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Solar Panels For Home

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Solar Energy Facts - What is solar energy?

Solar cells in the solar panels mounted on your roof convert sunlight directly into DC power. A component called an inverter converts this DC power into AC power that can be used by your house or business. The system is interconnected with your utility or grid electricity supply. This is why it is called a grid connect system. During the day, if your solar system produces more electricity than you are using, your utility may allow net metering, in which case you get a credit for the amount of kwh (kilowatt hours) of power that you feed back into the grid. You can find out more about the net metering offered by your power company in by searching our incentives and rebates for home solar power page for your state.

Your electricity company continues to provide power as usual at night and during the day when your electricity demand exceeds that produced by your solar power system. A solar inverter is a device that transforms DC battery or solar panel voltage into mains type AC power; suitable for use by regular appliances. A solar inverter is an integral part of a system, but attention to this aspect is often overlooked. You can have the best solar panels available, but if your solar inverter is of poor quality, overall system performance can be greatly impacted.

Here is a diagram that shows how it works:

How Much Energy Can You Get from Solar Electricity

shows the average amount of kwh produced by a 1 kilowatt solar power system each day in each state of the USA. The amount of electricity that is produced by each kw of solar power that you install varies greatly depending on your location. It also varies by the season and so the estimates given in the map above are annual averages. Please also note that in some states different parts of the state have very different climatic conditions and so whilst the amount quoted above may be true for some parts of the state it may not necessarily be the case where you live. You should speak to your local installers about exact production at your specific location. Across the USA daily production per kilowatt installed varies from as little as 2.9 kwh per kw per day to close to 4.7 kwh in very sunny locations.

The amount of electricity produced by each kw of solar you install is primarily a function of the solar irradiation that falls on your home or business. Solar irradiation is often measured in Sun Hours. To work out how many Sun Hours falls on each area meteorologists measure the total amount of irradiation that falls on a place in a day (in mega joules). They then work out what this is equivalent to if it were converted to complete hours when there was 1000 mega joules per square metre of solar irradiation falling on an area. So if there was 500 mega joules falling on average over a 12 hour day then the Sun Hours would be 6. The reason this ties back into the output of solar panels is that solar panels are rated based on the power they produce with 1000 mega joules per square meter of irradiation falling on them. Once we have the Sun Hours as a way of measuring the irradiation we can then work out the actual amount of power we will produce by allowing for the many factors that cause real world solar power systems to produce less than their maximum rated output. These derating factors include:

  •     Inverter inefficiency- most inverters will lose 3-5% of electricity in converting it from DC to AC
  •     Cable Losses- small amounts of power are lost through resistance in the cables;
  •     Dirt- dirt and grime on solar panels will reduce their real world performance;
  •     Temperature losses- solar panels are rated based on what they produce at 25 degrees celsius. As the cells in solar panels get hotter there is more resistance to the flow of electrons across the cells and so their power output reduces compared to when they are getting the same amount of irradiation at a lower temperature.

All up total losses due to these derating factors will generally be between 20-30% but when we are working out the real world power of a system we usually use a derating factor of around 25%. Please also note when using the map above that the estimates assume a perfect installation being due south, at an optimal tilt angle, and unshaded.

Solar Power for Home: What Size Solar Power Systems Do You Need?

One of the first things that most people ask about solar power is, "what size solar power system do I need to wipe out my power bill?"

This depends on a few different factors and there is no one size fits all option. Firstly, you need to get a grasp of the solar rebates and incentives that apply to your area. They are not all the same and differ from state to state, even county to county. Next you need to know how many kilowatt hours of electricity you use on average per day (in kwh). This info can be generally found on your electricity bill.

The next thing you need to know is how many kwh's of power do you get per day from each kw of solar that you install. The answer to this question varies greatly depending on your location. In places like Washington state it is as little a 3 kwh per day per kw of peak capacity whereas in California it is more likely to be around 4.5 kwh per day per kw of peak capacity. In states where there is 1 for 1 net metering it is easy to work out what size system you need because you need a system that simply produces the same amount of energy as you use in total.

If you would like some advice about what size of solar power system might be appropriate for your home use the quote form to the right to get in touch with some local solar power companies.

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