We’re not fond of burying the lede, so…you can use solar energy to power anything in your home! Want to start your own bitcoin mining enterprise? You can do it. Are you a snowman who uses 3 AC systems to cool your home to -4 every summer? You can power them all with solar energy.
That is, if you have a big enough solar array.
With that in mind, let’s hone in on what you should really focus on: the size of solar array you’ll need to power your home. The needs of someone living off-the-grid with a home designed for low power usage will differ from those of a family living in the suburbs with modern amenities. Both of these homes can be entirely powered through solar energy.
What size of solar array do you need?
There are a ton of different methods for calculating power consumption. You’ll want a solar array that meets the needs of your household – that’s why no two solar arrays are exactly the same. Generally, it’s a good idea to overestimate how many solar panels you’ll need. After all, we can only ever calculate average power consumption – by overestimating, you’ll account for spikes in electricity usage.
The easiest way to find out how much power you use is to check your electrical bill. Most utilities will provide a figure for the number of kWh of power you use – this is often per month, per quarter, or per year.
You’ll then divide that number by the number of days in a month/quarter/year to get how many kWh your household uses per day, then divide that number by 24 to get your hourly power usage. You’ll be able to use that figure to determine how powerful your solar array should be.
Before actually purchasing the array for your home, it’s important to note there are a number of hidden electrical hazards that could affect the installation of solar panels. Professional installers will be able to spot those issues, as well as give you a more accurate idea of how big an array you’ll need.
Powering individual appliances
Okay, so now you know that solar energy can be used to run your entire household. You’ll need solar batteries to get it done off-grid, and net metering with your utility is the best way to use solar panels on-grid, but either way, it can be done given the right circumstances.
But you might be wondering what kinds of things you can run on solar energy on an appliance by appliance basis. You don’t need to know much about how air conditioners work to realize that they’re power hogs. The same rule applies to water heaters. Can you power these devices with solar energy?
The answer is a resounding yes. Solar panels can be used to power individual appliances in much the same way that they’re used to power a whole home. The reason they’re often used in whole home setups is a matter of economies of scale – it’s much more cost-effective to purchase batteries, inverters, and multiple panels for a whole home than for a single appliance.
There are other applications for solar energy, too. Solar lighting is small enough that you can purchase landscaping and security lights for very little money. And solar water heating doesn’t even use solar panels – it uses thermal energy from the sun to keep your water warm.
If you can dream it, the sun can power it
Solar panels produce electricity. That electricity, provided it’s fed through an inverter, can be used to power any residential appliances. And there are plenty of homebrew applications for solar panels for the tinkerers among you. Have questions about what you can power with solar panels? Don’t hesitate to contact us, or read through our blogs. Solar is the future – and the future is now.