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Do I need to install my inverter near my batteries?

Ideally an inverter should be installed within 10 feet of the battery bank. If you increase this distance, you will need to use thicker DC cables to compensate for a drop in voltage and to avoid increasing DC ripple (noise).

How do I keep batteries from freezing over winter?

The best way to keep a battery exposed to cold from freezing is to keep it fully charged. Make sure batteries are fully charged at the beginning of winter, using a generator to top them up, if necessary. Then keep them topped up by leaving the charge controller operating, so that the batteries receive a float (trickle) charge from your panels through the winter. Also, if batteries are to be stored outside they should be placed inside an insulated box, in order to conserve the heat generated by the charging process.

How do I maintain the proper level of electrolyte?

Maintaining proper electrolyte levels is an important part of keeping flooded lead-acid batteries healthy. Each cell should be topped up with distilled water to within 1/4-1/2 inch from the bottom edge of the vent wells. If the level is too low, the lead plates may become exposed which can permanently reduce the capacity of the battery. If the level is too high, the vent wells may become blocked, interfering with off gassing during charging/equalization. As always, for information specific to your battery type, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Why it is important to use only distilled or deionized water?

Tap water, spring water and mineral water may contain some amount of dissolved metals and/or minerals which are undesirable. These impurities can cause the cells to discharge, even when the batteries are not supplying current.

What is the difference between "true" Sine Wave and "modified" Sine Wave inverters?

True Sine Wave Inverters produce AC power that is similar to power available from the public utility grid system. They are more expensive than comparable modified sine wave inverters but they produce quality output that operates even the most sensitive and sophisticated electronics. True sine wave should be your first choice. Modified Sine Wave Inverters cost less but produce AC power that is sufficient to run most electronics. Some applications such as laser printer, fax machine, satellite receiver and plasma television set may not run properly with modified sine wave power, or they may demand True sine wave.

Why Go Solar?

Hedge Energy Prices: Offset energy prices and the unpredictable rate hikes by generating your own free power.
Reduce Your Carbon Foot Print: Electricity generated by burning coal and fossil fuels emits pollutants into the atmosphere. Solar energy comes from a clean and renewable source. Contribute to a greener brighter future.

Reliable Power: Solar systems generate power for decades when properly maintained and are backed by warranties to protect your investment.

Increased Property Value: Solar is a smart upgrade that makes your home less dependent to conventional energy and increases your home value.
If these benefits make sense to you, it’s time to go green!

What types of solar panels are available?

Solar panels are typically made from crystalline silicon (monocrystalline or polycrystalline) or amorphous silicon. Since crystalline structures are more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity, amorphous solar panels tend to be larger than equivalent crystalline solar panels. However amorphous solar panels also tend to be less expensive, so if space is not an issue, they can provide a good alternative, but are less popular.

How do I keep my panels clean?

It is important to keep solar panels clean, to ensure maximum output. Good quality solar panel surfaces are made of tempered glass and clean easily. Often rain is enough to clean dust and dirt but localized conditions may require more concentrated cleaning methods. Bird droppings, tree sap, and dirt from wind storms are examples where using a mild solution of water and vinegar along with a foam scrub brush will aid in the soil removal.

Will solar panels work in cold weather?

Yes, in fact solar panels perform better in cold conditions, provided they are not covered with snow. However the shorter days and steep angle of the sun will cause panels to produce less overall power (kWh) during winter months. Sizing your solar system for winter operation must be carefully considered to ensure reliable performance.

What about partial-shading from tall trees?

While no shade is ideal, the effect of partial-shading from trees or other objects will affect the panel’s output. This can be minimized by using micro-inverters. Instead of hooking your system up to an inverter, a series of micro inverters are connected to each panel. This means that as the shadow moves across the solar array throughout the day, only a few panels will be affected by the output loss, leaving the rest of the system to run at normal capacity.

We get a lot of snow where we’re located, will the solar panels be affected?

Snow amounts over 2 inches or greater directly over a panel will affect the output performance. If the panels are tilted to a minimum of 45° for the winter the snow will slide off as the dark surface absorbs the light and heats the glass surface. Greater amount of snow and can be easily removed with a non metallic roof rake.

The reflective power of the snows surface surrounding the panels provides an albeto effect, and has been known to increase their output. Preliminary studies at Queens University researched this effect to help quantify the snow surrounding solar arrays.

How long are solar panels good for?

A quality solar panel has been known to last 35 + years. Solar panel degradation in the solar cells is a normal process. Manufacturers offer a performance guarantee of 20-25 years on their panels. Most panels are guaranteed to perform at 80% efficiency for 25 years.

Are solar panels expensive?

Solar arrays vary depending on panel size, material used, brand, and quantities purchased. Many panels exist in the market today, they are not all equal in quality and performance. It is also important to note that larger isn’t always better. A 230 Watt panel does not automatically perform better than a 200 Watt panel, it is often simply a physically larger panel.

The size of panel used for your project should be customized to your particular needs and to maximize return. If you have the space, it may be more economical to use a greater number of lower-watt panels to reach your project’s final kW size.

How do solar panels work?

In simplest terms, solar panels efficiently convert the sunlight to electricity. They are made up of cells connected with each other in series or in parallel. These connections are called “strings”.

As the sun shines the solar panels convert the sunlight to electrical power. This electricity generated is in Direct Current (DC), the same electricity used to start your car. To power your everyday household items, such as a toaster, the direct current needs to be converted to Alternating Current (AC) to be useful. This conversion is accomplished through an inverter. Direct Current (DC) under the right conditions can be used directly to operate lights and special appliances without an inverter.

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