What You Need to Build Your Own Solar System - 20 Hacks to Build Your Own Affordable Solar Power System - The Ultimate Guide to Solar Power Energy and Lower Bills - Mark Prentice, James Bickel

Solar Power: The Ultimate Guide to Solar Power Energy and Lower Bills: (Off Grid Solar Power Systems, Home Solar Power System) - Mark Prentice, James Bickel (2016)

Book 1. 20 Hacks to Build Your Own Affordable Solar Power System

Chapter 3. What You Need to Build Your Own Solar System

One of the biggest arguments to solar energy has little to do with how effective they are but is more related to the cost. When purchasing the system from a solar energy company, the cost of a good solar system could quickly become quite expensive. In fact, in many cases the cost of the system was more than the savings on their electric bill.

However, depending on how much power you need and how much skill you have there are quite a few that have learned to install a DIY solar system for as little as $1,000. It will take an investment in your time and the necessary skills, but it is possible to get your system up and running in a weekend without paying exorbitant fees to greedy corporations.

To get started, there are four basic components to every solar power system.


Solar Panels

Smaller systems will only need a single solar panel to get started. The panels you choose should come equipped with a junction box and the necessary wires and conduit for installation. You’ll also need screws, nuts, and bolts for easy mounting.

A single panel runs around $140.00 and up give or take, so if you’re working on a tight budget, you can buy them one at a time until you have the number you need. Before you start purchasing your solar panels, you need to know how much power you wish to generate. This is called calculating your load.

The size of the panel you choose will be determined in terms of Watts, which refer to the output each panel can generate. A 100-Watt panel will generate 100 Watt-hours of electricity each hour. The amount of wattage produced will also have an impact on the physical size of the panel. You will have to find a panel that will physically fit in the area you plan to install it and still give you enough energy you want to generate.

There is however, a wide range of solar panels to choose from so make sure that you get one that is best suited for the amount of power you want to generate because you’re going to be living with your decision for a very, very, very long time. There are three factors to consider when choosing solar panels.

There are 3 levels of quality to consider in solar panels. Tier 1 is considered to be top quality where every stage of the manufacturing is tightly controlled. Tier 2 panels are considered well made but are built with less control.

There are several Tier 2 panels that can perform well but were not monitored well during the construction phase. Tier 3 panels are basically components that have been assembled by third parties with practically no specified guidelines. There is no way of knowing the quality of materials used in the production of these panels and since they are usually put together by human hands, quality can vary from panel to the next.

You also want to check the warranty to determine the longevity of your panels. Reputable manufacturers will guarantee their panels for up to 25 years.


The Charge Controller

The Charge Controller is responsible for adjusting the amount of energy that flows into the battery. It has a small LED light that shows constantly displays how much charge the batter holds at any given time. Some models have a red, yellow, or green light indicating how much of a charge the battery is holding. If the light is green, everything is good but if it flashes yellow, you need to cut back on power, and if it flashes red, it is almost out of electricity.


The Battery

Choosing the right battery is also important. As of now, there is no battery specifically designed for storing solar power so choosing one that can be charged up, drained, recharged, and drained (called cycles) again over years is not always easy. There are quite a few to choose from but each has its own drawbacks. Here are some comments on just a few.

It is important to choose the right battery because upgrading your battery if it’s not storing enough power can not only be complicated but also expensive. It is best to make the decision right the first time.

Capacity: Battery capacity is measured in amp hours. A battery will produce 100 amps/hour before being completely drained. The higher the amp hour, the longer the battery will last before needing to be recharged.

You will need to convert the amp hours of a battery to wattage. This is done by multiplying the AH by the voltage.

Battery Amp Hours X Battery Voltage = Total Watt Hours

Size: Once you know the wattage a battery can produce you can determine how much energy you will need. Look at all of your appliances and check the wattage stickers. To calculate exactly how much energy your solar system will need to produce simply total how much energy consumption you will need per hour for each appliance and total all of the figures together.

So, if you have a TV that requires 20W/hour and you plan to have it on for 2 hours/day, the battery will need to supply 40WH/day. Once you’ve done that for all the electrical appliances you can determine the battery capacity you will need.

Other factors to consider are how much sunshine you get in your region, how much time will you have without sunshine, other power sources you may also be using (wind, hydro, etc.), and the availability of your backup system.

The 8D Battery: This is a large battery that can hold a lot of energybut for use in a solar system, it doesn’t hold consistent cycling over extended periods of time. These batteries under solar power will usually burn out in less than a year.

Dual Purpose Gel Cells: Probably the favored option for storing solar power. They can last for quite a few years before needing to be replaced. They have one negative; they cannot stand overcharging.

Once they have been overcharged, their usefulness is spent and they will likely need replacing. However, gel cells require no venting and can be placed in any position without impacting their performance. So, they can be laid on their sides, upright, or even upside down if needed.

6 Volt Batteries: Truly deep cycle batteries that can perform well for quite a few recharges. These are often used in golf carts because they can be reloaded many times. The challenge with 6 Volt batteries is that they can be quickly discharged.


Lastly, you will need an inverter. This is the instrument that will convert the power stored into AC power. You can find inverters in a wide range that will suit a number of different systems. Just like with batteries, there are several factors to keep in mind when choosing an inverter.

Aside from knowing the wattage and the amperage needed each day, you also need to plan for power surges (or the maximum amount of energy the inverter will need to produce during peak times).

Choose your inverter based on their size ratings. They will have two separate ratings. Their surge rating specifies how much energy it can convert during peak periods and for how long and a continuous rating, indicating how much energy it will produce on a continuous basis.