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How Does a Home Solar Energy System Work?

January 24, 2024 | Reading Time: 9 minutes

Understanding how solar energy systems work is essential for anyone considering a shift from traditional to renewable electricity. We’ve broken down the essential components of home solar systems to provide a clear understanding of how solar energy is harnessed.

1. Solar Panels: Capturing the Sun’s Energy

The process begins with the solar panels. The photovoltaic (PV) cells that make up the panel’s surface transform sunlight to direct current (DC) electricity through the photovoltaic effect.

The panels’ efficiency in completing this process is highly dependent on their quality, placement, and environment at the time of conversion. Typically, if it’s sunny and the panels are placed in a direction that faces the sun, they’ll be more effective than on cloudy days. However, solar panels can still generate energy through clouds, rain, and even snow, it’s just their efficiency rate may not be optimal.

2. Inverter: Converting Energy for Home Use

Once the solar panels harness the sunlight and transform it to DC electricity, it is sent to your inverter which converts it to alternating current (AC) electricity, the kind we use in our homes.

The inverter is a crucial component of the system that can measure energy production and can enhance the overall efficiency of the system.

3. Electric Service Panel: Facilitating the Flow

AC energy from your inverter flows into the electric panel where it’s distributed throughout the home. Think of the panel as the gatekeeper of electricity flow, deciding how much energy to send into the home, how much to store in the batteries, and how much to dispatch to the grid.

4. Battery Storage: Ensuring Consistent Energy Supply

Installing batteries with your solar panels is the guarantee to maintaining a consistent power supply, especially during nights or cloudy days. Batteries store excess generated energy for use at a later time.

Some batteries are DC coupled and others are AC coupled but regardless, all batteries store energy in DC form. AC batteries require energy to be converted to AC to enter the battery and is equipped with an internal inverter that reconverts it back to DC for storage. When it’s time to use the energy, the internal inverter coverts it back to AC to leave the battery and be disperesed throughout the home. These extra conversions result in less usable energy making AC batteries slightly less efficient but better for adding to existing solar systems.

5. Meter: Monitoring and Managing Energy Flow

The meter tracks the energy produced by the panels and the consumption of energy within the home. It is connected to the grid and is the component that allows homeowners to sell their excess energy to the grid for credits through net-metering.

6. Utility Company: Regulating and Reciprocating

Solar energy systems and utility companies share a mutually beneficial relationship. Utility companies can be a backup source of power to solar systems without batteries, while simultaneously, solar systems are a backup source of power for utility companies experiencing high demand.

Embracing Solar

Understanding how solar energy systems work is the first step toward embracing solar and giving yourself the freedom of energy independence.

We are excited to lead you through this journey and would be happy to answer any questions you have. Give us a call, (508) 717-3820, or request your free quote today.