SolarDesignTools provides free interactive online design tools for Electric Solar Power energy systems. This includes determining the required number of solar panels, how many batteries will be needed, calculating wire sizes, a solar radiation chart, example system pictorials, and more.
Try this example of an interactive electric Solar Power Simulator to see how Solar Energy systems work.

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Inverters & Generators

Power Inverters
A Power Inverter changes the lower DC voltage from the batteries to higher AC voltage. This is necessary to run modern appliances and electrical devices. If you buy a quality Power Inverter, you will be able to run all your electrical equipment just like you would if using normal utility company power.
There are 3 basic types. The first type is a Square Wave Inverter, usually designed to plug into a car's 12 Volt cigarette lighter outlet. These are quite inexpensive to buy but are very poor quality. Forget them. The next step up is a Modified Sine Wave Inverter and this type is satisfactory for most applications, including computers. However, if you want really clean power, buy a true Sine Wave Inverter. This is what hospitals use for example for their back-up power. A high quality Sine Wave Inverter often has a cleaner power footprint than your local utility company. It's the way to go.
Another type of Power Inverter is known as a Grid Tie Inverter. These are high quality inverters and are typically used without batteries and therefore do require having normal grid power from the utility company. With this type of Power Inverter, you just install a number of Solar Panels to offset your energy use from the existing electrical grid. The Charge Controller is usually built in and when you need more power than your Solar Panels can supply, the grid tie inverter automatically uses the utility company's electricity. When your Solar Panels produce a surplus, you will be using your own power and can actually run the electric meter backwards thereby reducing your electric bill. This is becoming a popular solar energy system setup since expensive batteries are not required. The only real downside is that if the utility company power fails you will have no power since you have no backup batteries.
AC Generators
If you are off the electrical grid, you will probably have a backup generator. Since most quality inverters have a built in battery charger, when you run the generator the inverter switches you to AC power and begins charging your batteries. For most installations, there will be times when there is not enough sun and your batteries need charging. This make a good generator a necessity. The newer Inverter type generators are the best way to go. For home use, Honda and Yamaha make excellent, efficient, and very quiet running models. Their clean power makes the built in battery charger in your Power Inverter run much cooler.
An AC Generator is also a good idea for running your large loads (like washing machine, vacuum, etc) that would normally put a real drain on your batteries. For a small to medium sized Solar Power Energy System, a 3000 or 4000 watt generator would be a pretty good size. The price range for a Honda 3000 or Yamaha 3000 inverter type is around $2000. You can spend much more on Auto-Start capability, diesel fueled, or propane fueled generators but I believe only really large systems would make these generators economical.

Home / Overview Starting Guide System Sizing Tool Battery Designer Wire Size Calculator Tips & Strategies Terms & Definitions
Solar Panels Charge Controllers Storage Batteries Inverters/Generators Meters & Monitoring Solar Radiation Wiring Diagrams

DISCLAIMER : The information and suggestions on this website are generally proven and accepted standards and techniques. They are, however, not meant to supersede local zoning laws or the recommendations of a licensed electrician. Always read the instructions provided with your equipment and observe all safety precautions.