Solar Electric Systems Definitions & Glossary

Definitions and explanations of terms and words used when working with solar electric systems.

AC-Alternating current. Electrical energy which reverses its direction at regular intervals.

AC Daily Power Budget- The daily amount of watts your AC appliances use.

AC Inverter and Battery Power Allowance- Running an inverter draws a small amount of power from your battery. So does keeping power stored. The inverter and battery allowance in your power calculations help make certain enough power will be produced to keep your battery from running in the red.

Adjusted Total Daily Power Budget- A total daily power budget may be changed to meet certain situations. For instance, if you spend only weekends at a house, then your adjusted total daily power budget will be lower. Adding a generator to your system also reduces your total daily power budget. The adjusted daily power budget provides the figure that determines the size of you solar electric power system.

Ampere or amp- Electric current is measured in amperes or amps.

Amp Hours – The number of amps used or produced in a given hour equals the number of hours. Batteries are rated in amp hours.

Array – A group of solar electric modules connected together in a power system.

Battery Bank – A group of batteries wired together to store power in a solar electric system. Allows you to use the stored power at night, on cloudy days or to run more power than the array can produce at one time.

Centrifugal (Water Pumping) – Rotating outward, away from the center, as in centrifugal force.

Controller _ Simply put, the controller regulates the current from solar charger to your battery bank.

Current – The rate of flow of an electric charge. Current is measured in amps.

DC – Direct current. Electrical energy flowing in one direction and of substantially constant value.

DC Daily Power Budget – The number of watts your DC appliances use daily.

Fall (Water Pump/Hydro Sections) – The vertical descent of water, usually measured in vertical feet. Also called "head".

Flow Rate – Speed at which water moves.

GPM – Gallons per minute.

Ground Mount – A piece of equipment upon which solar modules are mounted.

Head – See "Fall".

Hertz or HZ – The frequency of electrical current described in cycles per second. Appliances in the U.S. use 60 HZ. Appliances in other countries generally use 50 HZ.

Hydroelectricity – Electricity created by water power.

Hydrometer – An instrument used to measure state-of-charge (voltage) of a battery.

Inverter – An Appliance used to convert independent DC power into standard household AC current.

Kilowatt or KW – a thousand watts. (See Watts.)

LED – Light emitting diode. These lights are often used to indicate low power on modern electronic equipment.

Line Loss – Voltage drop over the length of electric line wire. Line loss robs your system of power when wire is too small for the load being run through the line or when voltage is too low for the distance the power must travel.

Load – The lights or appliances run by your electrical system.

MA – Milliamps, 1000 MA = 1 amp.

Module – Modular solar electric charger; used interchangeably with solar electric panel.

Parallel Wiring – A system of wiring, for solar electric modules of batteries, which increases amperage. Parallel wiring is "+ to +" (positive to positive) and " – to – " (negative to negative).

Photovoltaic – Converting light into electricity. Photo means "light" voltaic means "electric". Often referred to as "PV" for short. More commonly referred to as "solar electric".

PSI – Pounds per square inch.

Self-Regulating – Some modules have a special circuitry which keeps the battery from overcharging. This means that no controller is needed when the self-regulating module is properly matched to battery storage capacity.

Series Wiring – A system of wiring, for solar electric modules or batteries, which increases voltage. Series wiring is + to – (positive to negative).

Single-Crystal Silicon – Many solar chargers use single-crystal solar cells as they are the most efficient cell on the market. Pure silicon is grown into crystalline ingots which are cut into thin slices to make solar electric cells. These cells are then soldered together to meet the charger’s voltage and current requirements.

Solar Cell – The smallest basic solar electric device which generates electricity when exposed to light. Solar Electric – The preferred term used to describe something which uses sunlight to produce electricity. "Photovoltaic" is the more technical term.

Thin –Film Silicon – The tiny solar chargers found in calculators and wristwatches are solar thin-film. Thin-film solar chargers are made by spreading a micro-thin layer of silicon on glass and creating the voltage and current circuits using laser technology. Thin-film chargers are produced in sizes from the microscopic calculator chip, up to the 1’x4’ power module.

Total Daily Power Budget – In a DC system, the daily amount of watts your DC appliances use, plus the battery power allowance. In a DC and AC system, the daily amount of watts DC and AC appliances use, plus battery and inverter power allowances.

Voltage or Volts – Voltage is the rating of the amount of electrical pressure that causes electricity to flow in the power line. If electricity were water, voltage would measure the amount of pressure at the faucet.

Watts – A watt is a measurement of total electrical power. Volts x amps = watts.

Watt Hour – The quantity of electrical energy used or produced when one watt is used for one hour.

3775 Encinal Cyn
Malibu, CA 90265
Phone # (310) 589-9544
Fax # (310) 589-9714

Take me home