Today, we are quite familiar with solar energy and most know of the different ways to utilize solar energy, though this was not always the case. In ancient times, those from different parts of the world used to worship the sun as a God (in different forms and names). They believed that a solar deity had strengths and powers to ward off all their problems and give them a happy life.
It took many centuries to comprehend the true meaning of their beliefs but finally, humankind understood solar energy and developed various methods and technologies to utilize the power of the sun. Today, those practicing eco-lifestyles use solar energy in different forms, these technologies contribute in a major way to authentic green and eco-lifestyles.
One of the most efficient ways to use solar energy is Photovoltaic Solar Electricity. Photovoltaic solar electricity is the electricity generated directly from sunlight with the help of Photovoltaic solar panels and an inverter.
Sunlight is absorbed by these panels as a source of energy which is then converted into electricity. A photovoltaic solar panel constitutes the arrangement of photovoltaic cells which lead to the generation and supply of photovoltaic solar electricity in residential as well as commercial applications.
Different Ways to Generate Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Electricity
Photovoltaic solar electricity is implemented in a home in various ways. Here is a summary:
Rooftop Photovoltaic (PV) System: This is where the photovoltaic solar panels are installed on the rooftop of the home. These are commonly addressed as “PV panels mounted on the roof”.
Standalone Photovoltaic (PV) System: A standalone photovoltaic system is installed somewhere on the property, usually on the ground or in some commercial cases installed on carports.
Hybrid Photovoltaic Solar Electricity System: These are the hybrid power systems which combine the electricity generated from a photovoltaic system with electricity provided from other sources, like the electricity from a power grid, or generated via diesel generators. This enables a constant flow of electricity.
A hybrid PV system functions in association with the power grid. The electricity is provided to the home from both sources; during the day, the home uses its self-generated electricity directly from the PV system and when the sun sets, the other source of electricity such as the power grid is used.
Hybrid Photovoltaic Solar Electricity System including Backup Batteries: When adding backup batteries to the photovoltaic solar electricity system, reliance on the power grid is optimally reduced.
This is the optimal photovoltaic solar electricity system. In such systems, the PV solar electricity and power grid work together to cover the electricity needs of the home. The difference is that batteries are used by this system to store energy during the daytime and this stored electricity is used after sunset. The battery banks vary in size and are charged by photovoltaic solar panels.
After sunset, the backup batteries are used until they reach their lower threshold, at which point, the other electricity source, such as the power grid, supplies the electricity requirement.
Rainwater collected through the aforementioned methods is stored and then pumped to fulfill various non-drinking purposes such as watering the garden, flushing the toilets and washing clothes in a washing machine..
When Surplus Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Electricity is Generated, Sell It!
A good thing with PV solar electricity is that if the electricity generated by our system is more than required, we’re able in many cases to sell it to the power distribution company. Such accumulated credit, goes towards the costs of the electricity required after sunset, and when the backup batteries reach their lower threshold.
Not all electricity distribution companies buy our generated electricity. However, where our generated electricity is bought, this feature makes PV Solar Electricity the optimal system.
What About Load Shedding in Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Electricity Systems?
Where load shedding or power outages apply: Relax! The PV system, with backup batteries, saves the day. Our home uses the stored electricity for most of the load shedding or power outage period.
Designing a Photovoltaic Solar Electricity System
When determining and designing our PV Solar Electricity System, with the engineering supplier and installer we need to take several things into account – but the main thing to take into account is, to not skimp on the number of PV solar panels, or on the number of backup batteries required. However, there is a point where the size and cost of the installation would become impractical.
Take into account: the size of the roof or where the standalone PV solar panels are installed, where the backup batteries are placed and lastly the cost and our budget. Maintain a balance with these factors. By example, where a balance is maintained, the hybrid PV Solar Electricity including the backup Batteries, supply your home and all its appliances, on a twenty four hour basis – and selling excess Solar electricity to the power grid to cover the costs where power grid electricity is used, would result in almost zero monthly electricity costs.
Running Electrical Equipment
We’re able to use the electricity generated from the sun’s rays for running different electrical equipment in the home. This photovoltaic solar electricity would be utilized for running the lights, fans, televisions, laptops, and other appliances in the home.
Running Water Heaters
When following a conventional lifestyle, electric or gas water heaters are used, whereas followers of eco-lifestyles use photovoltaic solar electricity to run water heaters.
Running Hydronic Systems
Hydronic systems are all about getting the desired temperature by circulating water in different parts of a home. To circulate that water, a water pump is required which is usually connected with a home’s power supply. In an eco-friendly home, these pumps are run with photovoltaic solar electricity. Furthermore, the heat pump providing hot or cold water for the Hydronics Radiant Heating and Cooling System, would use the PV Solar electricity.
Various Ways to use Photovoltaic Solar Electricity in A Home
There are many ways to use generated photovoltaic solar electricity in a home. They are:
Benefits of Photovoltaic Solar Electricity
Photovoltaic Solar Electricity has not only changed the way we live, it has also made a positive impact on the environment. Here are some of its benefits:
- Photovoltaic solar electricity is the cleanest and greenest form of energy. During its generation, no harmful greenhouse gases are emitted thus adding to its environment-friendly properties.
We’re able to generate limitless PV electricity: Sunlight is free and plentiful.
- PV solar electricity is available wherever there is sunlight.
- With the continuously declining price of PV solar panels, and as more and more make use of this form of electricity, technology improves and prices decline further. Therefore, environmental sustainability and economic viability are easily and continuously achieved.
- This is a direct way of generating electricity, no secondary sources such as coal, etc. are used to generate PV Solar electricity.
- The cost involved in generating PV solar electricity is negligible in comparison to the derived benefits, in addition to the remarkable decrease in the electricity bill.
- Its production does not create noise at all, thus reducing noise pollution. Again, and additionally PV solar electricity is an environment savior.
- Shields Against Electricity Price Rise. Wherever you live, electricity prices keep on rising, whereas your PV system once installed shields against any kind of electricity price increase.
- Affordable. Amongst the various renewable sources to generate electricity such as hydropower and wind, PV solar electricity is most affordable and easily accessible.
- Low Maintenance A PV system is free from any moving parts and thus requires minimum or no maintenance.
Investment Benefit of a Photovoltaic Solar Electricity System
If buying a PV system, don’t view the purchase the same way as buying other household appliances, rather view it as an investment. Similar to other investments, we’re able to calculate the ROI (Return on Investment).
The following steps assist in determining PV solar electricity ROI:
1. System’s cost
This is the first step. It’s important to find out what the total cost is when installing the system. Include the cost incurred for the permits, installation, inverter, and PV panels. Take into account, the cost of the backup batteries, the costs of a grid tied system; the amount subsidized if you qualify for such from the government.
2. Energy Generated
This is the next step: find out how much electricity the system generates. This helps in determining how much extra electricity would be required from the distributor.
3. Cost of Electricity
Be aware of the average cost of electricity (per kWh) to help determine the amount of savings per kilowatt-hour of generated electricity. This is easily done by looking through your recent electricity bills.
4. Calculate the Financial Benefits
With the help of the aforementioned information, we’re able to calculate the amount of savings after installing a PV system. Once determined, we’ll know how much electricity is used on a yearly basis.
5. Calculate ROI
Now we calculate the Return on Investment. For example, if the cost of your system is $25,000 and your yearly savings is $4,000, you see a return on your investment in 5+ years.
How to Install A PV Solar Electricity System At Home?
To get such a system installed in your home, you have to first select the seller.
The process of installing a PV system in your home involves the following steps:
These steps are also explained visually
Site Visit by Engineers
After signing the solar contract (whether it is a loan, lease, cash or a power purchase), an engineer visits your home for an evaluation of the home’s electrical status and to ensure that everything is well-suited. He determines what is required for the PV solar electricity system.
Documents and Permits
To install such a system in your home, you are required to go through lots of paperwork. The good thing is that the installer handles these. However, it is always better to be aware of what is happening physically in your home as well as with the paperwork.
After settling on the essential paperwork, you’re able to place the order. The order relates directly to what you decided to install such as the Photovoltaic solar panels, backup batteries, etc. Again, your installer assists with this.
The Installation of Photovoltaic Solar Panels
This is a big and exciting time because the PV system is being installed in your home. The installer places the panels on the roof to maximize absorbing the sun, complete the electrical wiring, and connect the batteries with the panels.
This is the final step and now, the PV solar electricity system is connected with the electric grid enabling using the sun’s energy for your needs. In some regions, a representative from the electricity board or government visits the home to inspect the work done by the installer. With the representative’s permission, the PV system is ready for integrating with the electric grid.
PV Solar Electricity Systems and Design of a Home
Although installing a PV solar electricity system in an existing home is quite easy and the system would work efficiently without causing issues, if your home is designed for a PV solar system, then everything would be organized upfront with the required battery and inverter room. After all, this is what eco-home owners aspire to, that things are fit for purpose and designed as such.
Those who prefer building a green home usually benefit the most because their home is designed with specific focus on an Eco-lifestyle, including the PV systems. The design of the green home includes space and wiring, etc. for a photovoltaic system from the beginning. The following points make this clearer:
- These homes are designed with space especially allotted for the inverter and disconnector near the principle service panel.
- Space is left in the primary service panel to control a power input breaker.
- These homes include pre-wiring or an empty metallic conduit pre-installed from the roof, close to the primary service panel.
- Green homes often have a conduit from the location of the inverter to the primary service panel.
- When a home is designed to accommodate a PV system, space is left in the breaker box to fit a double pole breaker.
- A separate vertical area on the wall to mount the inverter in the home’s mechanical area is allotted in eco-friendly homes.
- These homes are designed so that the distance (wire run) between the array and the inverter is minimum.
- In the beginning, an electric disconnect switch is present in these homes for any future solar electrical system.
- Space is allotted for the backup batteries.
Whether installing a PV solar electricity system in a new house or an existing one, place a label or a sign on the electrical panel door that your home is now SOLAR READY.
Smart Technology and the Photovoltaic Solar Electricity System
Smart technology, no doubt, is easing every sphere of human life and PV systems are now a vital part of life, especially for those practicing an eco-lifestyle.
Smart technology for a PV system involves the home based server hosting the smart technology – used for configuring metrics, metric recording and transmitting the metrics to the connected smart technology service provider, a smartphone, tablet or a laptop which enables configuring the metrics and exposing the current and historical data on the app. These are all internet-enabled.
Moreover, smart technology also efficiently monitors the backup battery’s low threshold as well as the high threshold. This protects the backup batteries by preventing the batteries from draining completely and also stops any charging when the batteries reach the upper threshold. Both essential to extend backup battery life.
As discussed above, PV electricity provides electricity to the home, charges the batteries, and sends the excess electricity being generated by the PV system back to the grid. Yes, all this is also managed by smart technology. Another advantage of smart technology in a PV system is that it determines when maximum electricity is required by a household and supplies solar electricity (directly or from the batteries) instead of electricity directly from the power grid. This not only prevents an extra load on the grid but also possibly saves money by not using grid electricity during peak hours, where such elicits tiered charges.
Smart technology is also beneficial when the batteries reach their lower storage mark. At this time, the system automatically stops and electricity to the house is supplied through the grid. During the day, the system stops taking energy from the backup batteries; the house gets direct electricity from the sun. However, batteries keep on charging and if any extra electricity is generated, it is sent back to the grid. Some distributors provide credits for electricity sent to the grid.
Monitoring of Electricity Generated by PV Systems
The amount of electricity generated by a PV system, how much of it is used by a household, and other important metrics are all monitored by the smart technology and displayed on the App installed on your smartphone, etc.
If the usage is high, this information is available on the app. You’re able to find the root cause of excessive usage and are able to remedy and make adjustments accordingly. Thus, smart technology monitors and assists with managing the system to provide efficient results in the most economical way. These components in combination is the ultimate Photovoltaic Solar Electricity system.
Keeping in mind, the recording of metrics, monitoring and managing capabilities are continuous, and enables your orchestrating for maximum efficiency. Also, that the current and historical data are not stored in the app: This data is stored by a smart technology service provider. The App enables metric configuration and the displaying of metrics.
Are PV Systems Able to Run Every Appliance in a Home?
This question is asked by almost everyone interested in powering their home with a PV solar electricity system. Yes, the PV systems are able to run every appliance in such a home, even the ACs and refrigerators. Commonly, silicon crystalline panels are used in a system but the new and advanced systems use thin-film solar panels whose energy yield is surprisingly higher than the silicon panels.
So, a PV system is primarily for the independence of the homeowner and at the same time saves the environment, even where power outages are experienced. With the declining cost of solar panels and increased awareness of green energy, it’s more and more affordable to install a PV system at home. This is another step towards a greener and eco-lifestyle.
As we move towards a green and eco-lifestyle, we learn more about living self-sustainably.
Electricity Saving Tips
If we are really concerned about the environment, here are further points for saving on electricity:
- Install LED lights, and purchase LEDs for your desktop monitor and television. Whether we run them on the grid with backup batteries, energy is saved and it’s a positive step towards savings and reducing the environmental carbon footprint.
- Go for appliances that have an Energy Star label. The presence of the label ensures that energy-efficiency guidelines are followed, again beneficial for the grid as well as the backup batteries.
- Do not run two large appliances simultaneously when running from the backup batteries.
There are many other electricity saving tips such as not leaving appliances on standby mode, setting the refrigerator one degree warmer, being efficient while cooking, washing clothes at a lower temperature – and air drying whenever possible.
The good news: Everyone using PV solar electricity systems need not apply electricity saving steps when running off sunlight.