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Solar Power Buyer's Guide

Renewable energy is no longer just a pipedream. Using radiant energy from the sun to create solar power is the savvy consumer's practical, cost-effective, eco-friendly solution to an ever-increasing demand for energy and an ever-shrinking supply of expensive, environmentally toxic fuels like petroleum or diesel. Turn to the Northern Tool Solar Energy Buyers Guide for illuminating information on how to use this viable technology to generate electricity, heat water, power lights, charge batteries, decrease utility costs and reduce your carbon footprint.

The Basics: How Does Solar Energy Work?

Every minute of every day, enough of the suns energy reaches the earth to meet the world's energy demand for an entire year. Using photovoltaic technology through solar panels, solar energy is created by converting the heat and light that comes from the sun into electrical energy.

Each solar panel is made up of many solar cells containing both a positive and a negative layer. Much like a battery, these layers generate an electric field. As the suns energy is absorbed by the cells, electrons are created and then travel toward the bottom of the panel and exit through a connecting wire. This flow of electrons produces electricity, which can be used in the same way as electricity generated by other non-renewable energy sources.

The Benefits of Solar Energy

If you're looking for more affordable, eco-friendly energy alternatives, you can't beat the benefits of solar energy:

  1. Economical Now more than ever, consumers are feeling the pinch when it comes to the cost of energy for heating their homes, powering their vehicles and generating electricity. But, by investing in the right equipment, many are seeing that solar energy is by far one of the most economical, reasonably-priced energy solutions available. Low equipment maintenance over the long run makes it an especially good buy.
  2. Renewable Because the supply of the suns light is free, unrestricted and renewable, solar energy users are never affected by shortages (other than nightfall), skyrocketing prices, or production limitations. What's more, technological advancements enable solar equipment to consistently operate even on cloudy days.
  3. Environmentally friendly One of the most eco-friendly energy alternatives, solar energy production does not directly emit fumes, create greenhouse gases, carbon emissions, or yield noise pollution.
  4. Convenient Power Source Whether it's used for back up to a permanent energy source or to provide power in remote areas, solar power offers all the convenience and dependability of standard energy resources, without the financial or environmental costs.
Solar Power

How Do I Generate My Own Solar Power?

Harnessing the suns energy for your own use begins with putting together the right components for your needs. If you're ready to go solar consider starting with a few basic solar power components. You'll want to add to your system as your needs grow and as you experience the benefits of solar energy.

  • Solar Panels Your source for electricity and to charge batteries to power your car, truck, motorcycle, ATV, boat, personal watercraft, RV, home or appliances. Sold individually or in solar power kits, begin by determining the number of panels you'll need based on your intended use.
  • Charge Controller If the sunlight is too bright for too long, the voltage produced by the solar panels has the potential to damage the batteries. As such, a charge controller is required to regulate the charge, thus preventing overcharging and ultimately increasing battery life and performance.
  • Power Inverter The power inverter serves a dual purpose, either converting the low voltage DC to the 120 volts AC needed to run appliances, or charging your batteries if connected to a utility grid or an AC Generator. Unless you plan on using battery power exclusively, you'll need a power inverter.
  • Batteries Your batteries store the solar energy for a consistent power supply over time, even when the sun isn't shining. Deep-cycle or marine batteries are recommended as they are designed to be charged and discharged repeatedly.

Many appliances are now available as solar-operated products. These solar products allow you the benefit of use when there isn't a conventional power supply handy or available, (i.e. camping, power outages, etc.) but also work to save you money by utilizing the suns light as their main source of energy. A few solar-operated product examples include:

  • Solar Air Collectors These solar powered devices work like space heaters and can be used as a supplemental heating system when the sun is shining.
  • Solar Powered Lights Gathering and storing the suns energy during daylight hours, some solar powered lights turn on automatically after dark and work well for added security and safety illumination outdoors.
  • Solar Auto Air Purifier Works to absorb harmful gas, smoke and other particulates while efficiently operating on solar power.

Solar Power Installation Tips

Whether you're a weekend warrior or a full-time contractor, you can always use helpful tips when installing a solar equipment energy system.

  • For maximum effectiveness, always place solar panels where they will be in direct sunlight for a minimum of six hours a day.
  • If placing on a rooftop, keep the pitch of your roof in mind when installing solar panels. Angling the panels to maximize exposure to the sun will also maximize the energy collected by the solar panels.
  • Consider installing solar panels at the same time your home is being roofed. This will make finding rafters and making repairs easier if you do both jobs simultaneously.
  • Even if you feel confident about installing your solar power system, consider bringing in an expert to assist you. Experienced professionals can help you maximize the effectiveness of your solar energy system.
  • Investigate government incentive and rebate packages available. These can range from product rebates to energy refunds to low interest loans. For more information, consult the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (

How Many Solar Energy Panels and Storage Batteries Will I Need?

The following chart illustrates the wattage requirements to operate some standard appliances and devices using solar powered energy.

Appliance/Device Watts Required Watt Hours
Refrigerator | 10 cubic ft, used by 2 people daily 120 960
Television | 32-36 in. screen, operating 4 hours daily 160 640
Microwave Oven | 1000 watts, operating 30 minutes daily 1,000 500
Lighting | Four 100 watt bulbs, operating 4 hours daily 400 1,600
Computer | Desktop computer, operating 3 hours daily 140 420
Miscellaneous | 400 watt device, operating 1 hour daily 400 400
Total Daily Watt Hours Required 4,520

Still need help?
Email our product experts, or Call 1-800-221-0516 our 24-hour sales line.