How does solar power work?

You’ve probably seen the countless advertisements on the internet, via social media, or perhaps on television advertising the amazing financial and environmental benefits of having your own solar system for your home. You’ve probably thought to yourself, “sure it sounds like a great idea, but how does it work?”

In this article, we’ll briefly go over some of the basics to help you understand how solar power is created and used in your home.

Generating Power

You may hear or read about the term “solar photovoltaic” or PV when researching solar. For the purposes of this article, “solar cell”, “solar panel”, and “solar system” are used in place of “PV cell”, “PV panel”, and “PV system” respectively.

Solar panels are fueled by natural light from the sun. Each panel is made up of more than a dozen silicon wafers called solar cells. These are specially manufactured and chemically treated to convert light into energy. For an in-depth technical explanation on how this works, check out this article by the US Energy Information Administration.

Collectively, panels are connected together into what’s called a solar system or solar array. This array takes the energy it produces and passes it through an inverter before it reaches your home. An inverter takes the DC or direct current generated from your panels and converts it to AC or alternating current. This is necessary as everything connected to the electrical grid uses AC power. You can learn more about the difference between AC and DC from this easy-to-read article written by the MIT School of Engineering.

Finally, AC power is then passed to your home through a circuit breaker (also known as a main panel) and made available to everything plugged into your home, like lights, tv, computers, and other appliances. You may be able to power other things such as electric car chargers and pool heaters as well. Talk with a LGCY energy consultant today to learn more and get a custom design for your home’s needs!

Excess Energy & Storage

If there is any energy that your panels are producing but your home is not currently using, this energy is sent through a net meter and out to the electrical grid. A net meter runs “backwards” from a normal electrical meter and tells your utility how much energy you have added to the grid. In exchange, your utility may offer credits or rebates towards your utility bill for this added energy.

If you decide to have one or more batteries installed as part of your system, these will be charged before any excess energy is sent out to the grid. Batteries allow you to use energy your panels have generated during times where there is high demand or when your system is not generating energy, especially at night. This allows you to avoid using energy from the grid and being charged by your utility. Batteries can also help power your home during a blackout!

KNOWLEDGE GUIDES

If you’ve made it this far and still have questions, you should explore our Knowledge Guides. These in-depth articles will help you make informed decisions.

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