How does residential solar work?
Solar panels provide clean, environmentally friendly, and renewable energy systems that work by converting the heat from the sun into electrical energy for your home. And because there are very few moving parts, solar panels are easy-to-install, low-maintenance and very quiet compared to large power generators.
There are three main components to a complete solar panel home system:
The solar panels
When solar panels get installed, they generally get secured onto rails mounted to your roof. For any installation, you’ll want your panels facing south to get optimal results. Once installed, the solar cells, otherwise called photovoltaic cells, absorb thermal energy from the sun and send it to the inverters.
The inverters convert the direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) that you can then use to power your fridge, lights, heating and other appliances, as well as charge your phones and laptops!
The meter monitors your entire system and, if you’re connected to a local grid, wirelessly communicates how much energy is solar-generated and how much of it is being consumed. Any excess solar-produced energy gets fed into your local grid and if you’re part of a net metering program, your utility company will actually end up “paying” you for the top-up!
Before you make an investment, you’ll want to consider which types of solar panels are right for you.
First-generation solar panels are by far the most common panels used for residential solar work.
Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient and expensive per square foot. They convert the sun’s rays into electricity with the least amount of waste because they are manufactured from a single source of crystalline silicon.
Polycrystalline panels are less efficient and cheaper compared to monocrystalline because they’re manufactured by joining many sources of crystalline silicon.
Second-generation solar panels are the cheapest and least efficient options for residential solar work. Otherwise called “thin-film” solar panels, you may have seen these used while camping outdoors, attached to backpacks, or anywhere portable solar power might come in handy. These panels are extremely flexible and not recommended for powering your home.
Third-generation solar panels are still being developed and unfortunately aren’t yet suitable for mass residential adoption.
Choosing to completely or partially retrofit your home with solar power can be a daunting investment. However, the technology and adoption rates have been steadily increasing in recent years, to the point where the choice to go solar will be as simple as flicking on a light switch.