Easy Home Solar Power

Solar Power For Homes

The great thing about solar power for homes is the many ways in which it can be utilized. From PV arrays (also known as solar panels) collecting sunlight for use throughout your home, to individual, stand-alone applications that cost you no money for daily operation. Solar energy is one of the best, most easily accessible, renewable energy sources out there.

There are 3 basic levels relating to solar power for homes:

  1. Off-the-Grid: no longer being tied to the local electrical utility
  2. Grid-tie: still tied to the local electrical utility, option to sell electricity back to utility
  3. Stand-alone applications: applications that utilize the solar energy they create

Off-the-Grid Homes Solar Power

Solar power for homes provides a way for you to become energy independent by going off-the-grid and being responsible for generating and storing all the electricity you need. This option is the highest in regards to initial investment, as you will need PV arrays, batteries, and a backup generator, all sized to run your house day and night. But your impact on the environment will be tremendous. Not to mention your savings as energy prices keep rising.

Grid-tie System for Solar Power

You can also stay on-the-grid, or grid-tie, and still make an impact on the environment by using solar power. For homes that don’t want the responsibility of providing ALL their own electricity, you can supplement your electric usage with solar power while still being tied to the electric grid. When the sun is not out (nighttime, storms, cloudy weather) or you just need more power than your home solar power system can provide, you use electricity from the electric company. You can still incorporate a battery bank, like off-the-grid, to store your excess solar power that you generate, or you can utilize net-metering. Either way, a solar grid-tie system will definitely help reduce your electric bill.

Solar Net-metering for Homes

There is a neat system called solar net-metering, which is available in most states. With net metering, you are utilizing a grid-tie system in which you sell any excess power back to the electric company for a credit. Not all states support solar net-metering – check the DSIRE database for your state’s incentives.

Stand-alone Solar Power for Homes

Other options for using solar power for homes are stand-alone applications, such as outdoor walkway lights and solar attic vents. Even if you are just lighting up your walkway, that’s electricity that you are getting from a renewable source – no carbon footprint on that walkway, or increase in your electric bill. Another great benefit to stand-alone solar power applications is the fact that you don’t need an electrician to do any wiring. And so many of these are great DIY solar power projects.

Updated Solar Tax Incentives

Whether going off-the-grid or staying grid-tied, solar power for homes can save you a lot of money in the long run. However, there is a considerable upfront cost associated with both of these options. To help alleviate some of the financial burden, new solar tax incentives were passed at the end of 2008. These solar tax credits were put in place to try to encourage more solar power for homes and will definitely help you in reducing the time in which you’ll see payback.

Benefits of Using Solar Power

So what are some of the benefits of solar energy?

  • Use less electricity from the utility company, which will reduce your electric bill, especially important with the current trend of increasing energy prices.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint – you are not contributing as much to global warming.
  • Generate savings for many years – most PV arrays have a 20 – 25 year warranty so your solar investment will be paying you back for many years.


Any way you utilize solar power for homes,
you are making a positive impact on the environment.

Filed Under Solar Power Info



Having an Off-the-Grid Home: Understanding the Basics

If you are considering having an off-the-grid home, you really need to understand how your entire solar power system for your home works. It’s not very complicated, but you do need to understand the following 9 components of a complete solar power system for living in an off-the-grid home.

  1. The PV array is a collection photovoltaic cells. Each individual cell produces only a small amount of energy, so the PV cells are interconnected to generate a usable amount of energy. This interconnection of PV cells is called a PV array. You’ll need multiple PV arrays for going off-the-grid. A mounting rack allows you to attach them the roof and point them toward the sun. The PV array is connected to the DC disconnect.
  2. The array DC disconnect is basically a breaker between the array and the rest of the system. It allows you to disconnect from the system in order to troubleshoot problems with the array. The DC disconnect is connected to the charge controller.
  3. The charge controller manages the charging of the batteries and keeps the batteries from overcharging. The charge controller is connected to the battery bank.
  4. The battery bank stores excess electricity. Having an off-the-grid home means you’ll have to store electricity to use when the sun is not shining. You will usually need enough batteries for at least 2-3 days worth of stored electricity in case of a cloudy period. You’ll need to research your area to determine just how much storage you will need. The battery bank is connected to the system meter.
  5. The system meter is like your car’s dashboard. It reports how the various components in your system are doing. Since you are going off-the-grid, you’ll need to know how all your components are working so you can stay on top of things. The system meter is connected to the main DC disconnect.
  6. The main DC disconnect is a breaker between the storage batteries and the inverter. The DC disconnect is connected to the inverter.
  7. The inverter is the component that transforms the DC (direct current) electricity, which is generated by the array and stored in the batteries, into the AC (alternating current) electricity that can be used by your household appliances. The inverter is connected to the AC breaker panel for your off-the-grid home.
  8. The AC breaker panel is the same kind of breaker panel that the electric company used to connect your house wiring to its electrical source.
  9. The backup generator is in case you have a stretch of cloudy days that outlast the electricity stored in the batteries. Since you’ll be living in a off-the-grid home, you won’t have your local utility there for backup electricity. You can use traditional fossil fuels, but you’ll probably want to use biodiesel to maintain your green lifestyle.

Now that you understand the basics needed for having an off-the-grid home using a solar power system, you can see why it’s definitely feasible. Each component is relatively simple and the flow of one component being connected to the next makes the system very straight-forward and easy to troubleshoot. The only moving parts are in the backup generator, and you hopefully won’t be using that very much.


Having an off-the-grid home gives the biggest payoffs in:
reducing your carbon footprint,
becoming less dependent on fossil fuels,
and eliminating your electric bill.
Electrical energy independence CAN be done!

Filed Under Solar Power Info



Solar Grid-Tie Systems: The Best of Both Worlds

Do you want to start using solar power in your home but aren’t comfortable with unhooking from the electric utility and having an off-the-grid home? Then solar grid-tie systems are just what you’re looking for. A grid-tie system provides the benefit of generating and using your own solar power combined with the use of electricity from the grid when you need it.

With a solar grid-tie system, you decide how much of your electric power you want to be responsible for. Your home solar power system can supply electricity during the day, your electric company can supply the electricity needed during the night.

If you need more electricity than you are generating, your local electric utility provides what is needed.

If you are generating more solar power than you need, then you should look at either hooking up a battery bank to store your excess electricity, or see if solar net-metering is an option in your area. With net-metering, you effectively “sell” your excess electricity back to the utility company for a credit.

If you are staying with a solar grid-tie power system and using a battery bank, you should really investigate if it is feasible for you to actually have an off-the-grid home. If you live in an area that typically does not go days on end without sunshine, this may be a very viable and cost effective option.


With a solar grid-tie system you really do seem
to get the best of both worlds:
generate and use your own solar power and
get electricity from your local electric grid when you need it.

Filed Under Solar Power Info



Solar Net-Metering: How it Works

A great way to reduce your electric bill is to utilize solar net-metering. With solar energy net-metering, you “sell” any excess solar electricity back to your local utility. This is usually in the form of a credit. Your electric meter will literally run backwards when you are “selling” your electricity back. Then when you use electricity from your utility, the meter runs forward again.

The first thing you need to determine is if your state requires your electric utility company to participate in solar power net-metering. It is federally mandated that all public utilities provide net-metering. Click on your state in the DSIRE database (a database provided by NC State University) to check your state’s solar tax incentives for net-metering.

Next, read very carefully what the policies are for your state for solar net-metering. Some states are really on board with renewable energies and make net-metering very lucrative, with competitive credit rates and credits than can be carried over month to month. Other states allow a less than retail credit for customer generated electricity and some even have a limit as to the amount the utility is required to credit. Some states even charge monthly fees just to be connected for the solar power net-metering option. If you have a battery bank connected to your home solar power system, you may not be eligible for solar net-metering.

All in all, solar net-metering is a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, for the electric utilities, it cuts into their profits, which is why it is not met with open arms throughout the US. As a country, we need to wake up and demand better programs for renewable energies. If we wait until there is no longer any fossil fuels available for our power supplies, it will be too late. We need to be more proactive and start integrating, on a larger scale, renewable energies wherever possible.


Solar net-metering is a great way to utilize
excess electricity you are able to produce
from your home solar power system.
Check your state’s requirements.

Filed Under Solar Power Info



Is DIY Solar Power Possible?

Is it really possible to have DIY solar power in your home? If you like do-it-yourself projects, then yes! Now what we’re talking about here is electrical power (photovoltaics), as opposed to solar water heaters and solar heat systems. Solar water heaters are also a great DIY solar project. Solar heat systems have best results when they are planned into the architecture and building of your home.

The great thing about solar power is that it is really not all that complicated and has very few moving parts. You really only need basic skills to assemble most of the components necessary for a DIY solar power electrical system. Depending upon how you use your DIY solar power electricity, you may need to hire an electrician to wire the solar power into your house. But the rest is definitely do-able for a DIY home project.

There are many types of DIY solar power projects out there from manuals to build the solar power system from scratch to kits where all the components are provided.

DIY Solar Power – from Scratch
There are DIY manuals and videos available that tell you everything you need to know to create solar power for homes. They tell you where you can purchase the materials you need (the majority of the materials are available at your local hardware or home store). They also give instruction on how to connect the PV cells together to form a PV array (the solar power panel you see on rooftops). They walk you through physically constructing the PV arrays and connecting them to your home. If you have a kid who is interested in science or home projects, this could be a great project to work on with them.

DIY Solar Power Kits
There are also DIY solar power kits which are supplied by stores (physical or online) and usually provide the PV array already assembled. Depending on the type of solar power kit you buy, there might also be included a battery and/or a DC-to-AC inverter. DIY solar power kits are very popular because you get to decide how much you want to do, from actual building, wiring, and installing, to just opening the box and installing the kit. Solar power is a true Do-It-Yourself because so many of the products are things the homeowner can do without any professional help.

One of the most popular types of DIY solar power kits involve lighting. And if you don’t think lighting will make a difference in the world, keep this in mind: The US Department of Energy estimates over 20% of U.S. energy goes to lighting!

Types of DIY solar power electrical kits available are:

Solar Lighting – both indoor and outdoor: ambient lights, security floodlights, flashlights, back-up lanterns, spotlights, streetlamps, etc
Solar Chargers: battery, camera, cell-phone, laptop, mp3, and universal.
Attic Vent Fans: attic vent fans and attic gable fans
Solar Pumps: pond, pool, fountain, and birdbaths

DIY solar power projects are also great for the camping and RV enthusiasts. They make great portable electricity generators. Some of the PV arrays even roll-up to make them compact for camping.

The great thing about DIY solar power is that you can size the system you want to build. Start off small with minimal outset of money. Then once you get an understanding and increase your comfort level, you can build upon and expand the system you already have.

With DIY solar power projects you have more complete control and understanding of the solar electricity you are generating. DIY solar power projects/kits are a great stepping stone to going off-the-grid or grid-tie for your whole home.



Remember: even small uses of solar power add up -
it’s power you don’t have to have your electric company
to generate for you (reduce your carbon footprint),
and power you don’t have to pay for (reduce your electric bill).

Filed Under Solar Power Info



Solar Pumps

What better way to power your pond or fountain than with a solar pump? Ponds and fountains are a great DIY project, but when it comes to the wiring of the pump for water circulation/waterfalls, most people must hire an electrician to run the wire from their house to the pond/fountain. But what if you could take that part out? With a solar pump, you can!

Think about all the advantages of a solar pond pump or a solar fountain pump:

  • Put your pond/fountain wherever you want on your property and not worry about the expense of hiring an electrician to run electricity to it.
  • Put your pond/fountain wherever you want on your property and not worry about tearing up the rest of your property running electric wire to it.
  • Using a solar pump will not increase your electric bill.
  • Optional batteries enable the solar pump to continue to run in cloudy conditions and at night.
  • A solar pump is good for our environment – solar power generation has no harmful emissions.
  • Solar pond and fountain pumps cost about the same as conventional electric pumps.

Once you start using solar power, you’ll likely ask yourself, why didn’t I do this earlier?

Solar Pond or Fountain Pump
When looking for a solar pond or fountain pump, keep the following in mind:

  • What kind of flow rate do you need?
  • How far will you have to place the solar/PV panel from the water source to get unrestricted sunlight? If your pond/fountain is in a shady area, you’ll need to place your panel in a sunny location – make sure you are getting a long enough cable between the pump and the solar panel.
  • Do you want the fountain or pond pump to work at night or when it is cloudy? If you want your pump to work continuously, you’ll need to buy a solar pump with a battery. Otherwise, expect your pump to work great in direct sunlight, with reduced flow rate in the mornings, late afternoons, and cloudy periods.




Installing a solar pump is just a very easy, practical decision.
Less hassles (no wiring), less cost (no electricity or wiring),
less carbon footprint!

Filed Under Solar Power Applications, Solar Power Info, Solar Pumps



Universal Solar Battery Charger

A universal solar battery charger has the capability to charge numerous types of portable, rechargeable devices, such as laptops, mp3 players, and cell phones. Universal solar chargers usually come supplied with many different types of connectors for all types of devices.



Filed Under Solar Chargers, Solar Power Applications



Solar Trickle Charger

Most trickle chargers, solar or electric, are not made to charge a battery from a dead condition, but rather to keep a small, or trickle, charge to the battery to keep it from discharging. Some solar trickle chargers will also completely charge a battery, but those will tend to be more expensive.



Filed Under Solar Chargers, Solar Power Applications



Solar Panel Battery Charger

A solar panel battery charger typically charges household AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt batteries. Some models come with interfaces to let you know what kind of solar power is available and how long it will take to fully charge the batteries. Other, more basic, types just provide a light to let you know they are charging.

One feature on some of the solar panel battery chargers worth looking at is a blocking diode. A blocking diode will prevent discharge of the batteries when left in the charger without actually charging. This is nice if you are trying to recharge batteries and it is cloudy or becomes nighttime.



Filed Under Solar Chargers, Solar Power Applications



Solar Chargers

There are all types of solar chargers on the market today. There are some chargers made for explicit purposes, such as recharging everyday household batteries to trickle charging car and marine batteries. Other chargers, known as universal chargers, are able to connect and charge different devices with mulitple interfaces.

Solar Panel Battery Charger
A solar panel battery charger typically charges household AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-volt batteries. Some models come with interfaces to let you know what kind of solar power is available and how long it will take to fully charge the batteries. Other, more basic, types just provide a light to let you know they are charging.

One feature on some of the solar panel battery chargers worth looking at is a blocking diode. A blocking diode will prevent discharge of the batteries when left in the charger without actually charging. This is nice if you are trying to recharge batteries and it is cloudy or becomes nighttime.

Universal Solar Battery Charger
A universal solar charger has the capability to charge numerous types of portable, rechargeable devices, such as laptops, mp3 players, and cell phones. Universal solar battery chargers usually come supplied with many different types of connectors for all types of devices.

Solar Trickle Charger
Most trickle chargers, solar or electric, are not made to charge a battery from a dead condition, but rather to keep a small, or trickle, charge to the battery to keep it from discharging. Some solar trickle chargers will also completely charge a battery, but those will tend to be more expensive.

Use solar chargers keep your portable devices always charged – no matter where you are.

Filed Under Solar Chargers, Solar Power Applications, Solar Power Info



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