Now that I’ve realized it’s physically possible for me to actually install solar panels at my house, I now need to figure out the best combination of panels and inverter to meet my needs.  Inverters are the devices that convert the DC from the solar cells to the AC of my house.  There are many dozens of sites that sell these things, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  I usually create a google doc spreadsheet where I throw links and compare prices, so I can find the best deals.

The first thing I noticed is that there are way too many types of cells.  I’m not going to worry about them just yet.  The first thing I need to figure out is how big my system is going to be.   I’m not wealthy, nor do I have a lot of space in the backyard, so I was thinking of starting with 500W or so.    But, since I plan on expanding my solar output in the future as I have more space and money, I figured I needed a modular solution.

A friend suggested I look into Enphase micro-inverters.  They provide inverters that connect to each individual panel.  This has three benefits for my application.  They provide high efficiency as they optimize for power on the current/voltage curve.  They claim 96%!  They allow for easy upgrades, as each new panel will get it’s own micro-inverter.   Everything just plugs together.  I don’t have to utilize only half of a 2kW inverter while I save up for more panels in the future.  Finally they feature an online service that lets me track the power output panel by panel.  This will allow me to effectively bill my roommates for the electricity these panels produce.  Otherwise, it’d be very difficult to recoup their cost.

I still need to figure out how I’m going to wire things up, but I think I have my strategy mostly figured out.  I’m putting up a few panels now as my location and bank account allow, but leaving room for my system to grow in the future.