How Do Solar Panels Work Exactly? A Guide for Homeowners

Solar energy continues to become more popular in the US — in the last decade, the average annual growth rate of the industry has been 42%.

You might be thinking of going solar yourself, but how do solar panels work, exactly? It’s a question many of us will be asking at one point or another, and that’s what we’re here for!

Just keep reading to get the lowdown on everything from solar panel science to the types of solar panels, so that you can make the best decision for yourself and your home.

What Is Solar Energy?

Simply put, solar energy is energy that comes from the sun. When the sun shines, solar photovoltaics take the sunlight and convert it into electricity for us to use, and to get that electricity we use solar panels, often installed by solar companies.

We’ll get into the different types of solar panels in a moment, but essentially they all contain a whole load of atoms. Inside each atom lives the nucleus, and in the nucleus exist protons and neutrons.

When these photons knock electrons free from atoms, electricity is generated.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

That’s the basics, but what are the steps to the whole process?

First, sunlight hits the solar panels, and from here inverters in the panel convert the energy. The energy arrives from the sun as a DC current, and the inverter converts it to an AC current, making it electricity that we can use.

This AC electricity then leaves the inverter and flows to the breaker box, and from here it can travel to where it’s needed around the home — it works just like more traditional forms of energy you’re probably used to.

Any unused electricity will flow to the grid through a utility meter, so that when you need it — most likely at night — it can be drawn back from the grid.

Types of Solar Panels

When it comes to the types of solar panels, there are three main types to know — they all have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s best to consider them all before making any decisions.

First up are monocrystalline solar panels, which have cells made from silicon wafers. They’re probably the most aesthetically pleasing of the three types and are very efficient too. However, they tend to be more expensive, which could be a concern.

Like monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels have silicon wafer cells, but they’re less efficient than the former type. However, they also have a lower cost, so if cost is an issue they may be worth considering.

In contrast to the above two types of solar panels, thin-film solar panels are made from a number of different materials. They’re lightweight and flexible and look attractive too, but they have the lowest efficiency of the three.

What Else Should I Know?

The two biggest advantages to solar panel installation are that it can save you money and that it helps the environment too, as solar energy is entirely renewable!

Now the question of ‘how do solar panels work?’ has been answered, you can make the decision as to whether not to go solar. You may decide to look for more advice or check out the rest of our blog for more tips.

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