Your Questions About Solar Panel Kits

Helen asks…

Do the build your own energy kits with solar panels and windmills work?

ssadmin answers:

Nowhere as good as professionally made ones. Unless you are a mechanic and a EE, just leave it to the professionals.

Betty asks…

45 Watt Solar Panel Kit Harbor Freight?

Exactly How much power will this kit produce? for example. Will it only be able to power the 2 light throughout an entire day or would it be able to power a couple TV's with a couple lights. Or a Refrigerator? washer dryer? I'm just wondering exactly what it will be able to do and if it's worth paying $200 for if it'll only power two lights. Don't get me wrong, That's great and will make a difference but i'm looking for something that will make a little bit of a bigger difference. Would the 80 watt monocrystalline solar panel be much better? if so, what would it be able to power? double?

ssadmin answers:

Yes, 80 watts will be nearly twice as useful as 45 watts – but 80 is still a small number. Solar panel systems need an inverter and there's a slight energy loss at the inverter. And, if you want to use the day's energy at night, you'll need a battery or two. And every time you move energy into or out of a battery, you lose a little of the energy. All this is to say that you need to sum up the wattage of your appliances and add a fudge factor to accommodate for the losses.

I looked at the kit and was moderately impressed. $200/45=$4.44/watt; that's a reasonable price but the links I left below talk of prices as low as $2.58/watt.

Also the Harbor Freight kit doesn't contain an ‘inverter' which you would have to buy. Also the wattage advertised for any solar panel assumes the thing is clean and pointed right at the sun on a clear day.

Sandy asks…

Atrum Solar gave me an estiamte of approx. $34,000 for a solar panel system before rebate…?

Hi, We have a cabin which is approx. 1,000 sq ft with approx. 500 sq ft of workable roof space (according to astrum) The system we could able to get would produce approx. 5-6 kw of energy for our home. Does this estimate sound accurate? I don't really have an issue because i realize it is just an estimate – But i can't afford this amount of money for a solar system. Does anyone have information about companies the will lease solar panel systems in Pennsylvania? Or maybe some information on DIY solar panel kits? Actually any information on how a may be able to afford solar power would be very helpful. Thank you in advance!

ssadmin answers:

Cool question!

First, I am assuming you are off the grid, in other words the cabin has no connection to the power grid. A grid connected system is going to require the technical assistance of this company and you will be prey to any costs that they want to charge.

The good news is that you can tell Atrum Solar that you only want 100 watts of solar power on the roof and federal regulations allow you to expand its capacity at your own pace. Make sure you tell them that you want the system to have the ability to handle at least 2000 watts of solar power in the future so you can expand as much as you want without buying more equipment.

Second, I encourage you to build your own solar system in the interim. Total cost will be less than $1,000 and you can power a television along with some lights with no problem at all. The solar panels you buy can be connected to the system that you eventually purchase.

The biggest gain from building your own solar system or DIY is that you will understand the costs of the technology and can fight back against over priced estimates. Here are some of my articles on this subject:
Increasing Inverter Capacity with the Black & Decker PI750AB: Solar Project Part 4

What Do Polycrystalline Solar Panels Have to Offer Over Monocrystalline Solar Panels? Solar Project Part 5

I am not paid by any solar company or electric utility for my advice. I am doing this to advance the knowledge of solar power.

Richard asks…

Is this a good kit for building a solar panel?×6-Tabbed-Diy-Panel-Kit-w-Wire-Flux_W0QQitemZ110511517068QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item19baffed8c

ssadmin answers:

Only if for some reason you need to design a panel to a particular voltage and current capability that is difference from a prefab'ed panel.

Lots of work and you still need to weather proof it and mount the individual cells into a frame.

Consider a prefab unit

Lisa asks…

Is a Rectifier Diode the same thing as a Blocking Diode when using Solar panels?

I was rigging up a small DYI solar panel kit for the first time and lost a blocking diode in my kit. I went to the electronics store, and the only diodes I could find were Rectifier diodes that had the same Amp rating.

Will these work?
IMPORTANT detail. this is being used in a DC to DC application. not DC to AC.

ssadmin answers:

The key thing to remember is that a rectifier diode is used to make a rectifier which converts DC to AC so you can use it for household applications. A blocking diode simply acts as a diode that blocks current from flowing back into the solar panel and damaging the panel itself.

If your applications are DC, then you don't need rectifiers. You just need a simple diode at the same or higher voltage rating as your solar panel.

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