How Do Solar Panels Work? The Tech Explained


There are more than two million solar installations in the United States, and analysts expect that number to double by 2023. However, for many homeowners, the technology still remains fairly confusing.

How do solar panels work and what makes them so effective? Today, we’re covering everything you need to know about this alternative power source.

Photons, Electrons, and Atoms, Oh My!

While we won’t dive into the more complicated aspects of solar panel science, the basics are fairly easy to understand. In short, solar panels contain lots of small units known as photovoltaic (PV) cells linked together. These cells can convert sunlight into energy.

Each PV cell contains a type of semi-conductive material, sandwiched between a positively-charged layer of cells on top and a negatively-charged layer on the bottom. Most manufacturers use silicon because it’s a good conductor of electricity. At the same time, silicon can still help the PV cells maintain an electrical imbalance, which is necessary to create an electric field.

When the sun shines onto each panel, the PV cells absorb it. When this happens, the sunlight knocks electrons loose. Those electrons float around in the cells, forced in a general direction by the electric field.

Eventually, the electrons reach the metal plates lining each PV cell. This generates a direct current, or DC. The flow of electrons to the plates is known as an electric current.

If the current is strong, then each cell can produce a substantial amount of energy. However, the opposite also holds true.

From the Panel to Your Home

Before you contact a solar panel company and initiate an installation, it’s important to know how solar power enters your home and powers your devices. Put simply, once those electrons reach the metal plates on each cell, they flow into wires. Before long, the DC current flows to the inverter in your home.

There, the inverter changes DC current to an alternating current, or AC. This is the form of electricity that most homes and businesses use. Once that switch occurs, the power transforms into a usable state that can meet everyday power needs.

After being converted into AC, the power flows into your home’s breaker box, or electrical panel. From there, it can be used to power any appliance in your home or workplace that uses electricity.

Where Does Unused Electricity Go?

If your building does not use all of the solar power supplied to it, then that excess electricity will travel straight to your utility meter. From there, it will go to your local utility grid. Your utility meter is the component that measures the amount of power that travels from the grid to your home.

With solar power, that movement actually works in reverse. Homeowners can be credited for their excess energy through a process known as net metering. If you need more power than your panels produce, you can use your meter to pull electricity from the grid as normal.

How Do Solar Panels Work? Now You Know!

Now that you know the answer to the question, “How do solar panels work?”, are you ready to learn more about this promising and innovative technology? Consider all of the pros and cons of converting to solar power and make the switch if the setup will work for your building! This is one way you can become a more eco-conscious homeowner, though it’s important to understand all of the steps you’ll need to take.

As you do your research, we’re here with all of the lifestyle news you need. Be sure to check back often for more helpful guides!

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Hi, I'm James George, the founder of Mind My Business NYC and author of this blog. I am an entrepreneur and internet marketer. My wish is that this website helps you to grow your business and achieve your goals.


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