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A Step-by-step Guide to Understanding Solar Panel Function

A Step-by-step Guide to Understanding Solar Panel Function

Despite the growing number of people switching to solar energy, a lot of them are yet to understand how it all worksstarting from solar panels. All we know is that you mount it, install the necessary materials needed like solar battery storage and an inverter, check if it's working and that's it. While it's not that hard to figure out, having a full understanding of how your solar panels provide you with energy from the sun is still important, and can even help you with maximising your solar panel setup's benefits.

For an easier breakdown, here is the step-by-step process of how solar panels operate on an ideal day:

Step 1: Solar Panel Activation

Whether you have a standard fixed solar panel mounted on the roof of your home or a flexible solar panel on your caravan, all individual panels in these are made up of silicon cells held by a metal frame, and a glass casing coated with a special film. These cells are usually arranged in an ordered series or "arrays" to generate maximum output and are often referred to as photovoltaic cells. They're mainly responsible for the initial task of absorbing sunlight during the day which translates into electrical current later on.

Step 2: Production of Electrical Current

Remember the silicon layers in each solar cell? Two layers of these make up a thin semiconductor wafer with positive and negative sides to form an electric field. When sunlight hits your photovoltaic cell, it activates the cell and releases the electrons within the semiconductor. This motion within these cells is what creates the electrical current that will then be converted into usable energy.

Flexible Panel

Step 3: Conversion of Electrical Energy

Your solar panels are now ready to transform sunlight into electricity, but this electricity is still in the form of direct current (DC), which is not the type of electricity suitable for running your home appliances. If you want to power your home, you need to be supplied with alternating current (AC) electricity. Fortunately, the DC electricity generated by your solar panels can easily be converted to AC electricity through an inverter. Also, a lot of modern solar systems have a built-in inverter for the entire setup already or have an individual, microinverter attached behind each panel.

Step 4: AC Electricity Powers Your Home

This is every solar system owner's much-awaited part. The converted AC energy from your solar panels will now be distributed within your appliances. There is not much difference between this and the power generated through the grid, so no necessary changes in your home need to be done. You still remain connected to your original source of power from your electric unit company, so you can still draw electricity from it in case your solar panels don't supply ample electricity. This usually happens during a cloudy day, or if you need to do a bit of solar panel cleaning already.

Solar PAnel for Home

In addition to all these steps, it would also be wise to install a meter along with your solar system. This is to measure the electricity flowing to and from your home. During cloudy days or at night, your solar panels may not be able to capture as much energy and in the same way, they may also collect surplus energy in the middle of the day even when no one is at home to use it. Having a meter will help determine any surplus power you have, so your utility power can provide credits for it. This process is called net metering.

Knowing how solar panels operate is the first step to switching to solar energy. Aside from having an idea of what goes in and out of your home, this can also help you determine the best ways to get the most out of your system whether you're using it in your household or in your outdoor adventures.