Hello! Welcome to Solar Sphere.
We are Kriss & Sue, the husband and wife owners of Solar Sphere. We live and breathe solar power! We live in an off-grid solar and wind powered home in Colorado. We walk the talk when it comes to self-reliance and green energy.
We'd like to thank you for coming by our solar store and empowering your world with green energy. Here is a quick guide on using our site:
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How To Use Our Site
If this is your first time here, it can be a bit intimidating since we have over 1500 products. The best way to get around is generally the top left green menu. Here you'll see our top-level categories like lights, kits, and gadgets. As you click there you'll see the smaller categories under the top-level categories.
If you can't find what you're looking for there, try the top right green search box on every page. Use simple keywords like 'lamp' or 'plug and play' first before refining your search with longer keyword descriptions.
You can also find items that you have looked at recently by using the tool on the right hand column under the 'You Recently Viewed...' heading.
How To Contact Us
We are always happy to help if you are still having trouble finding what you are looking for!
Please keep in mind before you call or email us, we'll need this information to help you:
- If you are calling about an existing order, please have your order number handy.
- If you are trying to size a solar system, we'll need to know the following:
- The total kilowatt hours used per day or month of the home you are trying to power
- OR the wattage of each device, and the hours that device runs in a typical day
- Please don't ask me for a 'general idea' or 'average system' as there is really no such thing, every case and location is vastly different Where you are located geographically
- If you have a lighting application we need to know what you are trying to light and how long you want to light it, as well as your location.
The fastest way to contact us is email. For existing orders contact Sue@Solar-Sphere.com. For technical questions you can always email Kriss@Solar-Sphere.com. If you prefer you can reach us by phone at 877-774-3730, extension 1 for Kriss or extension 2 for Sue.
Our Story of Going Off the Grid
A lot of people want to know how we came to live off the grid.
About 6 years ago we were living right in the heart of a big city, when we suddenly realized that we were not city people. We were fed up with the noise, the pollution, and rude people. Sue and I realized that our weekend trips to the mountains were just not enough to satisfy our needs for the outdoors. It was time to live in the mountains full time.
So we looked for our dream home, but of course our budget was pretty limited. Luckily we found exactly what we were looking for: a nice size house, with a great view, not far from trails, skiing, and water sports. The one problem: there is no power in this neighborhood! Every one uses solar and wind to power their homes. For us, this was just another cool thing about the house, and we took the leap.
And not having a power bill was pretty darn cool too.
Unfortunately our builder didn't really understand how solar and wind worked either. He really under-designed the house and the power system and we had a really tough couple of months trying to figure out how this stuff worked. But we learned A LOT, the hard way, and made it work.
We reduced our power consumption, installed alternate heat sources, and figured out how to use maximize the sun's energy. And along the way, we learned a ton about green energy and self-reliance. And now we're here to help YOU do the same.
If it's a small system to run a few lights or a large industrial power system, we can help you design it and install it! Let us help you empower your world with green energy.
Be Sure to Get Your Free Gifts Before You Leave!
We have some cool giveaways for our visitors.
First our Solar Freedom and Survival Guide is a great way to learn about how solar works, how much it costs, how to estimate your solar needs, and how to install your own system.
Grab your free solar book right here.
Then we have a free DVD you can grab, you just pay shipping and handling. In the Off Grid Living Solar DVD we walk you through our own personal off grid solar power system. We cover our wind system, how we live, the little tricks we use to reduce our power consumption.
It's a pretty cool way to learn about solar and off grid living, get your free DVD right here.
Thanks for stopping by and let us know how we can help you…
Here is what we offer:
Our Kit Selection
We are proud to say that we have the web's largest selection of solar kits. We are committed to helping our customers finding the right kit for any situation. Even if we don't have what you need in a pre-assembled kit, we can create a custom solution that is easy to assemble and install. Here's the breakdown of what we carry:
- Check out our solar panel kit selection. Solar panel kits are an affordable way to get started in solar. These kits will allow you build your own solar panel and learn about how solar works at the same time. It's a great way to get started without spending a ton of money. Click here to get started with Solar Panel Kits
- We have a really nice selection of preassembled solar power kits too. These are the fastest way to start using solar as these kits have manufactured solar panels and come with inverters, chargers, and batteries. We have 3 different kinds of solar power kits: DIY solar power kits (which require a bare minimum of wiring from the various components); Grid tie solar kits (which will connect to your home and the grid and reduce your power bill); Plug and play solar kits (these kits couldn't be easier, you just set the panel in the sun, and plug your devices in). Click here for our Solar Power Kits
- If you're looking to teach your family or classroom about solar, we have you covered there too. We have kits for all budgets and grade levels. Whether its just showing kids that solar is a cool energy source, or getting into the details of how it actually can power electronic devices, we have kits for every application. Check out our solar classroom kits here.
If you’re not sure what kind or size of solar kit you need for your particular application, try our Kit Selector.
We're proud to say that we have one of the best selections of solar panels on the net. We carry BP Solar, Canadian, ET, Powerfilm, PowerUp, Sharp, Solartech, Solarworld, Suntech, and Yingli panels, and we are constantly adding more all the time. If you can't find what you want just send us a quick email and we'll let you know (Sue at solar-sphere.com). We have them organized by brand, watt, and type. Click here for our solar panel selection.
Solar System Components
We have everything you need to turn the power of the sun into power for your home and devices. We have charge controllers, inverters, wiring, mounting and accessories for any size system. We have controllers and inverters that could power a light bulb or a city block. As always, let us know if we can help you find the right item. Click here for our solar system components.
Find Solar Contractors In Your Area Today
Maybe DIY solar is not for you. Maybe you'd rather make a call than swing a hammer. No problem, we have you covered there too. Just go to our solar contractor finder form, fill in your information, and within 2-3 days local, licensed solar contractors will call you to set up a time to look at your project. Plus they'll help you maximize incentives and system efficiency so you get the most bang for your buck! Just click here for the solar contractor form.
One of the best ways to use solar power is for lighting purposes. We have manufactured lighting systems with solar panels and batteries integrated right into the light. So if you're lighting a garden path, a yard, or city street, we have options for you. We can also help you light your signage too! Check out our huge selection of solar lighting.
Energy Efficient Appliances
We have a great selection of energy efficient appliances as well. We have fans, attic ventilation, evaporative coolers, refrigerators, freezers, composting toilets and lots more. We also have atmospheric water generators, which generate water from thin air! Ok, actually thick, humid air, but you get the idea. Check them all out here..
How Solar Panels Work
The most basic definition of how solar panels work is that the sun strikes a certain material, it excites electrons and creates a current and voltage that can be used to power devices. Now let's delve a little deeper.
Silicon: Not Just for Computer Chips
First, silicon is taken from the earth. Silicon is one of the earth's most abundant elements. It's found in sand and rocks of all types. You've probably heard of 'Silicon Valley', the hotbed of technology research and investment in California. It is so called because silicon is used in computer chips.
Silicon is a semi-conductor. Think of copper, a conductor, as in copper wires. Now think of rubber, an insulator, such as the coating on a copper wire. Silicon falls somewhere in between and is therefore called a semi-conductor. This property is exploited in computer chips and solar panels to handle tiny reactions that generate electrical currents.
Just Add Boron and Phosphorous
But silicon by itself is not enough to create power from the sun. The silicon is grown into a very thin crystal-like wafer using pressure and heat. It is then coated with two different materials: boron and phosphorous. Boron is coated on the back contact, phosphorous on the front contact, with a gap in between the two layers. Boron, when combined with silicon, is a positive material, but it wants to be neutral. The only way it can get neutral is to gain an electron, which has a negative charge.
Now enter phosphorous. Phosphorous and silicon is a negatively charged material, meaning it has extra electrons. But it wants to be neutral too! And how can it do that? By getting rid of electrons of course! And how will it get rid of them? That's where the good old sun comes in.
A cross section of a solar panel showing the various layers.
A. Tempered Glass Cover Plate: The cover plate is used to protect the cells from the elements.
B. Anti-reflective coating: This prevent the rays from being reflected OUT of the cell.
C. Contact Grid: The electricity generated by the silicon needs to be able to flow to the terminals. To help with this a grid of wire is placed on top of the silicon so that the electricity can flow through the low resistance wire instead of the silicon. A grid must be used so that most of the silicon is left exposed to the light.
D. Silicon Layers: Silicon is a semiconductor material that is used to convert energy from the sun into electricity that can be used to power our homes. The silicon is the part of the solar cell that does the work. This silicon layer has a negative charge and is coated with phosphorous.
E. Same as the D layer, but this layer has a positive charge and is coated with boron.
F. Bottom Contact: This layer works the same as the contact grid that is placed above the silicon layers. It is used to help the electricity flow to the terminals.
Here Comes The Sun
When sunlight strikes the cell, it gets those electrons all excited. Just think of the electron as a kid in his mom's arms as they approach the park. He just can't wait to get away from mom and onto the swing set. The electrons leave the phosphorous and go toward the positive boron, creating an electrical pressure as they enter the gap. This pressure must be released, and is through the wiring in the cell. This creates the flow, or current, we talked about earlier.
The cells are coated with materials to ensure the sunlight is absorbed and not reflected. The silicon wafers are wired together and encased in tempered glass and aluminum to prevent weather damage. These are called panels, and are then wired together to form an array. And that is the basic building block reaction of a solar panel!
Solar Panel Kits
There are several different types of solar panel kits that our customers are looking for. The most popular is the solar panel kit that includes the solar panel, charge controller, battery, and inverter so that you can get started using solar right away. We have solar panel kits that are completely plug and play and require no effort on your part, or we have kits that require a little bit of assembly that are less expensive. We also have solar panel kits that will allow you to build a solar panel from scratch. These kits includes solar cells, bus wire, and tabbing wire to build a solar panel.