A Beginner’s Guide to All Things Solar

If you’ve been thinking about adding a solar system to your home, you probably know that solar energy is an unlimited, eco-friendly option. But, have you ever wondered how a solar panel system actually works? Ever look into how the panels convert sunlight into energy to reduce your power bill each month? 

To help explain this process, our experts at  NC Solar Now have created the Beginner’s Guide to All Things Solar to provide an overview of all things solar. 

What is Solar Energy?

Solar Energy is considered a renewable energy source because it is constantly available and unlimited to the planet. Unlike oil, natural gas, coal, and other fossil fuels that take considerable time to form and are not replenished once used, the sun’s energy is a resource with a natural replenishment rate.

Solar energy can be converted into thermal (heat) energy or electric energy.

  • Thermal energy is when the sun’s solar energy is used to heat homes and buildings. Solar power from heat can be passive (harnessing naturally occurring heat from the sun) or active (mechanical components help to move the heat generated from the sun)
  • Electric energy is when the solar energy is captured, and the sun’s rays are converted into usable energy.

What is a Solar Cell?

As a human species, we have been utilizing solar energy for centuries. From drying foods to heating buildings, solar energy is given off by the sun’s rays and captured in a variety of ways, the most common being through a photovoltaic solar panel system or PV system for short. 

A solar cell converts the sun’s light into electricity. These cells are called photovoltaic or PV cells. The word “photovoltaic” comes from 

1) “photons” which are tiny particles that come from sunlight 

2) “volts” which is a measurement of electricity

The solar cells are made up of materials that can capture the sun’s tiny particles of light energy. When the sunlight hits the photovoltaic cell, it is either reflected, passes right through or is absorbed. The absorbed light creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, which causes electricity to flow.  

How do Solar Panels Work?

A solar panel is made up of groups of solar cells that can turn sunlight into electricity for your home. Solar panels work in the following way:

  • Solar panels are positioned to capture as much sunlight as possible and usually placed on the south side of a home or building. This positioning allows the panels to capture the maximum amount of sunlight to be converted into electricity. 
  • Circuits within the solar cells collect that light energy and turn it into a direct current or DC energy.
  • The DC electricity is passed through a device (an inverter) that converts it to a usable alternating current of (AC) electricity that comes out of your wall outlet. 
  • The AC electricity is then used to power your home or sent back to the grid

How do Solar Panels Save You Money?

During the installation process, the solar panel system is run parallel to the home’s electrical system. The solar panel is also connected to the utility company through your home’s connection to the utility grid. Most homes have a net metering system that allows homeowners to send any excess power back to the grid when their system overproduces in exchange for credits on the next utility bill. Those credits can also be used to draw energy back from the grid in times of low sunlight. 

Ultimately, solar is a clean energy source with zero emissions, great for the environment and available worldwide. As the cost of renewable energy technologies becomes more competitive and the price of solar panels decreases, homeowners can take advantage of the benefits of solar while also never having to worry about another power bill again. 

Interested in Learning More?

NC Solar Now is North Carolina’s Most Trusted solar panel installer and embraces the philosophy that solar is for everyone! We’ll be by your side from your first free virtual consult through our warranty period and beyond. Visit us online at NC SOLAR NOW or contact us for more information. Check us out on Facebook or Instagram. Want to chat with someone? Give us a call at 919-833-9096.

Want to Read More?

Take a look at some of our other blogs about solar. 

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Are you still wondering if solar panels are right for you? Are you considering going green with your house but you’re concerned about the cost? Our team can walk you through any questions or concerns you have. Set up a no-obligation call with us, and we can explain all the benefits of solar power to your home (and to your bank account).
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