Energy Conservation Tips – Essentials of a Homemade Solar Panel

Maryjane E. Cason

Picture a beautiful ranch with horses and cattle. In the center of the picture stands a house that is totally self sufficient from the standpoint of electrical power. There are three fundamental methods for achieving this outcome. Two are mechanical. Wind and water turbines convert the movement of air (from the wind) or water (from a stream, for example) in to electricity. The solar panel, on the other hand, captures the energy from sunlight and converts it directly into direct current. While each has its virtues, only solar power generates electricity silently without involving moving parts. Thus, your solar panel system is not subject to the wear and tear of a system which generates electricity through the movement of a turbine.

One important energy conservation tip is use of homemade solar panels to generate a clean, renewable, ecologically-friendly alternative energy source power household appliances. If you are interested in reducing dependence on fossil fuels while reducing your electricity costs this article can get you started on the path to a “greener” home.

Why solar panels? With the ever-present threat of Global Warming looming over our heads, clean and renewable energy is an appealing alternative to electricity generated from fossil fuels. Solar energy can reduce the monthly cost of electricity. It is a technology amenable to DIY projects.

Solar panels harness the power of sunlight to generate electricity through the use of photovoltaic (PV) cells. If money is no object, a contractor can be hired to obtain and install a solar system for you. For those of us in the “other” category, there are other less expensive options. These include purchasing solar panel kits, refurbishing used solar panels, and the ultimate DIY of making panels from component parts. Solar panels can create a more self-sufficient household, which meets all or a large portion of household electrical energy needs. The ideal scenario would have the electricity generated exceed the household needs permitting electricity to be sold back to the Grid.

Although the there are other component required for more complex systems, the basic elements of a homemade solar panel system include:

-Solar panel(s)
-Charge controller
-Battery
-Inverter

Solar panel – The fundamental and essential component of a solar energy system is the solar panel or panels, consisting of a series of PV cells, which are combined to generate an electrical current usable in real time. In the solar panel, PV cells are linked together to generate an electrical current which is the sum of the currents produced by each cell. The serious DIY can obtain PV cells, attach them to a plywood board, wire them together, and cover them with glass for protection. Buying a kit can provide the “less handy” of us with an option which is still less than hiring a contractor but much less cumbersome since the part all contained in the kit.

Charge controller or regulator – This unit controls the charging of the battery so as to prevent overcharging. It also tracks the battery discharge status during the evening. By doing this, the charge regulator maximizes the life of each battery, thereby maximizing the efficiency of your solar energy system.

Battery – The electricity not immediately used is stored by a battery or series of batteries. Deep-cycle or marine batteries are preferable to automobile batteries because they are capable of storing all or virtually all of the electricity generated by the solar panels, thus minimizing waste. Such batteries are capable of storing considerably more energy than the standard automobile battery. Can auto batteries be use? Of course, but remember, you will need more of them to do the same job.

Inverter – Virtually all of our electrical appliances utilize AC or Alternating Current, whereas the electricity generated and stored in our solar powered system is DC or Direct Current. Therefore, the Inverter is the key to converting DC current into AC, creating electricity to power everything from your lights to the refrigerator. This is the key to the conversion of energy from the sun into a form that can be used to power your household appliances.

If a solar panel system is designed with the intent of generating enough electricity to “sell back” to the Grid, then the components will include the AC Breaker Panel, and a Kilowatt-per-Hour Indicator. The KW per Hour indicator, for example, is necessary to track how much current is provided to and from the grid to determine the charge or credit that appears on your monthly electric bill.

As you consider what path you will take on your energy conservation quest, don’t forget some of the least expensive and most cost-effective options such as Energy-Saver fluorescent light bulbs.

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