Solar panels can seem like magical devices that turn sunshine into electricity and cut your energy bills effortlessly. But how do solar panels actually work? How can solar take the sun’s rays and use it to power your microwave, television, electric vehicle and more?
The simple answer is that solar panels use the sun’s photons (light particles) to strip electrons from atoms. These free electrons are then sent through wires as electricity.
For a more complete answer of how solar panels work and power your home, let’s walk through the steps.
STEP 1 – SOLAR PANELS CAPTURE LIGHT
Solar panels are made of special materials that capture photons (sunlight). Those photons strip electrons from atoms within the solar panels and send them along thin wires as direct current (DC) electricity. These freed electrons are the essence of what makes electricity.
However, your home does not run on DC electricity. To turn this DC electricity into usable power, we need another piece of equipment: solar inverters
STEP 2 – SOLAR INVERTERS CONVERT SOLAR POWER TO USABLE ELECTRICITY
Solar panels produce DC electricity, but your home runs on alternating current (AC) electricity. To convert DC to AC electricity, a solar inverter must be installed.
There are several different types of solar inverters. These include string inverters, power optimizers, and microinverters. Each type of inverter has its pros and cons.
Depending on your situation, one type of invert might be better than the other.
Estimate your total savings, payments, and total energy usage with our FREE solar calculator.
STEP 3 – HOME APPLIANCES USE THE ELECTRICITY
Once the solar inverters convert DC electricity to AC electricity, that AC electricity is sent directly into your home through the breaker box. This AC electricity is no different than the electricity you receive from your utility.
The AC electricity produced by our solar panels and solar inverter can power all the electrical appliances in your home, including your refrigerator, water heater, dishwasher, and lightbulbs.
What happens if your solar produces excess electricity? What if your solar doesn’t produce enough electricity? That’s where net metering comes into play.
STEP 4 – NET METER TRACKS ENERGY USAGE
Solar panels hardly ever produce the exact amount of electricity you need in a given moment. That’s the nature of solar energy. Sometimes your solar panels will exceed your needs and send excess electricity to the grid. Other times your solar panels won’t produce enough electricity, and your home will need to pull electricity from the grid.
But don’t be alarmed, solar net metering is here to save the day!
Solar net metering tracks when your home consumes electricity from the grid and when it sends excess electricity back to the grid.
If your solar panels produce more electricity than you use in a month, most utility companies will give you energy credits you can use towards future energy consumption. And if you use more electricity than you produce in a month, you are charged your regular rate.
Thanks to Oregon law, the largest utilities in the state offer a 1:1 energy credit, meaning for every 1kW you overproduce and push onto the grid, the utility company gives you 1kW of energy credit. These energy credits can be used toward future energy consumption,
IS SOLAR RIGHT FOR YOU?
Now that you know how solar panels work, do you want to know how much you could save with solar power?
The solar experts at Green Ridge Solar can provide you with a free, no-obligation solar quote. Your savings are just a click away!
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