So you are thinking about converting your home to solar power? There are many things that should be taken into consideration when you want to go solar. Do you want to power your entire house and go off the grid? Do you want to sell your power back to the power company? Are you using energy efficiently right now? Do you have a good site?
There are two main options when it comes to going solar. The first option is the most expensive option and that is to go completely off the grid. What does it mean to go off the grid? The electricity distribution system is know as the grid because of the way it is all interconnected. So, going off the grid means that you are going to disconnect from your current electricity provider’s services. Just remember that are responsible for repairing your solar panels and everything that goes with your solar power system.
Going off the Grid with Solar Power
To go off the grid you will need solar panels, an inverter and a battery bank. These will all need to be sized based on the load that you have. So how do you know how many solar panels you need? You need to look at your power bill first and find out how many Kwh you use every month. If you do not know how to calculate your power bill then click here.
After finding that, go to the vendors of solar panels and ask them how many solar panels you need. Another way is to go into your panel, if you are comfortable with going into it, and turn everything on that you think will be on at one time and measure the amperage. Then convert this to watts using the formula watts = volts x amps. This tells you how many watts your appliances pulling. It also lets you know how many solar panels you need.
For instance, if when you turn everything on you are pulling 7,000 watts, you will need to buy 7,000 watts of solar panels. Solar panels are sold in different sizes. So, all you will need to do is a little division to see how many panels you need. If the solar panels are 100 watt panels then for our example we would need 70 solar panels. Once you know how many solar panels you need, you also know how big of an inverter you need. You need and inverter because most solar panels put out DC power and you need AC power for your home.
The next thing that you will need will be batteries for your battery bank. These are sold using amp-hours. So for instance you would do the same calculation as before to find out how many batteries you will need to make sure that you will have lights and you appliances will be able to run all day and all night.
Grid-Tied Solar Power Systems
The other option for solar power is a grid-tied system. A grid-tied solar power system is where you are tied into the grid. This allows you to sell some or all of the power that you generate back to the utility. The power company will still come out if your power goes off however many will not troubleshoot your solar panels because the belong to you.
This is a favorable system for most because it is cheaper. It also does not necessarily need to power your entire house since you are still on the grid. You also do not have to purchase a battery bank for backup power. There are several different rates that utilities offer in regard to grid-tied systems and you should definitely talk to them if it is your intention to tie back into the grid because many have specific requirements that have to be met in order to tie into their system.
Selling your power back to the power company in a grid-tied net metering system is a way to recoup some of the cost of the installation, but do not expect to get rich off of the power company.
Reducing Energy Consumption before Converting to Solar Power
One of the things to consider before you go solar is whether or not your house is efficient. You need to make sure that you have the proper amount of insulation and that there are no air gaps in your windows and doors. You want to make sure that you are not wasting energy because if you are when you begin to do your calculations you will end up paying more for the solar system than you may need to. Another thing to consider is heating your water will the sun. An electric water heater alone can cost you $20 per month or more depending on your family size. If you can heat your water with the sun then your solar power system can be that much smaller saving you money.
Site selection for a Solar Power System
To get the most out of your solar power system, you should do a solar survey and make sure that your home gets the proper amount of sunlight to make it worth your while. You want to be able to face your solar panels to the south and have them angled so that you get the most direct sunlight. You want to make sure that the panels are not in the shade during the day and you also want them to be accessible if you need to work on them. There are many companies out there now that are offering a way so that you can monitor the output of each solar panel individually. This will help you know if your solar panels are producing the correct amount of energy.