Solar Power For Home

Solar Power for Residential Homes

Home solar power is more affordable now than ever before and thanks to Government rebates it is within reach of most people. Before considering what type or size of solar system would best meet your household needs, it is important to think about what you want the system to achieve.

Solar power for residential homes can provide electricity, hot water and heating, and even warm pools. This ability to be self-reliant can be gained with an initial investment that will pay for itself over a reasonably short period of time. Instead of paying power companies for use of non-renewable resources, people can not only save money, but help save our environment as well. Most systems that provide solar power for residential homes compliment the traditional power systems in the house. During peak times of extreme cold, additional hot water can be heated using traditional sources. During extreme heat or cold, solar powered home heating and cooling systems can be supplemented with additional use of traditional systems. Even those residential homes that obtain only forty to seventy percent of their power from solar power systems enjoy a huge savings over a period of time.

Though it is possible to be completely independent and off the grid this would require a combination of solar and wind energy in most places. You would also have to not waste energy. People living in warm sunny areas can actually live totally off of just solar energy. Depending on what type solar power system you choose, the initial investment can range from about $2,000 for a do it yourself home water heating system to much higher for systems that store power in batteries for use for heating, cooling, hot water and electricity.

A small home created solar powered pool heating system can be built for as little as $1,000 or perhaps even less. Use of recycled material in these solar powered residential systems can reduce the cost significantly. A full-blown solar energy array can also be built quite cheaply using recycled materials or used PV panels and equipment. This is one area where it pays to be creative and think outside the box. The plans exist for these types of systems are easy to obtain and are quite cheap thanks to the Internet. I myself purchased a DIY guide recently that I use to power my home network. It’s easy for a seasoned do it yourself handyperson, so if you’re interested you can find it here. There are also many ways to use solar energy passively to heat your home in any climate. The most of these architectural design features however require extensive do it yourself ability and the need to add onto or drastically change your home.

The best case for this type of solar utilization is when building a totally new home. Though some simple improvements can be done without major investment and building changes, such as adding a skylight in a room or adding more windows to a south facing room to make it a sunroom. Of course, if you are not a do it yourself handyperson, you can have a qualified, licensed and insured contractor provide and install a complete solar power system for your residential home. This is more costly than a do it yourself system but it can still pay off in the long run. Your solar power system will have a warranty and you will be assured of certain performance standards. If you choose to build your own panels from recycled materials, finding design plans online or in a book, there is no such guarantee or warranty.

You can choose to purchase commercially available solar panels and install them yourself; this provides a warranty on the solar panels while saving money. Be sure to read the warranties and be certain that they will be valid in a self-installed system.  

Types of home solar electricity installations.

There are two variations on the photovoltaic panel system of generating electricity and the installation costs of each are significantly different. Which you prefer is also dependent to your confidence in the main energy grid. It is important to know the difference between the connection types and be able to ask prospective installers the right questions. Many suppliers only offer grid tie home solar power packages, and all the cheaper systems available will be of this variety.

Type 1: Grid Tie: Direct connection to the Grid.

These home solar power systems are connected directly to the main power grid. Electricity generated by your photovoltaic solar cell array passes through an inverter to convert it from DC to AC electricity. Your home still uses grid supplied electricity as well as power from the solar panels, but the amount of excess energy you generate is put back into the grid and may offset your power bill. This system is cheaper to install than the battery backup systems described next. The down side is that one of these systems will not help you in a nighttime blackout; you will still be out of power.  

Learn about the different components required for the grid tie home solar system:

The Panels Solar photovoltaic cells convert solar radiation into electricity (photovoltaic literally means “light energy”; “photo” = light, “voltaic” = energy). Individual cells are packaged into modules; groups of modules are called arrays. Photovoltaic produce the power when the sun is shining, producing a stream of direct current (DC) electricity and sending it into the building or sharing it with the grid.  

The Mounting Frame Solar panels need to be secured to a frame. Generally this frame will be mounted on the roof but it can also be placed in the back yard or indeed anywhere else. The most important aspect of the frame is that it is made of durable materials that are corrosion resistant. Aluminum, stainless steel and even titanium are generally used.

The frame you purchase should be covered by a lengthy warranty to avoid future difficulties. It is possible to purchase mounting frames that track the movement of the sun to maximize solar cell efficiency. These systems are more expensive than the fixed frame variety and have more components. Whether this additional expense is worthwhile in terms of the extra energy provided is something you need to discuss with your potential installer. They should have detailed information on obtaining the best efficiency compared to cost for home solar power systems in your area.  


The DC Disconnect Switch The DC disconnect switch allows professional electricians to disconnect the photovoltaic array from the rest of the system. With the switch in the “off” position, workers can safely perform maintenance on other system components.  

 The Inverter One important part of the home solar power grid tie system is the inverter. Buying a system with a good quality inverter is a solid investment, but there are many poor quality inverters on the market.  

The Transformer The transformer ensures that the voltage of the electricity coming from the inverter is compatible with the voltage of the electricity in the building.  

The AC Disconnect Switch The AC disconnect switch allows professional electricians to disconnect the building’s electrical system from the solar photovoltaic system. With the AC disconnect switch in the “off” position, workers can safely perform maintenance on the solar photovoltaic system’s components.  


The Electric Meter The electric meter keeps track of the amount of electrical energy produced by the solar photovoltaic system and sends electronic signals to the data acquisition system where they are recorded. Electrical energy is measured in kilowatt-hours.  

 The Electrical Distribution Panel The electrical distribution panel receives electricity generated by the solar photovoltaic system, combines it with other electricity supplied by the electric utility company, and routes the energy throughout the building to power lights, appliances, computers, and other energy-consuming devices.  

Type 2: Grid Tie with battery backup.

Energy produced by the panels is fed into large batteries similar to those in your car that are usually stored in the roof of the house. Once the batteries are fully charged, the remaining electricity is fed into the grid to offset your energy bill or build you a credit with the energy company. The batteries are sufficient to power the house through the night. The system is set up such that the home receives a consistent supply of energy.

Battery backup systems cost more due to the batteries and the charge controller required. However, the guarantee of uninterrupted electricity regardless of surrounding conditions is very alluring. When considering this option, it is worth looking at the additional cost of the batteries in relation to the overall cost of the system. This is a good choice if you live in areas prone to natural disasters, as a reliable power supply will greatly enhance your survival in such cases.  

Stand Alone System

This is identical to Type 2 systems but is not connected to the main power grid. This is ideal for people who live away from the mains grid though some people living in suburban areas also prefer this approach. The information for this type of setup is identical to the battery backup option, except that the connection to the main grid is obviously not necessary.  

Learn How to Build Solar Energy Systems

Now that you are aware of the basics and your options you are ready to get to work on your solar energy system. If you decided to do most of the work yourself then we are happy to provide some more tips to help you. Because just like you, many of us would like to build solar energy systems ourselves. Some would like to save money by doing so, others just love the challenge. I did it for both reasons!   Whatever your reason, you’ll need some help. We’ve taken the first step for you and identified some great resources to help you build solar energy systems that you can be proud of.

Lets look at a few considerations to build solar energy systems first.

Determine whether you want to install a solar hot water system or one to generate electricity, or both. These rules apply to both but your total cost will vary depending on which you choose.

  • What is your geographic orientation? Solar panels should be orientated to receive the maximum amount of daily and seasonal sunlight. In the Northern hemisphere solar panels should be facing due south. In the southern hemisphere – due north. A variance of 45° won’t make much of an impact on performance though.
  • Your roof orientation. Has your house got a roof facing the sun most of the day?
  • Look at your and your neighbor’s landscaping and surrounding buildings that might shade the panels.
  • What are the weather conditions in your area? The sunnier the better, but solar panels perform very well in cloudy conditions too.
  • What is the tilt of your roof? The optimal angle is equal to your latitude, although most panels are fixed to whatever angle the roof is tilting without impacting performance.
  • What amount of electricity do you need to power your load? The easiest way to determine your household’s use is to look at your electricity bills. It’s best to use an average of a full year.
  • Whether or not you decided to build solar energy systems, just just installing energy efficient appliances and implementing other energy saving measures can have great savings.
  • Keep in mind that additional balance-of-system equipment will be required to transfer the generated electricity to the appliances in your house.

  Always use a qualified professional to connect the electric components.   For detailed information on how to do everything you should consider buying an ebook or a paper book on this DIY project. You will need a large reference from which to draw your knowledge at any given time, plus the plans to actually build the panels. I have provided the resources I have personally used below…


Passive solar energy residential design

Employ these 7 basic fundamentals about passive solar energy for homes and start saving money and energy today!

1. Orientation, layout and positioning of your house on the land

Orientate your living areas to the south side of the house, which receives most of the sun throughout the day (north if you live in the southern hemisphere).

2. Insulation and draught proofing

Make sure your walls, roof and floors are insulated and fill any gaps where draughts might come through.

3. Ventilation

Position doors and windows opposite each other to allow for a cooling breeze to flow through the house when the air cools down in the evening of a hot summers day.

4. Windows

Windows on the south side of the house should be bigger to allow more sun to penetrate the house during the day and windows on the north side smaller to prevent heat lost at night.

5. Landscaping

Position trees and plants to direct a cooling breeze into your house, whiles shading it during summer. Plant trees that shed their leaves in the winter.

6. Shading

Make sure external shading structures are wide enough to block out the sun in summer, while still allowing the low winter sun to enter.

7. Thermal mass

Polished concrete, tile or slate floors and brick walls will absorb the heat throughout the day and release it slowly at night, reducing the need to run expensive heaters. Carpet acts as an insulator and will not retain the heat. Although it’s far easier to achieve passive solar energy for homes during the planning stage, you can incorporate many of these elements without spending a great deal of money or time. It might be as easy as filling in a few gaps, installing an additional window or moving your living area from the chilly north side of the house to the sunny south side…  

So I hope this information was helpful to you and enables you to enjoy a solar power home and a greener lifestyle in general. I know you will not regret switching to solar in your home and that you will recommend solar power to all your family and friends!

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