Rooftop Solar is a great investment for many homeowners, but most of us might not think twice about how the technology actually works. As you look into a solar system, it is important to understand how each component of the system works and what purpose it serves. This is because you will be quoted on equipment from different manufacturers and you need to know what’s best for you. The processes by which solar works show us not only how solar energy works, but also shed light on just what makes this kind of energy such a straightforward and obvious choice.

Solar diagram showing how solar works


  Solar panels convert sunlight to direct current (DC) electricity.


  The inverter converts DC electricity to alternating current (AC) for use in the home.


  The home uses the solar power first. If there is not enough (or it is nighttime), energy from the grid supplements.


  The AC power the home does not use is sent back into the grid for neighbors and other customers to use.

Photovoltaic Cells and Inverters

We all know that solar systems are an array or grouping of panels, but what makes up the panels? Each solar panel is made up of anywhere from 36-144 cells. Each solar cell consists of one positive and one negative layer of silicon in between conductive material and the metal backing. 

The key to photovoltaic technology lies in the generating of an electric field between these two layers of silicon. This is exactly what happens when sunlight hits the cell. Electrons are set into motion between the two layers of silicon which are then sent down a connecting circuit. These electrons now take the form of a direct electric current. 

The amount of electricity generated depends on how many panels you have. Your solar specialist will help you determine the number of panels best suited to fit your needs, no more and no less. 

In order for all this energy to now be used in the home, it must be converted from direct to alternating current. Nowadays this is done on each individual panel as the current is generated using microinverters. In the past, this has been done with one inverter for all of the energy, but microinverters provide monitoring for each panel and have a lessened effect on the overall production if they do fail. There are the same number of microinverters and there are panels as they convert the energy at the panel level before sending it to the home.

Powering the Home and Storage

The energy generated by your solar is now sent to your main electrical panel and is used to power your home. Excess energy is sent through the grid to your neighbors and measured by a utility meter so that the electric utility can give you the appropriate amount of credit.  If your main electrical panel does not have the necessary capacity, an electrical panel upgrade may be required.  Your Rooftop Solar expert will advise you about this at the time of the design. When solar energy is exported, the utility company will either credit your account or charge you month-to-month for the difference. 

For even greater flexibility, independence, and security, your energy will charge your battery storage instead of being sent to the grid. The newer and better option, however, is to go with battery backup. With solar plus battery backup you have an invaluable tool for blackouts as well as complete control over your solar system. Solar backup storage allows you to power your home with the energy you generate during the day, charge the batteries with the excess, and then use that energy at night. For many months this will allow you to draw no energy from the grid.

A Great Time to Invest

Complete energy control through solar plus storage is the ultimate solar solution and is making sense for more and more homeowners. Understanding the entire solar process helps inform homeowners as to what the best kind of system is and explains just how much you could be saving. The nature of the technology is simplicity which is what you achieve by powering your own home with solar. Reach out today to find out how much you can save, and to have a custom system designed for you.

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