As more and more people seek to offset some of their electricity costs with green, renewable solar energy, it is no surprise that we are often asked what components and equipment a person would need to set up their own residential solar panel system.
While getting started with solar electricity is more complicated than simply purchasing a set of solar panels, once you know what pieces of equipment you will need, setting up a stable, reliable, and flexible solar panel system is actually fairly straightforward.
This is where we can help! To help you get started, we will be going over each of the basic components of a home solar panel system. We will also point you in the direction of some high-quality, affordable solar equipment that you can use to start harnessing the power of the sun today.
The Main Components of a Solar Panel System
To set up an effective solar panel system, you will need to purchase solar panels, a charge controller, a battery bank, and a power inverter. While you may also need other components, like mounting brackets and additional wiring (see solar panel connector types guide), gaining an understanding of the four main pieces of equipment is a great place to start.
The Solar Panels:
Solar panels are the most iconic piece of solar equipment and they are the foundation of any solar panel system.
Solar panels are made up of a series of individual solar cells. There are several types of solar panels, such as polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels, and each will vary in cost and have a different efficiency rating. In general, monocrystalline panels tend to be more efficient and, therefore, most expensive.
As you probably know, solar panels are designed to absorb sunlight and convert it into useable electricity. Typically, each solar panel in your array will be connected to a charge controller, so the electricity can be safely routed to the battery, or inverter.
Since the amount of sunlight your solar panels are able to absorb will affect the overall performance of your solar panel system, it is important that they are angled in a way that they will receive adequate light. It is also important to check their rating to make sure they are actually capable of meeting your energy needs.
Depending on the number of panels, their quality, and their energy potential, you can achieve a number of different combinations of volt and ampere ratings.
If you are looking for a good place to start, our 200 Watt Eclipse Solar Panel Suitcase offers two collapsible monocrystalline solar panels. They are highly efficient and portable enough to be a practical option for even the most remote solar panel systems.
The Charge Controller:
Due to the nature of solar energy, the power output of a solar panel system will fluctuate throughout the day. If you are connecting your solar panels to a battery bank, so you can store electricity to be used as required, you will need a charge controller to regulate that electricity and ensure it flows to the battery at the correct voltage and current.
A charge controller will also protect against battery drain, by preventing electricity from flowing from the battery to the solar panels when they are not absorbing sunlight.
There are two main types of charge controller out there – a PWM charge controller and a MPPT charge controller. PWM controllers are much less advanced and act almost like a switch, which will turn on and off at set parameters to prevent overcharging issues.
On the other hand, a MPPT charge controller is more of a ‘smart’ unit, as they feature integrated computers, which make them programable and adaptable to changing voltages and currents. They measure the voltage of the panels and make sure it matches the battery bank’s voltage. This means you can use a higher voltage solar array than the voltage of the battery, which allows you to create a more efficient solar panel system.
As the name suggests, the charge controller acts by controlling the flow of electricity, which is important for safety and protecting the battery. They are an important component of any efficient solar panel system.
The Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/50 Charge Controller is the perfect choice for those running 12V and 24V battery systems. Not only does it feature programmable smart charging, it has Bluetooth compatibility and can be controlled through a smartphone.
The Battery Bank:
As you can probably guess, the solar battery bank stores the power your solar system is able to generate. The size of battery you choose will depend on the size and scale of your solar array.
In most cases, batteries are used for backup power. While some batteries are mounted directly into the system, so they can be used as emergency power, or so the homeowner can draw solar electricity during peak price hours, others are designed to be portable. Portable battery banks for solar make it possible to bring solar electricity with you wherever you go, which is why they are so popular with RV and camping enthusiasts. See also solar panels for RV.
Most solar battery banks also have the option to be charged through a traditional AC power outlet that is connected to the grid. Again, this is handy for situations where the solar panels are not able to generate enough electricity to meet the homeowner’s needs.
The Lion Energy UT 700 Lithium Ion 12V Battery is one of the most popular batteries for solar panel systems on the market. It offers excellent value and can be connected to additional batteries when you are ready to expand your system.
The Power Inverter:
Since solar panels provide direct current, or DC power, meaning that current flows in one direction, most solar panel systems will require solar inverters. This is because most electrical devices, especially larger appliances, require alternating current, or AC power.
The electrical outlets in your home provide AC power, so there is a good chance the majority of electronic devices you use on a daily basis will also require this type of electrical current.
A versatile solar panel system will require an inverter, especially if you have any aspirations of running a grid-tied system and feeding some of your solar energy into the electrical grid for utility credits and rebates.
The AIMS Power 10,000W Pure Sine Inverter is highly adaptable and can work with just about any type of solar panel system. It is highly efficient and is intuitive enough that even beginners will have no problem integrating it into their system.
Keep Things Simple and Learn as You Go
In general, the vast majority of people that build their own solar panel system start out by installing a very basic system. You can always expand and upgrade each component as you go and as your need for solar electricity increases.
By familiarizing yourself with the four key pieces of solar panel system equipment, you are well on your way to reaping the financial and environmental benefits of harnessing and using solar electricity.
P.S. If you strive for more guarantees to ensure your electric gadgets safe, have a look at EMP shield review.
So, you have read our guide and planning to build up your own solar panel system? then we think you might also be interested in another blog: How to connect solar panels to battery bank charge controller inverter.