Small Solar Power Stations, What do I need and How do I start

Around the Globe more and more people are electing to use solar power as an alternative to traditional energy, we have noticed quite an increase of "world travelers" Or off grid people that live in or have a vacation trailer using solar to meet all or most of their power needs. Imagine the convenience of being able to power your coffee maker, Laptop, Fan etc without being even remotely close to a power outlet! Lets explore what equipment is required to build one of these systems.


What is a Solar power Station?

A Solar power station or system has many components but in our opinion the most important one is the one that absorbs and converts the energy from photons of natural light from the Sun in to a usable form of energy. You probably guessed this right! Its the Solar Panels! Solar Panel pricing has been dropping quite a bit as technology has improved, from what we are seeing the best bang per Watt right now is in the 290-330W range of Panels. Please take a look at our selection here. The good thing about most panels is they come with very generous Warranties, averaging about 20 years depending on the manufacturer.

Ok, the next part of a Power Station is the Charge Controller, Solar panels deliver power as soon as they are Hit by the Sun and depending on the mood of the Sun that day the voltage output of the panels can vary quite a bit, not to mention that if you dont use that power immediately it goes to waste, so obviously storing that power is the smartest way to go about this. The Charge Controller receives the power from the Solar panel(s) and regulates it in order to charge your battery system without causing it damage. Think about if you have a 24V Battery Bank and you have perfect conditions outside so your panels are putting out 32VDC! They would burn your batteries up! The charge controller reads your battery and your panels and keeps their relationship in perfect harmony, just like my kids do for my marriage : )

We have heard of cheap charge controllers malfunctioning and burning up whole Stations so we only carry the highest quality charge controllers on the market, please take a look at them here, and be aware of low quality charge controllers, remember you get what you pay for!

 From the charge Controller comes the battery system, now I won't get too involved in batteries because I dont want you falling asleep on me just yet. The most important thing you must know is that there are three different types of batteries and I am not talking about size here, I am talking about chemical composition so this is VERY IMPORTANT! You will have to make sure your charge controller can charge the type of batteries you have or are planning to buy, not all charge controllers can charge Lithium batteries for example (the fancy ones) So you need to pay special attention to the type of batteries you plan on using to store your power before you choose your charge controller. The three main type of batteries are: Lead Acid, NiCad and Lithium. One of our favorite charge controllers is the Morningstar Prostar Charge Controller, reason being it can charge all 3 types of batteries, but as you might imagine it comes at a premium price, but remember what I said above, you get what you pay for!

 I know what your thinking, well, Im all set now I just hook up my coffee maker to the batteries and Voila ! I get to enjoy my morning Joe! Not so Fast! Remember most appliances Run on AC current which is alternating current, first brought to us by the one and only Nicola Tesla! So we are Missing something are we not? 

Yes! Our Inverter! The Inverter is the last piece of the power Station, it is generally hooked to your battery or batteries via electrical cables. It is a device that will Receive that DC current be it in 12V, 24V or 48V and turn it in to usable AC current for your appliances. Here in the All Mighty USA! Best country on earth if you ask me, we use 120VAC/ 60Hz as the standard so we would recommend going with Samlex PST Sinewave Inverters, some of the best in the market. They come in various sizes generally measured in Watts, this is helpful because you will need to calculate what kind of electronics you will want to power with your system. This can be done by checking the power rating label of the devices you wish to power, for example it is estimated that a Coffe maker uses 200W per cup of coffee, so if you wanted 8 Cups like me in the mornings you would plan for at least an 1600W Inverter! The average flat screen LED TV uses between 70-100W so add up the Wattage of your Devices and now you have the size of  your inverter. Just remember the more power used by the inverter the faster it will drain  your batteries so size your battery bank accordingly! 

Here at Sunshine Works we carry everything you need to build your own power Station except the batteries, we used to carry batteries but due to the expense of shipping we recommend picking up some locally when possible. 





1 comment

  • Solar panels need an average amount of sunlight to charge completely. This should, under the right conditions, be enough energy to power a house consisting of two adults and three kids with surprisingly zero energy consumption. Solar panel appliances can last more than 25 years.

    Solar panels and appliances are very cost effective and will help you save money. The average annual energy expenditure per person in Washington D.C. is $3,052, including transportation and residential energy. While solar energy has up front equipment and installation cost the payback on investment can be as little as 7 years.

    The best of all is that the solar panels are highly eco friendly. As the energy produced by the sun is clean and pure. The installation of solar panels to the roof of house also helps combat greenhouse gas emissions and reduces our collective dependence on fossil fuel.

    Solar power also helps to increase the jobs in clean energy production fields. A recent study shows that in two decades, the world could generate 40 percent of its power from renewable resources.


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