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What are the typical solar renewable energy systems available to a home owner?

Images of these common solar systems types are displayed in our Media Gallery.

Grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) systems use solar panels to generate electricity first for your home with any excess reversing back to the grid. This system is economical because the grid acts as a battery when excess electricity not used during peak season goes back onto the grid and is credited to the homeowner.  A grid-tied system automatically disconnects from the electric grid during outages and reconnects after the grid again becomes operational.

Battery or stand-alone PV systems are off grid and will provide electricity from batteries or a generator during power outages. Unlike grid-tied systems which are virtually maintenance-free, battery PV systems require considerable maintenance by the owner. See chart of decreased battery capacity and increased battery life at lower temperatures.  Batteries for backup power when grid power is not available should be in a temperature controlled location, such as an insulated container. The leading edge of the industry is in battery storage for grid-tied systems, such as Tesla’s newly introduced Powerwall units.

Hybrid PV systems are grid-tied with a generator or battery backup for outages.

Solar hot water heating is an economical way to heat water from water tanks to pools to radiant heated flooring. Water heating is the second biggest use of energy in most homes after space heating and cooling demands.  If your home is all electric, consider a hybrid heat pump water heater using about 1/3 to 1/2 the energy as compared to an electric resistance water heater. There are also supplemental heat pump units that can be added on to an existing storage tank water heater.

Solar PV-therm (PVT) systems combine solar hot water and PV technologies. Solar cells on the front of the panel convert solar to electricity while a closed-loop glycol heat exchanger on the back of the panel draw heat way from the solar cells, improving PV efficiency while heating water.

Solar air heating heats air and transfers it into the home with a small fan and thermostat separate from the primary furnace or heat pump. A cost effective heater may be homemade or purchased commercially.

Category: Solar Basics

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