With battery-based systems, what are the skills required to P2001 power station? A solar power system is basically a battery-charging system. Instead of using a plug-in battery charger, you are using solar panels. You’ll need a “charge controller”. This is just like a car battery charger, but the solar panels feed it the power instead of plugging it in to the wall. Solar charge controller are much smarter than car battery chargers.
They are designed for maintenance-free operation and to keep your batteries healthy. The one item in a solar charging system that makes it different than just a battery charger is the “Inverter”. It changes the DC battery voltage into AC house current. Hooking-up these components is not difficult. Doing is safely requires knowing some basic guidelines as to wire sizes and physical arrangement. If you can handle basic hand-tools and could build an above-ground pool or deluxe dog house, you can build a battery-based solar power system. The major component line-up is simply: Solar panels, charge controller, batteries, inverter. You do add a circuit-breakers between each one so you can disconnect everything. There are vendors all over the US who are eager to get you what you need.
Once you learn the basics, you can scale it up to any size. You are just using more panels, bigger batteries, a larger inverter and larger wire. Everything scales up nicely. The only maintenance on a battery-based solar system is keeping water in the batteries (unless you have maintenance-free batteries) and adjusting the angle of the panels a few times a year. If you like, you can buy panel mounts that automatically track the sun during the day. This gives about 20% more power. Most people just make panel mounting frames out of decking lumber or angle-iron. You are just making a rectangular frame to bolt the panels on with an axle-bolt at the bottom so you can adjust the angle of the panel. A small strut arm comes out so you can lock it in position. Simple! Panel frames can also be mounted on top of wooden poles or metal pipe.
Now let’s talk about the financial aspect of solar energy. We’ve all been prey to what are basically ad campaigns which portray solar energy as a fringe technology. This is all part of a program which tries to protect an endangered-species, your monthly bill. Solar energy works very well. If it didn’t, we would not have an International Space Station or Satellite TV. Panels are now known to last for over 40 years. This is because that is how long ago they were invented. Yes, they will be working after all readers of this article are gone. This is crucial to calculating the financial viability of a solar power installation.
Why? Because whatever size installation you invest in will be paid back to you in increased home value when you sell your house. That system will still be working 40 years from now. When people look at homes in their price-range and you home has a solar power plant on it, it gives you a tremendous edge in the market. This effect will only increase. Because of this, all the energy you ever produce with a system will have been for free. You get your system cost back when you sell. I sold my solar home in 90 minutes to the second viewer for over-asking without an agent. I retired off the proceeds in my 40’s. Yes, solar is a good investment.
So how much are we looking at for a system? You should not invest less than $5,000 in a system. With current federal tax credits only, for $15,000 out-of-pocket net cost, you could produce around 65% of what you use in an average American home. You only want to produce less-than or exactly what you now use. With CD’s and other investments at historically low rates and high risk, solar is quite an attractive investment. If you have state and or local solar incentives, it only gets better. You can check for incentive programs at If you are a large energy user, you could spend up to $30,000 on a large system. Your cost-benefit ratio is the same. Any size system increases the value of your home instantly.
You’ll need a place in the yard or on your roof that has full southern exposure. This means no tree shading for at least 5 hours during the day. For every hour more sun you have, you save 20% on your system costs (the system can be smaller). You’ll need about 600 sq feet total. (say 15″ X 40″ for 100% of an average home)
Lastly we must talk about increasing efficiency. 30%-40% of all energy delivered to a home is lost. That is after 7%-8% of the electricity was already lost in the commercial power delivery system (telephone pole etc.) before it got to you. It is ten times cheaper to improve the efficiency of your home – than it is to generate that lost power with solar energy. The “Hit Parade” of energy loss is as follows:
1. Inadequate attic insulation. You must have 14 inches of it up there.
2. Leaky HVAC dusting systems. You ducts have fallen loose out of their openings.
3. Edison-type light bulbs. High-efficiency compact fluorescent bulbs save $50 per bulb.
4. Old inefficient HVAC systems and appliances. Replace them with Energy-Star units.
5. Leaky windows. Replace them with double-pane vinyl or wood windows.
This has to be mentioned in the solar equation because a small amount invested first in these areas will significantly reduce your energy usage and the resulting size of the solar system you build. Sure, it’s not fun or high-tech, but efficiency work really pays. Don’t even consider a solar system until you tighten-up your home.