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Home Solar Power- All you need to know

July 26, 2021

There has never been a better moment to consider a solar-powered home. If you wish to take your role in protecting the environment, a solar-powered system for your household can be a great step, and can have huge benefits.

Solar systems are an efficient and affordable power source. Solar energy is abundant and renewable and research shows that, if harnessed fully, it can provide over 10,000 times the world’s energy demands.

By utilizing the sun’s energy and converting it to electricity for your home, you can limit fossil fuel dependence and join the fight against climate change.

How does Home Solar Power Work?

Solar Power for home in a diagram
Image Credit: https://solarpvtrainingclass.com/

Solar power is growing in popularity for a good reason, as is an extremely effective power source. To put things into perspective, the amount of energy that reaches the earth in less than two hours can meet the world’s total energy demand for more than six months!

Think of the sun as a natural atomic furnace, or reactor, that releases photons. When these photons hit the solar panels, the electrons in the atoms become loose.

With conductors making up the positive and negative sides of the solar cells, an electrical circuit is generated, with a flow of electrons in the circuit.

Solar cells are fixed and wired together to form a solar panel, and an array of solar panels combines the output of several solar panels for large scale applications.

The more panels are added, the more energy your system can produce.

Now that you know how a solar panel works, your main purchase decision may be price-based. The next section will tackle the prices of different solar systems.

Home Solar power system price

The price of a solar power system varies by type, as there are typically three types of solar power systems: on-grid, off-grid, and hybrid solar power systems.

On-grid systems

Also known as grid-tie solar systems, these are the most typically used types of solar systems used for households due to their cost-effectiveness.

They typically don’t need batteries to work and can operate on either micro-inverters or solar inverters linking them to the household and public electricity grid.

The excess power generated can be fed back into the grid, granting you energy credits.

The average cost of on-grid systems varies depending on their power capacity, with a cost that is directly proportional to the capacity. For example, the price of a 1KW solar system ranges between $5000 – $6000.

Batteries are attached to on-grid systems in rare cases.

One disadvantage of these systems is that they can’t produce electricity during a blackout for the protection of lives and property.

Off-grid systems

As the name suggests, an off-grid power system is not linked to the electricity grid, and requires battery storage systems.

An off-grid power system is designed to produce enough power to last up to a year and has the battery capacity to power up the entire home. This type of system can be greatly useful for areas with long, dark winters, with very little sunlight, and is always used in remote areas.

This system uses off-grid inverters and batteries, making the overall system more expensive than an on-grid one.

The cost of the system is also directly correlated to the overall power capacity, and with an increased system size, not only do the size and number of panels increase, but also the inverter and battery bank capacity.

For example, a 1KW system costs between $12,000 to $15,000.

Hybrid systems

 Hybrid systems bridge the benefits of on-grid and off-grid power systems.

They have both solar and battery storage capacities and come in different forms and designs.

The system can store solar energy produced during the day, make use of it until it is depleted, and automatically switches to grid power.

This way, individuals can enjoy the best of both types.

The cost of the system varies with the power capacity. For example, a 6 KW hybrid solar system costs more than $12,000, and the battery costs over $8,000.

Now that you know the price ranges of the different solar systems, you should define the cost and capacity based on your home requirements.

How much does it cost to set up a home solar power?

Home Solar Power cost

The cost depends on the size of your household and your objective from installing the system.

The amount of energy used to power a small home with a few individuals won’t be the same as the amount used to power a large home.

For instance, most low-income households need an average of 500 watts of power to operate ventilators and essential appliances. Larger homes need close to 1500 watts to support devices and save energy.

So how can you determine the number of solar panels for your households?

How many solar panels are required to power your home?

Home Solar Power

Installing one solar panel on its own will not really serve any purpose. 

If you want to reap the full benefits of solar, you would need to accumulate a significant number to generate a considerable amount of power. Generally, a typical home requires between 20 to 25 solar panels to cover 100% of electricity demands adequately.

The number of panels required depends on several points, ranging from geographical location, energy consumption patterns, panel rated power, panel efficiency, etc.

Three key factors can be used to estimate how many solar panels you need for your home: solar panel wattage, production ratios, and annual energy consumption.

Solar panel wattage: this is the electricity generation for a specific panel. This is calculated under ideal conditions, with a range between 250 to 400 watts.

Production ratios: this is the ratio of the expected energy output of a system over time to the actual size of the system.

The production ratio will vary significantly with the amount of sunlight your place receives.

Annual energy consumption: this is the total amount of electricity your home consumes over a year.

It’s measured in Kilowatt-hours, and is directly proportional to the number of appliances at home, their operation and capacity.

Upon determining all the major elements of the solar system required for your home, you will need to choose the right system from the market.

How to choose the right home solar power system

The following are the three major features to guide your selection

Check the solar panel efficiency

Solar panel efficiency is a measurement of how fast a solar panel can transform sunlight into electricity.

If you give the same amount of sunlight to the two panels with different ratings, one will outperform the other, and ultimately will generate more energy, in the same amount of time.

The power rating, temperature coefficient and power tolerance can all indicate how much electricity the panel can produce. It’s recommended that you consult an expert to determine these values.

Look for warranties.

Good manufacturers have confidence in their products and give appropriate warranties to the systems. Check solar panels that are guaranteed between 10 and 25 years.

Price

Although everyone prefers high-quality systems, you should keep in mind that the higher quality reflects in higher prices.

Premium quality solar panels are often costly, but note that not all expensive panels are premium quality.

The next section will tackle the benefits of solar panel systems to your home.

Advantages of home solar power systems

There are several benefits associated with solar power systems

Solar panels enhance the value of your home

Most people prefer homes that have solar panels installed, as the system relieves them from the cost and trouble of going through the installation process.

This will definitely come at a price, and consumers will be willing to pay more for a house that has a built in solar system.

Solar panels reduce your electricity bills.

The cost of electricity has been steadily increasing, to reach very high levels.

A solar panel system produces a certain percentage of your electricity requirements, thus reducing your monthly electricity bills.

It decreases carbon footprints.

Solar energy is renewable and clean.

Solar panel production reduces carbon dioxide emissions and their harmful effects on our environment. Solar energy doesn’t release pollutants into the atmosphere.

It’s a significant investment.

In the fight against climate change, most advanced countries worldwide give incentives to individuals who choose to use solar power to reduce their carbon footprint on the environment.

These incentives can increase the payback period on your investment, through regular payments, profits and savings, making the investment very profitable.

Rising energy costs don’t affect you.

Most homeowners worry about their electricity bills as they have little to no control on global energy prices and how the utility rates increase.

Having a solar energy system, you fully control the electricity generation, and the direct energy prices.

What kind of appliances can run on home solar power systems?

All types of devices can operate on a solar power system as long as the necessary provisions are accounted for, including air conditioners, chargers, furnaces, inverters, lamps, street lights, phone chargers, cookers, dryers, watches, lasers, fans, etc.

So, how can you run your entire home on a solar power system?

Can you run your home entirely on solar power systems?

It’s possible to run your home entirely on solar power.

Once you size and select the solar panel system and the battery size required, the utility bills and maintenance reduce over time.

With the costs of solar energy system installations gradually reducing over time due to improvements in technology, it’s becoming more practical to fully power the house on solar power.

However, as solar panels operate via sunlight, what happens at night?

Do solar panels work at night?

Solar panels don’t work at night.

Solar panels need sunlight to generate electricity. Although they can generate energy from the moon or even from street lights, the output is quite low, and ultimately solar panels become inactive at night and cease producing electricity.

The upside is that panels tend to generate excess energy during the day and solar batteries can be used to store the energy for night use.

So, how long are solar panels expected to last?

What happens to solar panels after several years?

Just like most technologies, solar panel production decreases with time. This is referred to as the degradation rate.

The average degradation rate for most solar panels is about 0.5%, which translates in an efficiency loss of about 0.5% yearly.

This is why warranties are essential.

How to plan the best home solar system?

Home Solar Power planning

Look into your home’s energy efficiency.

You have to study your household’s monthly energy consumption.

It is important to include the total electricity consumption and effectively determine the affordable and practical alternatives available for your appliances, lighting, heating, and cooling systems.

How to maximize your solar potential?

PV technologies use direct and dispersed sunlight to generate electricity and the total power produced by a solar system depends on the system’s size as well as the amount of sunlight reaching the surface of the panels.

There are several software tools and mapping services that can help you to determine the exact amount your system will be able to produce.

What are your solar electricity needs?

Your solar needs can be determined from your monthly electricity bills. Study your consumption patterns over the year and determine which months see higher consumption rates and figure out the causes.

Additionally, accommodate future plans that might bring large energy requirements. For example, if you plan to get an electric car, your power needs will increase.

5 Things to consider when building a solar-powered home

Solar power can make your home more energy-efficient, increase its value and contribute to protecting the environment. If you’re thinking of constructing a solar-powered home, keep the following points in mind:

The amount of energy you will need

The envisioned size of the home to be built is directly proportional to the amount of power you will need.

The bigger the home, the more solar power you will need. For instance, If your home is 1500 Square feet, you will need on average 16 solar panels to produce 4260kW to fully supply your home.

If your space requires more electrical appliances like freezers or refrigerators, you will need more energy. On average, a standard freezer or refrigerator consumes about 57kWh per month.

You can use your current or former home energy consumption to estimate the amount of energy you will need to power your home.

Solar system weight

During the construction process, the type of roof you intend to install will greatly affect your solar system. A strong rooftop will support the weight of the solar power system, but if you attempt to install a solar system on a weak roof, it is very likely for the roof to collapse.

Determine the solar system size and weight from your supplier and communicate the details with your engineer to guide him/her to selecting the proper roof type. An expert contractor would be able to select a solid rooftop to accommodate the weight of the solar system.

Access to direct sunlight

As the key of solar production is exposure to sunlight, when constructing a solar-powered home, consider the exposure of your roof to sunlight.

To that effect, plan and construct the house in an open place where sunlight can reach the roof. Additionally, orient the house at an angle, as much as practically possible, to fully benefit from the sun path throughout the year.

The final amount of energy produced depends on the amount of sunlight the solar system receives.

The flow of rain-water

The location of your solar system on your roof will have an impact on the flow of rainwater. If you plan to make use of rainwater, you’ll need to properly plan and install the solar system.

For example, if your tank is on the front side of your house, you may want to consider installing a solar system on the backside so that water may flow to the tank through the front gutters.

Types of roofs

Not all roofs are compatible with a solar system installation. That’s why you should seek help from a manufacturer or an expert regarding the type of roof to use.

Some roofs make installing the solar system simple, while other cheap quality roofs can make the task of installing the solar system very complicated. The manufacturer should consider the following factors before selecting a roof:

Material of the Roof

The material should be cheap and simple for the installation of the solar system. An example of such a roof is Standing Metal.

 The Angle of the Roof

The roof should be slanted at an angle between 30degrees to 40 degrees for safe and easy installation. You can determine the angle of the roof by dividing vertical rise by horizontal run. 

 Roof Size and Shape

The roof should be square-shaped and have at least 3000 feet of surface area on your roof. A large and square-shaped roof makes it easy to install solar panels.

Do solar panels work when the power goes out?

Solar panels absorb the energy from the sun to create direct current electricity. However, as most countries connect the solar panel system to the electric grid system, it would be impossible for solar panels to operate when the power goes out.

Installing a grid-tied system, solar panels would not work when the power goes out. This is because the system abides by the utility rules, which means no electricity when the grid goes down unless you have battery backup.

With an electrical tied grid, you can produce and store extra power produced by the solar panel for free. Still, the solar panels would not be able to generate power when the grid is down unless you have a solar battery backup.

What are solar batteries?

Solar batteries are batteries that get charged by the energy from solar panels. There are many types of solar batteries available at varying prices, including:

● Flooded Lead-Acid Batteries

● Sealed Lead-Acid Batteries

● Lithium batteries

How much do solar batteries cost?

The cost of solar batteries varies depending on various factors such as:

● Quality of the solar battery

● Number of solar batteries you will need to power your home

● Availability of the solar battery to the market

● The capacity of the solar battery

● The lifespan of the solar battery

The cost of solar batteries ranges between $1,200 to $6000 depending on the battery’s quality, life cycle, and capacity.

Lithium–ions are the most reliable and cost-effective solar batteries. The following section compares the price of lithium ion battery materials and lead-acid battery material.

Cost of Lithium ions battery versus Lead-acid solar battery

Features

Lithium-ion solar battery

Lead-acid solar battery

Preliminary cost

$5500

$ 3000

Storage capacity (kWh)

4kWh

4kWh

Depth of Discharge (DoD),

90 %

50%

Life cycle

4000

1800

Cost/kWh/Cycle

0.278

0.556

 Summary

Lead-acid solar batteries can discharge 50% of the total energy it stores while lithium ions can release 90% of the total power. The higher the discharge amount of power, the more electricity you can use and the higher the solar battery price.

Storage capacity is the amount of energy the solar batteries can store. The larger the solar battery storage capacity, the more power it will deliver, and the higher its price.

Depth of Discharge is the calculation of the amount of energy you can use discharged by the solar battery.

The longer the life cycle of a solar battery, the longer the functioning period, and the higher the cost. For example, if the life span is 30 years, the solar battery can work for those 30 years before you renew it.

How long does it take to install home solar panels?

Installing a solar energy system is a lengthy process. You will need to go through defined and planned steps before completing the installation of the solar system. The time for each stage may vary depending on your location or the installation company.

Additionally, the number of people working on your solar system installation may also affect installation time.

Here are the steps for installing a solar system

● Hire an engineer from the solar installation company to assess your home for any errors. The step may take up to two weeks if the engineer finds mistakes that repair.

● Get a permit from your local authority to protect your safety. The permit will also ensure the contractor meets the building codes at your location.

● Order the solar panels – it is good to place the order one or two weeks prior to the installation date.

● Schedule the installation date – this phase needs proper planning.

Installation Process: after going through the steps, the actual installation may take one day if your roof is simple and the system size is small. However, a complicated roof or a large system size, might require 2–3 days for the installation.

Inspection by the local authority: A local authority team inspects the solar system installation to ensure it is safe for power production. The assessment takes place before the solar system operates, and it may take time, depending on the inspection officers available.

Types of solar panels for homes

There are three types of solar panels, each with unique features that make them suitable for different purposes and uses.

Monocrystalline solar panels

These are the most common solar panels used. They have a single solar cell that contains a silicon wafer from single-crystal silicon. The single solar cells in the Monocrystalline panels are flat and black, which make the panel a simple and attractive choice.

A high flow of electrons increases its efficiency rate over other solar panel types. Monocrystalline solar panels are expensive than the others because they have a higher efficiency rate which ranges from 17% to 22%.

 Polycrystalline solar panels

If you wish to install solar panels but are on a tight budget, choose polycrystalline solar panels. Homeowners who wish to install a solar system on a budget primarily use it.

Here are the characteristics of polycrystalline solar panels:

● The panels are blue, when exposed to sunlight they tend to reflect the light, which can be quite annoying

● They contain multiple silicon crystals in solar cells, making it hard for electrons to flow and reducing their efficiency rate.

● Polycrystalline solar panels are cheaper than other types. However, their blue colour and efficiency rate of 15% to 17% makes people avert them.

Thin-Film solar panels

Thin film solar panels are very good options for use on large-scale operations.

They are black solid with no silicon cell outline. The flexibility and lightweight of thin-film solar panels make them easy to install.

They have a low-efficiency rate in the range of 10% to 13%. Film solar panels cost less to buy and are easy to install but they have short life spans.

How do you find the right solar installer?

Contacting the right solar installer may be challenging, but it’s crucial to look for an installer you can rely upon any time you need help with your solar system. The following tips may help you find the right solar panel installer.

● Ask your friends and neighbours about trusted solar panel installers in your area.

● Check your local government website. 

● Talk to local professionals in your location to direct you to quality installers, who offer competitive rates.

● Search online for the right solar panel installer.

Are you looking to power up your home with solar energy? E-Green Electrical will provide you with a free solar power consultation to help you choose the right power system for your home.

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