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Solar Power Systems For Residential Homes

Jun 6, 2008
Using the Sun's energy to power your home can be split into two categories. There are passive and direct solar power systems. Passive systems generally take advantage of the Sun's thermal properties to generate heat. Thus solar water systems use the Sun's heat to make hot water to be used in the home. Creating rooms in the home or Sun traps that absorb thermal rays can also act as a form of heating for the home. However this article is more concerned with the direct use of solar power to create electricity in the home.

The photovoltaic (PV) cell is the technology that creates electricity from sun light. It is made from a silicon compound that reacts to a certain frequency of sun light. This reaction causes an electron to be thrown from the atom. This loose electron flows from a negative to positive charge resulting in an electric current being produced.

Many PV cells connected together in series is referred to as a solar module. When many solar cells are connected together than are known as a solar panel.

No doubt you have seen a solar panel on one or more roofs of homes in your area. This is where they are normally installed but they can go anywhere provided they get access to direct sunlight.

Solar panels create direct current (DC) electricity. A power inverter is used to convert this DC to alternating current (AC). AC electricity is needed to power most of the appliances in the home.

An electrical service panel or breaker box then distributes the AC to various electrical points in the house or to the lighting system. A utility meter manages your electricity usage if you are connected to the grid.

For example, a solar panel works best when the sun is at it peak or midday. Most electricity will be generated at this time and the utility meter may well go backwards. This indicates that you are generating more electricity than you are actually using and effectively creating electricity for your power company.

There are two types of home solar power system - on or off the grid. On the grid is sometimes referred to as a net metering system. This refers to laws enacted in some states that require utility companies to pay a certain amount for the electricity that a home owner generates with their solar power system. Before these laws, the utility company would buy at a discounted rate making the installation of a solar panel less economically viable for the homeowner.

A true off grid system means you are not connected to a reliable power supply so you have the responsibility of creating your own energy. The primary source can be solar panels but there should always be a back up system in case you use more energy than you expected or the Sun doesn't shine as much.

Typical back up systems are a fuel driven power generator or some type of renewable system, like a wind or water power system. An off grid solar system also has to store DC in batteries so that it can be used at night when there is no Sun. This is an extra responsibility.

Most people start with a grid tied system as it is easier to use and there is less responsibility. As you gain more experience you may think about going off the grid. This form of home solar power system will save you money on monthly utility bills but more work to run and maintain.
About the Author
Get more details on how do solar panels work and how a solar power inverter fits into a solar power system in the home.
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