You have probably heard a lot about the benefits of solar panels and how they could save you on monthly energy expenses and increase the value of your home. For all the talk about solar, you may still have questions on how solar panels even work. The good news? Your local solar company has the answers.
Residential solar panels are mainly used to produce solar electricity for homes. How do solar panels produce electricity, you ask? This type of electricity is created through what is known as the photovoltaic effect. To break it down further, this is the effect that occurs when the irradiation in sunlight stimulates electrons into a semiconductor material. Basically, panels will allow photons to break electrons free from atoms, which creates a flow of electricity that can be inverted.
When sunlight hits solar panels mounted on a roof, it results in direct current (DC) electricity. Solar panels themselves are made up of around 70 solar cells that are strung together along a roof. When a solar energy system is using a string inverter, the power will be directed down to the inverter, where it will get converted from DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity. This is the point when that energy can be used to power appliances and utilities for your household. Through the inverter, power will be filtered to the circuit board of a home and made available for any electricity consumption needed.
What Happens If Solar Panels Don’t Generate Enough Electricity?
Many people wonder what would happen if they have solar panels and are hit by a string of cloudy weather or use a lot of electricity at night time, etc. We always get the “how do solar panels work at night” question! In cases where a property’s electricity needs outweigh the production of solar panels (especially in larger households), regular grid power may be used to supplement remaining demands. With certain setups, homeowners can have the option to use either grid power, solely solar power, or a combination to ensure their electricity demands are fully met.
The other option is adding a home battery, like Tesla Powerwall, to store energy during peak sunlight hours for use during times of high energy usage but low solar energy collection – like at night. The surplus of solar energy allows for a completely self-powered home that can continuously run, day or night, even during power outages. Independently running from the grid, a home battery storage solution allows for greater savings and allows you home to run completely on solar energy, the stored solar energy offsets your usage during times of low solar energy production.
Similarly, when electricity isn’t being produced by solar panels at night, a grid connect system allows a home to have grid power for any electrical usage. As California has a net metering policy in place, extra sunlight produced during daytime hours that isn’t needed will be credited from your utility so that when you need to use grid power at other times, you have credit to cover it.
What If Solar Panels Produce More Than Needed?
What about instances where a solar inverter has produced more solar power than a home’s electricity demands? The additional solar electricity will be directed out to the grid through the property’s meter, which will provide savings in the long run. As mentioned above, thanks to net metering, anything your solar panels produce over your household’s demands during the daytime gets credited back to you by your utility.
That means for every kWh of solar electricity that goes back to the grid, you get credited for one kWh of utility-provided electricity. Essentially, this gives you credits for when your solar panels are producing any energy – which comes into play at night time, heavy electronic usage times, during less than sunny days, and so on.