Answering a Few Questions About Standalone Solar Power Systems

10 May 2016
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If you're someone who is interested in truly going off the grid, meaning having no connection to your local government for power, or if you own a cabin or other such home in a remote area that doesn't have a connection to a city's power supply, you should consider a standalone solar power system. These are often called off-grid systems because they can take you truly off the grid and be your sole source of electrical power. Note a few questions you might have about such a system, and then you can discuss this option with a contractor as needed.

1. What is the difference between solar panels and a standalone solar power system?

Solar panels are mounted on the roof or may be placed in the ground next to your home, but they connect to your home's electrical panel which is, in turn, connected to a city power supplier. The solar power offers your home electricity, but when the stored energy in the converter that is attached to the panels runs out, your home's electrical system switches to city-supplied power.

Standalone systems are not attached to a home's electrical panel but to batteries. Your home's electrical system is then attached to the batteries, from which it gets all its power. This allows you to be truly off-grid in that you don't need to be hooked to a city-supplied power system.

2. What is a regulator?

A regulator, sometimes called a charge controller, is typically needed in standalone solar power systems to keep the solar panels from drawing energy from the batteries. The solar panels are meant to keep drawing power from a source at all times, but on dark days or at night when the sun is gone, they may actually start to get this energy from the batteries, draining them. A solar regulator keeps the power current only going in one direction so that the solar panels do not draw power from the batteries even when there is no sunlight.

3. Will standalone solar power systems work with any type of wiring?

If your home's wiring is very old, it may not be able to support the amount of electricity that the home draws from the solar panels and which you need to run all your appliances and devices. The solar panels may be trying to push power through but it becomes wasted heat when the wiring is not large enough to support the current. Note the wiring size and type recommended for the solar panels you choose and upgrade as needed.