How Solar Power Works

Have you ever wondered how solar power works and how it could be used to help you defray the cost of powering and heating your home? It's more simple to understand once you know the basics of how the sun's energy is harnessed and then put to work in your home or garden.

men installing solar panel onto a roof

Solar power, or energy harnessed from the sun’s rays, is quite possibly the cleanest renewable energy source available today. It can be used to help power some areas of your home. Solar power has come a long way since it was first discovered, but there are still many advances to be made in the area of capturing and utilizing the sun’s energy.

Photovoltaic Solar Tiles

Photovoltaic tiles are solar cells. Solar cells are created from silicon material. A positive slice and a negative slice of silicon are placed under a thin sheet of glass to create a photovoltaic (solar) cell. The cell acts like a semiconductor. Alone, a solar cell can’t do much of anything. However, in order to understand better how solar power works, it’s important to understand how several solar cells can create power when grouped together and connected.

For example, one solar cell is just that; a single, isolated cell that cannot generate power on it’s own. However, when you connect several solar cells together with electrical connections, you have a solar cell module. Several modules linked together are called an array of solar cells. These are what you may recognize as a solar panel. Solar panels created from several solar cell arrays will generate different amounts of electricity, depending on the size of the panel.

How Electricity is Produced

How is solar energy obtained? When the sun’s rays make direct contact with the solar cell, electrons are forcefully separated from the atoms that are contained within the silicon. When solar cells are connected to each other via electrical conductors, electricity is produced. The electricity produced by this process can be used to power lights, tools, or appliances. In order to make this energy, or electricity, work in our homes, it must pass through what is called in inverter and be converted into an alternating current. How is solar energy used? With this energy, you have the ability to:

  • Heat your home
  • Heat your pool
  • Power lights
  • Power small appliances

If you’re able to install several grids in your home, it’s possible to even generate enough solar energy to have more than you require, which means you may even receive a check (rather than an invoice) from your power company!

It’s quite simple to see how solar power works for us, but a bit more difficult to make a reality, depending on your personal budget. Currently, to install solar panels into a home in such a way as to power everything you have and to heat your home to a comfortable level, the cost is roughly five times more expensive than using natural gas or electric heat sources. For many people, this is a cost-prohibitive option. However, if you are a “do-it-yourself” type of person, installing solar panels into your home may be a much more attainable option.

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