What You Need to Know Before Installing a Home Solar System
By installing a solar system, you can dramatically reduce your electric bills
As a homeowner, you know your electric bill is a big part of your household expenses every month. By installing a solar system, you can dramatically reduce your electric bills.
The average cost of a home solar system is anywhere from $10,000 to $35,000, and while that is costly, solar can save an average of $50 to $200 every month starting the very first year. That’s $600 to $2,400 every year, which means your solar system can pay for itself in five years. Likewise, most local and state governments have tax credit or rebate programs, to help defray the initial cost of installation.
A solar system for your home not only means putting solar panels on your roof, but it also means installing a large battery bank, as well as a charge controller, and a power inverter.
First, there are three different types of solar panels available, which are Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous.
Monocrystalline solar panels
The solar cells are manufactured from a single thin wafer of silicon crystal. These panels are very efficient, and generally, produce more energy in low light conditions than amorphous or polycrystalline solar panels.
The solar cells are made from several smaller crystals, bonded together. Polycrystalline panels, however, seem to be the most popular; they take up less space than amorphous panels, and put out only a little less power than a monocrystalline panel.
Amorphous or thin-film solar panels
The solar cells are manufactured from a thin layer of silicon, bonded to a backing material. Amorphous solar panels are the most affordable, but they are twice the size of polycrystalline or monocrystalline solar panels.
The charge controller controls the flow of electricity from your solar panels to your batteries, and prevents the batteries from being overcharged. There are two types of charge controllers:
- PWM Controller (Pulse Width Modulated)
This is often the least expensive type of charge controller. These have automatic cycle equalization following several days of continuous operation or when the battery is in a state of low charge.
- MPPT Controller (Maximum Power Point Tracking )
This type of charge controller produces high efficiencies in the 94 percent to 98 percent range. They can charge your batteries with 10 percent to 30 percent more energy and efficiency than a PWM charge controller. This is the more expensive type of charge controller, but it’s also the preferred type.
Batteries for Your Home Solar System
The energy your solar panels produce is stored in batteries, it does not go directly into your home's wiring. The batteries used in a home solar system typically are lead-acid or lithium-ion. In many cases, lithium-ion batteries are the best solution for a home solar system, although lead-acid batteries are more affordable. Be sure to get enough batteries to power your home.
- Deep cycle lead-acid batteries
These are the same type of batteries typically used in motorhomes and travel trailers. They are relatively inexpensive, compared to lithium-ion.
- Lithium-ion batteries
These are lighter in weight, and smaller than lead-acid batteries. They also have a longer lifespan. Most new solar home installations use lithium-ion batteries.
The Solar Power Inverter
This piece of equipment will convert the DC electricity stored in your batteries into AC power, which is the typical type of house electricity you need to power appliances like your refrigerator, lights, and TV. You’ll need to be sure to get a power inverter large enough to power your home.
As you can see, installing a home solar system involves more than just solar panels. However, once you put all the pieces together, your home will not only save you money, it will safeguard you against disaster. While the rest of the neighborhood experiences a blackout, your home will still be up and running. Installing solar in your home is a smart investment on many different levels.