Solar panels 101

December 1, 2020

Hello, energy independence (well, nearly)! 

I remember hearing a caller to a radio show four years ago casually mentioning they had a solar system that powered their home and charged their electric vehicle.  Totally cool, I thought – but it seemed so far off and impossible.

Fast forward to today, and I’m SO excited to share that our new 16-panel solar array went live this week.  It generates power for our home and electric car, and has a battery pack that provides emergency backup power too (so no generator or gas to worry about, ever).

Here are some basics:

  • Size: our installer looked at our power bills from the past few years, and sized our system accordingly.  If all goes as planned, it should provide 80-90% of our needs on an annual basis
  • Components: a basic system just requires panels, a rack and an inverter.  Because we wanted emergency backup, our system also includes a charge controller and battery pack, plus we had to upgrade to a ‘hybrid’ inverter that can handle the different voltages of grid and battery power. 
  • Grid-tied or off-grid: we opted to stay connected to our local power grid because the wire’s already running into our home, and the batteries required for going totally off grid are big and still a bit pricey (but they’re getting cheaper fast).
  • Placement: because our home is poorly oriented to the sun and our roof is too flat, our array is what’s called a ‘ground mount’.  That gave us the freedom to install it in the sunniest corner of our lot, facing perfectly south and angled to catch the least snow and the most sun.
  • Warranty: our panels are warranted for 25 years; other components are warranted for 10 years
  • Payback: solar systems pay for themselves in about 12 years; ours will take a bit longer because of the added cost of the battery backup option.  Some consider that a long payback; to me, it compares very favourably to the (non)payback of a monthly power bill for infinity.

Questions?  Interested in learning more?  Just hit reply and let me know; I’m planning another Green Ideas on solar panels for January.  The big takeaway: something that seemed so unattainable just four years ago is suddenly reality.  I guess that proves that energy near-independence is within anyone’s reach – and that’s truly exciting!

5 Responses to “Solar panels 101”

  1. Lothar Heinz said

    Good for you Carl
    Twenty years ago my cousin in Germany installed them on his Haus
    and I aught to find out how satisfied he is after all that time.
    You’re right it is quite an investment
    and definitely the responsible thing to do .Hope they Last your lifetime and many more. Happy Holidays

  2. Lynn said

    I am intrigued by solar power and also limiting our garbage output. Frustrated by the packaging that continues to proliferate in grocery stores as we try to make purchases that avoid that. Any tips/tricks/info you can share would be most appreciated. We compost everything we can, and find that cat litter/poop from four indoor cats the biggest contributor to our grocery output other than packaging.

  3. […] home last December.  (If that’s news to you, read more about the planning and installation here, and about how net metering works […]

  4. […] our home last December.  (If that’s news to you, read more about the planning and installation here, and about how net metering works […]

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