Understanding Solar Electric Panel Wiring & Installation Basics

Dean Emerick

August 8, 2023

Are you considering harnessing the power of the sun for your home, or simply curious about solar electric systems? This comprehensive guide will walk you through the basics of understanding solar electric panels, their installation, and maintenance, ensuring you’re well-equipped to make informed decisions and maximize the benefits of solar energy.

Short Summary

  • Solar electric panels convert sunlight into electricity, with various types offering different advantages and disadvantages.
  • A solar electric system consists of components such as inverters, charge controllers, batteries and wiring for optimal performance.
  • Solar energy offers significant savings on energy bills while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.

Get multiple Free Solar Quotes in minutes! Easily compare vetted professional solar installers in your region with current incentive programs available in your province, and across Canada.

Understanding Solar Electric Panels

Solar electric panels are devices that convert sunlight into electricity, which can be used for various applications, including powering homes and businesses, providing energy for remote locations, and integrating into an electrical system. They come in various types, such as monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film, each with its own distinct advantages and disadvantages when connected to an electrical panel.

To understand how these panels work and the components of a solar electric system, let’s dive deeper into the workings of solar cells and the types of solar panels available.

How Solar Cells Work

Think of solar cells as tiny engines powering solar panels. They absorb sunlight and utilize that light energy to generate an electrical current, which can be connected to a service panel for use in homes and businesses. Photovoltaic cells, made of semiconductor materials like silicon, are the primary constituent of solar panels and are responsible for transforming sunlight into electricity.

The voltage, or difference in electrical charge between two points in a circuit, is an important factor when considering the electrical load of a solar electric system. To compare the performance of solar electrical panels, a standard called Standard Test Conditions (STC) is used, which helps in determining the electrical panel size needed to meet a home’s electrical load.

Types of Solar Panels

There are several types of solar electric panels available, including monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Monocrystalline panels offer the highest efficiency of up to 22% and are known for their long lifespan and minimal maintenance requirements. However, they are also the most expensive option and require more space than other types of panels.

Polycrystalline panels, on the other hand, are more cost-effective and slightly less efficient, with an efficiency rate of up to 19%. They also require more space compared to other panel types. Thin-film panels are the most cost-effective type, with an efficiency rate of up to 14%, but are the least efficient and require the most space.

When choosing solar panels, it’s essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each type, considering factors such as efficiency, cost, and space constraints.

Components of a Solar Electric System

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A solar electric system comprises several components, including solar panels, an inverter, a charge controller, batteries, wiring, and a circuit breaker box. This is also known as a fuse box, with circuit breakers to protect the system. One of these circuit breakers is the main breaker, which is essential for overall system safety. The wiring is essential for an off-grid system as it connects the solar panels to the charge controller, inverter, and battery. Without this wiring, the connection of these components would not be possible. Inverters are utilized to convert DC power produced by the panels to AC power that can be utilized in homes and sent to the grid, while charge controllers are employed to regulate the flow of electricity from the solar panels to the batteries.

Batteries are employed to store the energy generated by the solar panels for utilization when the sun is not shining, providing power to many large electrical appliances and devices in homes and businesses.


Inverters play a crucial role in solar electric systems by converting Direct Current (DC) power from solar panels into Alternating Current (AC) power for use in residences and commercial establishments. They use Maximum Power Point Trackers (MPPTs) to determine the maximum power available. They measure the voltage and current to achieve this. If the inverter is equipped with multiple MPPTs, it is possible to connect strings of panels with varying conditions to a distinct MPPT.

To ensure the correct installation and functioning of an inverter, it’s essential to consult the manufacturer’s datasheet for necessary information. Each string inverter possesses a range of voltages within which it is capable of operating.

Charge Controllers

Charge controllers serve a vital function in a solar electric system by regulating the flow of electricity between the solar panels and the storage bank, optimizing the system’s production and safeguarding the battery from overcharging, damage, and malfunctions. Installing a charge controller between the solar panels and the storage bank can boost the system’s power output and performance. It can also protect the battery from overcharging, damages, and malfunctions.

Overall, incorporating a charge controller into a solar electric system offers significant advantages in terms of performance and protection.


Batteries are essential components of solar electric systems, serving as energy storage devices that convert the chemical energy contained within their active materials directly into electric energy. The most prevalent types of batteries employed in solar electric systems are lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, and lithium-ion batteries. Lead-acid batteries are the most common type of battery utilized in solar electric systems, and they are relatively economical and simple to maintain.

Nickel-cadmium batteries are more expensive but have a longer life span and are more efficient than lead-acid batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are the most expensive type of battery, yet they are also the most efficient and have the longest life span.

Batteries provide a reliable source of energy during times of low sunlight or high energy demand, reducing the need to acquire energy from the utility company and potentially resulting in considerable cost savings. Additionally, they can serve as a backup power source in the event of a power outage.

Get multiple Free Solar Quotes in minutes! Easily compare vetted professional solar installers in your region with current incentive programs available in your province, and across Canada.

Solar Panel Wiring Options: Series vs. Parallel

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When it comes to connecting solar panels to your electrical system, there are two primary wiring options to consider: series and parallel. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on the system requirements.

In this section, we’ll compare these wiring options, including branch circuits and circuit wire, and discuss their impact on system performance.

Wiring Solar Panels in Series

Wiring solar panels in series involves connecting the positive terminal of one panel to the negative terminal of another panel in order to increase the voltage output, while the amperage remains the same. This type of wiring increases voltage while preserving constant current, making it ideal for systems with higher voltage requirements.

However, it’s important to note that if there is an issue with the connection of one panel in a series, the entire circuit will be rendered inoperable. Wiring solar panels in series is suitable for systems that necessitate a higher voltage requirement, such as off-grid solar systems.

Wiring Solar Panels in Parallel

On the other hand, wiring solar panels in parallel involves connecting all the positive terminals of the panels together and all the negative terminals of the panels together, thereby increasing the current while maintaining the voltage constant. This type of wiring results in an increase in the current (amperage) of the circuit, while the voltage remains constant (equivalent to the voltage of each panel).

The main advantage of wiring solar panels in parallel is that if there is a defective panel or loose wire, it would not affect the output of the other solar panels. This wiring option is more suitable for systems where shading is an issue or where one needs to add more panels without exceeding the inverter’s limits.

Planning Your Solar Electric Installation

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Before diving into the installation process, it’s essential to have a solid plan in place for your solar electric system. Assessing your energy needs and choosing the right solar panel type are crucial steps to ensure that the system you install meets your requirements and maximizes the benefits of solar energy.

In this section, we’ll discuss the initial steps to take when planning your solar electric installation.

Assessing Your Energy Needs

Determining your energy requirements involves calculating the amount of energy necessary to power the appliances and devices in your home or business. To calculate your daily electricity usage, you can assess your home’s electrical load to determine your average energy usage.

Once you have a clear understanding of your energy consumption patterns, you can use this information to calculate the amount of solar energy required. Factors such as location and climate, as well as the size and efficiency of the solar panels, should also be taken into consideration when assessing your energy needs.

Choosing the Right Solar Panel Type

When determining the most suitable solar panel type for your property, it’s important to consider factors such as location, energy requirement, roof structure and orientation, nearby shade, panel size, efficiency, durability, and warranty. By taking these factors into account, you can select the solar panel type that best suits your needs and provides the most benefits in terms of efficiency, cost, and available space.

Solar Electric System Installation Process

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Now that you have a solid plan in place, it’s time to dive into the solar electric system installation process. This process involves several key steps, from site assessment to connecting solar panels and inverters. In this section, we’ll provide an overview of the installation process and discuss each step in detail.

Site Assessment

A site assessment is the process of evaluating a potential location for the installation of a solar energy system. This process entails gathering information, assessing the condition of the roof, taking measurements and photos, and performing a shade analysis to ensure the efficient operation of the system.

When evaluating a location for solar panel installation, it is important to factor in roof condition, available space, and shading. A shade analysis can be conducted using a solar pathfinder or a solar site survey, which measures the amount of sunlight that reaches the roof over the course of the day and can assist in determining the optimum location for the solar panels.

It’s also essential to adhere to local building codes and regulations, evaluate the cost of the installation, and determine the type of solar panel system that is most suitable for the location.

Mounting Solar Panels

Proper mounting of solar panels is crucial for ensuring optimal performance and longevity of the system. Various types of mounts are available for solar panels, such as fixed roof mounts, tilt legs, ballasted roof mounts, top-of-pole mounts, and side-of-pole mounts. The technique for mounting solar panels is contingent upon the surface and the mount utilized. Correct installation of solar panels guarantees optimal functioning and extended life of the system.

Connecting Solar Panels and Inverters

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Connecting solar panels to inverters and the electrical grid is an important step in the installation process. This involves the wires and taking into account the wiring options discussed earlier, such as series and parallel connections.

When connecting solar panels and inverters, it is imperative to ensure that all connections are firmly secured and that all wiring is suitably insulated. Additionally, it is essential to confirm that the inverter is rated for the number of solar panels being connected.

Maintenance and Monitoring of Your Solar Electric System

Once your solar electric system is up and running, it’s essential to maintain and monitor it to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Regular inspections, cleaning, and electrical service can help identify potential issues and prevent system failures. In this section, we’ll provide tips for maintaining and monitoring your solar electric system.

Regular Inspections

Regular inspections of solar panels, inverters, and other components help identify potential issues and prevent system failures. It’s recommended to have an annual solar power system maintenance check to ensure the panels are functioning optimally.

During these inspections, verify proper installation, clean the panels at least twice a year, and perform an electrical inspection to confirm that all the strings of the solar array are operating.

Cleaning Solar Panels

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Cleaning solar panels periodically ensures maximum energy production by removing dirt, dust, and debris that can reduce efficiency. The optimal method for cleaning solar panels is to employ a combination of water and a mild soap or a cleaning solution specifically designed for photovoltaic panels.

Benefits of Solar Electric Systems

Solar electric systems offer numerous benefits, including energy savings, a reduced carbon footprint, and increased property value. In this section, we will discuss the energy savings and environmental impact of solar electric systems, highlighting the advantages of incorporating solar energy into your home or business.

Energy Savings

Solar electric systems can yield long-term financial savings by reducing or eliminating electricity bills. By harnessing the power of the sun, you can significantly cut down on energy expenditures and even eliminate your reliance on the utility company for electricity.

These savings can add up over time, making solar electric systems a smart investment for your home or business.

Get multiple Free Solar Quotes in minutes! Easily compare vetted professional solar installers in your region with current incentive programs available in your province, and across Canada.

Environmental Impact

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Solar energy is a clean, renewable source of power that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. Solar electric systems have a minimal environmental footprint, as they do not create air pollution or greenhouse gases when functioning.

Although the construction of solar facilities and production of solar panels do have some environmental impacts, such as land clearing and the use of hazardous chemicals, the overall benefits of solar energy far outweigh these drawbacks.

About Solr Solvr

Solr Solvr is a Canadian online solar marketplace that assists homeowners and business owners to obtain education and connecting with qualified installers in their area. By providing a complimentary assessment to determine if solar energy is suitable for your needs and quotes from solar installers, Solr Solvr can help you economize on energy expenditures, diminish your ecological influence, take control of future risks and shocks, and discover the most suitable solar solution for your requirements.

Compare Local Solar Installation Quotes

When comparing local solar installation quotes, it is imperative to verify what is included, compare costs equitably, compare solar equipment equitably, and compare the total kW size of the system. Additionally, consider factors such as sun hours, anticipate the escalation percentage, and evaluate the efficiency of the panels. By carefully analyzing these factors, you can make an informed decision and choose the best solar installation quote for your needs.


In conclusion, solar electric systems offer numerous benefits, from energy savings to a reduced carbon footprint. By understanding the basics of solar electric panels, their installation, and maintenance, you can make informed decisions and maximize the benefits of solar energy. Whether you’re considering installing a solar electric system for your home or business, or simply curious about the technology, this comprehensive guide has provided you with the knowledge and tools needed to harness the power of the sun for a sustainable future.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many solar panels are needed to power my home?

The average home will require between 15 and 25 solar panels in order to completely offset its electricity consumption. The exact number needed depends on factors including the home’s size, location, panel efficiency, rated power, and individual energy habits.

How much electricity can 1 solar panel produce?

On average, a residential solar panel produces between 250 and 400 Watts of electricity per hour. This works out to about 0.17 kWh to 0.35 kWh per panel, with larger systems producing up to 750 - 850 kWh annually.

Are solar panels enough to power a house?

Based on the average home using 10,400 kWh of electricity per year and an average 250-watt solar panel, 28-34 solar panels would be needed to give enough power for a house.