Skip to main content

Equipment and Components for Your S …

Understanding Your Hardware

Whether you’re planning on having a contractor install your solar or pursuing a DIY process with us at Self Solar, it’s important to understand your equipment. Knowing what goes into a solar system will help you know what you’re looking at if you receive one of our three Solar Kits, how it all goes together during installation, and how to approach maintenance and repairs in the years following.

Solar Panels

Solar modules or solar panels are the centerpiece of equipment in a solar energy system. They consist of silicon semi-conductors designed to transform the sun’s energy through a process known as the photovoltaic effect. 

When exposed to the sun, the solar panels produce energy as a direct current (DC) charge, which can be measured in units of power, or watts. 

Many solar panels are grouped together to form an array. Their energy potential is counted as the number of panels multiplied by their output rating (in watts). For example, 20 solar panels at 365 watts each would be a 7.3kW solar system (7300 watts).


Because solar panels create a DC charge, you need to convert direct current to alternating current (AC), to power the appliances in your house. Inverters regulate the energy created by the solar panels and adapt it to the levels required for your energy usage. Solar inverters connect to your current electrical system and communicate and monitor your system’s solar production.

String Inverters

String inverters, or central inverters, are the oldest and most common type of solar inverters. They connect a string of solar panels to one single inverter. They are the least expensive but also less efficient. Because they connect to a whole string of solar panels in series, the string of solar panels can only produce as much as the lowest producing solar panel. Some new electrical codes require rapid shut down for solar systems, so first responders and firefighters will be safe from high voltage when on the roof. For rapid shut down requirements, there are two options for string inverters. First is a rapid shut down box and the second is the use of optimizers. Optimizers help a string inverter act more like a micro inverter in that they help optimize the efficiency of each panel in the string and also provide rapid shut down technology.

Most commercial and utility scale projects utilize string inverters as they are cheaper and shading on larger rooftops is usually not as much of an issue as a home.

Pros: lower material cost, install is cheaper with less time and labor, lower probability of wiring failures, can have easier troubleshooting in some types of solar systems, easier to maintain as inverter is usually close to the ground

Cons: addressing rapid shut down requirements, lower efficiency with shading, more difficult to expand solar system, shorter life span, shorter warranty term (typically 8-12 years), can’t monitor individual panel level performance (unless you have optimizers, which increase cost)

Micro Inverters

Micro inverters are newer technology than string but have been around a long time and are a proven technology. With micro inverters, each solar panel has a micro inverter attached to it. This allows each solar panel to produce power at its highest performance. This makes it easy to observe and track each solar module’s energy production. Each micro inverter is embedded with rapid shut down capability.  Since you need a micro for every panel, the overall cost is usually higher for micro inverters. Micro inverters are typically used on homes and smaller solar projects but can be used on commercial projects as well.

Pros: Comply with rapid shut down, higher efficiency, optimize in shade, longer life span, 25-year warranty, panel level monitoring, easy to troubleshoot to the individual module level, easier to expand solar system in the future

Cons: Higher cost, more points of failure, need to get on the roof for maintenance/issues,

Hybrid Inverters

Hybrid solar inverters can manage inputs from both solar panels and a battery bank or generator at the same time, charging batteries with either solar panels or the electricity grid. It depends on which one is preferred at the moment or saves more money.  

When you combine the features of standard inverters with battery inverters in a hybrid, it can provide better peace of mind and better savings for your household. Hybrids are also a favorite for off grid and long-term battery backup purposes.

Racking/Mounting Hardware

Solar panels are usually located either on the roof of a house or building or on the ground in a designated location. There are certain structural systems that keep the solar arrays in place, called racking. They support the weight of the solar panels and provide support for snow load, seismic activity, and wind speeds up to 120 mph. 

Ground mounts are usually made of aluminum racking with galvanized steel and attached to the ground with concrete pillars and footings. They fit best in open spaces when the roof area is limited – and they also create more opportunities for bigger solar arrays and savings.

Other common places that you can install solar with racking is on top of carports, pergolas, barns, garages, lean-tos, etc. Self Solar can accommodate any of these types of solar systems. Order your Solar Assessment here:

Balance of System/Electrical components

Balance of System (BoS) is a term used in the solar industry for all of the remaining components and other electrical products that make the solar system work together. In short, BoS is everything except your major components of solar panels, inverters, and racking.

Along with your panels, inverters, and racking, your Self Solar kit will include all BoS needed for your solar system to function properly. This typically consists of, but isn’t limited to wiring, switches, wire management hardware, enclosures, disconnects, combiner boxes, junction boxes, roof box, circuit breakers, fuses, load centers, rapid shutdowns devices, labels, and some other components that may differ in every solar system. 

When comparing solar proposals or kits, it is important to make sure that BoS is included for a true comparison. If you choose to hire an installer, be sure to let them know that their quote should not include BoS items.  


Batteries store power so it can be used later. They can be part of grid-tied, off-grid or hybrid solar electric arrays, where power is needed during the night, inclement weather, unpredictable utility, power outages, brown outs, etc. Batteries make the energy readily available to the home or building when its needed.

There are four main types of batteries generally used for solar – AGM, GEL, Flooded, and Lithium Ion. The best performing and most common battery type for solar is the Lithium-Ion family (all variations of Lithium). Each of them needs different types of maintenance, has various lifespans, number of cycles, and ways it operates within a system.

For most solar systems a battery isn’t required. Batteries are typically used in off grid scenarios (when no utility grid is available) or for battery back up as a preventative measure. Battery backup can be used for grid tied systems to power your home or business in case of a power outage, emergencies, brown outs, etc.

Battery technology is still relatively new in the grand scheme of things. Many large companies, governments, and investors like Apple, Tesla, Sonnen, Enphase, Dyson, and Auto Makers are pouring BILLIONS of dollars into battery technology. This is one aspect of your solar system that if you don’t need right now, it might be best to wait as battery performance and cost will only get better with time.

Many solar providers will steer you away from batteries. Since this is still a newer technology it’s hard to calculate how long a battery will last with your power usage. Batteries also add installation complexity (many battery manufacturers require a course and certified installer) and will increase the cost of your solar system significantly.

If you are interested in a battery for your system, we can still help you. Please email us at to request a battery quote.

EV chargers

If you own a rooftop solar system, great news – you can charge your Electric Vehicle (EV) using your own solar power! In times of rising fuel prices, this is becoming an especially attractive alternative for consumers. Usually, a nice long sunny day is enough to charge an average EV from 20% to 80% with a standard 6.5kW rooftop solar system. 

There are three levels of EV chargers and only the first two can be used at home. 

Level 1 is a basic, portable charger that plugs into any ordinary 120-volt power outlet. These are simple standard chargers that can charge your EV at a rate of 3 – 5 miles of range per hour.

Level 2 is a compact wall-mounted charger that is permanently installed in homes or businesses. These charge your EV at a rate of 12 – 30 miles of range per hour.

Level 3 are strong, massive, powerful, and quick chargers usually found at specific roadside EV charging stations or commercial properties. These require massive amounts of energy and power. These can charge your EV in as little as one to two hours.

Taking Control of Your Equipment and Your Energy

Solar power is at one of its most affordable points right now, which is why we at Self Solar want you to have the knowledge and resources at your fingertips to decide whether it’s right for you. By taking this sort of project into your own hands, you take control of your energy, save on your electric bills, and help add to a sustainable energy solution in your community.

Related Resources

Already know what you need? Ready to get started?
Order your Self Solar Kit today.