Determine your solar energy goals.
You’ll need to decide what you want your solar power system to accomplish. There can be 4 primary objectives. (at least in my head)
- Emergency Backup Power – [can be tied into the grid or stand-alone] Having emergency backup power in the event of a natural disaster, or otherwise, is a good idea. It can prevent the food from spoiling in your refrigerator – freezer, power emergency radios / cellphones and make life a whole lot more tolerable in general. This can be tied into the power company or be separate, providing energy only to your home. This option will require an investment in batteries and will cost more that a standard grid-tied system which doesn’t supply backup power. This type of system can also be used for option number two. When the batteries are charged, power produced from the solar panels can flow to household devices saving money on utility bills. (or sent to the utility co.) This type of system can become very complex.
- Reducing Your Utility Bills – [grid-tied] Home utility bills are a pain in the wallet and will only continue to rise in the future. You can reduce a portion or all of your bill by supplying energy for household devices when the sun is shining. Any power not used is routed to the utility company any can be used after the sun goes down. This setup is cheaper than option one due to the lack of batteries. It is also scale-able meaning that you can start with a small system and add components later to increase power production.
- Making Money (Long Term) – [grid-tied] Although setting up a solar power system can be expensive upfront, they will pay for themselves & even make you money over time. I can’t think of too many things sweeter than having the power company writing ME checks every month. With this option you’ll want to have a larger setup and produce more power than you use.
- Living Completely Off-Grid – If the place you want to power is way out in the boondocks, you may not have any other choice but to look at alternative energy sources for electricity. (if you’re into using electricity powered devices, that is) This type of setup would likely contain a hybrid system containing things like DC powered appliances, large solar arrays and potentially a wind generator.
If you are not sure about how solar powering a home works, here is a short video explaining the basics…
Deciding which one, or combination you are interested in will determine the components and some of the setup required. In the next post I’ll explore options that may or may not be available to you regarding installation (law) and ways to save money on your purchases.