How Do Solar Panels Work? A Basic Guide for Homeowners

Are you considering getting home solar panels but you don’t understand how they work?

There are lots of reasons to get solar panels for your home. In the second quarter of 2021, Americans installed enough solar capacity to power 18.9 million homes.

Photovoltaic power is a new technology and understanding it takes a bit of research. Are you wondering how do solar panels work?

Here’s a basic guide to getting you started.

Parts of a Solar Panel System

When you think of a solar panel system, you probably imagine large flat black panels because they are the most visible.

A solar panel system is made up of photovoltaic panels, racking, electrical wires, an inverter, and the breaker box in your home. There may also be deep cycle batteries to store excess power for those cloudy days.

What Is Solar PV?

The PV stands for the photovoltaic cells which make up a solar panel.

Here’s a bit of solar panel science. Photovoltaic cells contain a semi-conductive material such as silicone that absorbs the energy of light as photons. In the process of absorbing photons, some electrons are knocked loose.

The electrons flow in a specific direction because the solar cells are designed to create an electric field. Electrons flowing in one direction create an electric current.

How Do Solar Panels Work, an Overview

Sunlight hits the solar panels and generates a direct electrical current (DC). The electricity flows to the edge of the panel into a wire.

The current flows to the inverter, which converts the direct current to alternating current (AC). Alternating current is the type of electricity that is most commonly used.

The AC electricity then flows to the breaker box in your home. The breaker box sends the current to any appliances that are using electricity as needed.

Unused electricity flows through a utility meter into a power grid. The availability of this part of the system depends on your local utility company. 

When your home uses more electricity than solar panel technology can produce, it draws from the utility grid.

Consider the Cost of Solar Panels

When you are buying solar panels, take into account the money you will save on your utility bills. It’s also good to know that an investment in solar panels can increase the value of your home.

There are many things that influence the cost of solar panels. The size of your home, the location of the solar panels, and your energy needs are factors to take into account. The roof angle, roof type, and roofing quality also contribute to the cost during installation. For flat roofs, the needed scaffolding to angle the panels adds to the budget. The same goes if you have an aged roof that needs replacement. In some states, you can sell your excess energy to a utility company.

There are federal tax credits and some states are offering incentives to install solar panels in your home. You can read about solar panel cost in this great guide.

Knowledge Is Power

Understanding how solar power works takes some research. A good source of practical information is important. You’ll have the answer to the question of how do solar panels work.

Did you find this article helpful?  Use our search feature to get the latest articles about solar power. Check out the Home Improvement section for other great ideas.

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