How Do Solar Panels Work on a House

Solar panels are a great way to generate clean and renewable energy for your home. But how do solar panels work on a house? In simple terms, solar panels convert sunlight into electricity using a process called the photovoltaic effect. When sunlight strikes a solar panel, it knocks electrons loose from atoms in the panel’s material. These electrons flow through the panel and create an electric current.

How Does Solar Energy Power Your Home?

Solar power is versatile, it can power small things like calculators, big things like cars, and even entire communities. Amazingly, even space stations, like the Webb Space Telescope, use solar power.

Many folks want to know how solar panels can help power their homes and make their electricity bills lower.

1. Solar Panels Generate DC Electricity

Solar panels are usually placed on the roof of a home in groups of 15 to 25. Each solar panel is like a group of 60 or 72 tiny cells made of silicon. These cells can be either monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Their job is to turn sunlight into electricity using something called photovoltaics, making direct current electricity (DC).

The amount of electricity solar panels make depends on how much sunlight they get. In 2023, each panel will usually produce about 400 watts when it’s super sunny.

2. Solar Inverter Converts Power Into Usable AC Electricity

Solar inverters perform this function. Home appliances use AC electricity. solar converters perform this function.

Installing solar inverters is possible in two different ways.

  • The solar panels are connected to the microinverters to convert AC to DC.
  • Installed centrally is a single-string inverter. The inverter receives all the power generated by solar panels and converts it. Small DC Power Optimizers may be used to improve performance and comply with codes.

3. Solar Inverter Supplies Power to the Home

Now, you can use this power to run anything electrical in your home. The most popular solar power system for homes is the grid-tied system. With this system, you can use solar power or regular grid power whenever you need it.

If your home needs more power than the inverter from your solar panels can give, you might have to use a mix of sources. This could include both your rooftop solar panels and power from the grid.

4. Excess Solar Power Is Exported to the Grid

It’s not uncommon for solar panels to produce more power than the total electrical load (i.e. Your energy needs). The excess energy is then sent to the grid by your utility meter.

Utility meters will have to be “net meters” that can record separately how much electricity you export into the grid, and what you use from the grid.



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How Do Solar Panels Work on a House


How Does Solar Power Work? The Photovoltaic Effect Explained

Photovoltaic panels, also known as PV panels, turn sunlight into electricity. Here’s how it works: when sunlight hits the special material inside the solar panel cell, usually made of silicon, it releases tiny particles called electrons.

These free electrons flow out of the solar panels through wires along the edges and head into a junction box as direct current (DC). Then, when the current travels from the solar panel to the inverter, it gets changed into an alternating current (AC). This AC can be used to power homes and buildings.

How Is Solar Energy Used to Power Your Home?

Most home solar systems are “grid-tied,” which means they’re linked to the local utility grid, the home’s electrical system, and the solar setup. This connection is usually made through the main electrical panel.

When these systems are connected, you get to use solar power during the day to run your home, and at night, you can rely on electricity from the grid. If your solar system makes more electricity than your home needs, the extra power can go back to the local grid, helping out nearby homes, like your neighbor’s.

With net metering, you get credits for the solar electricity you produce and use. It’s like getting a reward for using clean energy!

Home Solar With Battery Storage

The process of home solar with battery storage is similar to that described above. However, instead of storing excess solar energy in the grid, the batteries are stored first in your garage or at home.

Combining solar with battery is particularly useful for:

  • Off-grid solar systems
  • Power backup during blackouts
  • Zones with no net metering policy
  • Power your home with 100% renewable and clean energy

What Types of Material Are Used in Solar Panels?

Most home solar panels use either polycrystalline or monocrystalline solar cells, also known as multicrystalline.

These two types of solar cells have some differences. If your roof space is limited, a monocrystalline panel with higher efficiency might be better, giving you a bigger return on your investment. On the other hand, if you have a lot of roof space, a slightly less efficient, but cheaper, polycrystalline panel can be just as effective.

Solar cells can be made from both mono- and polycrystalline wafers, allowing them to capture energy from a broader range of light. When setting up your solar home system, find out if it uses “mono or multi” cells. This can impact how your project looks and how much it costs.

How Does Sun Exposure Affect Solar Panel Efficiency?

Your solar panels should receive as much sun exposure as possible throughout the day. They should also be free of any shading caused by trees or other obstructions.

Solar panel efficiency is affected by a variety of factors. These include:

  • Temperature: Solar panels perform optimally in temperatures ranging from 59 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Types of solar panels: Typically, solar panels are around 15-20% efficient. The top-performing ones can reach an efficiency of 23%.
  • Shading: Solar panels work best when directly exposed to full sunlight. Even partial shading can decrease their efficiency.
  • Orientation: Solar panels are most effective when directly facing the sun. Tilting them ensures they capture sunlight at the best angle for maximum efficiency.

Satellite imagery is used by solar engineers to determine the best panels for your home and their placement.

How Does Battery Storage Work With Solar Energy?

Grid-connected solar systems are the most popular kind in the United States. Unlike some systems, these don’t need batteries. If your area has a power grid (which is true for most places), you can choose to add batteries to your solar energy system, but it’s not a must.

Usually, getting solar battery storage might not be the best money-wise. Batteries cost a lot, and they don’t last a super long time, so they might not save you money in the long run.

But things are changing. Batteries like the Tesla Powerwall are getting more attention. Some homeowners decide to use solar panels with batteries in two situations.

Scenario 1: Using Batteries as Part of an Off-grid System

Some people use solar energy to power their homes. They might do this because they want to live off the grid, or maybe it’s tough or pricey to connect to the grid, especially in far-off places.

Homeowners can set up a solar system that’s off the grid by putting together solar panels and battery storage. This way, they can store extra solar energy to use when the sun isn’t shining, like at night.

For off-grid systems, they usually use lead-acid batteries, kind of like the ones in cars. These batteries are the most cost-effective, making them the top choice for storing a lot of energy.

Scenario 2: Using Batteries for Backup Power

More homeowners in blackout-prone areas are opting for battery storage. These generators, like the Tesla Powerwall and SonnenCore, are cleaner and quieter than old-fashioned diesel ones, and they don’t need fuel.

Most folks choosing batteries for backup power go for the newer lithium-ion options. These batteries are small and easy to set up as a backup when the grid fails.

Keep in mind, though, that battery solutions can be costly, and they don’t last super long – usually, they’re under warranty for 5-10 years. But in some places, like California, you can save money by using state incentives for battery purchases and taking advantage of time-of-use rates.


How Do Solar Panels Work on a House


Make Solar Power Work for Your Home

Getting into solar might seem complex initially, but with the right guidance, you can have solar panels on your roof within a few weeks.

Understanding how solar technology works is the first step, and you’re already on the right path by reading this blog. Figuring out if solar energy is the right fit for you might be a challenge, but ESD Solar has all the info you need.

Our solar estimator gives you an advanced estimate for your home. It uses location-based data and satellite imagery to figure out how many panels you need, the cost, and how much you’ll save. 

Once the solar panels are up, you’re good to go. Solar panels last at least 25 years and need minimal maintenance. Then, kick back, relax, and enjoy the savings and clean energy you’re producing.

Solar Power FAQs

How Does Home Solar Power Work?

The photovoltaic effect (PV) is what turns sunlight into electricity. When photons from sunlight hit solar panels, they knock electrons out of their usual spots, creating an electrical current.

These solar panels can do a lot! They’re not just for calculators – they can power homes, and space stations, and generate electricity.

How Does Solar Power Work at Night?

Solar panels rely on sunlight to make electricity and don’t generate power at night.

During the day, solar systems can produce extra electricity. This surplus can be stored in batteries or sent to the grid for credits. This way, solar owners can still have power even when the sun isn’t shining.

Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

Solar panels can still make electricity on cloudy days, but not as well as when it’s sunny. They can capture both direct sunlight and the kind that comes through clouds, but their performance drops to 10-25% of the usual efficiency on cloudy days.

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