Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Solar Panel Watts = Volts x Amps

When determining the overall wattage of a solar panel we use this simple equation:

Watts = Volts x Amps.

When building a solar panel or looking for a solar panel, you should always know the final wattage, volts, and amps that you want the solar panel to produce. Your solar panel should always use the same size and same type of solar cells as well to keep the power consistant. Larger cells produce more current, or AMPS, and smaller cells produce less current. Larger cells will produce more power, but will make your solar panel heavier, and smaller cells will keep your solar panel lighter, but it will not produce as much power as larger cells. You also do not want to mix different sized cells together because the current or AMPS of your solar panel will be limited by the smallest cell in the group - wasting the power of the larger cells. SO ONLY USE SOLAR CELLS OF THE SAME SIZE AND SIMILAR AMPS.

What is a solar bypass diode?

Most solar panel systems consist of individual solar panels being connected in a series to produce higher watts at a steady amperage. For example, a 180 watt, 3.6 amp solar panel system may consist of three 60 watt, 3.6 amp solar panels connected together in a series. The overall productivity - 180 watts - of the solar panel system depends on all three of the 60 watt panels working efficiently. However, if one solar panel connected in a series string fails, due to shade, dirt, destruction or other factors, it will produce electrical resistance (called a hot spot) and now the weakest panel in the solar panel system determines the total current. The covered or damaged solar panel now acts like a resistor and it can actually damage the entire solar panel. A bypass diode creates a path or least resistance around the disabled solar panel and can help to protect your solar panels from damage.

Many panels are set up as actually two strings in one frame. So one 60 watt panel is actually made up of two 30 watt panels. Each half of the panel has a bypass diode, usually inside the junction box, or built into the frame to allow for electricity flow should one of the panels begin acting like a resistor.

It is recommended that a bypass diode be placed in between each solar panel in a multi-panel system to help keep the system working effeciently. I have read that bypass diodes are not needed in all systems, and usually not at all in 12 volt systems, but I feel that it is best to use them to prevent any long-term damage to your system.

What is a solar blocking diode?

If you think of the flow of electricity like the flow of water, then a diode can most closely be related to a one-way valve in a sewage pipe. It lets electricity flow one-way only and blocks it from coming back in - just like a one-way valve operates in a sewage pipe - letting sewage out, but not back into your house.

A solar blocking diode (or low voltage drop diode) is a diode that is used in the electrical schematic of a solar panel to restrict or block the electrical current coming out of the solar panels to reverse or flow backward through the solar panels. If the current were allowed to flow back into the solar panel, the solar panel could get damaged by the current and suffer from thermal destruction. So you do not want the power coming out of a solar panel to ever flow back into it.

It is claimed that if you have a charge controller and a single panel or single string of panels, that you do not need a blocking diode - but I still recommend that you put a blocking diode on every solar panel you create or that you purchase solar panels with blocking diodes to prevent any possibly damage to your solar panels.

It is important to note that the rating on a blocking diode - for example; 8 amps, 45volts - is rated on a free-air system. The effeciency of a blocking diode decreases as the temparature around the diode increases (as is the case when blocking diodes are installed inside solar panels and solar panel junction boxes, so make sure that you purchase blocking diodes from manufacturers that allow a safety factor when selling diodes to you. A diode I like to use is a Schottky blocking diode. The amps and volts depend on the application. Some sellers advertise an 8amp 45 volt blocking diode for sale, but the diode is actually rated at 16 amps. The company is good about selling this diode with a safety factor so that you can use it correctly in your application. Always check for the full rating of a diode and how temparature affects its performance if that information is available.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Understanding a solar cell - The solar panel building block

I am build a few homemade solar panels, and I am working on writing up an instructable and a video to show how easy these are to make. Before I post that information however, I wanted to introduce the basic building block of a solar panel and describe how to look for them, how they work, and their energy output. Once this is understood, building a solar panel becomes an easier task.

So what is a solar panel and what are solar cells? A solar panel is basically just a box that holds a bunch of individual solar cells that are connected together. A solar cell is the component that actually converts the sunlight into electricty. It takes a lot of these individual solar cells working together (in a solar panel) to produce enough electricty to be useful. When you look up solar panels, you will see that they come in all types of various wattages - ranging from 15watts, 30 watts, 60 watts, 240 watts, and higher. The number of solar cells in the panel, and the way that they are wired is what determines the solar panels overall power production.

To explain what I mean about how solar cells ultimately determine the overall power of a solar panel, I will discuss the power rating of an individual solar cell, solar cells and overall wattage, wiring solar cells together, and how to connect solar cells together in your wiring schema.

Solar panels are rated on three measures of power: Watts, volts, and amps. The first thing you need to know about solar cells is that typically all of them creates a little more than .5volts of DC electricty - no matter what physcial dimension they are. The only thing that changes with the size of a solar cell is their current, or AMPS. So if we take our 3"x6" solar cell example and look at its electricity output - it is more than likely rated at .5volts with 3 amps. If we were to break that solar cell into half, we would get two solar cells that rate at .5 volts and 1.5 amps each.

When determining the overall wattage of a solar panel made up of combined solar cells, we use this simple equation:

Watts = Volts x Amps.

When building a solar cell, you should always know the final wattage, volts, and amps that you want the solar panel to produce, and you should always use the same size and same type of solar cells. Larger cells produce more current, or AMPS, and smaller cells produce less current. Larger cells will produce more power, but will make your solar panel heavier, and smaller cells will keep your solar panel lighter, but it will not produce as much power as larger cells. You also do not want to mix different sized cells together because the current or AMPS of your solar panel will be limited by the smallest cell in the group - wasting the power of the larger cells. SO ONLY USE SOLAR CELLS OF THE SAME SIZE AND SIMILAR AMPS.

So now that we have an idea how individual solar cells are rated and how their power production is rated - how do we know how many solar cells to use to make a final solar panel with a pre-determined amount of wattage? We do this by using the equation for wattage:

Watts = Volts x Amps

So lets say that we want to create a solar panel that puts out 60 Watts. We know that our 3"x6" solar cells put out .5 volts and have 3.3 amps. So we take 60 watts divided by 3.3 to get our overall solar panel voltage. 60watts/3.3amps = 18volts.

Now that we have our overall solar panel voltage, we can find out just how many solar cells we need to get 18volts out of the solar panel. To do this we take:

Solar Panel Voltage / single solar cell voltage = Number of cells needed per panel

So in our example, we found out that a 60 watt solar panel will have 18 volts. So now we take 18volts/.5volts = 32 solar cells needed. So we know now that it will take us 32 .5volt solar cells to create a single 60 watt, 18 volt solar panel. This means that we will need to wire these solar cells together in a series to achieve the voltage increase we need.

There are two ways that you can wire your solar cells together in your solar panels

1) Series wiring (positive to negative and negative to positive)
2) Parallel wiring (positive to positive and negative to negative)

Wiring solar cells in series will increase the voltage of the solar cell, but will not increase the amps. Wiring solar cells in parallel will increase the amperage, but will not increase the voltage.

Using our 3"x6" solar cell with .5volts and 3.3amps I will explain how these two different methods of wiring solar cells together drastically changes the power output of your solar cell.

Series Wiring
If we take two 3"x6" solar cells by connecting the positive terminal of one cell to the negative terminal of another cell, and the negative terminal of the same cell to the postive terminal of the other cell, then we will have series wired the two together creating an increase in voltage to 1 volt with the rated 3.3 amps not changin. If we were to series wire six of the solar cells together, we would get 3volts (.5x6) at 3.3 amps, and so on.

Parallel Wiring
Parallel wiring refers to connecting solar cells to increase amps, but not volts. If you have two .5 volt solar cells rated at 3.3 amp hours, for example, by connecting the positive terminal of one solar cell to the positive terminal of the other, and the same with the negative terminal, then we will have parallel wired the two together. In this case, we now have a .5 volt solar cell and the rated 3.3 amps increases to 6.6 amp hours.

A single solar cell will not yield a lot of useful electricity, so you need to connect them together into a solar array - inside the solar panel. Connecting solar cells together is relatively easy, but it is a slow, gentle process that should be done carefully and with a lot of attention. Each solar cell has postive leads on the bottom of the cell, and negative leads at the top of the cell. There are two ways to connect solar cells together. The first way is to solder the tabs (or wires) that are already connected to the solar cells to the tabs or another solar cell, and the second way is to buy a metal solar cell ribbon and solder a strip of it to the back of each cell you want to connect (soldering to each of the six rectanglar points on the cell)

It is important to note that not all solar cells are sold with the tabs already connected, but that all solar cells have connection points on their back-side that look like a metal rectangle (6 total) which are used for soldering the ribbon into place. I recommend that if you can find solar cells with the tabbing already connected - that you purhcase these. They are easier to solder, the will cost you less in material, and they are faster to install with less steps and less soldering. Using the solder ribbon to connect solar cells will more than double the time it takes you to create a solar panel, and leaves more room for errors and connectivity issues.

When soldering solar cells together, I recommend the use of a flat-tip 30 watt soldering iro and silver bearing solder. You can find both of these at Radio Shack.

Be sure to solder the connections in series or parallel, based on your application.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What is Net Metering?

Net metering is the arrangement you can make with your power company to install an alternative power system and sell power back to them for use in the grid.

The way it works is this: when you produce more solar power than you are using, your meter runs backwards. This is when your power company buys the power back from you. The power company then typically sells this power onto another customer (usually your neighbour) and you pay less for your power bill.

There are different types of net metering arrangements. The better ones allow you to either get credited if you make more power over a year than you use. Other arrangements will give you a 'floating credit' for one or more years. That net credit is generally not carried forward after a specified period. In other words, you don't get credited for a net annual excess of power.

The following states allow net metering:

Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii
Illnois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Masachusetts
Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico
New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
District of Columbia.

If your state isn't on this list, check the DSIREusa website. There are other rebates from local counties and power companies that might be available.

Is heating water with solar energy right for you?

The average house spends more on hot water than any other part of their heating bill. On average, 25% of a home's energy bill is from heating water. If you can implement a system in your home that would allow you to use solar energy to heat your water and transport it throughout your home, it would be one sure-fire way to help you cut down on your energy bill. .

Ideally, you want a south facing roof with a slope of your latitude + 15 degrees. Your solar collector should also have full sun between 9am and 3pm.

When considering a hot water panel setup, you want to make sure that you have panels large enough to supply enough hot water for everyone in your home. A general rule is to get a solar panel that has 10-15 square feet of collective solar area per person in the house. So if you have a home that has 4 people in it, I would recommed that you look at a collection system with panels that cover at least 40 square feet of area to sufficiently supply a constant hot water supply.

These systems, when used properly and installed properly, can help you to shave at least $200-$300 off your energy bill a year. It is important to factor in the amount of shade and the demand for hot water in your home to help you figure out the overall costs and savings.

Now that you know how much these systems can help you save in a year, it is important to note that a typical solar heating system on the market can start anywhere between $1500 and $3000. The systems will generally pay for themselves in about 5-10 years. You can look at the initial price of the solar collector as pre-paying for hot water. There are a wide range of solar water heaters available, so make sure you do your homework and find the system that will work best for your application. You do not want to invest this kind of money only to find that your system is inadequate for your needs.

FREE SOLAR PANELS - how to get them

You often see signs around construction sites that are solar powered, from time to time these signs will get damaged from drunk drivers or rubber-neckers passing through construction areas. Most of the time, the solar panels are still working but the glass above them is shatered so they have less of an output. Typically they still produce about 30 watts of power. The ones that are not shatered produce 60 watts and cost about $200-$300 dollars. Look closely at the signs and you will find a sticker with the phone number of the traffic sign rental contractor. Use your pen and paper to write down this number.

Call the company and ask for the shop maintaince manager or head mechanic and ask him for free damaged panels. If you have kids who enjoy doing experments, have them ask. Most companies love to help kids doing a school or class project. Most all traffic rental sign contractors have free solar panels that have some cracks or slightly damaged when drunk drivers hit the parked sign trailers. They replace them and throw away the damaged ones - and their insurance covers the cost. If they say you can come down and pick them up, you will want to take a big truck or trailer with you so that you can take off of the garbage panels they have with you. I tis best to take all of it, and disassemble whatever you do not need at home. If they do not have any panels or are unwilling to work with you, be nice, and ask them if they can refer to anyone that would be willing to unload some damaged panels. Be on time when you make an apointment to go and see them - and do not skip any appointments you make with them! Thank the shop mechanic with a box of doughnuts and refreshments and he might even call you when he has some more discard solar panels!

Once you get the panels home, test and repair the damaged panels as needed, cracks can be resealed with clear silicone. Wiring can be soldered back together.


Always Be polite when asking for discard parts

Don't stop on a busy road to get the phone number from a solar sign, as this is very dangerous and you can cause an accident.

Rent solar panels in your state

At the first of the year, I registered to have solar power put on my home by a company called The Citizenre Corporation. They are an energy company that is dedicated to modernizing our energy infrastructure and increasing our energy supplies here in the US. I signed up for this because I believe we are too dependent upon foreign oil, oil and natural gas prices keep rising, and I would rather see my hard earned money stay right here in the U.S. Also Solar Power is excellent for the environment as well! If you are interested and want to check it out - read the steps below.

Go to the website here: to set up a free account and enter in your home address and answer the home energy use questions. This will help them to profile your location, your homes use, and then provide some statistics for you to review.

By Creating an account, you are not committing to using their service. You are just selecting the type of plan that you would be interested in and the term that you would like to use their solar panels for. Once you create an account, they will generate a power consumption model for your address that you can review. Take a look at it and see how much power is generated in your area, and how much you use. This will help you to see the power that you can sell at certain types of the day, and the power that you will use.

Reading the chart and knowing exactly what you have consumed and when it was consumed will have significant value to you. Homeowners are more likely to conserve more energy when they can easily monitor their consumption. So not only will the chart help give you the ability to save money, but it will also help you to get into the habit of conserving energy.

The next thing to do is to go down into the "Contract Status History" of your account and read the FRA Terms & Conditions PDF they give you. If you read this, it will clearly state the agreement that you are interested in entering into, what type of thing the CitizenRENu group covers, the terms of the contract and how it works with your local energy provider.

The coolest thing is that the CitizenRENu company will pay for the city assessment, the code and ordinance work, and will also try to find qualified solar panel installers to come out to your house and do an installation. Your only cost is to provide a $500 dollar deposit for the term or the agreement that you enter into. So lets say that you want to have Solar Power on your home for 25 years - then you get the $500 dollars back at the end of the 25 year term. You can also transfer the panels to a new home if you move, so do not worry about that. I do want to make it clear though that you will still also get an energy bill from your local service provider. Just because you install these panels does not mean that you will not still get an energy bill. By installing these panels, they help you to drive down your energy costs because you are actually using the panels and selling energy back to the power company.

Another small fee that you will notice in your bill will also be a line fee from your energy company. Since you are trying to do something good for the planet and drive down your costs - the energy company will actually charge you about $5.00 a month for the use of their lines. They are still buying energy from you, but charging you at the same time to put it into the grid.

Regardless though, this company is doing the right thing, and they are defiantly worth checking out. I did, and I am really glad that I am helping to utilize solar power in my area. I still use grid power, but eventually I would love to be oil independent in my home!

The only problem right now is that this company is still trying to get funding and they are very overwhelmed with orders, so it is taking a while to get orders out. Also, there is a shortage or no qualified solar panel installers in certain states.

I do want to make it clear though that you will still get an energy bill from your local service provider. You pay to CitizenrÄ“ what you would normally pay to your existing electricity supplier during the lease term, but you lock in the rate at the beginning of each term, so even if your electric company raises its rates during the same period, you’re not affected. Just because you install these panels does not mean that you will not get an energy bill.

By installing these panels, they help you to drive down your energy costs because you are actually using the panels and selling energy back to the power company.
The power company will also charge you a fee for the use of their lines even though you are putting power into the grid for others to use.

The Citizenre REnU lease terms run in one, five and thirty year increments.

CitizenREnU -
Find Solar Professional in your area -

How to Heat Water With Solar Power

Heating water is one of the simplest and most effective uses of solar power. Solar water heaters can greatly reduce energy costs while simultaneously helping the environment. Professional installers can provide expert advice on using a solar panel to heat water in your home, but models are also available for experienced do-it-yourselfers to install themselves. Doing the job requires a few careful steps.

Things You’ll Need:
Solar water heater tank
Solar panel
Solar panel mounts
Solar panel rails
Copper connection tubing
Compression unions
Coaxial fitting for the water heater
2 roof boots
Roof boot flashing
Caulking gun
Teflon tape

Perform an audit on your home to determine your heat needs. Your water company may be able to provide information on usage, though a 30-gallon capacity per person in your household is a good round figure.

Determine the size of the solar power panel you will need and whether it will fit comfortably on your roof. Generally speaking, you'll need around 20 square feet for each of the first two residents. For every additional person, add 8 square feet if you live in a sunny area or 12 to 14 square feet if you live in a cold climate.

Determine the best placement for your solar panel on your roof. You will want a location where the mountings can be secured to the rafters (a hammer can be used to "sound out" the rafters), and also one that will allow you to run pipe to your hot water heater conveniently.

Measure the precise points where the mountings should go, making sure that they line up to the positions on the panel precisely.

Install the mountings using a power drill, with screws and brackets to hold them in place. The exact type of screw used will depend on the model of solar panel.

Seal the holes with caulk or similar sealant.

Install the rails onto the mounts and fix them in place, as described in their instruction manual (exact methods vary from model to model).

Install the solar panel on the rails, making sure they are secure against wind or bad weather.

Install a roof boot to provide an opening for the connection between the panel and the water tank. This should go approximately 2 inches from the feed connection on your solar panel, and should not be placed over any rafters.

Add flashing to the boot to make the surrounding hole watertight. Use caulk for a further sealant if necessary.

Install a second roof boot in the same manner approximately 2 inches from the absorber outlet of your solar panel.

Attach the compression unions to the roof boots.

Connect the compression unions to the appropriate feeds on the solar panel using copper tubing.

Make sure all connections are tight and will not leak water.

Run copper tubing from both feeds down through the attic to the water heater.

Turn off the gas on your water heater and drain it of all water.

Install the coaxial fitting onto the water heater (exact details vary by model).

Connect the copper tubes to the fitting, making sure that the feed line (cool water out to the solar panel, which will heat it) and the return line (hot water in from the solar panel) are connected to their proper locations.

Double check all connections to make sure there is no leaking. Use sealant or Teflon tape if necessary.

Refill the heater with water and turn the gas back on.

Make sure that your solar panel doesn't violate any existing building codes in your area, and check with your water company before attempting to adjust an existing hot water heater.

Take care when working on your rooftop. Make sure your footing is solid and always have a friend or family member close by in case of an accident.

How to Get Solar Power Grants

There are tax rebates and government programs designed to help you start using alternative energy. Since solar power equipment is still very expensive, and can be very hard on your budget to try and start using, you can look for grants to help you purchase and install a solar panel system. Think about the type of solar power system you would like to install - such as a solar water heating system or a photovoltaic solar power system. Water heating systems only heat the water in your home whereas photovoltaic systems can provide energy for the entire home. Which one you choose to install dictates which grants you will apply for.

Establish the overall budget for solar power installation. Before you get a solar power grant, you first need to determine just how much the system will cost to install. The solar water heating systems are usually much cheaper to install than the photovoltaic system.

Contact your local city energy office for any local grants that may be available. When you search for solar power it's best to begin at the local level and then expand to the state and federal level. Each level should have solar power grants you can apply for. See the Resources section for more information.

Read the details of the solar power grant and determine if you want to proceed. Some solar power grants are more consumer friendly than others are. You will need to read all of the fine print on just what you have to do qualify for the grant. Some grants will require installing the system first and then will reimburse your expenses, while others will award the grants contingent on the work you complete in the future.

Submit the solar power grant paperwork along with any other information that each grant requires. The detail of the information required varies for each grant.

Ways to use Solar Power in your home

As the environmental costs and limited supply of power sources such as fossil fuels are realized, solar power is rapidly becoming a much more viable alternative. It is an excellent alternative energy source, and it can be used for creating power and heat.

The creation of electrical power from solar power is generated through the use of photovoltaic panels that capture radiant energy form the sun and convert it into electricity. Each PV cell is made of two slices of silicon, mixed with a little bit of either phosphorous or boron since pure silicon. The cells absorb the sunlight, then the layers of silicon separate the electrons out into positive and negative charges, creating electrical current. The current can either be used immediately, or stored in batteries for later use. The reaction only produces direct current electricity however so it must be passed through an inverter to be converted into an alternating current so it can be used in our homes. A typical PV cell can last up to 40 years with no maintenance other than a yearly clean.

You can also use solar electric power for your outside lights and to power your landscape features. Antoher really effecient use for solar power is to supply electricity to your well pump - if your home uses a well for its water supply. Solar power can be used to power high efficiency water pumps which can be linked directly to PV cells, or which come in their own kits, ready for installation to your pump motor.

There are also solar systems that exist for heating your home water supply, your pool, or outdoor hot-tubs. Water supply heating systems simply set up on your roof, or next to your pool or hot tub, and circulate the water supply through a heat exchange unit. The heat is produced from the sunlight that hits these units and they can greatly reduce heating costs. These can be used year-round in hot climates, and they also make special units for use in cold, freezing climates.

In addition, you can couple these units with radiant panel flooring that can installed in your home, and can actually replace existing conventional water heaters, dramatically reducing utility bills by up to 85 percent.

Solar power can also provide additional heat to any kind of heating system by using hot air panels or a “solar wall.” This adds heat to the building directly during hours of sunlight.

These are just a few of the most popular uses for solar energy that can help you to increase your homes energy effeciency, and keep your lifestyle comfortable - but green!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Charge a Car Battery using Solar Power

Solar Power is free energy that you can use to not only power your home, but also your car, motorcyle, scooter, lawnmower - anything with a battery! Using solar power to help you charge your car battery and keep it property charged can help you avoid getting stuck with a dead battery. The solar powered car battery charges available are great for maintaining your battery or helping the alternator of your vehicle to keep your battery charged.

If you go down to your local automotive store, or Truck Stop, you can probably find a portable, solar powered car battery trickle charger. Now the way a trickle charger works as opposed to a direct battery charger is that it only supplies a very slow and small electrical charge to your battery. The solar power charger I use on my car is only a 1.8 watt charger, but it does a great job of keeping my battery maintained! All you have to do is take your charger out of the packaging it comes in, place it on your dashboard or attach it to the inside of your windshield, and then plug it into your cigarette lighter or directly connect it to the positive and negative leads on your battery. As soon as the sun hits the charger, it will instantly start to charge your battery. The cool thing about these chargers is that they come with a one-way diode - which only allows the electrical current to flow in one direction. What this means is that the unit can only charge your battery and not drain it - which is great for use over very long periods of time. When I use this charger on my lawnmower to help maintain the battery, it charges it back up within 20-25 minutes, and I just keep it in my car for a constant charge.

You may have a vehicle in storage, a second car that you do not drive very much, or other power equipment that will need to keep its battery maintained. Solar trickle chargers are an excellent way to keep your batteries fully charged in a portable, easy to use system. It will only cost you the purchase of the charger and will save you the cost of expensive dead batteries.

Basic Components of a Solar Power System

So what are the basic components of a Solar Power System? Well, believe it or not, they really are not that complicated, and they are actually easy to integrate into your homes current power system. The most complicated part about harnessing the sun's energy through solar panels is taking that DC, or direct current energy, and converting it into AC, or alternating current, which can be tied into your homes current power system. The second most difficult thing about using solar power is figuring out how much power you need to run everything in your house, but we will talk about that in another post.

The basic components of a Solar Power System are as follows:
- Solar panels mounted on the roof of your home.
- An inverter that converts DC energy into AC energy for your home to use
- A junction box that connects the solar panel wiring to the house's breaker panel.
- A Battery bank that stores solar power during the day for use at night
- A Power Meter that helps show the power use from the batteries or panels
- A kill switch that disconnects the solar panel from the house power.

Three Types of Solar Power Systems

Solar panels are an excellent way to start using "green" energy and work toward getting your home independent of oil energy. Solar electricity costs about $10 to $12a watt installed, so it is extremely helpful to find the best solar panels for your application and power usage. Here are the three main types of solar panel systems you can install.

The first and most common type of solar photovoltaic system is called a "Grid-interconnected solar power system". In this system, the array of solar panels are added in addition to your normal power supply(provided by your utility company). So in this system, you are still living off the grid, but also but also generating your own power to supplement your homes use.

The second type of solar photovoltaic system that is also commonly used is called a "Grid Inter-tied with battery backup system". This system is very similar to the first system, only it has a "battery bank" added to collect the power generated from the solar panels. The way this works is that the power from the solar panels run to the batteries, which then run to the breaker box and into the house power system. The panels charge the batteries and the batteries are used at night when there is not any sunlight power available.

The third and final type of solar photovoltaic system is called an "Off Grid Photovoltaic System". These systems are not tied to the grid, or any utility power lines, and supply the main source of power to your home directly from solar energy produced. These systems can have wind-power, water-power, and even back-up generators factored in to help provide energy at night. These are generally very high capacity solar power systems, often able of generating at least 10,000 watts minimum of power.

SUNTAN - Solar Power Fun

Alright, so this is not really a Solar Power How-To, but I had to add this video in here for your viewing pleasure. Another great power of the sun - SUNTANS!

How simple is it to use Solar Power?

Solar is really easy to start using, and is not as challenging as you may have thought. The biggest challenge is finding solar panels that are affordable and effecient to fit within your budget. To get started, using the power of the sun, follow the steps below!

Survey the site area that you want to mount your solar panels to.
Solar Electric requires direct sunlight for 6-8 hours per day to be effective and produce enough energy to store and use. If you want to mount the solar panels on your roof or on the side of your house, make sure that you get at lease 6-8 hours of shadeless light.

Determine your Power Requirement

Figure out the power draw that will be required of the area that you want to power with solar panels. Do you want to only run lights? So you want to run a computer, a TV, a fridge, and lights? If so, get the wattage rating for each of these items and add it all up to determine your power draw. For example, a 13 watt DC florescent energy saving bulb has a 13 watt draw, so you know that it requires exactly 13 watts of energy to run this bulb.

Determine the Amount of Time the Draw Requires Power
Say you need to have the light bulb on for about 5 hours a day. To determine the amount of draw required by the appliance or light, take the (hours of day) multiplied by the (watts). This will give you = the watt hours per day. So in this case the lightbulb watt hours per day is figured out like so: (5 hours per day) x(13 watts) = 65 watt hours per day

Figure out the Size of the Battery you need to store the power.
Once you know the watt hours per day that you need to run your system, lights, or appliances, you can find a battery that will support the amount of amp hours required per day. Read the spec on the battery label and find a deep cycle battery that can handle the load and amp hours required. You can connect batteries together to achieve a battery bank that will support larger systems.

Add a power converter to deliver the DC power from the solar panels and battery to AC power the lights and appliances can use.
Go to an auto store or an electric store and look at the different types of DC to AC power converters they have available. You need to convert the DC, or direct current, electricity that the Solar Panel is creating

Size the Solar Panel to produce the power needed
So now that you know how many watts and how many amp hours are needed to run your system, lights, or appliances using solar power, find a solar panel that will output the electricity demand you need. Start with a panel that produces at least 80-100 watts of power. These solar powers are also about the wattage to power 65 watt hours per day and maintain a 12 volt battery. You can always connect panels together in parallel to output more energy later, so do not worry about starting simply and adding on later. Solar power is expandable! Be sure to get a solar panel that has a one-way diode so that it does not drain your batteries at night.

Get some wire to connect it all up
Go to the auto store again and get some heavy guage battery wire to connect the solar panel to the batteries and the power converter to the batteries.

Expand your system later.
Solar Power is easy to add on to as your power needs increase. Larger power use needs more analysis, but you can always add on, and work your way up to supplying all energy with solar power to your home.

Harness Solar Power - Project Blog

Welcome to the Harness Solar Power Project Blog. I created this blog to help teach people about solar power, solar panels, solar electricity, and how easy solar power is to use. I set out to show you how you can start using solar power in your everyday lives. Take a look through the posts to start learning about solar power projects you can easily do around your home to start harnessing the sun's ability to create electricity.