How does solar energy work and how do we use it in our homes?

There are no movable components. No combustion occurs, nor is any noise produced. The only required space is the surface of your roof. It requires no fuel, just sunlight. And despite all of this, it can power your complete home and provide excess energy for export to your neighbors.

Sure, I’m talking about solar energy. Its operation is so astonishing and enigmatic that it practically resembles magic. Yet, solar energy production is rather simple. Moreover, believe it or not, solar panel technology has stayed mostly constant since the 1950s.

So, how does solar energy work? How is sunlight transformed into electricity that may be used to power household appliances?

This blog will address these concerns. It will also examine the nighttime operation of solar energy and the significance of batteries in solar power systems.

How is your home powered by solar energy?

In this section, we will discuss how solar panels can be used to create and utilise solar energy in homes.

Solar energy is generated in four steps:

Solar panels create DC electricity

The solar inverter converts DC power to AC electricity.

Solar inverter provides power to the residence.

Solar energy surplus is sent to the grid.

1. Solar panels create DC electricity

Typically, between 15 and 25 solar panels are put on the rooftops of solar-powered homes.

Each solar panel consists of a series of sixty or seventy-two photovoltaic cells constructed from monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon. By the photovoltaic effect, solar cells are designed to convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity.

The amount of solar electricity generated depends on the intensity of the sunshine and the solar panel’s design. Under perfect conditions, solar panels produce approximately 400 watts per panel in 2023.

Learn more about how solar panels operate.

2. The solar inverter converts DC power to AC electricity.

Household appliances are built to use alternating current (AC) electricity, thus the direct current (DC) electricity generated by the solar cells must be converted before being given to the home. A solar inverter fulfills this job.

Inverters for solar panels can be installed in one of two ways:

At the module level, tiny microinverters are connected to each solar panel to execute the AC-to-DC conversion.

A single-string inverter, often known as a central inverter, is situated centrally. Before conversion, it receives the combined electricity from all solar panels. In such instances, modest DC power optimizers can be added to each panel to boost performance and ensure compliance with regulations.

3. Solar inverter provides power to the residence.

The inverter will then feed AC power at the required voltage (120V/240V) to your circuit board; this electricity can now be used to power any electrical loads on your property.

With grid-tied solar power systems — the most prevalent type of residential solar system — you can utilize solar electricity, grid power, or a combination of both at any time.

If the loads in your home exceed the power supplied by the inverter, your loads may be covered by a combination of rooftop solar power and the electrical grid.

4. Solar energy surplus is sent to the grid.

It is normal for a home with solar panels to generate more solar energy than its overall electrical loads (i.e. your energy needs). When this occurs, the extra energy leaves the residence through the utility meter and into the electric grid.

The utility meter must be a “net meter” that can retain a separate record of the amount of electricity you export to the grid and the amount of electricity you receive from the grid.

How does a solar energy system work at night?

Solar panels require sunshine in order to produce power, yet as everyone knows, the sun does not shine at night. A grid-connected solar panel system, the most common type of solar system, relies on power imported from your utility provider to serve your electrical requirements at night.

There’s a strong chance you won’t have to pay much or anything for the nighttime electricity you import. This is the case if you reside in one of the 38 states that currently offer 1:1 net metering. Here, the excess energy your system exported during the day is used to offset the cost of your evening electricity imports.

This video demonstrates how a grid-connected solar system exports electricity during the day and imports it at night.

How does solar energy interact with battery storage?

Up until this point, we have only addressed grid-connected solar systems, the most common type of solar installation in the United States.

You may have observed that these systems do not require batteries. When the grid is available, as it is for most people, it is optional to use batteries in a residential solar energy system.

Moreover, purchasing solar battery storage is typically not economically rational. Battery storage systems are costly and have short lifespans, therefore they typically do not pay for themselves.

In spite of this, battery storage solutions are gaining popularity, assisted by the emergence of flexible lithium-ion systems such as the Tesla Powerwall.

Here are the two most frequent circumstances in which homeowners elect to use battery solutions with solar panel systems:

Using batteries as part of an off-grid system is Scenario 1.

Some individuals rely only on solar power, either because they desire an off-grid lifestyle or because grid connections are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive (often the case in remote areas).

In certain instances, homeowners combine solar panels with battery storage to form an off-grid solar system. This permits them to store excess solar energy during the day for use at night.

Off-grid solar systems often utilize lead-acid batteries, comparable to those found in automobile batteries. As the most cost-effective battery option, they are the recommended choice when huge amounts of storage are required.

An introductory tutorial to off-grid solar energy.

Utilizing batteries as a backup power source

Homeowners in locations prone to blackouts are increasingly turning to battery storage as a backup power source. They are quieter and cleaner than conventional diesel generators, and there is no need to purchase fuel.

Most consumers who purchase batteries for backup power nowadays choose lithium-ion solutions such as the Tesla Powerwall or sonnenCore. These batteries have a compact footprint and can be simply installed as a backup power source in the event of a power outage.

It should be emphasized, however, that battery solutions are costly and have short lifespans, with warranties ranging from 5 to 10 years. In places like California, where you may take advantage of state battery purchase incentives and Time of Use (TOU) tariffs to save money, the economics improve slightly.

Use solar energy to power your home.

Initially, the process of getting solar may appear hard. With the proper materials, though, you can install a solar panel system on your roof in a couple of weeks.

The first obstacle is to comprehend how solar technology operates. Reading this blog indicates that you are well on your way to completing this job.

The next step in your solar journey could be even more difficult: determining if solar energy is suited for you. The good news is that SolarReviews has all of the resources and data you need to complete this task.

Our solar calculator will offer you with a comprehensive solar estimate for your residence. It uses location-based data, satellite images, and machine learning to determine how many solar panels are required, how much the installation will cost, and how much money you would save. In other words, our calculator provides you with all the data you need to determine whether installing solar panels on your home is worthwhile.

After that, there is simply one more crucial step: selecting the best brands of solar equipment and the ideal solar installation firm. Again, SolarReviews can be of assistance. Our website contains a comprehensive database of solar equipment manufacturers and solar installation companies. To make the best decisions, be sure to study product information, consumer reviews, and rankings.

After the solar panels have been installed, you’re good to go. Solar panels are constructed to endure at least 25 years and require minimal upkeep. Afterwards, you can relax and enjoy the clean energy you’re producing, as well as the money you’ll save in the process.

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