How Do Home Solar Panels Work?

Fuel and energy sources are one of mankind’s greatest discoveries. In the beginning, people relied on the sun to tell the time, care for the crops, and dry clothes. When the skies were gray, they’d burn wood to do the drying but otherwise, everyone realized that the sun alone wasn’t too efficient. When the industrial revolution hit, energy sources have become completely modernized through steam engines and a century later, using electricity to power machines had become the next breakthrough.

The use for nuclear energy was discovered next, and then oil utilization had become all the rage. All of this energy consumption is at the cost of the Earth’s resources. With its resources slowly deteriorating over the years, mankind attempted to revisit an old friend of theirs: the sun. Thus, solar energy started to make a comeback in recent decades.

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is a renewable energy source that involves taking the sun’s rays and harnessing them into energy. This is done through the usage of panels that bear photovoltaic cells. These photovoltaic cells, from the very nature of the Greek word ‘phos’ and the electrical measurement unit “volt”, harness light from the sun and transform them into a usable energy source. The contraption has been often been credited to French inventor Edmond Becquerel.

This form of energy has been utilized by objects of varying size. From the smallest handheld calculator to the largest spacecraft imaginable, solar panels are put to use in order to make these things work no matter what the mass. A more common form of usage of solar energy is through gigantic solar power plants. These power plants absorb power from the sun and uses the sun’s heat to boil water. The water that is boiled is then used to drive a steam turbine. In powering this steam turbine, it generates electricity through hydroelectrical means. This method is almost similar to water wheels done long ago, but with a now more modern spin to it (no pun intended).

Today, solar energy isn’t just used for industrial applications, but personal means, too. Solar panels can be used for homes and businesses. If you’re interested in having your own solar panels set up, providers like can help you get started.

Who Uses Solar Energy?

A lot of people use solar energy today. From farmers to world-famous celebrities, solar energy is no stranger to all kinds of people. Some renowned personalities that have turned to solar energy are Edward Norton, Pierce Brosnan, Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Brad Pitt. If you go by country, Germany is on top of everyone in terms of solar energy usage. Countries that follow Germany’s stride to cleaner, better renewable energy are China, Japan, Spain, France, Belgium, Australia, and the Czech Republic.

Various companies from across the globe use solar energy as well. Famous companies that have boasted of their use of solar energy are Google, Walmart, Apple, Starbucks, Microsoft, and IKEA. With so many different people using solar energy today, there isn’t any other reason out there why you shouldn’t be doing this, too.

By using solar energy, you’ll be able to reap a myriad of benefits. For instance, it’ll drastically cut your electrical costs by a lot. Because more and more forms of technology require stronger, more powerful sources of voltage, energy costs will rise in the future and it’s with solar energy that you can mitigate these costs. If you own the property you live in, having solar panels may even increase its value because of its renewability.

If you’re looking to go solar yourself, take a look at this video:

While these benefits may seem fancy at a glance, it does beg the question of how these work in your everyday household. Read on and we will tell you.

How Home Solar Panels Work

Here’s an overview of how solar panels work in your home:

  • After setting the solar panels up on the roof of your house, the sunlight hits these panels and the photons and electrons within them interact to create an electrical current.
  • This electrical current flows into the solar inverter which converts the stored energy from your panels (a direct current or DC), into usable energy (an alternating current or AC) for your house.
  • This energy travels into your house’s breaker box which will allow the energy to flow through every current and electrical outlet within the walls of your house.
  • Extra, unused energy from the solar panels will flow back to the electrical grid and will still be available for consumption.

Is it Consistent?

While you might have installed your solar panels, an incorrect or improper installation might cause you to experience a problem called zero power output. This occurs when your inverter is damaged, your solar panels just aren’t working, or if the charge controller is faulty. This doesn’t just happen because it isn’t sunny (cloudy days only allow a solar panel up to 10-25% of its maximum capacity). If you suspect any damage, call the group that helped install your solar panels.

Other factors that could contribute to zero power output would be obstructions that cast a shadow over your solar panels or an overheating system. The latter can be fixed with additional extensions.

Plan Out Your Installation

While it may seem like a simple process for you to have solar panels installed, most people wouldn’t delve so deep into their homework before buying these. They’d end up disappointed because the solar panels couldn’t work the way they hoped. Others would even go so far as to say that solar panels are flimsy and easily destroyed by storms. Before you install any solar panels, it’s quite important to take note of a few of these things:

  • Consider first the condition of your roof. If your roof hasn’t been repaired in a decade, it’s probably not the best idea to install solar panels. You may also want to match the warranty of your solar panels with the warranty of your roof. If you think that your roof cannot carry the weight of solar panels or it doesn’t directly face the sun, then you may also want to reconsider this. You won’t exactly get what you paid for.
  • Understand how rainwater falls on and from your rooftop. If you happened to install solar panels on your roof and you don’t know where the rainwater is going, chances are you might experience further damage and leaks. The solar panels may be the ones causing the leaks and may have to be removed from your roof. This event will add to your maintenance bill.
  • If you live in an area where storms are most likely to occur, you may have to think about how these will affect your solar panels. Constant repairs may be a problem and could make having solar panels more expensive than they should be.
  • Another thing you should consider is the length of your stay at your home. If you’ll be moving out soon, it’s best to put this project on the backburner. If you’re moving into a home you’ve bought or if you’ll be living in this one specific home for the rest of your life, then by all means, it’s a good idea to install solar panels.

Solar Panel Home Maintenance

Like every piece of equipment that you’ll own, solar panels themselves will require maintenance. This maintenance will improve the overall energy output flowing through your house. If left poorly maintained, your solar panels may have a shorter lifespan than they should. 

Here are a few tips on how you can easily maintain your solar panels:

  1. While there is no exact standard on how often these should be cleaned, it’s recommended that you clean your solar panels at least twice a year. Use clean water and a soft sponge; the use of a simple garden hose will be quite helpful. Never use anything abrasive or powerful like pressure washers, as these would certainly damage the delicate surfaces of the panels. Use a long broom or a snow rake to take snow off during the winter.
  2. During the spring, make sure that the solar panels are completely free of any obstruction or damage. Specifically, look out for these:
  • Corrosion or water damage
  • Animal droppings
  • Vegetation growth
  • Missing parts or bolts
  • Exposed wiring
  • Wear and tear
  1. If any maintenance is needed, call for help from your solar panel installer. Never attempt to repair anything that appears broken as skill from professional technicians is required when repairing solar panels.
  2. While you’re cleaning your solar panels, never apply rock salt, hot water, car wax, or hydrophobic solutions. These, too, could damage the surfaces of the panels.

Wear and tear is one thing, but sometimes it’s the quality of the panels that you need to look out for before setting up any in your home.

How to Choose a Solar Panel Installer

After you’ve finally put your solar panel dilemma to rest and you’ve decided to get this all set up, it’s time to hire a solar panel installer. With so many companies out there willing to lend you their expertise as well as grant you the key to your new green life, how can you choose just one? Here’s how:

  • First look at their reputation by looking up their reviews on the internet. If they’re chock full of raving reviews about how excellent their service is, consider them on your list. You can compare them with other providers later on.
  • Next, look at their track record and experience. Because solar energy is a steadily-growing market, it can attract professionals from all walks of life. Find out how long they’ve been in business and what specialties they have to offer that other providers do not.
  • Then, find out about their licenses and expertise. This will further solidify their credibility when helping you in installing solar panels for your home. After all, these certifications prove that these workers are skilled enough to provide you with only the best solar panels. The golden mark of expertise of a solar panel provider is the Solar PV Installation Professional Certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. If they bear this certificate, you can put your trust in them.
  • Lastly, know if they’re within proximity of your residence. You wouldn’t want a solar panel installer a couple of cities away from your home, you’d want one somewhere closer. This is especially important if you somehow might have emergencies with your solar panels. Having a solar panel provider nearby means getting expeditious solutions to any technical problem.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

So, you’ve finally decided to contact a solar panel installer. Would you know how many solar panels you’ll need for your home?

Depending on your household, the average American homeowner will require 28-34 solar panels to fully cover their energy usage. This is once again reliant on their location as well as their roof size. Solar panels produce power in Kilowatts per Hour (or kWh) and these are quite dependent on how much and how long these panels will be exposed to sunlight. 

As strange as it may seem, some states are actually sunnier than others. For instance, California is typically sunnier compared to states like Seattle or Michigan and thus, having solar panels set up in a California home may be more ideal and more efficient with less panels. 

However, this doesn’t mean that households in cloudy states are discouraged from installing solar panels; they just need a bigger, more powerful system. A solar panel system that has more efficient and numerous panels will do just as well as a solar panel system with lesser panels but more exposure to the sun. It’s all about the maximization of how much sunlight you want your panels to take. Once again, the owners of these homes have to also consider the sizes of their roofs or the areas in which they install their panels.

Look on the Bright Side

If you aren’t yet convinced as to why you should get solar panels installed on the roof of your home, just remember that this is a step forward in your efforts to save the planet. Coal and oil are not just non-renewable energy sources, they can also produce harmful pollutants that could further damage the Earth’s atmosphere. As mankind continues to take further strides in the race to rescue Mother Nature, it all starts with you. Solar energy is the gateway toward greater possibilities and, perhaps, an even cleaner and brighter tomorrow.