Are you planning a DIY solar install, but you don't know where to start?
If you thought ‘yes’, then you are at the right place. With ample information available online, one can easily generate solar power at home. Several DIY solar videos are also available that guide you every step of the way. You can purchase and install your solar power system. You can rent one too if you are staying in a rented accommodation.
Another option available is the community or shared solar system, where a community pools in its financial resources to install and maintain a solar system. The number of solar installations across the globe is increasing by the day. That alone has brought down the cost of buying the solar system.
Do you have access to a roof that can be used to install a solar system? If yes, then it is quite easy to do so by following some basic and simple steps.
Access To A Roof
Determine if your roof will receive ample sunlight for most part of the day throughout the year.
If the answer is ‘No’, then it might not be financially viable to install your solar power system on the roof. There will be insufficient savings from solar energy in this case, to cover the cost of the solar system you install.
The shape of the roof should accommodate sufficient panels to make a viable array. Also the roof must be structurally sound to permit the energy generation system to be installed. Remember the loadings needs to include for the panels, racking plus other imposed loads like wind, snow and maintenance people.
Accessing The Energy Usage And Efficiency
You need to conduct an energy audit for your house and consider the potential efficiency upgrades. Home energy audits will point out the energy loss areas. It will introduce you to opportunities to conserve energy and add efficiency. It will point to changes such as LED lighting that should be changed beforehand.
You should also consider insulating the house which will help you save money by reducing energy loss. The past electricity bills need to be reviewed and any increase that is planned in future should also be factored in.
Selecting The Right Solar Technology
There are two major solar technologies - photovoltaic and thermal. PV technology uses the action of sunlight on an array of solar cells to generate solar direct current electricity. Solar thermal technology uses the sun’s radiation to heat water or air in a tube to be used inside. Solar thermal is primarily used in homes that use a lot of energy for heating. PV solar technology uses PV cells that generate electricity.
Concentrating solar power or CSP is a solar technology where mirrors are used to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers. The collected solar energy is converted to heat which produces electricity in a thermal rankin cycle for industrial applications.
Access The Solar Potential Of Your House
It is paramount that you access the amount of solar energy that can be generated by the solar power system that you plan to install. The energy generated should be more than the actual energy usage of your house. The amount of power generated by a solar system at a particular site is dependent on the sunlight received by the panels. The size of the system and the orientation are factors for improving electrical output.
There are several mapping systems available that help you in making your decisions. Energysage is a commercial arrangement using software that allows you to estimate the energy savings from solar system and connects you with pre-screened installers. These installers can provide you with a site-specific and requirement specific estimate.
Geosteallar measures your solar potential on the basis of the satellite maps of your area. It provides you with an estimate of the financial benefits of installing a solar system on the basis your past electricity bills.
Mapdwell’s Solar system calculates the solar potential of building rooftops using mapping technology and location of the sun to calculate potential electrical output results.
OpenEI provides you with the latest information about energy, market investment, and technological development which helps you in making an informed decision regarding your solar power plant installation. This portal also has maps and links that connect you with solar installation experts whom you can contact for consultation.
PVWatts helps in projecting estimates of the performance of potential PV installations, based on data that has been supplied by existing users.
San Fransisco Energy Map is one of the most useful for DIY solar projects as it helps the prospective users in understanding this renewable energy resource. You can also learn how to install your renewable energy system through this. The system provides cost estimates, details of solar installers in the city and neighboring areas, and more such detailed information.
Sun Number uses aerial imagery processed with proprietary algorithms to analyze individual rooftops’ feasibility for the solar system in detail. It uses a combination of factors to do analysis of a rooftop and gives a score between 1 to 100. In the scoring 100 is given to the most ideal rooftop.
Factors used for calculations include roof shape, surrounding buildings, surrounding vegetation, regional variability, and atmospheric conditions. Such mapping systems help you understand your requirement from the solar system and give you an idea about its installation.
Setting Up Your DIY Solar Plant Tied To The Grid
In order to get tax credits for setting up a solar power system at home, you need to connect your solar power system to the grid in your area. This won’t be a DIY project.
Being connected to the grid will help you when it comes to selling any extra electricity generated by your system. This has traditionally been sold to the power company but with new blockchain technology and smart electrical meters selling to neighbors directly will become an option. You should select the solar panel that is fully compliant with your system and is in accordance with your state laws.
To interconnect solar panels with the grid you require professionals that have the expertise in solar panel and electrical installation. Once you get the panels on the roof, there should be the minimum gap between the panels installed.
Once the panels are set, they need to be connected to an inverter. The inverter converts the DC current generated by the panels into usable AC power. You can use one larger inverter into which all the panels are connected, or you can install panels with a micro-inverter connected to each individual panels. As your solar system is being connected to the grid, then you will also be required to have an AC disconnect. The disconnect functions as a breaker box and separates the solar panels from the rest of the system.
The power company in your area will be installing extra meters in your house for this kind of solar power system. These extra meters will measure your grid input, output, and off-grid use. The inverter at this stage needs to be joined with the disconnect, which in turn connects to the main meter.
You can also connect solar batteries separately to your solar panels. These batteries will store power for when the solar power stops and for emergencies.
DIY Solar With An Independent Autonomous System
After selecting the solar panel for the system, you need to install them on the roof to use the available surface area. The roof can be a flat surface or at a slope but the panels in each case need to be installed close to each other facing the sun.
Next, the panels should be connected to a charge controller. This controller helps in regulating the amount of power that is generated by the system. The charge controller controls the risk to the batteries. For DC batteries, the charge controller is connected directly to the batteries. For AC, the charge controller is connected first to the inverter and next to the batteries.
The last few steps involve connecting the solar panel to the charge controller. The controller connects to the batteries, which are connected to the inverter. There is a connection between the inverter and the mains.
The DIY Solar System
You can watch a video about making a DIY solar panel to get some clarity with step by step procedures.
The DIY solar concept works well if you want a small off-grid system to power a small cabin, an RV, a small boat, or tiny cottages. There are inexpensive solar panel kits also available in the market, which include the components required for a DIY solar installation.
If you are technologically talented, you can build your small-scale PV solar panel. Most of the solar panels used today are made of square crystalline silicon wafers measuring six inches by six inches. There are electrons movement in these wafers when they are irradiated by sunlight that generates an electrical current.
Making A Rooftop System
Many rooftop solar power systems use a full-size solar panels having 60 silicon cells. For small electricity needs, smaller solar panels can be used. You can buy individual solar cells to build your solar panel from scratch.
Most DIY solar panels have a wooden plywood sheet as the base for their solar cells. Attach the solar cells to your backboard. Drill some holes in this board for passing the wires from each cell through. Next, use a soldering iron to attach the wire to the solar cells. Link each of the Si cells together. For an efficient working system, each solar cell should be fixed separately to the board. This will make it easier to replace a single cell in case of cell damage and also makes the cell more secure.
The ways in which the solar resources can be used are many and diverse. The first most likely use of solar supply would be for lights and fans of the house.
Solar Thermal For Heating Water and Space
You might have seen solar hot water heating panels that are mounted on the roof. They collect and circulate the heat collected in the water to the home. There are larger thermal solar roof collectors that heat water that circulated by a solar pump directly from and to the pool. Solar blankets for pools float on the water surface to heat the pool water that is in contact with the blanket.
Solar thermal energy is used in providing heating to the house. Water is heated by the sun and pumps circulate the warmed water through the house transferring heat into the house.
The important function of your solar power system is to generate enough electricity to fulfil the energy requirements of your house.
Another benefit that you share with everyone is in promoting a sustainable, clean renewable source for energy.