IMPORTANT: Before you leave be sure to download our free book: Solar Power Frequently Asked Questions. This really covers 99% of the common questions we get about solar panels and solar power:
Since this is probably your first time here, we'll help you look around a bit. We have over 2000 products and it can be overwhelming.
Most people prefer to use the left green menu to navigate our site. This will show you all of our major categories. Once you click on an item you may find some sub categories that help your search further.
If that doesn't do the trick on the upper right of the site you'll see the green search box. Just type in your search terms and be as specific as possible. You'll notice that if you type a little slower that the site will actually start to suggest things we have that match your query.
Here is what we offer:
Our Kit Selection
I can honestly say that we have the internet’s largest selection of solar kits, bar none. Solar Sphere is dedicated to ensuring that our customers are green and energy independent! We have solar power kits for nearly any application, and if you don’t see it here, we can make one custom for you. Now let’s talk about the basic differences in the solar kits we carry:
We also have a huge, enormous, gigantic selection of solar panels. Some of the brands we carry are: Sharp, Sanyo, Suntech, Solartech, Kyocera, GE, Westinghouse, BP, GSE, to name a few. You can shop for solar modules by type, brand, or wattage. We have small panels great for quick projects all the way up to the big boys that can power your home. Click here to see our huge Panel Selection.
Solar System Components
If you’re building a solar power system yourself, you’re going to need inverters and charge controllers. We have all the best brands and a wide range of sizes. From small little light controllers all the way up to large off grid system chargers, PV cells, and inverters that can power your blender or a city block, its all here. Just give us a call if you need help finding the right one! Click here to see our System Components
Find Solar Contractors In Your Area Today
Maybe you’re not into the whole DIY thing. Or maybe you just want to see how much a system costs for your home or business. To get connected with professional, licensed and experienced solar experts in your area, you just need to know what your power bill is per month and where you live. Click here and fill out this form, it takes 30 seconds and could save you tens of thousands of dollars over the years.
From small garden lights to industrial parking lot lights, solar lighting is an awesome choice for your home or business. These lights are durable, bright, and long lasting. We dont carry the cheapo Walmart lights you see, these are sturdy lights that look great and can save you big money on your electric bills. We also have a sign lighting kits, grow lights, and lamp post lights.
Click here to see our huge selection of Lighting options.
Energy Efficient Appliances
We’re also your source for super efficient appliances. Many of them can be run with a solar system, others run by traditional means. We have propane refrigerators too, perfect for those of you that live off grid like we do. These are super efficient and made in America by an Amish family in Southern Illinios (they use them because they have no electricity). Also check out our Nova Cool line of refrigerators for RV’s and boats, fans and ventilation for all types of applications, and solar air conditioners too!. Click here to see our Energy Efficient Appliances.
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.
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.
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.
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!
We love finding new techology and we have some really cool new kits for you. All of these kits install in minutes and plug into outlets that you can find in any household. Check them out:
Check out this deckpower unit that will mount on a deck railing and plugs into any wall outlet: DeckPower120
This unit just mounts on any flat surface and plugs into any power outlet: YardPower120
This unit mounts on any flat surface and plugs into any 240 volt oulet: SolarPOD
2007 was a stressful year for me and my wife. We were caught in the pace of the relentless city. My small construction company had grown to a point that was too much, and it was wearing on my health. My wife was very unhappy with her job . Although we lived in a nice neighborhood, it was not far enough away from constant traffic, emergency sirens, traffic helicopters and barking dogs. Our noisy neighbors were constantly coming and going at all hours of the night. All we wanted was some peace and quiet in our lives.
My wife had wanted to get out of the city for a long time, so we finally made the decision to move to the mountains. We started looking in an area that we both loved and found the perfect home right away. It was in a quiet area, off the beaten path. The house overlooked a lake surrounded by mountains. It was perfect except for one thing: it was completely off the grid.
The home was powered with a photovoltaic system and a backup generator. The primary heating source was a wood burning stove. Compared to our city life this was quite a change, but we decided that we were up to the challenge. This would mean no more city nightlife or walking to restaurants for dinner, but this was a small price to pay for the peacefulness and fresh mountain air of the Colorado Rockies. We made the move to our new home in the middle of a record-snowfall winter.
We saw our off grid status as a challenge at first, but now it is a way of life. We are always conscious of our power usage. We only use lights when necessary and never leave lights on when we are not using a room. Everything is plugged into power strips and turned off at night. Laundry waits for sunny days and we hang almost everything to dry. We do own a TV, but only use it to watch DVDs once in a while. We do not have a microwave and do not use any unnecessary appliances that use excess power. We do a lot of snow removal, especially from our solar panels in the morning. Off grid living can be accomplished on your own but if you need help making your home energy efficient there are people that can get the job done.
We use the sun to our advantage, allowing passive solar to heat our house during the winter. We cool our house in the summer with the cool evening air. We installed a wind generator to make the most of afternoon winds as well as stormy days. We are much more in tune with our weather than we have ever been before. On sunny days we do not have to worry as much about our consumption. When we have rain or snow, we have to be more careful.
Living off the grid was a challenge to us at first, but now it is our way of life. It comes naturally to us and we are both so happy to live here. Not a day goes by where we are not grateful for all that we have.
If you're interested in living off grid yourself and see how we did it, check out our review for Power 4 Patriots.