Solar power is an excellent option for Australians looking to either get off the grid or reduce their carbon footprint. The process has never been more straightforward, thanks to solar panel starter kits. But, of course, saying this is one thing, but installing solar panel kits seems like something else altogether.
But solar starter kits are easy to install, making it a snap to start generating solar energy. So there’s no reason to let anxiety about getting the installation right keep you from getting started in adding solar power to your home. While a fully installed solar system should help you meet all your energy needs, a solar starter kit’s primary purpose is to charge a solar battery, which you can use to supplement your power usage.
In this post, we’ll look at everything that goes into a solar panel starter kit. From the various components to how everything hooks together, you’ll have a better understanding of all the solar starter kits out there that are available to you. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can make solar power a part of your life, we’ll show you how easy it is to do it.
What Is a Solar Panel Starter Kit—and Who Is It For?
As you might have guessed, a solar panel starter kit is just what it sounds like—a set of components that will give you everything you need to install a solar system in your home. Solar panel starter kits are supposed to be easy to install, bringing DIY solar within reach of just about anyone.
Solar starter kits are a versatile way for homeowners to get into solar power without investing thousands of dollars on a massive installation. While some homeowners may want to dive in with both feet, others may be looking for ways to replace a portion of their high-carbon energy usage with clean energy or to save some money on their monthly utility bills. A solar panel starter kit is a great way to balance energy independence with installation costs and energy use requirements.
What Are the Differences Between the Solar Starter Kits?
You can find solar panel starter kits in several configurations, from lower-power versions that supply 50 to 100 watts to 800-watt models. Each solar panel starter kit comes with a different number of solar panels, and some models require more powerful components to handle the increased power load.
For homeowners, the most critical factor in determining which solar starter kit is right for you is your power usage. When trying to figure out how much power you’ll need to generate, you’ll need to know what electronics you plan on running, how much power those electronics require, and how long you’ll need to supply that amount of energy. Then, simply enter that information into a solar panel calculator, and you’ll have a good idea of what solar panel starter kit you need.
What’s Included in Renogy’s Solar Panel Starter Kit?
Every solar panel starter kit includes the same essential components, which we will describe shortly. However, depending on the power you need for your home, there may be some slight variations in which parts are included in your solar panel starter kit. Whatever the case, your solar starter kit will contain almost everything you need to install your new home solar system.
The most familiar part of any solar installation is, of course, the solar panels. These panels contain several photovoltaic cells, which transform sunlight into electricity. All Renogy solar panel starter kits come with 100w solar panels, which can be wired in series to add to the overall amount of energy your solar system will produce.
The panels in a solar starter kit are intended to charge a battery bank, which then provides power for your electronics. However, you can’t simply attach your solar panels directly to your battery.
Not only would you have no control over how much power flowed into your battery at any given time, but you also wouldn’t be able to stop electricity from flowing to your battery once it was fully charged.
Instead, we add something called a charge controller to the process. Charge controllers are best thought of as battery charge regulators. At the most basic level, these components are a kind of on/off switch for the power flowing from your panel, making sure your battery receives enough current to charge it sufficiently, then cutting off that flow once it’s at capacity.
Renogy’s solar panel starter kits come with one of two different types of controllers. Pulse width modulation (or PWM) charge controllers are the more basic of the two models, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. PWM controllers draw power from your solar panels at a level slightly above the voltage of the battery. That gives you a solid, steady supply of power to your battery.
Maximum power point tracker, or MPPT, charge controllers, on the other hand, are sometimes referred to as “smart” controllers. That is because MPPT controllers adjust how much power flows through the system to your battery, adjusting based on external factors that affect how much energy your panels are producing.
Temperature, angle, and the sun’s strength all change throughout the day, and these can affect the efficiency of your power generation. With an MPPT controller, you’ll maintain a more consistent power flow, which can charge your batteries much faster, sometimes by as much as 25%.
To connect your solar panels to your battery, you’ll need to run the current through your charge controller. The tray cables are how you connect your battery bank to your controller. Once power travels from your panels to the controller, it then passes along the tray cables, where it can charge your batteries.
Each solar start kit contains one set of eight-inch tray cables. When you install your kit, you simply connect the tray cables to your charge converter and then attach the other ends to the battery’s leads one at a time. Once you’ve successfully secured the tray cables, your charge controller will turn on, letting you know that it’s receiving power.
The adaptor kit included in your solar panel starter kit allows you to connect your panels to your charge controller. Each kit comes with a set of two adaptor cables. These cables plug into your panels, then into your charge controller, which will register that the panels are correctly installed.
Because most solar panel starter kits require more than one solar panel, you’ll also need to decide whether to connect these panels in parallel or series. Whichever option you choose, you’ll need the included branch connectors to attach your panels to the charge connectors.
Finally, to securely mount your solar panels, you’ll need the mounting Z-brackets included in every solar panel starter kit. These brackets attach first to each panel, with one bracket mounted to each of the longer edges. You can then use screws to attach these brackets to your mounting surface. This secure mounting system leaves space between the panel and the mounting surface, allowing cabling to run.
What Other Types of Solar Panel Kits Are There?
Of course, you can find more than just solar panel starter kits out there. There are kits for a wide range of different applications, including:
RV kits are intended to charge batteries on your caravan or converted van. These kits have longer cable lengths and cable entry housing that provides a waterproof seal at the point your cables enter your caravan. You can also use either the mounting Z-bracket or corner brackets, which require an adhesive rather than screws to attach them to your vehicle.
For those looking to make a more significant investment, premium kits include the highest-grade materials available. High-efficiency solar panels, MPPT charge controllers, and fusing components help protect your controller and your battery from damage.
Also known as cabin kits, home kits provide you everything you need to move off the electric grid, whether you’re powering a small shed or an entire home. These kits tend to produce much more power than solar starter kits and come with circuit breakers.
When it comes to marine solar technology, you need materials that are both lightweight and waterproof. Renogy’s marine kits, for instance, come with flexible panels designed to take up as little space and weight as possible. They also include the Voyager, a waterproof PWM charge controller.
Do I Need Anything Else to Get Started?
While a solar panel starter kit contains everything you require to generate and transport power, you’ll need additional components to store and use the electricity you capture. That requires two other components:
To get the most out of your solar power starter kit, you’ll need a battery to store energy. First, however, you need to make sure you choose the right battery for the job. Unlike the starter battery in your car, which gives short bursts of electricity, you need a deep cycle battery, which provides a lower, extended supply of power.
Today, lithium-ion batteries are the best option available. While you can still find other types of deep cycle batteries, including lead-acid, lithium-ion batteries provide a number of benefits, such as the following:
- Safer than other options
- Up to 50% lighter
- More efficient temperature tolerance
- Longer life than older battery technologies
- Faster charging
When you purchase a battery for your solar installation, make sure you choose a deep cycle battery. If possible, invest in a lithium-ion model since older technologies are unlikely to stick around much longer.
In order to make use of the power you have stored in your batteries, you’ll need a power inverter. That is because the energy stored in your battery comes out in direct current (or DC). However, most electronics, including appliances and lighting, use alternating current, or AC, meaning you need to change the DC into AC in order to be able to use that power.
An inverter transforms DC into AC and vice versa. So when you power an appliance, the inverter supplies it with AC electricity. This device not only ensures your electronics work correctly, but it also prevents the current from damaging your electronics by providing them with the wrong power format.
You can also use inverters to charge your batteries through an external power supply, also commonly known as shore power. Suppose you’re powering a caravan, for instance. In that case, you can plug your vehicle into a standard AC outlet, and the inverter will transform that energy into DC, which then charges your batteries.
Make Your Solar System Your Own
Incorporating solar power into your life doesn’t have to be a big, expensive undertaking. With a solar power starter kit, you can quickly and easily install solar panels in your home, which will immediately go a long way to cutting your reliance on non-green energy sources. Even better, with a solar system in your home, you can cut the amount of money you spend on your monthly utility bills, meaning your system will eventually pay for itself.
For many homeowners, a solar starter kit is only a first step towards a greener energy future. Many people find that once they install solar panels on their home, they wish they had started the process earlier. A solar panel starter kit is just that—a start.
You can continue adding capacity to your home by incorporating more panels into your system. As you continue to expand your system, you can replace components as it becomes necessary, such as when the power you generate exceeds what your charge controller is rated to handle.
Because each piece is separate, you won’t need to replace the entire system. Instead, you can continue to upgrade and adjust your solar installation as you see fit, adapting to meet your power needs. You may even be able to go off the grid entirely.