you will have questions and concerns. I’ve collated some basic knowledge, tips and advice on how to ensure you find a good company to install your solar panels and highlight some of the points you should consider when having photovoltaic panels installed at your property.
1. MCS Approved Installers
Firstly, and most importantly, ensure that your chosen installer is an “MCS approved installer”. MCS stands for Microgeneration Certification Scheme and it is an indication to consumers that the installer has been assessed and adheres to standards and regulations that are set by the MCS.
MCS Approved Installers are awarded certification as a result of a thorough assessment of the supply, design, installation, set-to-work and commissioning of renewable microgeneration technologies, solar panels.
2. MCS Approved Solar Panels
Alongside MCS Approved installers, make sure that your panels are also MCS approved. MCS Approved Solar Panels also undergo rigorous standards.
To receive certification, MCS Approved Solar Panels not only receive product testing, but the manufacturing processes, materials, procedures and staff training also undergo assessment. Certification is only awarded if every step and stage meets the criteria.
3. NIC EIC Certification
All electricians who provide services in the UK should be NIC EIC certified. Solar installers are no different and you should make sure the company you choose has received certification. You will then be safe in the knowledge that your system complies with national safety requirements as stipulated by the governing body responsible NIC EIC certification.
4. Solar Panel Quotes
Don’t rely on the first or cheapest company you find – ask for quotes from a number solar installation companies, and let the companies know that you plan to do this. This should help ensure that you receive competitive quotes and it also gives you a benchmark from which you can compare quotes against quotes. It might give you some leverage to “play” companies off against one another to get that quote figure knocked down a little. Companies only exist to make money, so they won’t want to lose a potential customer.
Talk to companies who visit your property to provide you with quotes and ask plenty of questions. This will give better understanding and knowledge of what to expect and what you are told. Consider all your quotes before committing to any one in particular.
5. Cheapest Doesn’t Mean Best
As with most things in life, the cheapest quote you can find won’t necessarily get you the best end result. That doesn’t mean you should opt for the most expensive solar panels either. Find a quote which you feel is fair and just as importantly, choose a company that you feel comfortable about dealing with, a company who answers your questions and takes time to explain the technical side of things in a manner that you understand.
This doesn’t just apply to the company’s bottom line figure, but also the individual materials and equipment the company quotes for. If you haven’t been provided with a detail or itemised quote, ask for one. This way, you will know what equipment and materials you are paying for, and you can compare this to your other quotes.
The technology is constantly evolving and in terms of energy generation for the masses, it is still quite new so there will always be improvements and enhancements being made. Ask your company what products they will be using for your install and take some time to do some background research on them: Are there any problems with the panels? Are there newer versions? Is the price about right? Are there any forums which advise for or against them? Learn about solar panel technology and the terminology used, this will help you avoid being “blinded” by jargon.
7. Calculate Potential Feed in Tariff Earnings
The Government’s Feed in Tariff has been extremely influential in the popularity of solar panels. You get paid for all electricity generated from your solar panels, even if you consume it personally. As a general overview, from 3rd March 2012, the rate is 21p/kWh and then from 1st July 2012 the rate of return will be between 16.5p/kWh – 13.6p/kWh. This rate will depend on the number of panel installations completed between March and April 2012. You can also use one of the many online calculators to see how much money you could be earning on your potential investment.
The Feed in Tariff means that whilst your initial investment may be a big outlay, not only will you save money on your energy bills, but you will also generate an income. This takes the investment in solar panels way beyond most returns from other “normal” monetary investments. If you have money invested in savings accounts, maybe consider solar panels.
8. Solar Thermal and Photovoltaic Panels
Take some time to decide whether solar thermal or photovoltaic systems would be more beneficial to your property. Solar thermal generates hot water, whilst photovoltaic panels will generate electricity.
If you are unsure as to the system you want, contact companies and ask which system they would recommend. There’s no reason why you cannot have both systems installed and if you decide that solar thermal panels are your best option, still consider photovoltaic panels, if for no other reason than it could in theory pay for itself and your solar thermal panel system.
9. RHI – The Renewable Heat Incentive
The Renewable Heat Incentive does not provide such a good return on your investment as the Feed in Tariff, but it is still a good incentive that deserves careful consideration. The scheme’s aim is to encourage property owners to reduce their heating energy consumption and carbon foot print by providing the following benefits:
0.085p per kWh return for 20 years
energy consumption reduction
A Government payment contribution
10. Maintenance Costs
You will undoubtedly be told that there are no upkeep or maintenance costs involved with solar, and throughout life expectancy of a solar panel installation, there should in fact be little maintenance or upkeep in regards to the panels themselves. However, the inverter, which converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), will, at some point in the 25 years, need replacing. The cost to replace your inverter will be somewhere near 1000, and so this should form part of your calculation and consideration for solar panels.
Normally, solar systems will be installed on rooftops or high up above the ground in order to get the best exposure to direct sunlight especially in San Diego. The result of this is that less able-bodied people may require assistance to have the solar panels cleaned or to clear any fallen leaves or debris from on and around the panels to keep them working at their maximum capacity.
Best Science Fair Project Websites for Kids
Science Fair Projects for Kids and High School Students
These 12 sites have hundreds of science fair projects, experiments, and advice to help you create the best science fair project you can. They suggest easy projects for kids and more challenging award-winning science fair projects for high school students. I've used many of them with my daughter and students.
Some of the sites provide ideas. Some give you step-by-step instructions for conducting experiments. Some provide kids advice on creating projects for science fairs. And some have forums where kids can get help when they're stuck. Many of these websites have videos to illustrate their experiments.
Note: Some of these sites have forums, which require registration with an email address. Children under age 13 need parent approval to register and submit questions to these forums.
#1 Science Buddies
Strength: Detailed science projects and advice for kids
I most often recommend Science Buddies to students and parents starting work on a science fair project. This is an award-winning site was created by the Kenneth Lafferty Hess Family Charitable Foundation, and has a wealth of resources.
First is the Project Ideas section where you can browse a list of projects by area of study. Or try the Topic Selection Wizard. You answer a series of questions about your science interests and grade level, then you get a list of projects best suited to your situation.
The projects are very detailed. Each includes the background, questions to consider, a list of required supplies and equipment, and step-by-step instructions for the experimental procedure.
The next helpful resource is an extensive Science Fair Project Guide. Here you'll learn more about how to use the scientific method to build your project, how to write your report, and how to display your work. There is also advice on safety procedures, selecting supplies, and techniques.
Finally, you can go to the Ask an Expert Forum if you need more assistance. Look to see if another student has asked a similar question that answers yours. If you've been unable to resolve your problem with the help of a teacher or parent, this group of volunteer scientists will do their best to help you.
The Science Buddies site is easy to navigate. And and the extent of their resources is incomparable.
#2 Cool Science Projects
Strength: Tips for creating award-winning science fair projects
The folks at Cool-Science-Projects.com will walk you through all the steps of creating a science project. You'll find advice and resources for simpler projects for a homework assignment, as well as advice on creating show-stopper competition projects.
There are lots of ideas here by grade level. A few of the ideas have step-by-step instructions for carrying them out. The site's biggest strength is the section it devotes to advice on creating a winning science fair project.
#3 Steve Spangler's Science Experiments
Strength: Entertaining videos of experiments to spark you own project ideas
Steve Spangler's Science Experiments is a particularly useful website for science teachers and homeschool parents. Steve is a teacher's teacher who is televised weekly in Denver and who has appeared on nationally televised shows, demonstrating experiments and explaining the science behind them. He also conducts teacher training seminars throughout the country.
On this site, you can access his collection of science experiments, recipes and projects. His library of projects is accompanied by videos of how to use materials and equipment to conduct experiments. He also has an online store of supplies and equipment.
Steve's delight in science experiments is entertaining, and he'll get you and your kids excited about their experiments too!
#4 Reeko's Mad Scientist Lab
Strength: Advice for creating a successful science fair project
Reeko is passionate about science. His passion is contagious at Reeko's Mad Scientist Lab. Reeko takes a humorous and engaging approach to getting kids interested in science.
Reeko's focus is science experiments. He does not provide guidance for school science projects. But his experiments are a breeding ground for science project ideas.
This award-winning site has games, puzzles and quizzes. And there is a new forum where you can ask a question if you're having problems with your experiment or science in general.
Videos of experiments with accompanying variation ideas for home experiments
DragonflyTV delves into experiments conducted by kids. The folks at PBS Kids Go! offer up plenty of videos of kids conducting experiments.
Then they provide ideas of variations your children can pick from for their own experiments. Or kids can give the Super Science Spinner a whirl until they find an idea they like. DragonflyTV also offers their 12 steps to science fair success.
#6 The Science Club
Strength: Detailed instructions, videos and illustrations of projects
Science Fair Ideas Exchange provides dozens of ideas for projects and experiments. If you need more than written explanations and illustrations, look here. The site is hosted by Bill Beaty of The Science Club.
Many projects are accompanied by a video that shows the key steps in creating your experiment or device. Projects are categorized as simple, medium and advanced.
Some of the video-taped experiments are hazardous, and should be supervised by an adult or conducted only by science teachers.
The Make It Solar Science Fair Information provides detailed information on carrying out a project using the scientific method and steps illustrated here. For teachers who have a website, Make It Solar provides the code to put the illustration at the right into your site with a link to its science fair info.
You'll also find planning guides, research tips, illustrations of display layouts. The site's focus is solar energy, so they furnish details on how to create several solar energy science projects.
#8 MadSci Network
Strength: Answers to your science experiment and project questions
Created by MadSci Network & Third Sector New England, MadSci Network is a great place to get answers to your science questions. Their extensive questions and answers archive can help you as you build your project.
The MadSci Library provides links to other resources by topic area. Look for answers to common science fair questions at the MadSci FAQ page.
If you can't find an answer in their archives of past questions, submit your own question.
Strength: Kids' comments on how the experiments worked for them
ZOOMsci from by PBS Kids & WGBH has dozens of science activities for children in grades K-8. The emphasis is on having fun with science experiments, as opposed to a rigorous scientific method.
Pick an activity, carry it out, then record your observations and comments on the ZOOMsci site. Personally identifiable information is not collected here.
#10 Scientific Methods at pppst.com
Strength: Lessons to help kids learn the scientific method
Teachers and homeschool parents can make use of the resources for elementary and middle school students at Scientific Methods at pppst.com. There are presentations to use when teaching the scientific method, as well as printable materials.
For kids, there are links numerous resources to help them learn and remember the steps contained in the scientific method.
One of Mr. Donn's greatest strengths is that his material is readable at the upper elementary age level. So adults don't have to do a lot of interpretation.
#11 Hands-on Activities
Strength: Detailed instructions for experiments
At Exploratorium's Hands-on Activities page, you'll find lots of ideas for experiments and science projects. Activities are grouped by topic such as food, living things, or sports science.
Each activity provides a list of needed materials and step-by-step instructions. Illustrations and photos accompany the instructions. A few even have videos.
Note that some of the activities are not true "activities" but rather information on how something, like cycling, works.
If you are making a model of the solar system to scale, you have to take a look at the Build a Solar System activity. There is a scale calculator that uses the diameter of the sun you plan to create to calculate the dimensions for all of the planets and orbit radius of each planet.
#12 Step-by-Step Science Fair Success
Strength: Advice for teachers and schools on organizing a successful science fair
Step-by-Step Science Fair Success is a guide for teachers and schools to use in planning a science fair. Lily Ning, a middle school teacher, discusses:
- Preplanning, sending out letters, and rules for group projects
- Creating guidelines, submission categories, and scientific methodology to be used
- Student tasks in proposing, planning, carrying out, and displaying project results
- Assessment using a rubric and grading sheets for the notebook, paper, and display
- Judging rubric
Directory of Science Project Websites
There are more than 30 science fair project and experiment websites listed in LearningReviews Directory of Science Project Websites. Some of the sites have simple experiments for kids to carry out at home. Others have more sophisticated projects for high school students and science fairs. Kids, parents and teachers write reviews about the sites they like best.
Other Science categories on the site help you to learn more about chemistry, astronomy, biology, etc., as you prepare for your science project.
Get Ready for Your Science Fair with Janice VanCleave
Janice VanCleave is a teacher, scientist and author of award-winning science books for kids. This virtual field trip is hosted on Meet Me at the Corner.org, where you can find more science fair project ideas.
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