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Table of Contents: Solar Power (Beginners)
- A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Solar Power
- Easier Alternative to DIY Solar Systems: Plug-and-Play Solar Generators & Solar Panels
- What’s Next: More Beginner’s Guides to Solar Energy
Solar Power for Beginners Who Know NOTHING About How Solar Energy Systems Work
In this beginner’s guide, I’m going to show you the ultimate basics of a DIY, mobile, off-grid solar power system. And when I say basics, I mean BASICS (more basic than those solar power for dummies books).
There won’t be any fancy terms or anything over-complicated (no talk about battery chemistry, amps, volts, currents, and all that stuff).
This whole website is for the ultimate off-grid power beginner, and this post is your first step in understanding how to get the perfect solar power system for your needs.
Let’s get to it!
This site is meant for informational purposes only!
DO NOT ATTEMPT ANY WIRING OF ANY KIND if you lack the knowledge and understanding required. Otherwise personal injury, as well as property damage or loss, could occur.
1. Simple Solar System for Beginners: Solar Panel, Charge Controller, & Battery
The 3 main components of a solar power system are:
- the battery
- the solar panel
- and the solar charge controller.
Battery & Solar Panel
I won’t spend a lot of time describing these two components because they’re pretty common knowledge nowadays.
Simply put, the battery is where you store electricity. It’s the main part of your solar system (and also the most dangerous).
The solar panel takes energy from the sun, creates electricity, and charges the battery.
Solar Charge Controller
Now, this is the part of a solar system that most people don’t know about… the charge controller.
A solar charge controller (Amazon) sits between the solar panel and the battery.
The battery needs a very specific voltage from the solar panel to charge safely. But the solar panel can create some pretty weird voltage that’s not suitable for the battery.
So the charge controller’s job is to take the electricity created from the solar panel and it controls (evens out) this electric charge and makes it suitable for the battery.
You connect the charge controller to the battery by attaching the negative (black-colored) wire to the battery’s negative terminal. Then you attach the positive (red-colored) wire to the battery’s positive terminal.
Then, to attach the solar panel to the charge controller, you follow the same basic steps. You first attach the negative (black-colored) wire to the battery’s negative terminal. Then you attach the positive (red-colored) wire to the battery’s positive terminal.
If you know how to connect the solar panel, the solar charge controller, and the battery together, then you can charge the battery up.
But, now what? How do you use the battery’s stored energy to power things up, like appliances?
That’s where the inverter (Amazon) comes in.
2. Simple Solar System for Beginners: Installing an Inverter To Get Usuable Electricity
In this solar system, the battery has what we call a DC signal. We won’t go into the specifics of what a DC signal is right now (you can check out my post, “What’s the Difference Between AC and DC?” if you want more information).
All you need to know right now is that your battery has a DC signal but most household appliances (like your lamp or TV) use AC signals.
The inverter’s job is to convert the DC signal from the battery into the AC signal used by most household appliances.
You attach the inverter the same way that the charge controller is attached to the battery. You attach the negative (black-colored) wire to the battery’s negative terminal. Then, you attach the positive (red-colored) wire to the battery’s positive terminal.
The basic inverter will have at least 1 to 4 outlets that you can use to plug appliances into to, like a lamp or TV.
3. Simple Solar System for Beginners: Electrical Safety With Fuses
In most systems, it’s recommended that you add at least one fuse.
A fuse is a tiny wire that, when there’s too much electricity going through the system, it will tear itself apart and blow (you probably heard “blew a fuse” before).
There are different ways to add a fuse (or fuses) to your system. But the easiest way to add a fuse to your system is to add a bolt-on fuse (Amazon) on the positive side of the inverter.
Devices like the charge controller and the inverter often have their own fuses, which are intended to protect themselves. But you can also add additional fuses on the wires (inline fuses) to protect the wires of the system from getting too hot, melting, or even catching on fire.
Easier Alternative to DIY Solar Systems: Plug-and-Play Solar Generators/Portable Power Stations & Solar Panels
If you don’t want to install a DIY solar system yourself, and you’re only looking for a small solar system with minimal electricity required, there’s another easier alternative.
Solar power stations! (See images of the solar power stations on Amazon).
With a solar power station (also called a solar generator), you can create off-grid, mobile, solar power by just plugging in solar panels directly into the generator! That’s it! The generator acts as the charge controller, battery, and invertor!
Solar power stations are truly is an all-in-one battery-powered system that is safe, completely mobile, and you don’t need to learn more about solar energy. It’s definitely something to think about if you’re not looking to run an entire house off-grid.
I’ve been living in an off-grid cottage for over a year, and I just recently bought the EF EcoFlow Delta Max (2000) Portable Power Station* (Amazon) with 4 x 200W 12V monocrystalline solar panels I already had.
I’ve tried and reviewed a lot of different solar products over the years, and I’ve always been a fan of EcoFlow’s products (the only drawback is they tend to sell out really fast).
But the EcoFlow Delta Max has been such a life changer! I can keep my office and cottage running all day long without thinking about power (I got 2 extra EcoFlow batteries from Amazon because there’s not a lot of sunny days where I live). I can even do my laundry with this thing!
* EcoFlow has less expensive versions of this power station on Amazon too, just in case you don’t want massive amounts of electricity like I do.
What’s Next: More Beginner’s Guides to Solar Energy
If you’re really wanting to learn about setting up your own DIY off-grid solar or wind power system, or you’re thinking about having a solar system professionally wired in your home, then it’s good to learn the basic off-grid power terminology.
Check out these easy-to-read, SIMPLE definitions:
- Electrical Circuit
- AC & DC
- Voltage (Volts)
- Current (Amps)
- Power (Watts)
- Watt-Hour & Amp-Hour
- Series vs Parallel
Once you know the terminology, you’ll easily be able to read the rest of the posts on this website!