The Other Solar Power Equipment Needed For Your Solar System?
Besides solar panels and batteries, there are some other photovoltaic components (solar power equipment) necessary for your solar system to function properly and we'll explain a little more about each one below.
All of these solar power components are available in local home improvement and solar stores (as well as online), however not every unit listed below may be necessary for your solar system.
How Do I Know Which Photovoltaic System Components I Need?
While you'll learn about the various solar power components, the solar equipment you need to use in your system will be determined when you choose the type of solar system you will be using in the very next section of this website: Solar System Types.
So go ahead and familiarize yourself with the different photovoltaic system components listed below and then after you have a good understanding of what each does, go to the next section of this website and look at how each solar power component fits into each system type.
Depending on the "system type" you decide to use (in the next section), you will then be able to go out and buy the corresponding solar power equipment you need for that exact type of solar system.
The Photovoltaic System Components Needed
Solar panels (also known as PV panels) are the most vital of all the solar power components. They are used to collect photovoltaic light energy from the sun, which they then turn into what's called "Direct current" (DC) electricity.
There are 3 main types of solar panels and all are made up of a collection of solar cells wired together to make a complete solar panel. A group of solar panels is called an "array".
PV panels are rated based on the amount of watts they produce in optimal sunlight conditions and thus solar panel cost varies. Therefore, the more power you want to create, the bigger sized solar panel you'll need, or the more panels you'll need to connect together.
Batteries are the second of the solar components we'll talk about. They are what is used to store the electricity created by your solar panels for later use. The type of batteries used in photovoltaic systems are deep cycle batteries and although very useful, batteries are not 100% necessary in photovoltaic systems.
By this I mean, you can power your home directly from your solar panels (along with the other solar power components) but the only problem is that when the sun goes down (or if it doesn't come out at all), you won't have any solar power. By using batteries, you can store (and use) solar energy during the day and access it at night.
Like other solar power equipment such as pv panels, photovoltaic system batteries are rated in volts (push) and amp hours (storage capacity). By connecting batteries together in different wiring combinations you can power bigger appliances and store more power. To learn how to size your battery bank, click here to go to: Solar Battery Sizing.
Although deep cycle batteries come in various power ratings, the ones we'll be using in our examples on this website are standard 12 volt deep cycle batteries with 105 Ah (amp hours). If you choose solar batteries with different power ratings, you'll have to make the necessary adjustments to the numbers in each example.
Array DC Disconnect
The DC disconnect is a photovoltaic component you add to your solar system in order to be able to disconnect the power easily. This necessary piece of solar power equipment safely interrupts the flow of electricity from the PV array.
It is typically used when performing maintenance on your system and effectively stops DC power (coming from your solar panels) from reaching the other solar power equipment in your solar system.
One of the most important solar power components (if your using batteries) is a charge controller. This piece of solar power equipment is used to control the amount of current going into your battery and thus prevent it from overcharging. Once your battery bank is full, the charge controller will stop loading it with more current and as a result, this helps to extend the overall life of your batteries. Click here to learn about solar charge controller sizing.
Other useful features of charge controllers include preventing your batteries from discharging past a certain point (thus extending their life span) and blocking reverse current / discharging at night (less wasted energy).
Of all the photovoltaic components, the system meter is probably the most telling. This is because the system meter is used to monitor your solar system's power usage and status. More specifically, it let's you know how much power you have left in your battery bank and how much power your system is currently using. This is very useful information that will help you plan and monitor your energy usage better.
Main DC Disconnect
Another one of the most necessary solar power components (if your using batteries) is the main dc disconnect. This piece of solar power equipment is used to cut the power from the battery bank to the inverter.
This allows you to safely disconnect your inverter for repair, troubleshooting or maintenance.
The power inverter is one of the most important photovoltaic components in a PV system. Without it you couldn't power any of your household appliances, only DC appliances commonly used in RVs.
The most expensive and best quality inverters output voltage in sine wave. Click here to learn about the different solar inverter types available for solar power systems.
A solar inverter's function is to take the DC (direct current) electricity coming from the solar panels and turn it into AC (alternating current) which is the type of electricity needed and used by your household appliances and electronics.
The size of the solar inverter you choose for your system depends on many different factors including your systems wattage and voltage. Click here to learn about solar inverter sizing.
A generator is not really considered a photovoltaic component and is not one of the most necessary solar power components. However it is needed and useful as a back up source of power and usually only if you are going to be using an off-grid solar system (see solar system types).
Although not 100% necessary, it can provide emergency power in times of no sunlight or during maintenance of the solar system. Generators used in solar power systems are usually gas or diesel powered.
AC Breaker Panel
The AC breaker panel is one of the photovoltaic components already found in your home. It is where all of your home's electrical wires end up. From here they neatly (and safely) connect to the source you will be drawing power from. For example: The utility grid or a solar power system.
The AC breaker panel can be found in your home's basement, in a utility room or in some kind of other designated electrical room in your house. Each municipality has their own standards, rules and regulations regarding hooking your solar energy system up to the AC breaker. This is why we recommend consulting the appropriate local authorities such as your power company and having a professional qualified electrician do the final connection for you.
If you don't want to go through your AC breaker panel, you can power your appliances by plugging them directly into one of your other solar power components - your inverter.
Kilowatt per hour meter
The kilowatt per hour meter is another one of the photovoltaic system components already found in your home. A kilowatt per hour meter is used in any house that is grid tied (gets their electricity from the city) and is usually found either right outside your house or somewhere inside your home - usually in the basement or utility room.
It's main functions are to measure and monitor how much power your home uses from the power company's supply or in cases where your solar system feeds power back into the meter - how much power your home adds to the supply.
If you build a big enough solar system (that produces more energy than your home uses), your meter will actually begin to spin in reverse.
The utility grid is the biggest of the photovoltaic components as it is where the power supplied to your home from the city comes from. Unless you are living off-grid, you are getting your energy from the utility grid.
Household Power Loads
And finally the last of the photovoltaic system components is your household power loads. Household power loads refers to all the appliances, electronics or electrical equipment that use or require electricity. This could be anything from your fridge to your water heater, to a lamp you plug into your wall's power outlet.
Now that you know what each of the photovoltaic components in a solar system does, it's time to show you how these solar power components are arranged together in the various solar system types.