What are the main components of a solar installation?

The UK has seen a significant growth in domestic solar installations over the past decade as more homeowners recognise the benefits of renewable energy.

Solar power can help reduce your home’s carbon footprint while providing an opportunity to lower your energy bills.

If you’re considering a solar installation for your home, it’s essential to understand the main components that make up the system. This article will guide you through the key elements of a solar installation, explaining their functions and how they work together to harness the sun’s power. By the end, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions when planning your solar installation.

Solar panels

Solar panels are the most visible and recognisable component of a solar installation. These flat, rectangular panels are typically mounted on your roof and are responsible for capturing the sun’s energy. Solar panels consist of numerous photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are the essential elements that convert sunlight into electricity. PV cells are made from layers of semi-conductive materials, usually silicon. When sunlight hits these cells, it creates an electrical field across the layers, causing electricity to flow. The solar panel collects and combines the energy produced by all the PV cells. The process results in a significant amount of direct current (DC) electricity, which is then sent to the inverter for conversion to alternating current (AC) electricity.

Inverter

The inverter is a crucial component of your solar installation, responsible for converting the DC electricity your solar panels generate into AC electricity, the type of electricity most household appliances use. The process ensures the electricity generated by your solar panels is compatible with your home’s electrical system. In addition to converting DC to AC, inverters also optimise the power output of your solar panels. They constantly monitor the electrical current and voltage, making adjustments to ensure that your panels are operating at their maximum efficiency. There are three main types of inverters used in residential solar installations:

  • String inverters: The most common and cost-effective option, where all the solar panels are connected to a single inverter. However, if one panel underperforms, it can affect the entire system’s output.
  • Microinverters: These inverters are installed on each individual solar panel, allowing them to operate independently. It means that if one panel underperforms, it doesn’t affect the others. Microinverters are more expensive than string inverters but offer better overall performance.
  • Power optimisers: A hybrid option, power optimisers are installed on each panel like microinverters but still rely on a central string inverter. They provide a balance between the cost-effectiveness of string inverters and the performance benefits of microinverters.

Battery

While not essential, a solar battery can be a valuable addition to your installation. Its primary purpose is to store excess energy generated by your solar panels during the day, allowing you to use that energy at night or during periods of low sunlight. When your solar panels produce more electricity than your home needs, the excess energy is sent to the battery for storage. With a battery, you can store and use your own generated electricity, reducing your reliance on the grid. In the event of a power outage, a battery can provide backup power to keep your essential appliances running.

Isolators

Isolators are switches designed to disconnect the individual electrical components in your solar installation. They’re crucial for ensuring your system’s safety and allowing for easy maintenance and repairs. Isolators enable you to shut off the electrical current in specific parts of your solar installation, preventing electric shocks and fire hazards during maintenance or emergencies.

Cabling

Cabling is responsible for transporting the electrical current your solar panels generate to the inverter, battery and your home’s electrical system. Proper cabling is essential for the efficient operation of your solar installation. Correctly sized and installed cables are crucial for minimising power losses and ensuring safety. Undersized cables can overheat and pose a fire risk, while oversized cables can be unnecessarily expensive. A qualified solar installer will ensure the appropriate cables are used and installed correctly.

Consumer unit

A consumer unit – also known as a fuse box or distribution board – is the central point where the electricity from your solar installation is distributed throughout your home. It takes the AC electricity from your inverter and sends it to the various circuits in your home, powering your appliances and lights. The consumer unit also integrates the electricity generated by your solar panels with the electricity from the grid, ensuring a safe, stable and reliable power supply.

AC isolator

An AC isolator is a switch that disconnects the inverter from the grid, allowing for safe maintenance and repairs. It prevents electricity from flowing between the two during maintenance or emergencies. Isolating from the grid allows technicians to safely work on the inverter or other system components without the risk of electrical shock.

How can Electrical Innovations help?

A solar installation comprises several key components, each playing a crucial role in harnessing the sun’s power and converting it into usable electricity for your home. As a homeowner considering solar energy, it’s essential to grasp the importance of these components and how they work together to provide clean, renewable energy.

When planning your solar installation, it’s highly recommended to consult with a professional solar installer who can assess your specific needs and provide personalised guidance. That’s where our friendly team of solar experts come in. We can help you select the right components for your home, ensure proper installation and guide you through the process of connecting your solar installation to the grid.

Investing in a solar installation is a significant step towards a more sustainable and energy-independent future. Give us a call to learn how our domestic solar solutions can help you embrace solar power and enjoy the benefits of clean, renewable energy for years to come.