Solar Panel Buyers Guide

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Advice on buying solar panels for the home, caravban or boat

How to select your electrical solar panel system

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Solar energy is a tried and tested power source that is already being used around the world for numerous commercial, industrial, government and domestic applications. It is powering water pumps in African villages, weather stations in the Antarctic and satellites in space! Here we show you what a typical domestic system consists of, and we try to answer some common questions.

Solar Panels

voltage regulators


Typical Domestic Solar Power Set-up

Electrical solar power works by transforming the energy from the sun into a reusable form of electricity, a process known as Photovoltaic (or PV for short). Your solar panels act as a collecting tray, helping you catch the sun’s rays. The bigger the panel, the more energy you can collect. The energy collected is stored for your future use in a battery. Sometimes you collect more energy than you actually need so with larger panels a voltage regulator should be fitted to control the flow of energy and prevent battery damage. The other component you will possibly need is an inverter, which enables you to run 240V mains-driven appliances

Which SOLAR PANELS to buy? The choice of panel(s) depends on how much energy your appliance(s) will use over a given period of time. You have to make sure that the electricity generated by the panels (and stored in the battery), say during one day, is more than sufficient to power all connected appliances during that next. Another consideration is the number of panels to buy. If you require 55 Watts of power, you could either use two 28W panels connected together, or one 60W panel. Generally speaking, it is easier and cheaper to go for the fewest number of large panels. However, space considerations may make two smaller panels more practical. Also, if you already have a panel, you may be wanting to increase the power of your system (the modular nature of our solar systems means that you can always use the original panels you bought as your system expands). Apart from power considerations, bear in mind that NOT all solar panels are the same. There are several different methods of harnessing the sun’s energy with Solar panels. Our panels are based on the finest crystalline silicon technology, which is more efficient than amorphous or other thin film technologies, particularly in low light conditions. This makes it the best choice for cloudier climates, typical in th UK. While the UK does not experience extreme weather very often, our panels are specially designed for use in harsh environmental conditions so you will never need to worry about storm damage. The individual solar cells are laminated onto a multi-layer back sheet to protect against moisture ingress and ensure UV stability and electrical insulation. The cell base is encapsulated onto strengthened water white low iron tempered glass and mounted into a corrosion-resistant, heavy-duty anodised aluminium frame for stability. All our Solar panels come with a 10 year guarantee and a 20 year performance guarantee on the cells. What's more, all our solar panels are accredited with the internationally recognised IEC 61215 certification. See also our easy to use our online automated Solar Panel Selector.

Which BATTERY to buy? It is not the solar panels that drive your appliances directly, but the battery (which is recharged over time by the panels). So, the battery stores up energy throughout the day, which can then be used, say in the evening. Whereas a solar panel provides a relatively small current over a long period of time, a battery can supply much higher currents (to drive things like televisions) over a shorter period of time of course. So your choice of battery depends also on the appliances that are being used, and therefore what storage capacity in the battery is required. The storage capacity of batteries is measured usually in Amp Hours (ie the number of amps the battery can supply in one hour. The most cost-effective batteries to buy are 12-Volt lead-acid car batteries (or caravan batteries which are even cheaper, but just as effective). We do not sell car batteries on this website, as they are difficult to send by post, so customers usually buy these locally, from somewhere like Halfords, or a local caravan supplier. Of course, if you are using solar panels on your boat or caravan, the chances are that you already have a battery in place.

Which VOLTAGE REGULATOR to buy? a voltage regulator prevents your solar panel putting more enegy into the battery than the battery can store - like an automatic shut-off once the batteries are fully-charged. For smaller panels a voltage regulator is not often needed, however ALL panels over 18 watts will require a voltage regulator. Generally speaking, you will only need one regulator, even if you have more than one panel, and/or more than one battery. 12V regulators come in different current ratings, depending on the maximum ammount of current your panels can provide. 8 Amp regulators are sufficient for most of our panels, but our 150 Watt panel will require a 12 Amp regulator. To calculate the minimum current rating required, simply divide the total power raing of you panels, and divide this by 12 (volts). For example, if you have two 28 Watt panels (total=56Watts), the maximum current is (=56W/12V) 4.7 Amps. In this case our cheaper 8 Amp regulator is more than sufficient.

Which INVERTER to buy? An inverter is used to step-up the output of your battery from 12V to mains 240V AC. This is only necessary if you are using your system to power mains domestic appliances such as televisions etc. If you are powering 12V appliances, such as those found on boats or in caravans, or 12V lights, then an inverter is not required. Different inverter models are available, depending on the power consumed by the appliance. Please note that inverters consume power themselves which will lower the overall performance of your system.

Fitting your solar panel When permanent fitting is required it is important to leave a minimum 10mm air gap underneath the panel to allow for heat dissipation. Solar Fitting Kits ensure the correct air gap is achieved. Fitting Kits are simple to use and full instructions are provided. Temporary / Freestanding suggestions: Prop the Solar panel, tilted toward the sun. To achieve day long power, the panel needs to be positioned south facing. Fabricating a prop from timber, UPVC or aluminium is a relatively simple process and attachment to the frame of the Solar panel is possible by using self tapping screws or bolt fastenings. Attach the Solar panel to the roof of a caravan, motorhome or boat with self-adhesive Velcro strips (loop nylon side to panel, ‘hook’ side to roof). The Solar panel will receive light throughout the day and benefits from the added security of being out of sight. (USE ONLY WHEN STATIONARY). As an alternative, fix rubber bungs (found in all DIY stores) to the underside of the panel frame – a simple anti-slip/scratch solution.

Do I need to pay for an electrician? Broadly speaking the answer is NO. Part P of the building Regulations introduced in the UK in January 2005 require any outdoor electrical work to be completed by a qualified electrician but our kits can be installed easily by the DIYer without the need to comply with these regulations or expensive excavations.

Uses include:

Outdoor Lighting






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