As popular as solar panels are becoming around the country, and as much as they can change your life by decreasing your utility bill and decreasing your carbon footprint, they remain fairly misunderstood.

If you’re like most people who think about having solar panels installed on your home you understand the basic concept of solar panels and solar power generations. Solar rays from the sun hit your solar panels and are converted into electricity, which is then used by your home to power your appliances and electronics. But if you want to be an informed customer, what are you missing?

How Solar Panels Create Electricity

The main process by which solar power is converted into usable electricity for your home is through photovoltaic cells in your solar panels, but what does that mean?

Usually, when sunlight hits an object the energy it contains is converted to heat, but some materials produce an electric current when hit by sunlight, which provides an opportunity to harvest some of the power produced by the sun.

In the past, most photovoltaic cells used silicon, but silicon crystals are hard to grow, making silicon-based solar panels fairly expensive. Newer materials, like copper-indium-gallium-selenide are cheaper to produce and can be shaped into flexible films, but they are not nearly as efficient as silicon.Solar photovoltaic panel array on a tiled house roof

The actual science of solar power generation has to do with the atomic bonds in crystal materials. In crystals, electrons are shared by all of the atoms that make up the crystal, creating a “sea of electrons” that are shared covalently between all of the individual atoms.

When sunlight hits the crystals it is absorbed and excites the electrons, allowing them to move to a higher energy level, allowing a current to develop which can be harvested for use in your home.

Once your solar panels create an electric current the current is sent to an inverter, which converts the direct current (DC) electricity from the solar panels to alternating current (AC), which is the electric current used by your appliances in your home. After the electricity is converted to AC it is sent to your electrical panel and powers your appliances.

An added benefit of using solar energy is that energy you produce with your solar panels and use in your home actually measures as a “negative” energy consumption, so you end up paying less money for the solar energy you use in your home.

Now that you know how solar panels work and create electricity, we recommend you take a look at some of the other information on our site, including what solar energy tax credits are available to you. If you have additional questions, please get in contact with us so that we can answer them.