Solar Nerd articles about: DIY

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A photo of a garage
Can you install solar panels on a detached garage or shed?
The average size of a home solar installation in the United States is around 6 kilowatts, which is about 17 high efficiency premium solar panels, or more if you go with a cheaper panel. That many solar panels takes up a lot of space, and you would need a large available roof area to accommodate them. But sometimes, your roof might not be ideal for solar. It might be oriented east-west (which generates less power than a north-south orientation) or, more commonly, you might have shading from nearby trees or buildings.
PWM vs MPPT: solar charge controllers compared (plus recommended models)
If you have a battery bank in your RV, boat, or other off-grid setting that you want to charge with solar panels, you need a charge controller. In a system where solar panels charge a bank of batteries - whether lead-acid or lithium-ion - a charge controller sits between them and regulates the flow of electricity into the batteries. While grid-connected solar panel systems also use charge controllers, this article will focus on smaller scale applications, such as 12 volt systems for RVs, boats, and cabins.
Photo of workers installing solar panels on a home rooftop.
Can a homeowner install their own solar system?
If you’re interested in home solar, handy with tools, and have experience doing electrical work, maybe you’ve considered doing your own home solar installation. It’s possible to install your own home solar array. This is especially true if it’s an off-grid system that uses batteries and doesn’t interconnect with the electric grid. Without a grid interconnection, a home solar array is a much more simple DIY project because it’s less technical and doesn’t require the same paperwork and permits.
Example of an RV with solar panels installed on the roof.
Beginner’s guide: How to power an RV or boat with solar panels
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could power your recreational vehicle entirely with solar power? Turns out you can! A group in the Netherlands have built exactly that: the Stella Vita is a fully electric camper vehicle with slide-out solar panels. It has a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery and a body constructed of aluminum and fiberglass. With good sun, it can fully recharge itself within 2 or 3 days. It seats two and weighs only 3,700 lbs.