How Do Solar Panels Work On a House


Have you wondered how do solar panels work on a house? If you’re considering buying a solar panel for your home, then you might want to learn more about how they work. Solar panels are becoming more in demand as more and more countries switch to solar energy and various other renewable sources. Unlike other renewables, the sun is a constant source of energy.

As you may know, current solar panels are an efficient way to reduce your electricity bills—although the initial cost of solar panels can be expensive. Despite the initial cost, solar panels have decreased in cost in recent years. Moreover, the cost of installing solar panels is offset by the number of dollars you’ll be saving on electricity bills. Basically, it’s a long-term investment for yourself and your family. After all, you’ll be contributing to a cleaner environment that your children can enjoy. 

So, how do house solar panels work? If you’ve decided you want to get a solar panel, it’s important to know how it works. In this ultimate guide, we will explain how solar panels work, and how solar energy can power your home and help you save energy. 

How do Solar Panels Work on Houses?

Solar panels work by absorbing sunlight with photovoltaic (PV) cells. The panels convert sunlight into direct current (DC) energy. (DC) energy then travels to an inverter located inside the house, which in turn converts the (DC) energy into alternating current (AC) energy. It is this alternating current (AC) energy that is electricity. (AC) energy flows through a home’s electrical panel, and it’s what we use in our house to power everything. With solar panels, you get left with excess electricity because sunlight is that powerful. The excess electricity is then sent off to the electric grid, which stores up energy for you to use as needed, in case your energy use is more than what the panels can create. In short, excess energy is stored for additional use, if needed.

In short, these are the steps:

  1. Solar panels generate (DC) energy, which travels to an inverter.
  2. Solar inverter converts (DC) energy into (AC) electricity.
  3. (AC) energy is the electricity that powers your home.
  4. Excess solar power generated from (AC) energy is exported to the grid and used as needed.
how do solar panels work on a house
How Do Solar Panels Work On a House

How do Solar Panels Work to Generate Electricity?

So, what’s the science behind it all? To make this easy, just think of each (PV) cell as two slices of bread. These slices are made up of semiconducting material—like silicon—and are constructed with a positive and negative layer to create an electric field.

When sunlight interacts with the silicon, it triggers the electrons, which initiate an electrical current flow, aka the ‘photovoltaic effect.’ The photovoltaic effect is—in simple terms—when voltage and electric current are generated in a material (in this case silicon) when being exposed to light. In short, light plus silicon equals electrical current. Physicists might cringe at this explanation, but that’s as simple as we can get in layman’s terms.

Solar panels generate electricity with the help of a solar inverter and the electric grid. We explain in the sections below how each component functions to assist with the production of electricity.

What Is a Solar Inverter and How Does it Work?

As its name suggests, a solar inverter converts (DC) energy into (AC) energy, which is also fed into and used by the grid.

Solar inverters come in two forms: Central inverters and micro-inverters. While central inverters have been leading the industry for some time, the introduction of micro-inverters shifted the industry big time. Micro-inverters work differently from central inverters in that they optimize for each solar panel individually, enabling each solar panel to perform at its maximum efficiency and potential. Whereas central inverters optimize an entire solar system, allowing it to function as a whole at maximum potential. The outcome of using one of these two inverters is that with micro-inverters if an individual panel stops working, it doesn’t affect the performance of the solar system as a whole. On the other hand, if your solar system works with a central inverter, a malfunction in a single part—for example, a panel—stops the entire system from working.

Regardless of the inverter model, all you need to know is that an inverter functions as a converter. 

What is a Grid and What Does It Do?

A grid-tied solar system is where the system is connected to an electrical power grid and relied on this grid to produce electricity.  A grid, however, is a storage unit for the excess electricity produced by solar panels. 

The power stored in the grid is commonly used at night or in winter when electricity production is lower due to cloud cover. 

To recap, the sun’s rays hit the solar panels and create DC energy, which goes through the inverter. The inverter converts (DC) energy to (AC) energy, which is what we use in our house. The excess AC energy produced goes to the grid and is stored there. The grid acts as a repository of power that is to be used when necessary, typically at night and during winter. Hey, you could even use it to charge your electric car, if you have one.

Does Weather Impact Solar Energy Production?

The short answer is yes, but it’s not as drastic as you might think. When the weather is cloudy, the sun’s radiation still penetrates through the clouds, which your panels absorb. As such, solar panels can still produce electricity even on cloudy days. But, the efficiency of the solar panels’ electricity production depends on the quality of the panels and the extent of the cloud cover. On a cloudy day, electricity production usually drops from 10 to 25 percent compared to a sunny day. So, while solar panels do work well in cloudy weather, you have to consider that the production levels won’t be as high as on a sunny day. Nevertheless, you’ll still see considerable savings on your electricity bills.

How do Solar Panels On a House Work at Night?

Now that you know how solar panels work when exposed to the sun, you might also wonder ‘how do solar panels on a house work at night?’ 

Remember the electric grid we discussed? It acts as a power storage unit to provide you with the electricity you need. Your solar system panel usually comes with a grid that stores power. When solar panels generate more energy than needed during the day, the grid stores the excess power and use it to power your home when you need it.

Sometimes, if your solar panels don’t generate enough power, your grid stores power imported from the utility company. Thankfully, when you use electricity you import at night, there’s a good chance your electricity bill won’t be high, or you won’t even have to pay for it. If you live in a state with 1:1 metering, any electricity your solar panels produce is of equal value to the electricity you import from the utility company. In this case, your bill may not be high. On the other hand, when you have surplus power exported during daylight hours, the cost of importing electricity at night may be canceled. Most states (38 out of 50) apply this 1:1 metering scheme.

how do solar panels on a house work
How Do Solar Panels On a House Work

Worthy Investment

How do solar panels on houses work is a question to which you finally know the answer. We hope that this guide helps you not only understand how solar panels work but also with making a decision when it comes to investing in solar power. The main advantage to you—as the consumer—is that you will be saving money on energy costs. Also, if you live in a state that has incentives for solar, you might even end up not having to pay any electricity bills at all. Even though the initial cost of installing solar panels can be expensive, the long-term energy savings more than makes up for it. Also, depending on incentive plans, you might be able to sell back the excess power. 

Having solar panels isn’t just good for your pocket, it’s also good for the environment. By making this investment, you will be paving the way for a cleaner environment for your descendants. So, all in all, it’s a worthwhile investment.

References

[1] Solar Panel Guide for Home Owners. “Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar.” Solar Energy Technologies Office.

[2] Solar Panel Functionality. “How do solar panels work for your home?” Look After My Bills, 2022. 

[3] How Does Solar Energy Work? “How does solar energy work and how do we use it in our homes?” SolarReviews, 2022.” 

[4] What is Solar Energy & How Do Panels Work? “What is Solar Energy and How Do Solar Panels Work?” Sunpower.

[5] How Does Solar Energy Work: Ultimate Guide in 2022. “How Does Solar Energy Work: Ultimate Guide To Solar Energy In 2022.” Sunbadger, 2020.