How Does Solar Energy Work?

Learn about solar power, how it works, and why this abundant renewable energy source is becoming more accessible to more people.

Many people today are trying to save money on their energy bills and one of the more popular ways is through using solar energy. How does solar energy work?

Energy from the sun in the form of heat and light is abundantly available to everyone on Earth, even in places that do not get a lot of a sun. Did you know that the Earth receives more energy from the sun in an hour than our entire population can use in an entire year? With all that clean, renewable energy that is coming from the sun every day, it is worthwhile to figure out a way to use it.

Active Solar

There are two different types of solar energy that can be used to power our homes and daily lives. One is active solar energy, which works through solar panels, which are set up with the use of photovoltaic cells. These cells are linked together in order to produce electricity.

How much electrical output they produce depends on a few factors. One of them is how many cells are linked together in a panel, and how many panels are being used.

The energy from the sun comes in the form of direct current, DC, instead of the alternating current, AC, that is used in your home. For this reason you will need a way to convert the energy. The simplest solution is to buy a power inverter, which convert the sun's energy into usable AC elecricity. Another option is to convert your household's electrical needs to DC power, although this is in most cases impractical especially in existing homes.

Thermal Solar Energy

There is another form of active solar power that uses thermal energy from the sun to heat the water in your home. Devices that circulate and pump the water help to keep it warm. Depending on where you live, solar power can heat water up to sixty degrees or more. While this may not be ideal for taking a shower, it can be effective for dish washing or even doing your laundry. Solar power for heating water can cut your water heating bills substantially, and can be used in combination with solar electricity.

Passive Solar

Passive solar energy uses the power of the sun without the use of any mechanical devices. When you go out on a sunny day, you feel the warm sun's rays, and this principle is really the same for heating your home. A passive solar home has south facing windows and uses building materials that absorb the sun's rays and then dissipates the heat into your home efficiently. Passive solar can also be used to heat water in our home.

Using Residential Solar Energy

Solar electricity is a great alternative to powering your home with standard power grids. It is already being used in a variety of residential, as well as business applications world wide. There are many different ways you can get a home solar power system, including DIY solar power kits that come complete with diagrams and materials you need to build your own solar power systems for very little money.

You can also find solar energy professionals that will come to your home, assess your needs, and do all the work for you. There are even ways that you can get used solar panels for free, or through solar power grants or renewable energy programs in your area.

You can run your home on solar energy even when there is little or no sun. Using batteries to store excess energy, you can draw from them during the days when there is simply not enough sun to be effective.

Many Options for Using Solar Energy

Some people also use solar energy in combination with other alternative power sources, like wind turbines, or even magnetic generators. Not only can it save you a great deal of money on your electric bill, in some cases you can actually get completely off the grid, and not even have a bill at all.

New technologies are being developed to help make solar energy more affordable and available to more people. Even if you're not able to convert your entire home to solar power, you can now use solar powered battery chargers, solar yard lights, solar appliances and more.

Each small thing that you do to save energy will also help our environment and help to make our beautiful Earth a better place for our children and grandchildren.

M.S. Rochell is the editor of which is dedicated to inspiring and educating people about the benefits of using solar energy in our daily lives. Please visit for more on how does solar energy work, and for our free Affordable Solar Energy eBooks.

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