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Everything You Need to Know About Solar Power

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Nowadays, more and more people are going solar and taking advantage of the benefits of a residential solar energy system. A solar energy system will produce much of the energy your home needs and can help to offset how much energy you need to buy from your utility company. You'll reduce your carbon footprint as well, which is something else to feel good about. If you manage and monitor your usage, your solar energy system may generate more energy than you need. So, you could earn credits for the surplus energy you export back to the grid. 

Solar Panels

Solar panels or solar photovoltaic systems absorb direct sunlight and convert it into electricity. Every panel is made up of solar cells which produce direct current or DC electricity. That means the electricity flows in a single direction. Your home and appliances run on alternating current or AC electricity. This means electricity currents flow back and forth in two directions. 

To put solar energy to work in your home, your system must include an inverter that converts DC electricity to AC electricity. When your solar system isn't producing enough electricity it is still able to receive electricity from the grid. So, you'll have uninterrupted power. 

Before you install solar on your home, there are a few things you'll need to remember. Every solar installation needs to be permitted in advance by your city or county. This is primarily for safety reasons and your contractor can help you with this. If you're part of a homeowners' association, you'll need to first obtain approval from your HOA. 

Every component you buy and every decision you make regarding your solar system revolves around the idea of knowing how much power you need to power the appliances that you want. For example, the size of your solar array and the number of solar panels that you need depends on how much energy you use on a daily basis. You may use a solar loan to finance your venture.

The size of your battery bank depends on how many days you want your energy storage to last you through cloudy days. The charge controller needs to properly manage the energy between your solar panels and your battery banks. And the inverter you need depends on what appliances you want to run off your system.  Even the sizes of wires and fuses depends on how much energy is going to be flowing through them. 

Power Consumption

The first thing you need is a list of every appliance that you intend to run off your solar system. This might seem tedious, but you need to go around to every appliance and find the power consumption rating label. This is a label that could either be imprinted on the device or charger itself. It could also be printed on a label that is stuck to the device or charger. What you're going to be looking for is the output rating for the device. Now this can either be listed as watts or volts and amps. 

Ultimately, what you're going to be looking for is the wattage of the device. If it already says it on the label, go ahead and write that number down. If you're left with volts and amps, there is an easy equation you can use to convert those into your output wattage. The equation is watts equals volts times amps. And if you have milli-amps as your variable, take that number and divide that by 1000. So if you have 500 millions, divide that by 1000. 

If for some reason you can't locate the power consumption rating label, try to find the model number of your device and Google search it. You could also just find something that's similar to it online.

Wattage Hours

First you list out every appliance that you intend to use with your solar power system. Also list the corresponding output wattage, and determine how long you are going to use each appliance per day. For this number, you're going to use hours as your variable. After you've written down all of the hours that you intend to use all of your appliances, take the output wattage and multiply that by the hours per day that you intend to use each device. 

For example, assume you have an 85 watt computer charger. You're going to take that 85  and multiply it by the four hours you intend to use it. If you have two of those chargers, multiply that by two. Repeat this process for each appliance that you have on your list and then at the end of it all, each appliance should have a corresponding watt hour figure. Add them up, and at the end of your list, you should have a figure that is the total number of watt hours that you're going to be using on a daily basis with your solar system. Now that you have your total watts per hour that you intend to use on your system, it is time to calculate your solar needs. 

Limitations of Solar 

If for some reason there are limitations are conflicting with your needs, it's not over, you can do something about it. You need to go back to your appliance list, look at the appliances that you could do without and then cross them off. Re-calculate your needs, wash, rinse and repeat. There's a lot of factors that go into making that decision, but basically it has to do with budget and spatial limitations at the time of calculating your solar needs. It also has to do with the amount and the size of the inverter that you need to power appliances.

So now that you have a good idea of what your solar system will require, go out and do some more research on what's out there. It may seem overwhelming because there's tons of options and combinations of components that you could put together to create your system. 

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