Guest Blog by Natasha Risinger
It almost seems like a dream: reducing your cost of electricity or even getting money for adding to the grid. One of the first thoughts that occur is about the initial investment. After all, the more you pay to create your power giving system, the longer it will take to begin seeing a return on the investment. You should check into local incentives before you begin your project; it may determine the decisions you make. The cost can be cut by doing as much as you can yourself, but here is the rub; just how much can you do on your own? This is more than assembling a bicycle, there are specific skills that are needed. Just how much “do-it-yourselfing” are you willing to devote?
First of all, a list of parts and supplies will be needed
Do not be fooled into thinking that solar systems that are available for small needs can be used for attachment to the grid. A system that will charge a car battery does not supply sufficient kwh to make any kind of impact on your energy needs. If you want to buy a solar system to charge your 12 volt battery, then do so that for that reason. Otherwise, it is like buying D-cell batteries to start your car, it can be done, but not efficiently. The basic needs of the system are: solar panels, a power inverter – to convert the DC power from the panels into the AC power used on the grid, a ground fault interrupter and a fuse box. Additional parts that will be needed are racks to hold the panels and wiring. Depending on your location and the amount of expected sunshine, you may consider a solar tracker to keep your panel array at an optimal angle to the sun for maximum production.
With solar panels costing over thirty percent of the installation, this is a good place to begin thinking about how much you want to do yourself.
Solar panels can be constructed from solar cells if you have the ability to do the soldering, wiring and panel construction yourself. Solar cells can be purchased as seconds or damaged that will save a good deal on the purchase, but you will have to have the ability to know if they can be used. Buying solar cells and assembling them into panels can save you some money, but you have to realize several things: you will need to know what kind and size cells to buy, and how to mount them so that the chance of damage by wind or other weather is minimal. Commercially-built panels offer four important advantages: because they are machine built they are uniform in performance, the panels are moisture resistant, the frames are rigid enough to resist damage to the fragile crystalline solar cells and if they are damaged, they don’t have to be repaired by you. However, building them yourself can save you up to half the cost.
Connecting your system to the grid
The “grid” begs definition for clarity. The grid is the power system that is supplied by a public utility. The basic hookup (depending on your location and the local or state requirements) to the grid is simply tying in the output of the solar system (also called a photovoltaic system) into the home wiring at the main circuit box using a special grid-tie inverter (not to be confused with other inverters for off-grid usage). In this way, when your solar array is supplying more than the power required by your home, the excess will go onto the public system causing your electric meter to run backwards.
Solar can make you feel “cool”
Once the system is up and running, you will realize how nice it is to run your cooling system from the same source that heats everything up: the sun. In fact, the whole project can bring a great feeling of satisfaction knowing that you are now producing power from something that does not cause more pollution and is renewable every morning.
About the Author
Natasha Risinger enjoys sharing her expertise from the solar industry though blogging. Her articles appear on solar and energy saving blogs. Natasha recommends Texas Electricity Providers for residents of the Lone Star State.