Considerations for Solar Energy Systems that Owners Must Know About|
Article - January 13, 2016 By LarsonElectronics.com
Considerations for Solar Energy Systems that Owners Must Know About
Installing solar energy in your home requires understanding key variables that can help you put together a fully functioning off-grid solar system. These factors include the following: daily energy consumption, number of solar panels, battery selection and maintenance.
Buying the most powerful solar energy system on the market is not a thorough solution to your solar needs. In addition to being extremely costly, it would be too risky to make blind adjustments to your power consumption during operation, especially if you’re completely off the grid. Because of this, we will take a customized approach to such considerations by starting with computing for your daily energy consumption rates.
Read on to find out what factors you should take into consideration when setting up a solar energy system for residential or commercial spaces.
Computing Daily Energy Consumption
When determining how many solar panels are required to meet an establishment’s power requirements, it is crucial to first calculate how much power your appliances draw. This can be done by checking the wattage, which can typically be found on the tag located around the cord of the device. If this figure is in amps, simply use the following equation to arrive at the wattage: Volts x Amps = Watts (e.g., 120 x 4 = 480 watts). You can also refer to an energy usage chart that comes with most modern equipment (try checking the manual).
Appliances only run for a certain number of hours. You also have to take this figure into consideration (called daily watt-hour). After determining this figure for every appliance you intend on using, add up the numbers. Now take this figure and multiply it by three to create a safe buffer. Lastly, multiply the final number by two (in case you’re using a battery that should not be discharged below 50 percent).
Alternatively, you can revert to past electricity bills to get a better idea of your overall energy requirements. Daily usage rate is an effective determiner for the amount of energy you need. If you cannot find this figure in your electricity bill, it would also be possible to take your monthly or annual average and divide it by 30 or 365 days, depending on the data you’re able to get a hold of. Don’t forget to set a buffer.
How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?
The next step in setting up a working solar energy system is gauging the number of solar panels you need. To calculate for this, take your daily watt-hours and divide it by the wattage of your preferred solar panels multiplied by the number of hours your panels are exposed to the sun. For instance, 2,400 daily watt-hours / (50 watts x 4 hours of sun exposure per day) = 12 solar panels. If the final number has a decimal (e.g., 3.8 or 6.2), round up to the nearest whole number.
There are several factors that may increase or decrease the efficiency of your solar panels. On cloudy days or in bad weather, your solar panels may become less efficient. Moreover, some models are only rated at a specific efficiency level. These variables vary greatly depending on your location and the type of solar panels you are applying to your system. Such factors may greatly influence the unit’s ability to harvest natural sunlight.
What About Batteries?
After calculating your daily energy consumption and solar panel requirements, you need to find a battery (or a series of batteries) that can support your calculated usage. It is essential to note that batteries are rated in amp hours. Therefore, you must convert your buffered daily watt-hour calculations into amp hours. To do this, divide your wattage requirement by the battery’s voltage (for example, if your system wattage is 14,400 watts, simply divide it by 12 = 1,200 amp hours).
Determine the number of batteries you need is the next step of this process. To arrive at this figure, divide the total amp hours by the amp-hour rating of the battery that you intend on using. So if you have a unit with a 600 amp-hour rating, the calculation would look like this: 1,200 / 600 = 2.
Looking Ahead: Maintenance
There are other variables to take into consideration when setting up a solar energy system. One of these includes maintenance. Because such machines are not composed of moving parts (with the exception of tracking mounts), replacements and frequent inspections are not required. Today’s solar panels usually offer some form of protection (like tempered glass) against harsh weather and rough treatment. With this in mind, most maintenance issues originate from electricity production.
Lastly, solar panels do not need to be cleaned often. The only time they need to be cleaned is when there is a noticeable dip in production due to thick accumulation of dirt, mud or dust. In areas that receive a lot of snowfall, it is recommended to keep the panels tilted at an angle of 15 degrees (or more). This prevents snow from accumulating on the panels, which usually melts after falling on the surface.