So you want to build a DIY home solar panel system. Perfect time to get started with the increasing costs of electricity & Global warming. But before you go in head first let's have a look at what must be considered first. Having decided what you want your solar project to do for you, the next most important consideration is the location of the panels, as the panels must be in the sun, year-round.
If you live In the Northern Hemisphere the panels should face south and if you live south of the equator they should face true north. The main reason for this is to maximize on solar input and optimize on input from the winter sun. It can get more complex than this, but that is the general idea.
The above considerations come into play when you choose the location of your DIY home solar panel system. If your roof has a south and / or north facing pitch then that's a good start, as long as your roof is shade-free. Tilt angle is important, particularly if you live in high latitudes. As a general rule, if you have a roof pitch of 20- 50 degrees, then the roof is probably your best panel location.
We are however jumping ahead. The main thing to think about is what you actually want to achieve with your solar panels. If you just want a solar panel to run a few lights or operate a small water pump, then mount the panel on a pole or a portable rack. If it is for bigger house systems (four or more panels) then the roof is probably the ideal location.
If your roof is not capable of holding a larger or multi-panel array, then you must find a location on your property where you can mount a ground rack; again a place that has no shade – (Including shade from trees). I personally prefer a ground rack mounted on concrete footings. The panel array is easier to clean and check, and to expand should you want to.
The question of how many panels one needs in a DIY home solar panel system is of course related to what one wants to do and this involves a more comprehensive discussion than this article allows for. Thus the 'number of panels' topic is addressed proper in Article 4, where the various needs are looked at and system size examples given.
Let's have a cursory look at what panels are generally available and what they can do for us. Single solar panels (technically called 'solar modules') are available in power ratings from as little as one watt up to 200 watts and above. Whilst the former may cost just a few dollars, the 200 watt giant is likely to cost you over $ 1,000! Solar panels for home use almost always have charging voltages of 16-21 volts to charge 12 volt battery banks, and whilst a 5 watt panel will yield.40 of an amp of charge, a 200 watt giant will yield around 10 amps. This article is addressing the independent off-grid home owner and so 24 volt grid-connect panels are not discussed here.
Like any other product there is good, not so good and poor quality panels available and, beware the price does not always tell the true story. One does have to careful, since the bulk of your investment will be tied up in the panels; so choose well! Top of our list for strength, quality, build and good consistent output are Kyocera panels; and with a cell efficiency approaching 16% they have a lot going for them!
Solar panels can be easily self-installed and wired up following the instructions supplied. An electrician is rarely necessary, except possibly when the system is to be wired through an inverter to feed the household AC circuit. Unless an electrician is certified by the utility company he can not wire your system into the grid. But as said above this is another topic for a later article.
Now, time and time again, I have seen and demonstrated that DIY home solar panel installations, especially smaller installations are 'doable' and satisfying – and give a great boost to the economic viability of your system.
Is it cost effective to install a system? Without doubt, 'yes' If there is no grid; and with little doubt, if the sun shines brightly most of the year and you consider saved costs. Not to forget the independence it creates also
But do always go for quality components, or you will surely compromise output and therefore the economic advantages you gained in going down the DIY home solar panel road!