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How Do Solar Panels Work? A Homeowner’s Guide

Man installing alternative energy photovoltaic solar panels on roof

Mention ‘solar energy,’ and most people think about a solar power system that makes use of photovoltaic (PV) panels.

There’s actually another kind of solar energy—concentrating solar power, which is used in power plants. For homeowners who plan to go solar, though, PV is the most common way to do it.

Now, if you’re thinking about installing a PV solar system for your home, you might be wondering, “how do solar panels work?” Here, we’ll talk about the basics of how solar panels generate electricity, plus some tips for solar shopping.

How Do Solar Panels Work? 3 Things to Know

You know that solar power means energy harnessed from the sun, but how exactly do solar panels convert sunlight into electricity?

This process is easier to understand when broken down into steps.

  1. The Sun Provides Renewable Energy

One of the many benefits of solar panels is you can expect an average of $20,000 over 20 years.

Another advantage is you know that you’ll be using safe and clean energy. After all, unlike burning fossil fuels, there’s no need to mine, extract, or transport sunlight through pipelines.

Also, the sun provides energy in abundant amounts. You don’t have to worry that we’ll run out of sunlight, at least not for five billion years.

  1. Sunlight Hits the Panels

It’s important to answer, “What are solar panels?” to get an idea about how they’re able to generate electricity. Also known as a module, a solar panel is usually a plate-like structure made up of semiconducting cells (usually made from silicon).

Now, these cells contain electrons. When the sunlight touches these cells, electrons begin to flow, producing a current of electricity.

But it doesn’t mean this electricity is ready to use. It has to be converted into a form of electricity that appliances can use.

  1. From DC to AC

To convert electricity generated by solar panels into a form that can power appliances, your system needs a solar inverter.

Thanks to advances in technology, newer solar inverters come with additional features. These include the ability to store a small amount of power so that even during a power outage, your house will still receive some electricity. There are hybrid inverters that are easy to install and compatible with DC or AC coupling.

Some Solar Shopping Tips to Keep in Mind

Now that you know how solar panels work, there are certain tips to remember that can help you save on this investment.

First, take your time when researching solar providers. Aside from googling “solar companies near me,” ask family and friends who have gone solar for recommendations. Get multiple quotes, and compare different types of solar panels before deciding which system to get.

Second, find out the incentives and rebates offered in your state. Since the initial costs for going solar aren’t cheap by any means, you need to know how soon your system will start saving you money in utility bills.

Last, don’t look at prices alone. There are cheap solar panels, and there are high-end ones, but the cheap ones might not be the most efficient on the market. Think long-term, and also consider your other options such as solar leases and solar PPAs (power purchase agreements).

Ready to Go Solar?

If someone asks you, “how do solar panels work?” you can easily answer them or you can share this article with them.

For more home improvement tips, feel free to check out our other posts. You might also be interested in reading our other articles on home security, interior design, and so on.

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