Solar Electricity

How do we get electricity from the Sun?

When the sun’s photons hit the solar panel collection material an electron is released and because electricity is the flow of electrons this is basically how a solar electricity system works.  There are two general types of Solar Electricity generating systems designed for a home, they are grid-tie and off-grid.  Both systems are comprised of similar components: Solar panels, wiring, charging controller, batteries, inverter and a switch mechanism.

Grid-Tie System

A Grid tie system is the more complex of the two because your home can still use electricity from your local power company. Yet, if your Solar Electricity system creates more electricity than your homes uses the power company typically buys your unused electricity from you. A Grid-tie system is customarily installed by a professional Solar Energy installation company.

Off-Grid System

An Off-Grid Solar Electricity system is more easily installed and can be a Do It Yourself project. The Off-Grid system can be designed to start small & add as time & money permit.

How the Solar panel system Works

Although installation methods vary, in most cases the actual Solar panels face in the direction of the equator. Homes north of the equator typically will have south facing solar panels. The actual installation will vary on obstructions, mounting hardware purchased (ie motorized versus stationary), pitch of roof etc. The Solar collectors within the solar panel will convert the sunlight into a low voltage Direct Current (DC). The Solar panels are connected via wiring to a charge controller which stores the voltage on a bank of batteries and regulates the charge on the batteries. These batteries are comparable or the same batteries used on boats, they are deep cycle and designed to rebound from deep discharges unlike car batteries, which are not Deep Cycle. The batteries in turn connect to an inverter who’s function is to convert the stored 12 volt DC battery power into usable electricity for your home, typically 120volt (AC – Alternating current). Watts, Amps and Voltage etc will all dictate the types of components used in a solar system. Investing $30,000 for a Grid-Tie on a 2,000 square foot home might be an anticipated initial cost however for a hardcore Do It Yourself-er you could build a super simple Off-Grid single device (TV or Window Air-Conditioner) system for $1,100.

Types of Solar Panels

There are 3 types of Solar panels but just because they all look very similar they are quite different. Amorphous panels are the least costly to purchase but have a short life span and are very inefficient at converting solar into electricity.  Polycrystalline solar panels are efficient and have a reasonable maintenance cost and are reasonably affordable to install. The most efficient and most costly is a Mono-crystalline solar panel.

Types of DC to AC Inverters

Although you can’t see it, the electricity provided to your home from your electrical utility has certain characteristics which items in your home like the television, computer and other sensitive devices need to perform properly. A Pure Sine Wave Inverter, although the more costly of the two, converts and delivers stored Deep Cycle battery electricity in the form having the closest characteristic to your Electric Utility company. A modified Sine Wave inverter however is considerably more affordable and can be used to run motor based electrical stuff, but, if used to power a TV a modified Sine Wave inverter would likely produce a really bad picture and possibly damage the television.