A homeowner’s guide to how solar energy works

If you’re a homeowner or planning to buy a house, you must’ve heard the chatter about solar energy and solar panels. Everyone seems to be obsessed with solar panels gracing their roofs so it might be a good time to properly understand how solar energy works so that you can make an informed decision going forward. In a stripped-down form, the way solar energy works is pretty straightforward. All you need is a solar array (group of solar panels) and an inverter. Let’s get to know them better.

It starts with the roof

The photovoltaic cells inside the solar panels absorb the photons from sun rays. If you’re worried about panels absorbing something, don’t be. One good hour of the sun can power the entire Earth for a year – it’s that abundant. The cells turn the sunlight into direct current (DC) in a process we call the photovoltaic effect.

The inverter steps up

The DC electricity needs to be turned into an alternative current (AC) for consumer usage. And that’s the job of an inverter. The central inverter collects power generated by all the panels and then transfers it to your circuit boards. The inverter also interacts with grids and transfers power according to requirements.

Grid connection for extra energy

Most solar energy systems are connected to the electrical grid. It’s more than likely you’ll generate more power than your house needs. In such cases, you can transfer the surplus to the power grid. This is also useful when you need an extra load of energy as the grid can supply that to your house.

So what happens at night?

This is a more common question than you think. Generally, the surplus you transferred to the grid comes in handy on cloudy days and at night. Your power company offers a credit on the power you export which is known as net metering. Most states have some sort of net metering programs that help homeowners receive additional power at a minimal cost or for free. Think of it as good karma.

What about the batteries?

If you want to go completely off-grid, then battery storage is the way to go. Batteries are still an expensive investment but if you live in a place that is prone to frequent blackouts, or doesn’t have reliable grid connections, lithium-ion batteries offer efficient, on-demand energy solutions. The cost for battery storage varies by location so you should iron out the details with your operator.

How can solar energy save me money?

Well, first of all, you can completely rely on solar energy to power your house and all the appliances. If you have a powerful array that generates more electricity than you’ll need, you can save solid money through net metering. There are also tax benefits and incentives in different states to help homeowners go solar. The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) can drastically bring down the upfront cost of solar panel installation. Even if you take a solar loan, your energy system will start paying for itself in 5-7 years. On top of that, there’s an added value of a solar property, which will increase the price of your house in the market. Solar energy opens up new job opportunities, helps homeowners save money, and the environment. Get in touch with your local operators to understand how much power your house will need, and who has the experience and customer service to help you go solar.