Residential Solar Panels 101

Solar Panels 101 – How Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Cells Works

Solar panels create energy by absorbing photons from sunlight. The photons react with the photoelectric material in the solar modules, knocking electrons. These electrons are captured in the form of a direct electrical current, creating power for your home.

Convert Sunlight to Energy

This direct current generated by a photovoltaic (PV) module has to go through another step before it can be used to power your home. The current is run through a device called an inverter (or power converter) which converts the direct current (DC) from the solar modules to alternating current (AC), which can be used in your home and distributed to the utility grid. During this process, 14-18% of the energy produced by the panels is lost.

Distribute Energy to your home

After being converted to alternating current, power travels from the inverter to your electrical service panel (your breaker box). The power from the electrical panel is then distributed to any electrical loads in your home.

Run your Meter Backwards

When excess power is produced by the solar panels system, the power will flow into the grid through your electric meter. This will cause your meter to run backward gaining you a credit with the utility company.

Net Metering

The net metering legislation states that the utility company must credit you at retail rates (the same rate they would have charged you). Therefore, time of use customers will be credited peak rates for power fed into the grid during peak hours.

What Makes a House Suitable for Solar Panels?

There are several factors that determine how suitable a home is for solar panels:

  • The number of sun hours received by your geographical location. Also known as solar isolation, this is the amount of sunlight that a geographical location receives in a typical year.
  • The amount of shading received by your roof during peak production hours. Less is better. Tall structures (other homes or buildings, trees, telephone poles, etc.) can restrict the amount of sunlight that reaches an installed solar panel. The shade of those other structures create can reduce the effectiveness of your solar panels system.
  • Available roof or ground area for the solar panels system. A solar panels system requires space for installation.

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