What is a solar system comprised of?

A picture of a solar panel, ac meter, and a dc meter.

Most people know that a solar system has, well, solar panels of course! But what is the other equipment typically found on a grid tied solar system? Lets take a quick look.

Solar Inverter – The inverter converts the DC (direct current) power created by the solar panels into usuable AC (alternating current) power to be used in the home or fed back into the electric grid.

REC Meter – The REC Meter simply tracks the amount of kilowatts your solar system is producing. It is used in net metering programs that most utilities have. By tracking the kilowatts (kW) produced, you typically only pay for, or get credit for the net difference between your REC meter and what the utility meter recorded that month.

Example: You produced 1000 kW of solar but used a total of 1200 from the electric utility, so you only would owe the electric company for the 200 kW’s. Another example: You produced 1200 kW of solar energy but only used 1000 kW from the utility. You now have a surplus of 200 kW’s that your utility may allow you to carry forward to the next month to be used.

DC Disconnect – Many solar inverters have these integrated into them, but a DC Disconnect is a swicth that can disconnect (or connect) the DC current from the panels to the inverter. 

AC Disconnect – This disconnect is used to seperate the inverter from the electrical grid. It is often times referred to as a customer generation disconnect.

Racking – This is what either attaches the solar to structural members or holds the solar panels down to roof of a home or the desired mounting surface.

Shaun McGuinness