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Choose a date and time. Home solar pv system

Choose a date and time. Home solar pv system

    Grid Connected PV System

    A grid connected PV system is one where the photovoltaic panels or array are connected to the utility grid through a power inverter unit allowing them to operate in parallel with the electric utility grid.

    In the previous tutorial we looked at how a stand alone PV system uses photovoltaic panels and deep cycle batteries to store its solar energy providing a complete self-contained solar power system. However, this type of solar system works fine providing there is enough solar radiation during the day to recharge the batteries for use during the night.

    Stand alone solar systems are self contained fixed or portable solar PV systems that are not connected to any local utility or mains electrical grid as they are generally used in remote and rural areas. This generally means that the electrical appliances are a long way from the nearest fixed electrical supply, or were the cost of extending a power line from the local grid may be very expensive.

    In recent years, however, the number of solar powered homes connected to the local electricity grid has increased dramatically. These Grid Connected PV Systems have solar panels that provide some or even most of their power needs during the day time, while still being connected to the local electrical grid network during the night time.

    Solar powered PV systems can sometimes produce more electricity than is actually needed or consumed, especially during the long hot summer months. This extra or surplus electricity is either stored in batteries or as in most grid connected PV systems, fed directly back into the electrical grid network.

    In other words, homes and buildings that use a grid connected PV system can use a portion or all of their energy needs with solar energy, and still use power from the normal electrical mains grid during the night or on cloudy dull and rainy days, giving the best of both worlds. Then in grid connected PV systems, electricity flows back-and-forth to and from the mains grid according to sunlight conditions and the actual electrical demand at that time.

    In a grid connected PV system, also known as a “grid-tied”, or “on-grid” solar system, the PV solar panels or array are electrically connected or “tied” to the local mains electricity grid which feeds electrical energy back into the grid.

    The main advantage of a grid connected PV system is its simplicity, relatively low operating and maintenance costs as well as reduced electricity bills. The disadvantage however is that a sufficient number of solar panels need to be installed to generate the required amount of excess power.

    Since grid tied systems feed their solar energy directly back into the grid, expensive back-up batteries are not necessary and can be omitted from most grid connected designs. Also, as this type of PV system is permanently connected to the grid, solar energy consumption and solar panel sizing calculations are not required, giving a large range of options allowing for a system as small as 1.0kWh on the roof to help reduce your electricity bills, or a much larger floor mounted array that is large enough to virtually eliminate your electricity bills completely.

    Grid Connected Net Metering

    Connecting solar panels together to make larger array’s for connecting directly to the local power grid enables you to engage in one of the most advantageous parts of generating your own electricity: Net Metering or Net Billing. If during a sunny day more electricity is produced by your solar PV system then you use or consume, this excess solar power is delivered back to the utility grid with the effect of rotating your electric meter backwards. When this happens you will normally be given credits by the local power company for the amounts of electricity produced by your grid connected PV system.

    If during the billing period you use or consume more electrical energy than you generate, you are billed for the “net amount” of electricity consumed as you would be normally. If, however, you generate more solar energy than you consume, you are credited for the “net amount” of electricity generated which may be either a reduction in your monthly electricity bill or a positive repayment directly to you or the account holder.

    When installing a PV system, if net metering is available by your local electricity company, you may be required to install a new second electrical meter instead of using a single electricity meter that spins in both directions. This new meter allows for a measurement of net energy consumption, both entering and leaving the system and would be used to reduce your electricity bill. However, each electrical utility company has its own policy regarding the buying back of energy generated by your own small solar power station.

    While net metering is the ideal way to resell your solar generated excess power, some companies buy-back energy at a lower wholesale rate than the electricity you consume from the same power company. This means that you may need to generate more solar power than you would normally consume just to break even.

    Simplified Grid Connected PV System

    Grid connected PV systems always have a connection to the public electricity grid via a suitable inverter because a photovoltaic panel or array (multiple PV panels) only deliver DC power. As well as the solar panels, the additional components that make up a grid connected PV system compared to a stand alone PV system are:

    • Inverter – The inverter is the most important part of any grid connected system. The inverter extracts as much DC (direct current) electricity as possible from the PV array and converts it into clean mains AC (alternating current) electricity at the right voltage and frequency for feeding into the grid or for supplying domestic loads. It is important to choose the best quality inverter possible for the budget allowed as the main considerations in grid connected inverter choice are: Power – Maximum high and low voltage power the inverter can handle and Efficiency – How efficiently does the inverter convert solar power to AC power.
    • Electricity Meter – The electricity meter also called a Kilowatt hour (kWh) meter is used to record the flow of electricity to and from the grid. Twin kWh meters can be used, one to indicate the electrical energy being consumed and the other to record the solar electricity being sent to the grid. A single bidirectional kWh meter can also be used to indicate the net amount of electricity taken from the grid. A grid connected PV system will slow down or halt the aluminium disc in the electric meter and may cause it to spin backwards. This is generally referred to as net metering.
    • AC Breaker Panel and Fuses – The breaker panel or fuse box is the normal type of fuse box provided with a domestic electricity supply and installation with the exception of additional breakers for inverter and/or filter connections.
    • Safety Switches and Cabling – A photovoltaic array will always produce a voltage output in sunlight so it must be possible to disconnect it from the inverter for maintenance or testing. Isolator switches rated for the maximum DC voltage and current of the array and inverter safety switches must be provided separately with easy access to disconnect the system. Other safety features demanded by the electrical company may include earthing and fuses. The electrical cables used to connect the various components must also be correctly rated and sized.
    • The Electricity Grid – Finally the electricity grid itself to connect too, because without the utility grid it is not a Grid Connected PV System.

    An grid connected system without batteries are the simplest and cheapest solar power setup available, and by not having to charge and maintain batteries they are also more efficient. It is important to note that a grid connected solar power system is not an independent power source unlike a stand alone system. Should the mains supply from the electrical grid be interrupted, the lights may go out, even if the sun is shining. One way to overcome this is to have some form of short term energy storage built into the design.

    Grid Connected System with Batteries

    A small scale photovoltaic solar system that has storage batteries within its design, also operates in conjunction with the local electricity company. The short-term peak demand is met by the battery without drawing from the grid and paying the extra charge.

    When used in grid connected PV systems, storage batteries can be classified into short term storage for a few hours or days to cover periods of bad weather and long term storage over several weeks to compensate for seasonal variations in the solar irradiation between the summer and winter months.

    Incorporating batteries into a grid connected system requires more components, is more expensive, and lowers the systems overall efficiency. But for many homeowners in remote areas who regularly experience a loss of their grid supply during bad weather conditions or have critical electrical loads that can not be interrupted, having some form of backup energy storage within their grid connected system can be a great benefit.

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    Grid Connected PV System with Battery Storage

    So we can see from above, that a PV system with battery storage is basically the same as for the previous grid connected PV system with the addition of the batteries and charge controller. The battery charge controller, determines whether the power generated by the solar panels is needed for home use, to run low voltage equipment and lighting or whether it will charge the deep-cycle backup batteries to be used later on.

    The DC current leaving the controller passes through the DC to AC inverter, transforming it into electricity usable by general household appliances. Any surplus electricity not being consumed or used by the home can be sent to the electricity companies power grid. It is better to run DC rated lighting and appliances first directly off your solar system before the current is converted to AC from the inverter. This will gain the most efficiency.

    Living with a grid connected solar PV system is no different than living with just the normal grid power, except that some or all of the electricity that is consumed comes from the sun. PV solar systems designed for grid connection are usually designed to meet at least half of a homeowners electrical needs.

    Purchasing a home solar photovoltaic panel array large enough to supply the entire electrical needs of a home would be extremely expensive with the solar array taking up a large amount of space. The solar power generated by a grid connected system is therefore only partial, with the remaining energy being made up by the power company.

    The advantage of a Grid Connected PV System, either with or without storage batteries is that on clear blue sunny days, when the photovoltaic system is producing large amounts of current and the home is consuming low energy levels, for example, if you are out of your home all the day working, you’re solar system keeps generating electricity.

    The excess electricity generated does not go to waste but is fed back into the power grid to be used by your neighbouring homes who unknowingly end up using the clean, renewable energy themselves while making money for you through your “net metering” arrangement.

    In the next tutorial about “Solar Power”, we will see that a Solar Inverter can be used to transform the DC voltages and currents of a typical solar panel into an alternating AC voltage suitable for feeding directly into the power grid.

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    How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

    Lexie came from HomeAdvisor and Angi (formerly Angie’s list) and is responsible for writing and editing articles over a wide variety of home-related topics. She has almost four years’ experience in the home improvement space.

    We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Home. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

    Solar panels have enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity in recent decades. That’s thanks in part to an increase in environmentally responsible behavior and the desire to reduce energy bills by exchanging traditional sources of heating, cooling and electricity with cleaner, more natural sources. If you’re thinking of making this switch, you’re probably wondering how many solar panels it takes to power a house.

    While the answer can be a bit complicated, if you hire a professional or solar panel installation company to consult with, they’ll likely handle this part of the process as well (and may give you tips on how to maintain and clean solar panels ).

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    But if you’re wondering how many solar panels you may need, and you’d like to take a stab at calculating it yourself, you’ll need a few pieces of information: how much energy your household uses; how much space you have on your roof that can be used for solar panel placement, how many hours of sun your home gets and the wattage and relative efficiency of the photovoltaic (PV) solar panels you’ll be installing.

    How to Determine Solar Panel Needs

    In order to learn how many solar panels are needed to power a house, you’ll use a formula with three key factors, according to EnergySage: annual energy usage, panel wattage and production ratios. But what does that mean exactly?

    Annual Electricity Usage

    The first step is to determine your annual electricity usage; that’s the amount of electricity consumed by your entire household in a year. Measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), this number includes all sources of electricity in your home, including small and large appliances, air conditioning units, lights, air purifiers and water heaters. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) indicates the average household consumes about 11,000 kWh of electricity per year.

    Solar Panel Wattage

    When choosing the best solar panels you may think they look mostly the same, but they aren’t exactly created equally, so you’ll need to know the wattage of the panels you’re hoping to install. The panel wattage is the amount of electricity emitted from the panel. Most solar panels range between 250 to 400 watts of power, so it’s safe to assume 300 is the average panel wattage you might find.

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    Production Ratios

    According to EnergySage, a solar panel system’s production ratio is the ratio of the estimated energy output of a system over time (in kWh) to the actual system size (in W). You might think that this would be a 1:1 ratio – that you get out what goes in. But variations in the amount of sunlight that beams down on your home cause that not to be the case.

    A 10 kW system that produces 16 kWh of electricity in a year will have a production ratio of 1.6 (16/10 = 1.6). In a place like Hawaii, which enjoys long days and consistent sunshine, it’s totally possible to have this type of ratio, whereas cloudy, rainy New England might see an average production ratio of only 1.2

    Calculate How Many Solar Panels You Need

    Here’s the actual formula, used by EnergySage, that you can use you’re hoping to determine how many solar panels you’ll need:

    • Number of panels = system size / production ratio / panel wattage
    • Using the numbers we’ve determined so far, we get:
    • Number of panels = 11,000 kW / 1.6 / 300 W

    That equates to about 20 to 25 solar panels to do the job. You can use this same formula to determine how many solar panels you’ll need to power your home. Or, you can use the easier route, which is to look at your energy bill to determine what you’ll need.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    An Alternative Way to Figure Out Solar Energy Usage

    If you’re not interested in doing the math on your own, simply look at your utility bills to figure out how much energy you’re using. Doing this allows you to multiply your energy usage by the number of hours of strong sunlight your home gets, then dividing that result by the wattage of the panels you’re thinking of installing.

    Factors that Affect How Many Solar Panels You Will Need

    Is there anything else to think about outside of the above calculations? Turns out, there are a few other things factors need to consider when determining how many solar panels to power a house.

    Solar Panel Output Efficiency

    Your solar panels won’t draw the sun’s energy at top capacity all the time. Think of those three-day bouts of rain that come in the fall, or large snowfalls in the winter that take several days to melt. Those are times you’ll need a buffer in your energy usage, so it’s recommended to have about 25% more solar panels than you need.

    Hours of Sunlight

    The amount of energy you’ll get from your solar panels is directly related to how much sun your home gets. panels will be required if you live in an area without long hours of strong sunshine.

    Wattage of Your Panels

    Most solar panels range in wattage from 150 to 350 watts per panel. If you choose lower wattage panels, you’ll need more in order to generate enough energy for your home. Of course, that’s assuming you’d like to replace 100% of your energy usage with solar energy. If you’re only hoping for a partial conversion, the difference in solar panel wattage may not matter as much.

    Cost of Solar Panels

    How much do you want to or plan to spend on your solar panels ? Before you buy, make sure you know how many make sense for your budget.

    Solar Panel Size

    To understand how many solar panels you’ll need, you must know the standard sizes of solar panels to know how many you can place on your roof. The area of a residential 60-cell solar panel is 17.62 square feet, and the area of a commercial 72-cell solar panel is 21.13 square feet. Solar panel installation companies will measure the area of your roof to determine how many panels can be installed safely.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    Why Install Solar Panels in Your Home? Should You Go Solar in 2023?

    New tax incentives are making the idea of solar panels more enticing, especially with higher electric and heating bills. Here are some things to consider.

    Rising energy and new tax incentives for green home improvements this year are heating up interest in solar.

    Experts say it’s a good time for many homeowners to harness solar energy. Though solar power may not work for every home, when it does it can drastically cut home heating bills and lessen damage to the environment caused by the burning of fossil fuels. And while installing a solar energy system is still not cheap, the up-front cost has gone down significantly in the past 10 years.

    Cost of solar panels

    Costs vary from state to state and depend on things like the size and quality of the solar array. Nationally, the average cost for a residential photovoltaic system is about 20,000 after 30% in federal tax credits, according to, an information website for residential alternative energy.

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    Nick Liberati, communications manager for EnergySage, breaks it down: The national average for a 10-kilowatt system, priced at the national average of 2.86-per-watt, costs 28,600. The federal tax credit allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of installing solar panels from your federal taxes (or in this case, a total of 8,580), bringing the cost to 20,020.

    On average, it takes 8.7 years to break even — that is, to save enough on power to recover the cost of solar panels. After that, your solar energy is free until the equipment wears out. Solar panels are typically guaranteed to last 20 to 25 years, although the system’s inverter is generally guaranteed for 10 years. The inverter converts DC electricity generated by solar panels into AC electricity that’s used in your house.

    Should you buy a solar panel battery?

    The average solar panel cost quoted above doesn’t include storage. A battery can add an average of more than 9,000 after the federal tax credit, depending on the size and other features. Specifically, Liberati says, the national average cost for a battery in the 10-12 kilowatt hour size range is about 13,000. Starting in 2023, all residential batteries will be eligible for the full 30% tax credit as long as they’re over 3 kWh in size. So you’d be able to deduct 3,900 from your taxes, leaving you with a post-tax credit price of 9,100 for the battery.

    Although batteries are becoming more popular, most solar houses don’t have them. Instead, most consumers send their excess energy to their utility as credit toward their power usage when the panels aren’t collecting enough, such as at night.

    Without a battery, if your utility loses power, your home does, too, even when it’s sunny. “The primary reason for this is safety,” Liberati says. “If your solar panel system is still producing electricity and sending it to the grid during an outage, those energized wires pose a serious safety threat to any utility workers trying to restore electric service to the grid.

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    That won’t be a problem if you have a battery with “islanding capability.” Islanding is a technology that allows your home to support itself. “You can keep producing solar energy and feeding it to your battery during an outage without posing a risk to line workers because a system that is islanded won’t push excess electricity onto the grid,” Liberati explains. He notes that not all solar panel systems with energy storage can automatically island. If you get a battery, you should make sure your installer gives you the right equipment to enable this technology.

    Things to consider when getting solar panels

    With so many thousands of dollars required upfront, going solar can be intimidating for many people, notes Vikram Aggarwal, CEO and founder of EnergySage.

    Aggarwal urges comparison shopping and checking any claims — such as that your utility or the government will give you solar for free. EnergySage, he says, helps with this and connects consumers with reputable contractors. The site also has information about incentives offered by different states.

    Another factor to consider is how your utility company credits you for the solar energy it gets from you, particularly if you don’t have a battery and are reliant on the utility to run your home when your panels aren’t collecting enough.

    Michael Ware, a senior solar specialist with consulting firm EcoMotion, says there’s tension over how the utilities credit customers for solar power. The utilities want a discount, similar to how they pay for other forms of energy that they sell to consumers. But solar advocates want the utilities to credit customers the full amount they have to pay for their power, known as net metering.

    Sherri Shields, director of communications and marketing for the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida, said people who install solar should check with their insurance companies about whether they cover the panels or whether you have to purchase extra insurance.

    Other reasons to go solar

    Saving money is just one reason people go solar, notes Robert Stoner, deputy director for Science and Technology of the MIT Energy Initiative. “I think most people who invest in residential rooftop solar simply want to be part of the transition, and to a lesser degree to be seen to be,” he says. “Nothing wrong with that…Some, like me, own homes — my weekend home is at the end of a five-mile-long barrier beach — that simply don’t have the option to have grid electricity.” Stoner says his solar system, which includes a bank of lead acid batteries, provides all of his electricity, “And it brings me a lot of joy! Some of that comes from the feeling of independence I get, and some of it from getting to experience the miracle of electricity being produced from the sun.”

    Rotraut Bockstahler, 86, of Sarasota, Fla., with her husband, installed 26 solar panels and a Tesla battery in November 2016. Installing the solar panels cost just under 28,000, and they received a tax credit of about 8,400, leaving a net cost of about 19,600. Getting the battery cost about 8,400, and they received a tax credit of about 2,500, for a net cost of about 5,900. “We feel strongly about climate change and wish to make a contribution to reverse that trend,” Bockstahler says. Going solar “was one of the most positive decisions we made for our living in Florida. We have saved money, made a contribution to fighting climate change and were fortunate enough to have electricity every time there was an outage in the electric grid.”

    Going solar doesn’t always cut you off from the power company entirely. When the system was first installed, Bockstahler says, their need for electricity from the utility dropped significantly and their power bills went down to about 40 to 60 a month. With increasing energy costs, they’re now over 100 a month. But in addition to the power bill savings, she counts the money saved on food that didn’t spoil and hotel rooms they didn’t have to get when the power grid failed.

    If they have any regrets, she says, it’s that they didn’t get a bigger system. “We feel that the decision we made about the number of panels we have, was maybe a little too conservative and should have included more circuits that could be powered by the battery,” she says.

    Should you wait for new solar panel technology?

    Another reason you might hesitate to go solar is that technology might advance to offer more efficient and/or less expensive options. And it’s true that different technologies continue to emerge. For instance, some companies are offering roof shingles that serve as solar collectors. Also, standard solar panels have become more efficient, less expensive and better looking.

    If you wait, might you have a chance to get something better?

    Aggarwal says solar panels do improve slightly each year, but not enough to justify waiting for a dramatic change. A decade ago, he said, the panels would each generate maybe 240 or 245 watts. Now, they each produce 400 or 420 watts of power. So this means, you can get more power from a system that covers the same amount of roof space. The panels, he says, used to be bright blue with silver around the edges. Now, they’re all black and “look beautiful,” he says. And they’re more durable.

    Solar shingles, he says, so far haven’t turned out to be ready yet for broad use. Aggarwal says a roofing company plans to introduce “an interesting product” along those lines sometime this year. But solar shingles are still less efficient and more expensive than traditional solar panels. However, if you’re planning to replace your roof, he says, solar shingles may be worth considering.

    Ware said he expects the price of batteries to come down in the next five or 10 years as companies explore different battery technologies. The currently most popular battery technology is lithium-ion, which may pose a fire hazard in some instances, leading some jurisdictions to require that they be mounted outdoors.

    Is solar right for you?

    Some homes are not suitable for solar:

    • If you have an old roof that needs to be replaced in a few years, for example, it makes sense to wait because removing and reinstalling solar panels can cost thousands.
    • If your roof faces north or is in the shade, you probably aren’t a good solar candidate.
    • It’s also more complicated and expensive to install solar on roofs covered with clay tiles, Liberati says.

    There is another option for people who can’t put solar collectors on their roofs.

    Community solar involves an array of solar panels that people can purchase an interest in. People who participate in community solar generally receive credit from their utility company for power generated by their share of the project. You can find information about community solar projects in your area on the EnergySage website.

    Note: This item first appeared in Kiplinger’s Retirement Report, our popular monthly periodical that covers key concerns of affluent older Americans who are retired or preparing for retirement. Subscribe here if you want retirement advice that’s right on the money.

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