Most homeowners understand that solar panels create electricity and can help lower electric bills, but don’t understand how the system works and how it can save you money.
Solar panels are comprised of many photovoltaic cells, which are made from a semi-conducting material, typically silicon. When the sunlight hits these cells the particles of light, or photons, will move electrons in the solar cells which are transferred through a metal contact on the solar cells to a wire in the form of direct current. Solar cells are treated, or “doped”, with other materials like phosphorus and boron to increase the amount of current that can be created.
The quality of the silicon used and the doping process will affect the amount of electricity created by a solar panel. Not all solar cells are the same, and it is important that you understand how efficient your solar panels are as the amount of electricity produced will determine how much money your system can help you save. Most solar panels will have the metal contacts on the front of the panels, which decreases the available surface area to absorb sunlight, and rear-contacts are becoming more popular in the manufacturing process to increase panel efficiency. Not to mention you won’t see metal lines on the front of the panel for a more pleasing aesthetic.
Solar panels create direct current, or DC, which is transferred to a piece of equipment called an inverter. The inverter will change the current from DC to AC, or alternating current. This is the type of power we use in our homes.
Once the current has been switched to AC it connects to the electric panel in your home. This is either connected before the electric panel, called a line side tap, or into an available breaker, which is called a load side tap.
Solar panels will create electricity as long as there is sunlight hitting the panels, and all of the electricity generated is tracked through a net-metering system. Part of your solar panel installation will include your utility company swapping your meter for a bi-directional meter. This meter will spin backwards when your system produces more energy than you are using, and spin forwards when you require more power than your system is generating or when there is no sunlight. You will get credit for all of the electricity generated on your roof, and your annual production takes into account all types of weather patterns from historical weather data in your area.
Savings with Solar
Solar has become cheaper than traditional power from the grid in many markets as equipment prices have come down significantly in recent years. Whether you choose to lease, finance, or purchase your system the cost of solar power will be significantly cheaper than grid power if you are in a market that has incentives for solar or receives a lot of sunlight. Since solar is cheaper than power from the utility, any power generated on your roof will save you money.
The most important thing is having a roof that has enough space to install a solar array and is free from shading to optimize your savings. You can now install a solar energy system with no money out of pocket that will immediately lower your monthly electric cost if your home is a good candidate for solar.