Basic Components of a Solar Energy Electrical System – Part 1

In this post I’d like to cover the basic components that make up a solar energy system.  In this system there are four basic components:

1.  Solar Panel

2.  Charge Controller

3.  Battery

4.  Inverter

The solar panel is what actually converts sunlight to electricity.  As soon as sunlight hits the panel it will start generating electricity.  There are roughly a million solar panels out there to choose from, ranging from small USB device chargers to the large panels that are installed on your roof.  I won’t go into much detail in today’s post other than to say you must figure out what your electrical needs are going to be and buy accordingly.  (Figuring your electrical needs is a post in and of itself.)

HQRP 20W Mono-crystalline Solar Panel 20 Watt 12 Volt in Anodized Aluminum Frame Square shape plus HQRP Coaster (See all Electrical)This solar panel is the one that I use at home for my small system.

Next is the charge controller.  This device is connected to the solar panel via cable and regulates how much electricity is passed to the battery.  Let’s say that you have a 12 volt system, typically you’ll need to have 15 volts or a little higher to charge the battery.  Most of these devices will stop the flow of electricity once the battery is full.

The battery is the device that stores the electricity for later use.  You can have more than one battery hooked up in order to provide more electricity (most battery banks are set up with more than one battery.)  These are deep cycle batteries and are designed to be charged and discharged again and again without damaging the battery.  Some resemble a car battery; however, car batteries are designed for cranking an engine over and don’t make good storage batteries for a solar battery bank.  A better choice would be a marine battery for a trolling motor or a golf cart battery.  These are designed for charging and discharging.

The inverter takes your 12 volt DC and turns it into 120 volt AC, so that you can use it with most household appliances.  Again, there are different types of inverters out there and you need to determine your needs before going out to buy something.

In the next post in this series I’ll show what I use for a solar energy setup that I want to use this summer for my popup camper.  Some people use small gas generators, but I thought a small solar generator used instead would be a lot quieter and more environmentally friendly.  And if the power goes out at home I can power a laptop and a couple of lights for many hours or my freezer for several hours.



Here’s a Sunforce 50048 60-Watt Solar Charging Kitcomplete system on Amazon if you’re interested in buying something without going through all the trouble of looking for components that will play nice set up

It got decent reviews and to be honest it’s got more to it now than my little set up does and it costs less!  It got pretty good reviews, but before you decide to jump on this don’t forget to do your own research first!

There are systems that you can tie into your home electric system, but you’ll want to get an electrician who knows the codes in your state to set it up.  This system doesn’t come with batteries, so you’d have to purchase those extra.

I’m not trying to sell stuff here – I just want you to be aware that semi-complete systems are available out there if you are looking to buy.

This is a big topic with a limited amount of space, so what I have presented here is a brief synopsis of all the various types of equipment out there.  In the next month or two I’ll be writing more about the components listed above.

-Jarhead Survivor


If you have questions about solar energy please feel free to ask.  If you have advice, ideas, or experience with solar energy or would like to discuss different types of energy leave a comment below.