Home Improvement

How A Home Solar Energy System Works

Despite the abundance of solar energy, we barely tap into its full potential. In the US, for instance, only about 3% of our electricity comes from the sun. Fortunately, by investing in a solar energy system, you can use this clean and renewable power source on your property.

Thinking of making the switch to solar? If so, consider partnering with West Bay Energy, and enjoy an energy production guarantee, unmatched service, long-term warranty, and ongoing support.

Well then, what are the inner workings of a solar energy system? Ready for the science lesson? Ok, let’s get to it.

Power Generation

Home solar energy systems or photovoltaics (PV) use the sun’s power to generate electricity in your home. A typical home solar energy system consists of various parts: solar panels, an inverter, wiring, mounting hardware, a battery, etc.

Solar panels are the main generating element, consisting of PV cells which capture the sun’s rays and convert them into direct current (DC) electricity. Your panels’ design, tilt, orientation, sun’s intensity, and other variables affect the power your system generates.

The DC electricity is then fed to an inverter, where it’s converted into alternating current (AC). Then, the wires channel the electricity to your panel, which distributes it in your home – in the same way your electricity provider does.

Storage and Backup Power

Some solar energy systems include solar batteries for storing the electricity generated during peak hours. This ensures you can access power, even when your panels aren’t producing enough or at night.

Alternatively, if your system produces excess power, you can send it back to the grid in a process called net metering. A net metering arrangement lets you offset the power you get from the grid when your solar system doesn’t meet all your power needs.

Generally, home solar systems are integrated into the local electrical grid through a connection at your main service panel. This arrangement implies your solar system is grid-tied – unified with your electricity supply and the utility company. Thus, you can switch between utility and solar power when necessary.

The Photovoltaic Effect

Solar panels work their magic by converting sunlight through the photovoltaic (PV)effect. This also explains why we call them PV panels.

The semiconductive material used to create panels comprises several layers sandwiched together. Now, think of the sun as a nuclear reactor, producing photons, which eventually reach the PV cells.

These photons hit the cells in the solar module layer, energizing electrons and creating a direct current. The liberated electrons travel through the solar cells, along wires situated on the periphery of the panel, and eventually reach a junction box as direct current (DC). After that, the solar inverter converts the current (as explained above).

So, why is the current converted to AC? Well, most of the appliances we use in our homes use AC, so the inverter allows us to power our homes and devices using solar-generated electricity.

Besides converting DC to AC, inverters measure how much power your system produces and may shut it down in case of a short circuit. Likewise, they feature ground fault protection for extra security. Depending on the setup you prefer, you can choose between:

  • Central inverters – These are the most common inverters used in residential solar energy systems. They’re integrated into the solar array and feature an optimized power point tracking (MPPT) system. This allows them to maximize energy production across various conditions. However, if one of your panels develops an issue, it can affect the entire system.
  • Micro-inverters – These are linked to each panel and work as a single element. Thus, they’re easier to maintain and provide more accurate data on your system’s performance, implying they can boost your panels’ potential. But they’re a bit pricier since you essentially need multiple inverters.

Making the Move

While you have a basic idea of how a solar system works, the tricky bit involves determining whether you should take the plunge – by investing in it. Fortunately, you can tap into various online resources to know whether solar is right for you.

For instance, a solar calculator can tell you how much energy a particular system can produce and how much money you’re likely to save. Such calculators use location-based data and other parameters to help you figure out the number of panels suitable for your home, projected costs, and other details. You can also consult a solar professional who can clue you in on the different aspects of setting up a home solar installation.

Installing a solar system doesn’t imply ditching your utility company, as you can still use their services and benefit from their net metering arrangements. If you’re considering integrating a home solar system into your home’s electrical setup, at least you now have a reference point. Thus, when you’re ready to go solar, you’ll have a clue of what to expect based on how the system works.