Components of a Home Solar Energy System


You can install a home solar power system regardless of whether you choose to stay on or off the local electricity grid. Here’s what you’ll need:

Grid-Tied System

Staying connected to the grid eliminates the need for energy-storing batteries. Some households prefer to draw on solar energy during the day and switch to the grid at night. Excess solar power feeds back in to the grid, and can often be deducted from your electricity bill. The following parts are needed to produce solar electricity on the grid:

  • solar modules
  • An inverter transforms the direct current  (DC) electricity from the module  to alternating current (AC) electricity to be compatible with the grid. Inverters differ in size. It is often cheaper to purchase an inverter with a larger input and output rating than you presently need than to upgrade later. Learn more about solar inverters.
  • Meters monitor how much electricity your system produces and how much you use from the grid. Some power providers have a ‘net metering’ system, which calculates your net grid-based electricity usage on a single meter, while other providers require a second meter to measure the power you feed into the grid separately. Learn more about solar power metering.

Off-Grid System


Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

An off-grid solar power system generates energy during the day and charges batteries which provide energy at night. The following are needed to produce solar electricity off the grid:

  • solar modules
  • solar panel batteries to store energy. The type of battery needed for  a PV system is called a ‘deep cycle’ battery. A deep cycle battery is quite different to your average automobile battery, which is not durable enough for use in PV systems. Deep cycle batteries last five to ten years and recover around 80% of the energy they take in. Batteries should be kept in a space that is well ventilated, away from living areas and electronics but easily accessible for maintenance. Learn more about solar panel batteries.
  • solar charge controller (also known as a battery regulator) controls the flow of electricity from the array to the battery bank and the load. It is the gateway between the solar panels, the battery and the home electricity system. Learn more about solar charge controllers.
  • An inverter is also needed to convert DC to AC electricity as most household appliances run on AC power. Learn more about solar inverters.

Find out about the advantages of solar energy.

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