The Fullest Online Guide on a Home Solar System

May 10, 2024

Solar panels are a fantastic option for green living, reducing your carbon footprint and lowering your electricity bills. However, this market is so big and complex that navigating it can feel overwhelming.

We understand your potential struggles. So, to save you time, we gather everything you want to know about solar to power a house. We’ll unveil the secrets behind these fascinating technologies and help you choose the perfect fit for your situation.

How Does Solar Energy Work in Photovoltaic Systems

Solar energy solutions harness the Sun’s power and convert it into usable energy. Currently, there are only two commonly used solar panel types: concentrated solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic (PV) systems. The first option suits only large-scale solar farms, while PV systems are common in residential and commercial sectors.

Photovoltaic solar panels are relatively easy to install. The expert team can install a home solar system on an average roof in 2-3 days. They are also pretty powerful, so your dream of getting a completely solar-powered home can quickly come true. These panels harness the Sun’s rays to create a photovoltaic effect to generate electricity.

Here is a simplified description of this effect:

  1. Sunlight hits the solar panel. Each Sun’s ray carries millions of photons, tiny packs of energy.
  2. They are transferring the energy. Photons bump into electrons in the silicon atoms of the solar panel, giving them power. The extra energy excites the electrons to a higher energy level within the atom.
  3. Creation of electric current flow. These energized electrons can move freely on the panel. This movement of energized electrons produces an electric current.
  4. Panels catch this reaction and capture a Direct current (DC). The panels capture this flow of electricity as Direct Current (DC). You can use this energy to power an electric vehicle.
  5. The inverter converts this electricity to AC (optional). If you need to power appliances, get an inverter to convert the DC to AC for household appliances.

Solar panels for homes are a safe and green way to lower or even eliminate grid reliance. While gas generators burn fuel and release harmful emissions like carbon monoxide, solar panels harness eco-friendly energy.

Solar power for a home doesn’t involve combustion or fuel storage, eliminating fire and explosion risks associated with gas generators. Solar panels generate electricity silently, unlike noisy generators.

While the upfront cost can be higher than a gas generator, solar panels have minimal operating costs. Sunlight is free; you’re not paying for fuel once the home solar system is installed. Gas generators, however, require continuous fuel purchases, which can be expensive over time.

Photovoltaic Panels for Residential Solar Systems

As you see, PV solar panels for your home use only green energy to power your household. But you should figure out which panels suit you more. Currently, there are two types of PV solar cells: monocrystalline and polycrystalline.

  • The first option is more efficient but expensive. Monocrystalline cell productivity usually ranges from 18% to 22.8%.
  • The second option is less efficient but cheaper. Polycrystalline cell productivity ranges from 13 to 19%.

Solar panels also come in a variety of sizes and capacities. To ensure you’ll get enough solar panels to power a house, determine your electricity needs, roof size, and the amount of sunlight available on your roof. That way, you’ll figure out all crucial system parameters.

Types of Full House Solar Systems: Off-Grid, On-Grid, Hybrid

 A couple of installers mounting solar panels on the house roof.

Once you pick the desirable system parameters, it’s time to choose the connection approach. There are 3 ways of using solar panels at home: off-grid, on-grid (also called grid-tied), and hybrid solar systems. Let’s check their specifics below.

Off-Grid Solar Systems

An off-grid system operates completely independently. To generate electricity without relying on the grid, you need solar panels, batteries, and an inverter to convert DC to AC.

Beware that those systems require careful planning and additional equipment. You need to precalculate the desirable capacity of solar panels to power a house. If you pick panels that do not generate enough energy, you’ll become dependent on alternative powering solutions.

It will take more time and money to get those systems. However, an off-grid home solar system is a decent investment that will pay off in the long run.

On-Grid Solar Systems

On-grid solar is connected to the utility grid. While it is sunny, your appliances are powered by solar batteries. But once it gets dark or cloudy, you consume electricity from the power grid.

This whole house solar system is simpler and cheaper than off-grid options. Here you need just solar panels and an inverter, which acts as a backup power source. If your power provider offers net metering incentives, you can sell excess electricity to them. Later, you can use those credits to lower bills.

Hybrid Solar Systems

A hybrid system is a perfect mix of both options. It is connected to the grid while also incorporating battery storage. During the day, your solar panels produce DC electricity, and the inverter converts it into AC electricity.

If solar panels on a house generate more electricity than you’re consuming, the surplus gets stored in the batteries. If you still have the excess electricity even after it, you can sell it to the power provider.

You can use the electricity from the batteries at night or during low sunlight. If your battery storage is depleted or demand is high, the system can draw power from the grid.

How to Achieve Off-Grid Living With Solar Panels

It requires careful planning since you must design a system to meet your electricity needs for years ahead. The first thing you need when installing an off-grid home solar system is to determine your own consumption needs and potential sun exposure.

While analyzing electricity needs, look closely at your electricity bills for the last 3-4 years. That way, you’ll find out your household’s electricity consumption. Beware that it may grow in the future. If your electricity needs vary from 6 kWh to 7.0 kWh, you should run on solar with 7.5 kWh capacity.

Research sunlight hours in your area and identify suitable locations for installing solar panels on your property. Consider factors like shade and roof tilt for optimal Sun exposure throughout the year. Remove tree branches that may cast a shadow on the panel.

The next step in designing solar-powered homes is to choose the proper configuration. At this stage, you should select the preferred panels, capacious batteries, and reliable inverter. Consider factors like efficiency, budget, and available roof space. While some households can get along with small 5 kWh batteries, others may need to place multiple capacious 18 kWh energy storages.

To ensure that your home solar system can power all appliances, ensure the overall system’s capacity is 30-35% larger than your current needs. That’s how you can provide a desirable output gap.

Installing a complex off-grid solar system is quite challenging. Consider hiring a qualified solar installer team to ensure proper design, installation, and safety compliance. This decision will also ensure that you get a comprehensive warranty.

How Many Solar Panels To Power a House Does a Household Need?

A row of houses with installed solar panels on the roofs.

The power produced depends on a system’s wattage and sunlight hours. Wattage is a single panel’s inherent power output rating, usually measured in watts (W). An average home solar system typically ranges from 250 to 400 watts, while efficient models reach even higher wattages.

The sunlight hitting the panels directly throughout the day significantly impacts power generation. Areas with more sunshine hours will naturally see higher power production. Shading from any objects will lower the panels’ output despite the sunlight amount.

Imagine a classic mid-season situation to determine how many solar panels power a house. You live in a suburban house with a tiny 330-watt solar panel and get only 6 hours of direct sunlight. So, your situation will fit this calculation:

  • 330 watts (panel wattage) x 6 hours (sunlight hours) = 1980 watt-hours (Wh) per day

However, this is not a usable output. You still need to consider the panel’s efficiency, which ranges from 15% to 22,8%. Let’s imagine that you’ll get the most powerful 22,8% system. In this case, your small panel may realistically produce:

  • 1980 Wh (from previous example) x 22,8% (efficiency) = 450 Wh (0.45 kWh) per day

This output will be enough to power the essentials, such as lightbulbs, a few laptops, and a TV. The average US household usually consumes from 3.5 to 7 kWh daily, so this tiny panel won’t power a house. When estimating a solar panel for a whole house, consider your consumption habits.

Beware that clouds, rain, and snow can significantly reduce sunlight reaching the panels, impacting power generation. Extreme heat and cold can decrease solar panel efficiency. While panels can work from -4°F up to 122°F it is still recommended to use them in moderate temperatures from 40°F up to 90°F.

You should remember that over time, panels’ productivity may slightly degrade. The warranty of most systems claims that panels will remain at least 80% of their original productivity after 10 years. So, if your panels have a 22.5% efficiency, at the end of the warranty period, it should vary between 20% and 20.5%.

Use this knowledge to estimate your potential needs. If you don’t want to do it alone, reputable solar installers will gladly do it for you.

Specifics of Solar Power for a House in Winter

You can still produce green electricity in the winter. However, you’ll get less sunlight during the cold season, so panels will be less effective. Winter brings shorter days, and the Sun sits lower in the sky. Snow accumulation on panels can significantly block sunlight and reduce power output.

Try the following tips to maximize the power generation of your home solar system during winter:

  • Adjust the panel’s angle to match your latitude. For example, if you live in California, tilt your panels to 35°. Meanwhile, if you live in Illinois, tilt the panels to 41°.
  • Consider regular cleaning. Remove debris and snow from your panels using a soft-bristled brush. Clean panels with a slightly damp cloth only if the average daily weather is above 50°F.
  • Get energy efficiency measures. Seal the air leaks, upgrade insulation, and gradually switch to more energy-efficient appliances.
  • Look for capacious battery storage. Consider a solar home solar system with multiple batteries to store excess solar energy.

Monitor panel output and adapt energy usage in winter. Consider a backup generator or alternative heating for peace of mind during low sunlight or extreme weather.

Precalculate Power Needs for Solar Powered Homes

It’s vital to estimate your needs before installing the system. A reputable solar team can help you with it. However, if you want to double-check potential estimations, check these approximate numbers:

  1. Low-power devices (lower than 200-300 W) include LED lights, laptops, phone chargers, and TVs.
  2. Medium-powered devices (from 300 W up to 1,5 kW while using) include gaming consoles, desktop computers, coffee makers, microwaves, and clothes irons.
  3. High-powered devices (above 1,5 kW) include ovens, dishwashers, clothes dryers, air conditioners, and water heaters.

Meanwhile, remember that these are just approximate ranges. Check the actual wattage of your appliances. You can find this info on a label stuck on the unit or in device documents. Look for terms like “watts” or “amps.”

The wattage rating indicates the maximum power an appliance can draw while functioning. So, if you set the appliance on low mode, it can use even less energy. You should understand your electricity habits to build a stable home solar system.

How To Make the Most of Solar Panels

Optimize the panel’s performance by keeping it clean and maximizing the Sun’s exposure. If possible, clear trees and modify chimneys to lower the potential shading.

Monitor your solar panel’s performance regularly. Check for potential issues and perform the maintenance recommended by your installer. You can also order regular professional maintenance, including cleaning and adjusting the home solar system. Usually, once a year will be enough.

Shift appliance’s usage to sunny hours. When possible, run appliances like dishwashers or washing machines during the day when your solar panels are generating electricity. Explore smart plugs or controls that allow you to schedule appliance operations during peak solar production hours.

Embrace the Efficiency of Home Solar Systems

Monocrystalline solar panels are a highly efficient choice for residential and commercial usage. Their efficiency usually ranges from 18% to 22%. Beware that highly productive panels may cost more initially, but they will benefit you in the long run.

Estimate your average power needs by studying electricity bills and daily habits. Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a licensed solar installer. They can assess your specific energy needs, roof space limitations, budget, and local factors to recommend the most suitable home solar system for your home.

Contact Solar Panel System for a free solar quote and find reputable solar installers in your area.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can solar panels power a whole house?

A home solar system can power a home. To achieve this, precalculate your electricity spending habits and sunlight availability and find suitable panels. Experts can save you weeks that you may spend on designing a home solar system.

Can solar power my whole house?

Yes, definitely. But you need to estimate the number of solar panels required to run a house. If your panels don’t have enough power and capacity, they will just power light bulbs and other portable devices.

How much solar power to run a house?

It depends on your electricity needs. Ensure the system’s capacity and wattage are 30-40% bigger than your current needs. That way, you’ll know that this system can serve you for years.

Will solar work on my house?

Yes, even if you live in northern states like Illinois or Montana. In those cases, you may need powerful solar panels. People from sunny states like Florida or Texas can use average solar panels to harness the Sun’s power.

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Andy Worford
Andy Worford

Andy is a Founder, Chief Content Officer, regular contributor, and idea generator behind Solar Power Systems. He is well-versed in various aspects of solar energy, including photovoltaic systems, solar policy trends, and green technology innovations.

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