There are many ways to power your home with solar panels and solar power kits.
These systems can fit nearly any size home, demand, and space requirement. In this article we will discuss three different kinds of photovoltaic (PV) systems and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Off-Grid Solar Dependent Systems
These systems are usually found in extremely remote locations where electricity and fuel sources are hard to come by.
These systems consist of:
* Solar panel array: a combination of solar panels that are sized according to the cabin's electrical consumption. The higher the consumption of electricity, the larger and more expensive the array must be.
* Charge controller: this takes energy from the solar array and feeds it into the battery bank, while ensuring that the batteries are not over-charged (which would damage the batteries).
* Battery bank: this is specially designed to fit both the solar array and the needs of the home.
For instance you might need a larger battery bank if the area you are in experiences frequent cloudy days. The battery bank would have to store several days worth of energy to account for lack of sunshine.
* Inverter: the solar panels and batteries produce DC power and most appliances require AC power.
The inverter does the job of turning the DC power into AC power for your home.
* These systems are great for remote cabins, cottages and villages. They allow people to live in areas where they would not normally be able to live. They also provide power to third world villages that would probably never have power otherwise.
* There is relatively little maintenance of this systems.
The batteries will require the most attention and will have to be replaced before anything else.
* The cost of these systems, while not cheap, easily beat the costs of constructing a power line to remote areas 9 times out of 10.
* There is no means of getting back up power should the system go down due to weather or malfunction.
Hybrid Solar-Generator Systems
Most often, off-grid solar installation are supplemented with a backup generator.
This system has the same components, with the addition of these things:
* Generator: often powered by gas, oil, or propane, these units are essentially a combustion engine that turns an electric generator. This generates DC power that is fed into charge controller in the same fashion as PV power.
* Wind generator: these systems are gaining popularity for their ease of use, low maintenance, and low initial cost.
They can be wired directly to the batteries in many cases as most of them have an internal charge controller. Some even have built in inverters so they can be tied into grid-tied homes directly.
* Micro-hydro: great for homes near flowing water, these systems have come a long way in the last few years.
They can be tricky to install, as they consist of a turbine that is mounted in a river or stream. The water turns the turbine and generates electricity, which is fed into the charge controller.
* These systems are ideal for off-grid, remote locations.
They can be designed for varying weather conditions and consumption, and the homeowner has the added peace of mind knowing that there is a backup generator in case the sun doesn't shine.
* These systems require a reliable secondary fuel source, whether it be propane or wind.
Often these things are hard to come by in remote areas.
* The increased complexity of the system can often make installation difficult.
* Maintenance is heavier on these systems since they usually involve gassing and oiling a combustion engine.
Grid-Tied Solar Systems
This by far the most popular PV system.
Since the vast majority of homes in the US are connected to the electrical grid, this system probably makes the most sense for homeowners. The system can have batteries, but most often consists of the panel array, inverter, and several breakers and disconnects.
The homeowner must also be aware of these items:
* Interconnection Agreement: this is a legal document from the power utility outlining the details of your grid-tied system. This will tell you how to tie it in and when they will inspect it.
* Net Metering: this allows you to sell your excess power back to the utility.
* These systems are far simpler and easier to install than off-grid applications.
* The grid acts as the battery, so if the solar array goes down or the sun is down the grid will keep the lights on.
* The cost for these systems is lower since the batteries and charge controllers are not necessary.
* Excess power can be sold to the utility to offset the cost of the system.
* Utilities often have rebates and incentives for homeowners installing PV systems which can offset the cost of the system.
* Obviously this is not an option for people that don't have an electrical grid nearby.