Going solar is a great idea, and if you’re shopping around for quotes you’re going to hear a lot of new terms, and it might feel intimidating to understand them in order to understand what you’re investing in. But Hi Power Solar is here to help with this list of common solar terms!
Common Solar Terms
Solar System: A complete system, made up of the various components required to generate, convert, and supply a home with usable electricity.
Solar: Using the sun to generate energy. There’s 2 major types: Photovoltaic & Thermal.
Photovoltaic Solar: Turning sunlight into electricity, PV (for short) is used to power homes.
Thermal Solar: Turning light into heat. Typically applied to water for water heaters or pools.
Module: An individual solar panel, either type can be referred to as a module or a panel.
Array: A group of solar panels. Homes can have multiple Arrays if more than one area of the roof is to have modules placed on it.
Mount: The sealed bracket that penetrates the roof & is secured to the rafters of a home.
Racking: The metal racks that panels and micro inverters (see below) are fastened to. These are connected to the mount
Conduit: The plastic PVC-like tubing which houses & protects the wires from weather exposure as they run from the roof into the home.
DC Power: Direct Current, a type of electricity. PV panels generate DC
AC Power: Alternating Current, the other type of electricity. The power in your outlets has AC.
Inverter: An electrical component which turns DC from the panels on your roof into AC which powers your home.
Central Inverter: A type of inverter that all panels feed into, and the traditional way to wire a solar system.
Micro Inverter: A newer type of inverter that turns DC into AC on a per panel basis. Every panel has it’s own micro inverter in this type of system.
System Size: The total output of your panels in DC Power.
Sun Hours: The duration of peak sun hours your home experiences. Sun Hours vary by your home’s location.
Shading: The amount of shade your roof experiences. Typically caused by trees & taller buildings nearby.
Common Solar Terms: Around the Home
Circuit: A group of outlets. For example a bathroom, living room, or kitchen are all usually on their own circuits.
Circuit Breaker Box: The box that houses fuses that protects hour home’s circuits from pulling too much power and becoming a fire hazard. This is the thing you have to flip back on if only part of your home doesn’t have power. These are usually located inside a home.
Load Panel: The box that houses the main breakers for your house circuits and supplies power to the Circuit Breaker Box. These usually support 100, 125, or 200 Amp service.
Electric Meter: The box on the side of your house that monitors your power consumption. They send power to your Load Panel to power your home. These are located outside the home and is the “property line” between you and the utility.
Overhead Connection: If the wires from the power line that run to your electric meter are visible and strung through the air you have an Overhead Connection.
Underground Connection: If the wires from the power line that run to your electric meter run underground you have an Underground Connection.
Revamp: An electrical service upgrade to your electric meter. PV solar systems require additional breakers to be installed & if your box doesn’t have any extra slots you need to revamp your meter.
Upgrade: The amount of power going to your house from the power lines. Older homes typically have 100 or 125 Amp Service (Amps are explained next). Newer builds usually come with 200 Amp service, letting you run more or more powerful electronics at the same time. Upgrades are more expensive with an Underground Connection since a trench must be dug to support stronger wire to carry this increased electrical service.
Common Solar Terms: Electricity
Volts: Volts are electrical pressure. Think about volts like the width of the pipe.
Amps: Amps are the actual electricity, and Amps are like the water running through the pipe. This determines how much power you can use at a time.
Watts: Watts is a measurement of usable power. Volts x Amps = Watts.
Kilowatt: A Kilowatt is 1000 watts.
Kilowatt Hour: A Kilowatt Hour (kWh) is using 1000 watts for 1 hour. Microwaves usually come in 800 or 1,200 watt sizes, so that would be 0.8 or 1.2 kWh if you were to run it for an hour. This is the unit in which you are billed by the utility.
Solar Warranty Terms
Production Warranty: Also known as a Workmanship Warranty, this will guarantee how well a product is made & guarantees it not falling apart. Depending on the component and manufacturer they can vary from 5 – 25 years.
Performance Warranty: This warranty will guarantee how well a product will perform for a certain length of time. It will do the job the manufacturer will say it will do. These also vary from 5 – 25 years.
Labor Warranty: This warranty will cover the installation labor cost should you have a component failure that is covered by the Production or Performance warranty.
Mahalo for reading our Common Solar Terms Blog Post! If you’re interested about going solar, email us today for a free energy analysis!