Harnessing Solar Power For Residential Use

There is a lot of interest in harnessing solar power for residential use and despite the high initial investment, the long-term savings are being touted as an efficient means of beating the high cost of electric power. As utility prices continue to rise, so does the interest in finding alternative methods of powering homes and, with the efficiency of solar panels improving, the interest in using solar power for residential electric needs is growing, also.

There are four components to a system using solar power for residential use. They are the solar panels, charge controller, storage batteries and a converter. From there, household appliances are plugged in and the home is running on solar power. How much power the home has is determined by a couple of factors, primarily it is all relative to the system's positioning, as it requires direct sunlight, and the number and size of the solar panel arrays being used.

To determine the number and size of panels needed to supply solar power for residential applications, consider that a solar panel measuring 20 inches by 44 inches will produce about 360 watt hours per day. That is assuming that at least six hours of bright sunlight will hit the panel and that's about average. How additional panels are wired together will determine whether you have an increase in voltage or amperage.

Components Help Harness Solar Power

Controlling how much of a charge is sent to the batteries is determined by the charge controller. Working similarly to a voltage regulator in a car, it determines when the battery is fully charged and shuts off power going into the battery from the solar panel. Without this component as part of solar power for residential equipment, there is the risk of damaging the batteries as well as other potential safety hazards.

The batteries are one of the most important parts of a solar power for residential setups, and deep cycle batteries are designed to be discharged and recharged thousands of times. As home appliances are used, power is drained from the batteries. The controller flips a switch and power from the solar cells is sent to recharge the batteries.

Since few household appliances will operate on direct current, which is what the solar cell is pumping out and the batteries are storing, a converter will be needed to be able to use the electricity you are producing with the solar power for residential system. These have been available for years, allowing people to use their car batteries to operate portable televisions, radios and other appliances. The converters used to provide solar power for residential use are larger and will operate more than one appliance.