The hardest part of starting a project like this is knowing what to buy, so we'll look at a list of parts before we get into the nitty-gritty.
This article is going to assume that you'll be building a grid-tie (or "on the grid") system. Grid-tie means that your house will still be connected to the utility company. The biggest benefit of staying on the grid is net metering
: If you're producing excess power, you can actually sell it back to the utility company. Since your system will help produce green power for the grid, and reduce the overall strain on the utility company, they'll buy it from you at a huge premium. Because you're still on the grid, you'll still have power on cloudy days.
What do I need?
These are the parts of a grid-tie system, in order:
1. Solar Modules
(aka PV Panels) collect energy from the sun and turn it into direct current.
2. Power Inverter
turns the DC from the panels into AC that your appliances can use.
3. PV Disconnect
lets you cut off power so that you can work on the system without electrocuting yourself.
4. Your home's breaker box
is where the solar energy connects to your house.
5. Net meter
connects your house to the grid, measuring how much power you take from - or give to - the power grid at large.
You can buy panels, racking, inverters, and more at SolarTown
. As we continue through this article, we'll look at some of the products that are available and what each will cost. If you feel overwhelmed by all of the different options, we sell packages that include panels, racking, and the inverter at discount prices, so give that a look as well! You could have a 5kW system for $35,000. Try not to let the price tag turn you off - we'll look at government programs to help cover the costs in step 7.
Now that you're familiar with the vocabulary, we can get to planning your solar array.