Generate Electricity: If you want to start going green, generating your own electricity through renewable sources can have a huge impact. If you live in an area that gets a lot of sun, you may be able to install solar panels to generate power. If you live in an area that’s pretty windy, a small scale wind turbine can work well too. Just be sure to check with local regulations to make sure you’re allowed to install either system!
1. Check that your area gets 4 hours of peak sunlight throughout the day.
Peak sunlight hours occur when the sun is the highest in the sky and locations closer to the Equator get more peak sun hours than those further away.
Look online to see how many peak sunlight hours your area has.
Once you determine the peak hours in your area.
Check your property for places that aren’t covered by shade during the day since solar panels can’t generate electricity if they aren’t exposed to sunlight.
- Look for solar power companies near you and schedule a consultation. Solar power companies can look at your home and property to determine how efficient solar panels would be.
- Remember that the sun moves throughout the day so areas that have light change. While one spot may have sunlight in the morning, it may be covered by the shadow of a tree or a different home later on.
2. Choose a type of solar panel that works best for you.
Thin film panels are flexible and the cheapest option, but they are the least efficient at 7-13% and they take up the most space.
- See if there are any financing options for the solar panels so you can pay them off over a set period of time rather than spending a lot up-front.
- You can install single solar panels at a time if you can’t afford to buy multiple panels.
Tip: Sometimes, electric companies offer certain rebates or incentives if you install solar panels. Contact your electric provider and ask them if they offer grants or discounts for solar panel installation.
3. Install the mounting system on your roof or on the ground.
If you plan on installing the solar panels on your roof.
Attach the mounts that come with your panels to the trusses.
Which are the long wooden pieces under your shingles that run toward the roof’s peak.
Space the mounts far enough apart so they line up with the holes along the side of the panels.
If you’re installing a ground-mounted system, mount the provided post with cement before attaching the racks.
- Some ground-mounted systems have a motor included that rotates the solar panels to follow the sun.
- If you don’t have room on your roof for solar panels, see if you can mount the panels on a detached garage or shed instead.
4. Secure the panels to the mounting system.
Have 1-2 helpers assist you with holding the panels against the mounting racks so they’re level.
Screw the mounting nuts into the sides of the panels and tighten them with a wrench so they are secured in place. Keep installing the rest of your panels until you’re finished.
- If you don’t feel comfortable installing the solar panels yourself, many solar power companies will install the panels for you.
5. Attach inverters to the panels to convert the electricity.
Solar panels generate DC power, but inverters convert it to AC power so you can use it in your home.
Make sure you get inverters that match the output rating the solar panels you purchased.
Plug individual inverters into each of your solar panels to get the most efficiency.
Otherwise, your panels won’t work if even one of them is in the shade.
Once the inverters are in place, secure them to the undersides of the panels so they stay safe.
- You can buy inverters from a store that specializes in solar power or online.
- Don’t get inverters that are rated higher than the output of your solar panels or else your efficiency will drop.
6. Connect the solar panels to your electrical system.
Hire an electrician to run the wires from the solar panels into your home to your switchboard to connect the power.
Once the solar panels are installed on your system, your home will use any electricity generated by them during the day.
When your solar panels aren’t exposed to sunlight, your home with pull electricity from your existing power grid.
- Your electric company may need to install another power meter in your home to determine how much electricity your panels are generating.
7. Check the zoning restrictions in your area for the maximum structure height.
Since wind systems are tall, you may not be able to install the system in a residential area depending on your zoning requirements.
Check with local building inspectors or your city’s homeowner’s association to see if you’re eligible for building a turbine.
If zoning isn’t an issue, then you can build a turbine on your property.
- Many zoning ordinances have a height limit of about 35 feet (11 m), and many wind systems need to be 30 feet (9.1 m) higher than the tallest structure within 500 feet (150 m).
8. Opt for a turbine if the average wind speed is 14 mph (23 km/h) or more.
Look online for wind speed maps or airport wind speed data to see what the average wind speed is in your area.
If the average wind speeds are around 14 miles per hour (23 km/h).
Then a turbine might be an efficient way to generate electricity to power your home.
If the wind speed is slower, then you may not get the turbine’s full effectiveness.
- Wind speeds increase the higher above ground you are. Many airports measure their wind speed from about 30 feet (9.1 m) above ground, which is similar to the height of a residential turbine.
- Hire a professional who installs wind turbines to check the efficiency and wind speed of your property for you if you have trouble determining it yourself.
9. Calculate the minimum diameter for the turbine blades to power your home.
Check with your electric company to find out how many kilowatt-hours your home used in the past year. Use the formula AEO = (0.01328)D2V3, where AEO is your annual energy output in kilowatt-hours per year, D is the diameter of the rotor in feet, and V is the annual average wind speed in miles per hour. Solve the formula for D and buy a turbine system with the correct size rotors.
- For example, if you use 11,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and the average annual wind speed is 20 miles per hour, your formula would be 11,000 = (0.01328)D2(15)3. If you solve for D, the diameter you need for your system is about 10 feet (3.0 m).
- Once you know what size turbine you need, purchase one from a reputable supplier. This company may also be able to supply you with other crucial parts (like the tower) and/or complete the installation.
10. Place the turbine on a tower that’s 30 feet (9.1 m) taller than other structures.
Wind systems work the most efficiently when they’re at least 30 feet (9.1 m) higher than any structure within 500 feet (150 m). Purchase a tower that’s the height you need from the same supplier that as your turbine. Secure the bottom of the tower in a concrete foundation so it’s sturdy. Assemble the pieces of the tower and connect the turbine on top.
- Ask the company you bought the turbine from to see if they offer building and installation. Otherwise, if you don’t feel comfortable building your turbine, hire a professional service to do it for you.
Warning: Avoid mounting wind turbines on a roof since they can be noisy and they aren’t as efficient due to wind turbulence.
11. Hire an electrician to connect the turbine to your home’s power system.
Run the wires attached to the motor of the turbine through the tower toward your home’s power supply. Hire a professional electrician to bury the wires in your yard and then connect them to your switchboard. Once it’s connected, the wind will spin the rotors and provide you with electricity.
- Your electric company may also install another power meter to see how much electricity your turbine is generating. If you generate more than you use, you may also get reimbursement for it.
12. More tips
Try a combination of solar and wind power if you want to generate additional electricity to power your home.
If you live near steep rivers or streams, you may be able to get a hydroelectric generator installed in your area. Contact your area’s Environmental Protection Agency to see if hydroelectricity is viable near your home.
Hire professional contractors and electricians if you don’t feel comfortable installing alternate energy systems on your own.
Always check local zoning laws to see if you’re able to install alternate energy solutions on your home.