Beginner's Guide to Solar Panels and Solar Generators
This guide will show you the easiest basic understanding of how a solar power system work. Then it will show you through example of how certain products (Inergy, Zamp, Humless, Go Power) work.
This solar panel guide contain the following:
- How Solar Panel works - Super basic breakdown.
- Example of how solar works through Solar Kits we offer at ShopTinyHouses.
How Solar Panels Work
In a basic solar set up you need the following main components to convert sun energy to usable plugin power.
- Solar Panels: Solar panels are a panel that harness the sun's solar rays and turns it into DC Power. You can have more than one Solar Panel. The more solar panels you have the quicker the charge. Solar panel charge time is dependent on optimal conditions (angles, sun, placement).
- Battery: This is where your harnessed power is stored. In solar systems, you can have often one or more batteries.
- Charge Controller: Once your battery is fully charged the charge controller will keep your battery from overcharging. Batteries will be damaged if they are over charged. Therefore, in a solar set up you have one Charge Controller. If you have more than one charge controller, the measurements will be off for the final charge therefore risking damage to your battery.
- Inverter: Batteries used store DC power. Majority of appliances use AC power. The inverter converts DC power to AC power. Anything you plug into the wall at home is AC Powered.
In the title diagram above you will see that solar panels converts Sun energy to DC Power. The charge controller is a door to the battery. Once the battery is full, the charge controller shuts off any power going into the full battery. The battery is where the DC power is stored in the battery.
You usually have direct access to the DC power through the battery. In order to use AC power you would need an inverter. An inverter converts DC power to AC power.
Basically a solar energy system is just a series of converting one type of energy into usable power.
Now having a basic understanding of solar panels we are going to apply our knowledge to some of the solar kits we have on our site, by breaking them down into the four key components of a solar set up.
So let's get started!
The Apex is a plug and play system. The portable generator is 25 pounds and is very popular unit for campers, people looking for a emergency backup generator, or those looking to home appliances.
Inergy Solar panels:
- Where is it? Outside the Apex. You can have more than one Solar Panel. The more panels the quicker the charge.
- Generator Input limit: 500 Watts. For example, the most you can put on it is 5 - 100 Watt panels.
- Inergy offers two solar panels that are compatible with the Apex:
- Where is it? The Apex has an internal Lithium Ion Battery - 1,100 Watt Hour with 3,000 Watt Peak. The battery has a 2000 life cycle (one life cycle: empty to full charge).
- If you need more power, you can add more batteries external to the Apex to increase your power capacity. You can add 12V lead acid or AGM deep cycle battery. Lithium Ion batteries directly from Inergy Solar can be added as well. The more your add the longer your charging time will be. It is recommended to connect no more than 3,000 Watt Hours (238 Ah, 12.6V) of external batteries for best results.
Apex Charge Controller
- Where is it? Inside the Apex
- Specifications: MPPT charge controller. With charge controllers, you can only have one in your solar power set up. If you have a non-Inergy panel with a charge controller on it, it will not insure the protection of your battery from over charging.
- Where is it? Inside the Apex
- Specifications: 1,500 Watts Continuous and 3,000 Watts Starting Surge. This means that you have 1,500 Watts power to work with at a single time.
Zamp system is a popular solar energy system among RVers. The Zamp has various types of panels and comes in kits of varying sizes.
- Zamp has two main types of panels of varying wattage.
- Zamp Portable - A lot of RVs come with Zamp ports for the Zamp Portable panels. Cannot be combined with another portable model in one solar panel system. Why? Because each panel has a charge controller. When you have more than one charge controller you risk over charging your battery which leads to damage.
- Non Portable (shown in above zamp image)- Can be added with other non-portable zamp panels.
- The Zamp system is made to charge your battery in your RV.
- The Zamp system can charge external batteries directly using the alligator clamps.
Zamp Charge controller:
- Zamp Portable Panels have a charge controller on the back.
- Zamp Non Portable: you need one charge controller either in your RV or your own controller hooked up between the panels and your battery.
- 300 Watt to 2000 Watts
- Used with 12 v DC solar/battery systems and are perfect use in cars, water vessels, RV's, and emergency situations.
Like the Inergy Apex, Humless is another plug and play system. Currently the Humless system comes in three sizes. Each one has a different battery capacity.
- Where is it? Outside the Humless. You can have more than one Solar Panel. The more panels the quicker the charge. The panels are
Humless Battery :
Humless Charge controller:
- Inside the Humless
Go Power solar is a popular complete solar system that you can integrate into your RV, boat, or any mobile set up where you want solar. Go Power parts are sold separately and kits. The kits vary by size and need, ones ideal for weekend RV getaways and ones for complete full time RV off Grid.
For Go Power, we are going to break down the requirements for each of the different kits.
- Go Power Solar Weekender Charging 170 Watt Kit
- Go Power Solar Elite 340 Watt Kit
- Go Power Solar Extreme 510 Watt Kit
- Where is it? As with all panels, it is external to the solar kit system
- Go Power Solar Weekender Charging 170 Watt Kit:
- 170 Watt Solar Panels
- Can accept 2 solar expansion kit
- Go Power 340 Watt Elite Solar Kit:
- (2) 170 Watt Solar Panels
- Can accept 1 solar expansion kit
- Go Power Solar Extreme Kit:
- (3) 170 Watt Solar Panels
- Weekender Suggested Battery Banks: 2
- Solar Elite Suggested Battery Banks: 4
- Solar Extreme Suggested Battery Banks: 4+
Go Power Charge controller:
- 30 amp PWM Digital Controller
Go Power Inverter: