When you're making the switch to solar energy, it's important to consider the size of the solar panel system.
Getting a system that's too small to sustain your household or business’ energy needs can end up being an issue in some cases, and similarly, no one wants to waste money on an unnecessarily large system.
To prevent this, solar energy distributors have invented a method to help their customers properly size a system for their home; wattage calculators.
Before we get into that, let's first look at some solar panel basics.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
Solar energy refers to the energy given off by the sun in the form of photons (light. Thanks to solar technology this energy can be captured, converted into electricity, and used to power our homes and businesses.
The equipment for converting solar energy is known as a solar power system.
These solar power systems come in many forms, with different variations of the systems available for different needs each owner may have. One of them is the different energy ratings of the solar panels which affects how much power they generate.
Solar Panel Wattage Calculator
To figure out the wattage of your solar panel, the easiest thing to do is to look at the power rating on the box. Most panels will tell you their power rating so you don’t have to do any complicated math.
But sometimes that’s not possible. Maybe it’s an old panel and you don’t have the original packaging anymore. Additionally, just because it says 600 W on the label doesn’t mean that’s what it makes the entire time.
This value will change depending on weather, brightness, efficiency, and a number of other factors. So here’s what you need to do to figure out the real-world wattage of your solar panels.
All you need is a pencil, a piece of paper, and a multimeter that can read both resistance and current. Take the measurements of your solar panel system and write down the values under these variables:
R = resistance of the system (Ohms),
I = current of the system (Amps).
To figure out the wattage, use the equation P = IR.
You can also use this equation to convert Watts to Amps by rearranging the variables.
Using our calculator:
P = IR
= 5.86 x 18.9
= 110.78 W
Simply multiply that result by 60 to calculate the watts per hour so you can figure out your system’s capacity.
Your Energy Needs
Solar Panel Sizing
If you go shopping for a solar panel system, you’ll notice that each solar panel size is rated according to the maximum amount of energy they will be able to produce at full capacity. The size rating for each solar array usually goes from about 100 watts to as much as 3,000 watts or higher.
To successfully use a solar panel system, you first need to know how much energy your household or business needs to match it with a system that can handle that load. This is where wattage calculators come into play.
Figure Out Your Households Energy Consumption Rate in Kilowatt Hours
The source of the more precise method lies in the electricity bill your utility sends you every month. In these utility bills, you’ll find the total energy expenditure of your home measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh).
While kilowatts (1kW = 1,000 watts) are used as a unit of measurement for electricity, a kilowatt-hour is a unit of measurement that represents the amount of energy that has been used multiplied by the amount of time it's being used.
In the case of your electricity bill, it would be the energy used over a single month. For more on the subject, check out how to convert watts to kWh.
Find Your Households Average Rate of Consumption
Your electricity bill gives you a more precise measurement than simply going off the energy output of your appliances because it shows how much energy your household/business uses.
If you compare previous bills and do some simple calculations, you can find your average rate of consumption.
Find the average by adding up the total kilowatt hours used for the past year and dividing it by 12.
To figure out your daily average, divide the monthly average by 30.5.
From this point, you need to divide the daily average value by 24 to get the hourly average rate of consumption. This time your answer will be in kilowatts, which is equal to 1,000 watts.
By using this average value in kilowatts as a reference, you can make a more accurate estimation of the size of the solar panel system you need.
Choose Your Solar Panel Size
Once you’ve calculated your energy needs, you need to choose a solar power system that can sustain it. The thing about solar panels is that they don't always operate at 100% efficiency.
This can usually be attributed to the weather, the quality of the solar panels, and other factors.
Purchasing a solar panel system that has an output capacity equivalent to your household's average rate of consumption might leave you with a solar power system that's not able to handle the full load.
This is why we recommend that you go with a system with at least a 25% higher output capacity than your average rate of consumption.
Why Use a Solar Panel Wattage Calculator?
A solar panel watt-hour calculator is a convenient tool that allows you to calculate the amount of power your household or business needs over a given period. You can then use that information to figure out how many panels you need and what size they should be to meet your needs.
The calculation is done by adding up the energy consumption in watts of each electrical appliance in your home. These calculations give you a rough idea of how much energy you need to power your home so that you can size your solar panel system accordingly.
Knowing the energy needs of your household is especially important if you’re planning on going off-grid. With a grid-tied solar power system, you don’t need to power your entire home because you can still source your energy from the utility grid.
With an off-grid system, however, you are completely dependent on solar power which means that the energy output needs to be fairly high.
Knowing how much energy your household will need is also important when it comes to sizing a battery bank for your system.
What Influences Solar Panel Efficiency?
A solar panel’s efficiency is an important factor to consider when you're sizing a system. Many things can influence your solar panel’s efficiency, and these factors can be either technical or environmental.
Solar Module Efficiency
Not all solar panels are made the same, and as a result, the level of efficiency varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
This lies in how the solar cells are produced. Solar cells make up the a solar panel's surface, framed in aluminum and hidden behind protective glass.
There are 3 main types of solar panels, from least to most efficient they are; thin-film, polycrystalline, and monocrystalline.
Since monocrystalline panels are so efficient, they don't need as much space, which makes them perfect for use as portable solar panels.
Weather and Climate
When calculating the required size for your solar panel system, your peak sunlight hours are also something to consider.
Cloud coverage and rough weather can lessen your solar panels' efficiency. If you live off-grid somewhere with frequent difficult weather, you might need to compensate for the dip in efficiency by getting a larger system or investing in a battery backup.
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