HOW MANY SOLAR PANELS
How many solar panels? This is a very good question. Talk to anyone who’s successfully dabbled into solar power for their home and you’ll find out that after they got 1 panel successfully built and supplying power to something in their home, the next logical thought is “how many solar panels would I have to built in order to go tell my electric company to GET LOST!!! Off Grid Living becomes a newly acquired phrase that they like repeating and dreaming about. You end up thinking why not? If I can do it once, why can’t I just do it again and again? In order to do this right however, one needs to have some pertinent information. There are some definite factors that make up this mystery number.
HOW TO DETERMINE THE RIGHT AMOUNT: Step 1
Once you’ve established the type of panels you’re going to build and you’ve determined where you’re going to position them to get the maximum amount of sun each day, you’ll need to figure out how much electricity your system is going to need to generate to handle your home’s daily needs.
For this example, lets say you want to go for the gusto!.. Grid Free! Off Grid Living here I come! Well this is absolutely possible and not that far fetched, but it’s going to take some time and energy to make this happen.
To start, you might want to simply pull out your last few months of electric bills and take a look at the kilowatt-hour figure. Kilowatt-hours (KWH) is simply the usage or consumption of electricity over a period of time. The electric company likes the time-frame of a month as we all know. Another way to go about this is to simply buy a kilowatt meter. There are several types of these, but I recommend the type that connects between the electrical outlet and the load (appliance, lamp, etc). These are easy to connect and give an accurate reading. Now this method may be time consuming because you need to go around to each thing in your home and measure it, but it’s very accurate. You simply take the watt reading and multiply it by the number of hours that unit is on each day. Now you have the watt-hours of that appliance, device, etc. Now for some more math…You now need to divide this reading by 1000 in order to get Kilowatt-hours which brings you back to what your electric bill is calculated by. Now if you divide by 30, you can get an idea of your home’s kilowatt-hours per day. With this figure you can effectively estimate the true kilowatt-hour requirement for your home and ultimately your entire solar energy system.
DETERMING THE RIGHT AMOUNT: PART 2
The next thing is to determine just how much sunlight the site for your system gets on a regular basis; sunny days of course. Here’s where we need to touch on a little science. There is a fancy term that is used to describe the amount of energy from sunlight that is striking a flat surface (1 square meter) within certain geography. The term is called insolation. NASA has made finding this reading out very simple. If you go to the NASA website and look under “surface meteorology and solar energy site” you’ll be able to easily find this information based on your location. The reading you get will be the number in kilowatt-hours. With this information you’ll be able to get an idea of what size system you’ll need by taking your homes kilowatt-hour measurement bases on usage each day and divide this by the insolation reading for your site. This will give you the number of square meters of solar panels you’ll actually need to accommodate your homes electrical load.
OK..NOW WHAT SIZE PANELS?
The next thing do from here is to figure out the size panels you want to build or purchase. The wattage of the panel is also factored into this decision, as these days there are a wide range to choose from. Keep in mind the area you have to place your system when deciding on the size of each panel. At this point you should have the basic dimensions of your Off Grid Living system!
I’m going to end this article with something that is definitely a concern, yet can be tough to calculate when you’re building your system and that is “system inefficiencies”. In all electrical systems, components, devices etc, there is always energy lost in the process. This cannot be prevented. In fact, you can pretty much count on an efficiency of your system to be around 75% or as low as 50%… YES.. up to half of the energy created can be lost to inefficiencies. Just face it and accept it as part of the game and be sure to build your system to overcome these.
These are some of the major factors when answering the question, “How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?” A qualified installer can help tremendously with this, or at least some assistance with planning this part. You want to be right the first time. Remember though, you can always start small and scale up. Off Grid Living IS possible. Step by Step. Panel by Panel.