What is a Complete Solar Panel System

With increasing concerns about toxic pollution, rising electricity costs, and dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, the desire to use solar power has been, for some time, increasing rapidly. Few, however, really understand what a complete solar system is, as most available information focuses on commercial or DIY solar panel technology. This article is going to list and discuss the four major components of a complete solar power system, so, if you decide to convert to solar power, you’ll know exactly what you are getting into.

Solar Panels

One solar panel has three major parts, a housing unit, solar cells, and a wiring system. Housing units are most commonly built with metal frames, usually aluminum, a solid backing, which can be made of various materials, and a glass, or Plexiglas, front cover. The housing unit must be ridged, sturdy and waterproof, as moisture or warping will cause damage and corrosion.

Mounted on the backing are a number of solar cells. Most commonly, solar panels will have 36 cells, but this does vary based on the voltage of the cells and the desired output of each panel. These solar cells are typically made of silicon. When the sun hits this material electrons are released, resulting in an electrical current. This current is then sent through, and, eventually, out of the panel by the wiring system.

The wiring system on the solar panel itself is comprised of what is called tabbing wire. This is a long flat wire that gets soldered to the back of each cell in the panel, connecting them and allowing current to pass through from one cell to another. Also part of the solar panel wiring system is what is called a blocking diode. This is a small but important device that blocks current from reversing and traveling back into the solar panel.

Storage Devices

Solar panels do not generate enough electricity in real time to power people’s devices, nor do they generate any electricity at all once the sun goes down. To overcome this problem, we must incorporate the use of a power storage system, namely batteries. The most important piece of information about batteries is that they are 12 volts, a fact that determines the desired voltage output of nearly all solar panels.

A second essential piece of information about batteries in solar power systems is that they must be what are called deep cycle batteries. Deep cycle batteries are specifically designed to be charged up and then full depleted, over and over again. If you did this, for example, with standard automobile batteries, you would destroy them quite quickly. Finally, as one battery is not enough for the needs of most systems, one must wire a host of batteries together. This group of connected batteries is called a battery bank.

Charge Controllers

A fully functioning array of solar panels will produce great amounts of electricity all day long. Sometimes, though, our batteries are fully charged, and if fully charged batteries are fed a steady current of electricity, they will become damaged. It is necessary, therefore, to install a device that can determine the level of charge in a battery bank and then use that information to regulate the amount of energy sent to them. The device that does this is called a charge controller.

Power Inverter

The final piece of a complete solar power system is what is called the power inverter. As mentioned above, battery banks are 12-volt systems. In addition, they use what is called a direct current, or, for short, a DC system. The appliances in one’s home, on the other hand, use 120-volt alternating current, or AC, systems. Because of this, we have to change the convert 12-volt DC energy coming from our battery banks into 120-volt AC energy before we can use it to power our appliances.

Putting It All Together

If you want to power your home with solar energy, remember that you need more than just the panels that generate electricity. You’ll also need a battery bank to store your power, a charge controller to regulate your power, an inverter to convert your power into a form that you can actually use. A system that is missing any of the abovementioned components is just not going to work.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you the best with all your home improvement projects.

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