So now you’ve decided to go ahead and build your own solar power system for your house. I bet you are asking yourself this question: “Where Do I Start?”.
There are a lot of factors to consider when planning your home’s solar power setup. And it may seem overwhelming when you’re just starting out.
Setting up your solar panels is just one part of this equation. Contrary to what you may think, it’s not a simple matter of putting the panels on your roof and watching your electric meter spin backwards. On the other hand, it’s not rocket science either. If you can install a ceiling fan or put in a new light switch, you can set up a home solar power system.
Let’s break down the steps needed to start making your own solar electricity at home.
First, you’ll need to find out how much power you’re currently using. This really comes down to just one figure: the number of Kilowatt-Hours that you use each month. You can find this on your monthly electric bill statement.
Then, you’ll want to decide how much of your electric usage that you want to replace with electricity from your solar panels. Most beginners starting on their first home solar system will start with the goal of producing 40% of their energy themselves. Then as you grow and expand your system by adding more solar panels, you can move toward the goal of generating 60%, 80% or even 100% of your electricity.
Eventually some people even go off the grid entirely, disconnecting their electric meter for good! This is definitely do-able if you get enough solar exposure where you live.
The next step is to choose the location of your solar panels. You can go to RoofRay.com to figure out exactly where to place the solar panels on your roof.
The basic rule is that in the northern hemisphere, the panels should be facing south. In the southern hemisphere, the panels should be facing south. Find out the latitude of your location and that is the angle that your solar panels should be mounted. If the south side of your roof is shaded, you can always place your solar panels on posts instead.
Once you’ve chosen the location for placement of your solar panels, you need to gather your equipment and tools. Here is a basic list of what you need to install your home solar panels:
Tools needed to install solar panels: wire cutter/stripper, utility knife, hammer, cordless drill/driver
Equipment for solar power system: solar inverter (to change DC to AC power, more on that later), solar panels, grid-tied interconnect, wiring and conduit, wire nuts
You’ll need to decide whether to build or buy your solar panels. This comes down to whether you have time to build your own or money to buy pre-built solar panels. Either way, eBay is your friend. If you’re building your own, start checking out the listings for “as-is solar panels” or “broken solar panel for parts”.
After you’ve gathered all of the equipment and tools you need, then you will want to mount the solar panels on your roof. You will then need to wire your solar panels together in series.
One more piece of the puzzle we mentioned earlier is called the solar panel inverter. This will take the electrical power produced by the solar panel which is “Direct Current” (DC) and convert it to the form of electricity that your house uses, called “Alternating Current” (AC).
You will want to run wiring from your solar panels to your solar inverter, then connect the inverter to your breaker box via a special component called a grid-tied interconnect. This is the part where you’ll want to have an electrician help you to make sure it is done safely. This part allows you to actually sell back power to the electric company whenever you are using less electricity than your solar panels are generating.
If you are setting up an off-grid power system, there are a few more pieces of equipment that you’ll need to purchase, including deep-cycle batteries and a charge controller.
From there you’ll be ready to start harvesting the sun’s energy at home and save money on your electric bills.