Residential Solar Power

Basics of Home Solar Power Systems

Residential solar power systems have progressed a long way in the last several years, making home solar power more accessible to homeowners and not just commercial applications alone. Here is some basic information about the different types of solar power for homes and how they work!


residential solar power

What Does a Solar Powered System Do For My Home?

First and foremost, solar energy will allow you to benefit from abundant, clean, renewable, and free energy from the sun.

Solar panels or solar shingles installed on your roof capture the sun's energy and convert that energy into DC power. The DC power is then sent through an inverter box, which transforms the energy into AC power.

AC power is the type that you need to run your appliances, turn on lights, and heat your water. There are different types of systems you can consider. Keep reading!

Passive and Active Solar

A home that utilizes passive solar energy is designed and built to take full advantage of the sun's energy anytime the sun is shining. Passive solar is typically designed into new construction, but sometimes can be added to an existing home.

Basics of passive solar house plans include orienting the home to the sun, design of the home such as window placement, and ventilation that allows hot and cold air to move through the house.

The materials used to build a passive solar home (thermal mass) make a huge difference in how your home is heated and cooled via solar energy. The very basic definition of thermal mass is any material used in constructing a house that will encourage the collection, storage, and distribution of sunlight throughout the passive solar designed house.

Thermal mass materials can include water, concrete, tile, or masonry (brick). These building materials have the ability to absorb and hold coolness or warmth until it needs to be used to cool or heat the house.

An active solar home uses electrical fans or pumps to move the energy captured from the sun each day throughout the house.

On-Grid and Off-Grid Residential Solar Power Systems

An on-grid solar power system is also called a grid-connected or grid-tied solar system. Essentially it means that you're utilizing solar energy when it is available in order to power your home.

You're still connected to your local utility grid, so when the sun doesn't shine, that power sources kicks in automatically. This is the ideal choice for suburbs and urban locations.

An off-grid solar system means that solar technologies are providing all of your power needs and you're no longer connected to the local power grid.

These residential solar power systems are best designed and installed by a professional in the field, and are perfect for remote and outlying locations.

Direct Gain and Indirect Gain

Direct gain means you will focus the sun's energy to the south side of your home.

If you're building a new home, this is a bit easier. If you're switching to solar technologies in your existing home, you'll need to make some changes. Remove any obstacles preventing the sun from striking the south side of your home. Install windows on that side too if possible.

In addition, you'll need a fan system to circulate air, and you'll need to use specific types of thermal flooring such as ceramic tile or masonry materials.

Indirect gain refers to the process of the sun or solar heat being collected in one area and then moved to another area throughout the rooms of the house, using what is called natural convection.

Examples of indirect gain would include greenhouses, sunroom, roof ponds, water walls, and Trombe walls.

Hybrid Residential Solar Power Systems

Hybrid residential solar systems utilize more than one renewable energy source. For example, wind and solar energy can be used together, or solar and geothermal resources can be used together in a residential application.

Some systems have back up generators that enable you to continue using energy that has been gathered from the sun and stored until a cloudy day comes along and you need it.

Essentially, by opting for more than one renewable power source, you're making a bigger impact for the environment and saving more money in the long run!

More on Residential Solar Power

We have a number of different articles on residential solar power that may be helpful to you, which you can find at the right hand column of this site. I hope these are helpful for you!


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