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Off-Grid Basics

Off-Grid Solar diagram
An off-grid system is one that is not connected to BC Hydro supplied power at all. You have an entirely independent power supply. Your power only goes out if you turn it off or you have a
problem with your system. 

There are 5 main components to be aware of when you start to think solar and talk system design.
6 if you include a backup generator. 

These components are the solar panels, batteries, charge controller, inverters, and battery monitor. 

The solar panels convert solar energy into DC electricity.
How do they do this? Most solar panels are made of a semi-conductor material that is sandwiched between two layers of glass and cased with metal. When photons from sunlight hit the semi-conductor, it releases electrons, creating an electrical charge. Basically. 

This electricity from the solar panels then passes through a charge controller and charges the battery bank. The charge controller makes sure that the electricity charges the batteries at the right levels (amps and volts) to keep them healthy. 

The batteries are your fuel tank, they store potential power. How much power they can store is measured in what we call Amp-hours. The three main types of batteries used are flooded lead-acid, AGM (absorbed glass mat), which is a sealed lead-acid battery, and lithium. Each have pros and cons and applications that they are best suited for. 

When there is a demand for power, the stored electricity passes through an inverter, where it is changed from DC power to AC power, which is what we use for the vast majority of household appliances, shop tools, you name it. 

A good solar power system has a battery monitor, which monitors what is coming into and going
out of the battery. The fuel gauge if you like. This gives you an accurate picture of the level the batteries are at so they can be charged and maintained properly. 

There you have it, the down-low on the basics of an off-grid solar power system. 
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