Residential Solar Guide for Homesteaders

Embracing residential solar energy is a significant step towards creating a sustainable and self-sufficient homestead. By harnessing the power of the sun, you can reduce your environmental impact, lower your energy costs, and gain independence from the traditional power grid. So, grab your shades and let the sunshine on your DIY homesteading journey!

Man laying residential solar panels on a roof
Photo by William Mead

The Basics of Residential Solar Energy

Before diving into the world of residential solar panels and inverters, let’s start with the basics. Solar energy is the conversion of sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP). PV panels, made up of silicone semiconductor materials, create an electric current when exposed to sunlight. This current is then converted into usable electricity for your homestead.

Benefits of solar

Transitioning to solar energy offers numerous benefits. First and foremost, it is a renewable and clean energy source. Unlike fossil fuels, sunlight is abundant and does not produce harmful emissions that contribute to climate change. By relying on solar power, you can reduce your carbon footprint and help create a greener future for generations to come.

Maybe more interesting to the homesteader is the ability to go “off-grid.” Off-grid means that you don’t rely on the power grid to supply you with electricity. You create your own. In the long run, you can save money by producing your own power, but maybe the biggest benefit is that you don’t need to worry about power outages when the grid goes down. 

Types of solar panels

There are three main types of solar panels to choose from when you’re on your solar shopping adventure:

Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel Bundle Kit

Solar kit found on Amazon
  1. Monocrystalline Solar Panels: Monocrystalline panels are made from a single crystal structure, usually silicon. They have a uniform black appearance and are considered to be the most efficient type of solar panels, offering high power output per square foot. Monocrystalline panels are made by cutting cylindrical ingots into thin wafers, resulting in a higher cost of production compared to other types (so they are a tad pricier). They also perform better in low-light conditions and have a longer lifespan. Due to their higher efficiency, monocrystalline panels are often used in applications where space is limited, like on smaller homes.
  2. Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Polycrystalline panels are made from multiple silicon crystals, giving them a distinctive blue color. The manufacturing process involves pouring molten silicon into a square-shaped mold and then cooling it, resulting in a less uniform crystal structure. Polycrystalline panels are generally less expensive than monocrystalline panels but have a slightly lower efficiency. They perform slightly worse in high temperatures and low-light conditions but are still widely used due to their affordability.
  3. Thin-Film Solar Panels: Thin-film panels use a different technology than crystalline panels. They are constructed by depositing multiple thin layers of photovoltaic materials, such as amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, or copper indium gallium selenide, onto a substrate like glass, metal, or plastic. Thin-film panels are lightweight, flexible, and have a lower manufacturing cost. However, they generally have lower efficiency than crystalline panels. Thin-film panels are often used in large-scale solar projects and applications where weight and flexibility are important, such as solar-powered gadgets like automatic fence openers and chicken coop lights.

It’s worth noting that the efficiency and performance of solar panels can vary depending on factors such as sunlight conditions, temperature, shading, and the quality of the manufacturing process. So, it’s important to consider these factors, along with the specific requirements of the installation, when choosing the appropriate type of solar panels.

Getting Started with Solar Panels

Now that you understand the basics, it’s time to explore the world of residential solar panels. The first step is to assess your energy needs. Calculate the amount of electricity your homestead requires on a daily basis. This will help determine the size and number of solar panels you need to install.

Next, consider the location and orientation of your panels. Ideally, they should be placed in a spot that receives maximum sunlight throughout the day, such as the roof of your house or a dedicated solar panel array. You’ll need to angle the panels towards the sun to optimize their efficiency.

We have a guide that will walk you through all of this: How to Setup Your Own Solar Panel System for the Homestead.

Going Off the Grid with Solar Power

Weize 12V 200W Solar Panel Kit with 100Ah Battery

Weize 12V 200W Solar Panel Kit with 100Ah Battery

One of the greatest advantages of solar energy is the ability to go off the grid. By installing a battery storage system, you can store excess solar power generated during the day and use it when the sun goes down or during cloudy days. This allows you to maintain a constant power supply, even when the grid is down. So, when you’re planning, make sure to make room in your budget for solar batteries.