In this solar how to article, I will go through each component of a solar power system, explain what it does and how it fits into the system as a whole. Each component does a specific job, though you don’t need every component in every solar project. The typical solar power system generates electricity, stores the electricity in batteries for later use and then converts the DC electricity from the battery to the same type of AC electricity that comes out of the wall sockets in your house.
Solar Panels – The solar panels are what actually generate electricity from the sun. Photons from sunlight strike the panel, knocking loose electrons from a layer of silicon. These electrons are then directed through wire and become electricity. A solar panel is actually made up of many solar cells, each of which usually generates about 0.5 volt. It is relatively cheap and easy to build your own solar panels and generate your own free electricity! This guide shows you everything you need to know.
Solar Charge Controller – This device takes the electricity produced by the solar panels and charges the batteries. It must make sure that the voltage sent to the batteries is not too high or too low. It also makes sure the batteries don’t overcharge by gradually lowering the power sent to the batteries as they get close to full charge. When the batteries are fully charged, it will “top off” the batteries every once in a while to make sure they stay fully charged.
Batteries – Most solar systems use standard 12 volt batteries like you find in your car. Sealed lead acid are the most common type. They are cheap, easy to find, safe and rugged. The only downside is they are heavy. Sometimes you can find surplus batteries from things like computer backup supplies very cheap or even free! This guide can show you how.
Solar Power Inverter – This device takes the 12v DC power from the batteries and converts it to 120v AC power to be used in appliances. There are 2 types: Modified Sine Wave and True Sine Wave. True Sine Wave is the better of the two types as it exactly replicates the electricity that comes out of the wall sockets in your house. It is more expensive than MSW, but it is worth it in the long run.
Now, let’s put it all together. The solar panels are usually mounted on the roof of your house. Wires connect the solar panels together and deliver the electricity to the charge controller. The charge controller regulates the power coming from the solar panels to charge the batteries. The batteries store energy all day while the sun is shining. When electricity is needed for some appliance like a computer or TV or lights, the power inverter takes the electricity that has been stored in the batteries, converts the voltage up to standard 120v and changes the DC electricity to AC and delivers the standard electricity you’re used to getting out of the sockets in your house to the appliance. A system like this can be big enough to power your whole house, or small enough to power just a single appliance.
I hope this solar how to guide has been helpful. For a great guide to making your own home solar system, including step-by-step videos, Click Here.