Solar Installers: Understand the Jargon

Do you find yourself somewhat overwhelmed when it comes to trying to understand the terminology that solar installers use when describing how their products work and what the various components do? By learning and understanding the basic elements of how solar energy works when you make the decision to install this renewable energy source you will be able to do so in a knowledgeable way. Most people will know what solar panels are, below you will find useful information on why these are normally found on the roof’s of homes and what the other parts do.

Why on the roof?

To be able to get the best results from solar panels they need to be facing north if you live in the southern hemisphere and south if your in the northern hemisphere. To get the maximum exposure to the sun solar panels should be facing towards the equator.

How is electricity produced?

Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells and each cell is made from silicone. During the manufacturing process an impurity is added to the silicone so it can conduct electricity. When the suns rays hit this cell it produces an electron discharge which then creates an electrical charge. The metal grid on the surface of the cells then catches this charge and sends it to the solar panels terminals.

Solar panels generate electricity as a direct current, although the voltage is deemed as low, in the region of 6 to 24 volts. These panels have about a 12 volt nominal output and an operating voltage of around 7 volts and upwards. The electricity output of solar panels can be affected by several factors, the angle at which they are positioned to the sun, the time of day, time of year and the weather conditions all effect the performance. The largest amount of power generated is during the middle of the day when the sun is at its strongest. As the sun is rising or setting the amount of electricity produced will be less.

Solar Power for the Home

The system that solar installers provide for the home is made up of basically 4 components; the panels, battery pack, an inverter and the charge controller. The panels convert sunlight into power; this is then sent to the charge controller to charge the batteries. From the battery the power goes to the inverter which then converts it to an AC voltage of 120 volts, 60 hertz.

Solar panels

By their wattage is how photovoltaic panels are rated. The higher the watts the more expensive the panels are. To make life easier manufacturers will normally show the wattage as peak sun hours. These are the hours when the sun is directly overhead and having the most impact on the panels.

Charge controller

This is the component that regulates the charge to the battery pack. When the batteries run low power generated is then diverted to them. It will also work to prevent the batteries from becoming over-charged. Do not ever be convinced that a charge controller is not necessary, if the panels were connected directly to the battery it could cause irreparable damage and possibly cause them to explode.

Battery pack

This is used to store unused electricity generated during the day, so that when it’s nighttime or an overcast day the batteries will feed your home. Solar installers will normally use lead acid batteries as they are relatively inexpensive and readily available. The most popular types of battery are the gel cell or AGM types because they are maintenance free and will last longer.

The Inverter

The inverter is responsible for converting the DC current into an AC current for use in your home. Generally there are two types of inverter; sine wave and modified sine wave. A modified sine wave inverter sometimes called square wave is where the electricity’s charge value goes from positive 120V to negative 120V in virtually zero seconds. This makes the square wave inverter more efficient than the sine wave.

Now that you are fully informed of all the components required and how they work it now time to check out some solar installers. Make sure they provide referees so you can discover first hand other’s experience of certain solar installation companies.