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What's in a Watt?

Updated on September 21, 2014

Understanding How Much Power You Use

One of the challenges involved in sizing a renewable energy system is determining how much electricity you are going to use in your day to day life.

Watts, Amps, Volts. It can get downright confusing for someone who is new to renewable energy. Many people never get started because they simply don't know where to start in the first place.

It doesn't have to be that hard. When sizing your system the main concept that you need to have a slight understanding of is wattage (more commonly referred to as "watts").

This isn't hard at all. All electrical devices require a certain amount of power to operate. A toaster oven will require a different amount of power than a microwave. The amount of power that they need is expressed in "watts" (also called "wattage").

All electrical devices should have a sticker of placard affixed to the device that will state how many watts the device uses.


Let's use a light bulb as an example. A 100 Watt light bulb requires 100 watts of electricity in order to light up. If you wish to light one 100 watt light bulb with a solar panel you would need a solar panel that produces 100 watts of electricity.

The strategy for sizing a renewable energy system is to simply make a list of all of the electrical devices that you anticipate using at the same time, write down the watts needed to power each device, add all of the numbers up and you'll know how much electricity you need to generate to meet your daily energy needs.

Of course you'll want to size your system large enough to both run your appliances (also called loads) and charge your battery bank at the same time. This way, your system will have enough energy stored to provide the power that you will need to get through the night.

Watts Poll

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Measuring Wattage Video

Here's an interesting video on how you can measure how much wattage you are using at home.  I think you find it quite interesting.

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