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Home Power System Basics
For your home, generating power with alternative energy systems can seem overwhelming if you don’t know how the system works. You can use different types of power systems to power up your place. Most of them do the same thing, in that the sun shines on your solar panels, which is then converted into electricity, or the wind turns a rotor, which generates electricity.
Usually the power generated this way is put into a battery bank and you use the power from the battery, usually through a device called an inverter. The inverter converts the voltage you store in the battery bank into standard household current. Most homes are set up with power from utility companies and use AC power, typically 120 volts for light duty functions and 240 volts for larger appliances that heat your home.
Now I’ve thrown several different terms in there, which may require further explanation. I’ll list the different items, and give a brief summary of what they are, how they work, and how they interact with the rest of your energy system. I’m sure no one wants a long explanation but a short description of how these things work together so that your home energy system can produce the energy you use.
Solar Panels: Using sunlight, the panels heat up and convert the heat into electricity.
Wind Turbine: Wind moves past the blades, turning on a generator, producing electricity.
Battery Bank: This is how you store and use the power you collect through panels and turbines.
Inverter: Converts electricity from DC to AC so you can use it easily.
Basic Electrical Terms
AC is short for “alternating current”. AC is the standard form of electrical power you commonly use at home. AC power cycles at 60 cycles per second, meaning the power changes direction quickly, back and forth, so that it always appears to be on and produces the desired results with the devices you plug in and turn on. When you touch a hot wire using AC power, the electricity will continue to strike you until you turn off the power or manage to release it. AC power is very dangerous.
DC is short for “direct current”. DC is the type of voltage you have stored in your battery bank. The DC only moves in one direction, and will only bite you when you first touch it, and again when you try to release it. Many farms and ranches use this type of power to charge electric fences around pastures. DC is extremely safe at low voltages and usually won’t hurt you.
There are two different types of electricity: AC can be transmitted over long distances, with shorter wires, and has less line loss than its counterpart. DC line loss occurs when electricity is transmitted over a distance. The further away your equipment is from the power source, the more power you have to push through the wires.
When the telegraph became part of the American communication system, the power source was from a battery bank, made up of “dry cells”. As power decreases with distance, the telegraph relies on “relay stations” along its length to retransmit the sent message.
Other Basic Terms
Volts: type of power or force Amps: strength of power flowing through wires Watts: power required to operate a particular device Resistance: loss of power being transmitted, because physics is involved.
I promised you I’d keep this short and simple, so we won’t get too deep into this. Electricity is a nuclear reaction, by which electrons are transmitted through wires, to the units you want to power. When electrons travel through a wire, part of the wire is transmitted with power. Over time, this can corrode the wires and lead to poor connections.
The previously mentioned terms include some mathematical equations. Voltage times amperage equals wattage. 110 volts (ac) times 5 amps is 550 watts. If an appliance requires 110 v to operate and consumes 9 amps of power, it will require 990 watts to operate. If you have set up your system properly, you may not need to know these things.
Using a home power system
We finally got what you were looking for! Solar panels generate a limited amount of energy. The stronger the sunlight, the more power you can generate, but a panel can only provide so much. So you will need multiple panels to allow you to use any amount of power. Solar panels will work on cloudy days, but not as effectively as in direct sunlight.
The panels generate electricity and send that power to your battery bank. Since the battery is DC, this power goes through an inverter to be used in your home. It converts voltage from DC to AC
A battery bank will be installed to store the energy you produce from a solar or wind plant. Usually a battery bank will be 12 volts, or 24 volts, or various multiples of these. (By the way, your car uses 12 volts DC to power most of its systems.) The battery bank is designed to cycle, meaning the batteries will be charged and discharged several times throughout the day, so the size of your battery bank is as important as the number of solar panels or the size of your wind plant. (how much wattage it produces under ideal conditions)
This is just a basic overview. If you are interested in learning more, there are many books written about it. While using a home power system can help lower your electric bill, the hype about the power company paying you for your excess power is not the real reason to use the system.
This type of system is most beneficial when the power goes out, due to storms, downed power lines, or overuse, like the brownfields of the East Coast, during peak power consumption periods when everyone and their cousins are using their air. Air conditioners in summer and heaters in winter.
If you’re going to set up an alternate power system, like I described, remember to set it for high power, not low. You will produce more energy in the summer than in the winter because of the shorter days and less sunlight. Nor is the wind constant, although it sometimes seems so. And… the higher the wind plant is set, the more wind you will be able to use.
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