March 14, 2024

Understanding How Do Solar Panels Work on a House

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6 Min. Read

For anyone seeking to lower their energy bills and be kinder to the environment, evaluating how solar panels can work for your home is key.

As more homeowners take advantage of available incentives to increase the value of their properties and decrease their dependence on the grid, installing solar panels is an incredible opportunity to increase your energy independence while also boosting your utility savings with renewable energy.

This article reviews solar panel technology, its advantages, and how solar panels can be partnered with other energy transition technologies. Let’s find out how solar energy can benefit you at home and answer the question, “How do solar panels work on a house?”

How Do Solar Panels Work on a House?

Solar panel technology relies on photovoltaic (PV) cells that use silicon as a semiconductor and insulator. Each individual cell is relatively small and usually produces 1-2 watts of power. The PV cells are connected in chains to form modules or panels to boost power production.

The modules can be used separately or be combined to form arrays. PV cells are sandwiched between glass and/or plastic protective materials to weatherproof them and the solar panels also employ an anti-reflective coating to increase their sunlight absorption.

If you’ve ever felt the heat radiating off the road on a hot day or watched the highway and seen heat reflecting off the road, solar panels operate a bit more effectively. When sunlight hits the asphalt, the heat from the sun makes the molecules on the road’s surface move faster and become warmer. With solar panels, the sunlight doesn’t make them hotter. Instead, the sunlight is absorbed by the cells and transformed into something useful: electricity.

So how do solar panels work on a house? The PV modules and arrays are mounted in a way that best orients them toward the sun. This allows them to garner the sunshine most efficiently, even on cloudy days. The PV cells in the solar panel array absorb energy from the sunlight. Metal plates alongside the cells collect the direct-current (DC) electrons produced and transfer the power to connecting wires. A solar inverter converts the electricity into the alternating current (AC) that powers the appliances in your home.

If your solar array is tied to the grid, excess energy produced by your panels can be sold back to the grid, further reducing your overall power costs. If you add home battery storage, you can integrate it to store excess power and create your own microgrid.

Environmental and Financial Benefits of Home Solar Panels

Solar energy is renewable, clean energy that reduces dependence on non-renewable resources, like fossil fuel-dependent power plants. Solar helps the environment by reducing your carbon footprint, enabling more efficient use of appliances, and fueling the transition to electric vehicles.

Solar integration allows homeowners and multifamily buildings to generate their own energy supply. This reduces dependence on traditional power grids and provides resilience during power outages. Solar can also reap financial benefits for homeowners.

Solar energy offers a cost-effective way to reduce electricity bills and reliance on power plants that burn fossil fuels. Once the installation costs are recovered, solar panels require minimal maintenance and last 25-40 years.

Solar panels can significantly reduce homeowners’ utility bills. Results vary by electricity rates and solar array size and savings will vary depending on your location, energy usage, solar panel system size, and electricity costs in your area, but solar panels save homeowners an average of $1,000 to $1,500 annually, and most homeowners reportedly save between $20,000 and $96,000 on utility bills over the lifetime of their solar panels. This cost-savings benefit translates into long-term financial stability for homeowners.

If your solar system is connected to the grid, you may be able to export excess power back to the grid. Known as net metering, this process enables those with solar or other renewable energy sources to produce clean electricity, distribute it to others in the area, and further save on their utility bills.

The cost of installing a solar system has decreased by more than 50% in the past decade. The federal solar tax credit also makes installing solar more affordable by allowing homeowners to claim 30% of the solar installation cost on their tax return. Results vary, but the average payback period for installing a solar array is ten years, Considering how long the panels last, the electricity savings will continue for decades beyond that.

As a home-improvement project, adding solar power can increase your property’s value due to the growing demand for sustainable housing. Be aware that the savings can vary for leased solar-power systems. Since homeowners do not own a leased system, a new buyer must be willing to assume ownership of the lease.

How Do Solar Panels Work on a House? Types of Solar Panel Systems Available to Homeowners

There are three main types of solar panels.

Monocrystalline

These panels are the most common type. They are more expensive than polycrystalline panels but more efficient, so they are better suited for smaller roofs or arrays. Some have an extra conductive layer to increase energy absorption. These panels can be less efficient during cold weather.

Polycrystalline

These panels represent older solar technology. They lack the efficiency of newer models but cost less. Polycrystalline panels can have some variation in color and consistency among panels that can affect their curb appeal.

Thin-film

These panels offer the sleekest appearance. Completely black, they blend in easily on roofs. Since they are the least efficient option, more panels may be required to generate enough power for a home. They are mainly used for solar farms.

Beyond deciding what type of solar panels are best for your residence and needs, you must also evaluate your solar panel system connectivity. There are three basic set-ups:

  • Off-grid solar systems are ideal for remote locations with no grid access or for someone who wants to live off the grid.
  • Grid-tied systems allow you to utilize grid power when needed and even send excess energy from the sun to the grid for others to use.
  • Hybrid systems connect to the grid but also include batteries to store energy and provide backup power in case of grid outages.

Each system type requires unique equipment, so understanding which best fits your needs is the first step in going solar.

Integrating Solar Panels with Home Energy Management

A hybrid system is the most flexible and enables your home to serve as a mini-grid. Pairing solar panels with a smart electrical panel and battery storage capabilities can give you total home energy management, allowing you to control your energy usage all day long.

Adding innovative tools for your circuit breaker panel will enable you to manage and prioritize power loads in your home based on electricity produced, usage, electricity costs, and battery capacity. Finally, adding a battery bank allows you to retain some power generated by the sun for use when it is not shining. The combination allows homeowners to have reliable power flow 24/7.

Installing solar energy can transform your home electricity usage, curb costs, and offer long-term financial and environmental benefits. Embracing renewable energy is critical for a sustainable and resilient future. Investing in solar panels, battery storage, and smart electrical panels can enable you to be grid resilient, too.

Learning how do solar panels work on a house is just the start and planning and budgeting for the transformation requires expertise. You want to partner with an industry expert such as Qmerit to ensure your solar panel installation genuinely empowers your current and future needs.

Transform Your House into a PowerHouse by Qmerit™

Qmerit is a national leader in electrification. Our vetted, trained network of certified electricians have handled more than 81,000 solar panel integrations and installed over 37,000 battery storage energy systems with experience on over 28,000 integrated battery storage and solar panel installations.

But beyond experience with these technologies, Qmerit’s network is the most trusted energy transition service provider in North America because we help make electrification easy and safe. With pre-vetted electrical contractors who are trained and experienced in working with electrification, you can rest assured knowing that your installation will be done right and is covered by Qmerit’s Peace of Mind Guarantee.

Learn about PowerHouse by Qmerit – solar and home electrification solutions that enable you to live more independently, sustainably and cost-effectively.

Author: Greg Sowder

Greg Sowder

President, Qmerit Network