How Does Home Solar Power Work
The Sun bombards the earth with an almost incomprehensible amount of energy each and every day. An area of approximately 516 sq. ft. is exposed, in six hours, to over 10 times the amount of solar energy than is required to power the average home for an entire day. The best part is that the power of the sun is 100% clean and free.
Types of Solar Power
Solar power is using the power of the sun and turning it into either thermal or electrical energy. There are basically three methods that the power of the sun is harnessed to be used in home applications.
- Producing Usable Electrical Current (Photovoltaics)
- Heating and Cooling (Passive and Collectors)
- Concentrating Solar Power (Large Scale Commercial Use)
Roof Top Solar Panels
This article only pertains to producing usable electrical current to be used in your home exactly as you would use conventional power from the utility company. This is achieved through roof-top photovoltaic panels.
How a Solar Cell Works
Photovoltaics (PV) is the process of changing sunlight into electricity. Certain types of materials absorb photons from sunlight and then release electrons, like trees absorbing carbon and releasing oxygen. These electrons can be captured and used as electricity.
A photovoltaic cell or solar cell, are made from the same materials used in the manufacture of semi-conductors usually silicon. In a solar cell a semiconductor wafer is used to produce an electrical field. The solar cell has a positive and negative side which creates a circuit and the electrons then become electricity.
Solar Power Array
Solar cells are linked together and arranged into a module and modules are linked together to form an array. Arrays are the panels you would see mounted to the roof of a solar powered home.
The power created by a solar array is known as DC (Direct Current) and your home uses AC alternating current. DC current only runs one direction (forward) on an electrical wire, whereas AC current runs both directions, forward and backwards, on an electrical wire. To make the electricity produced by your solar panels useable in your home a power inverter is installed which changes the DC current into AC current. Once your inverter is hooked into your homes electrical system and the grid you have become a solar powered home; drawing your power from the sun during the day and from the grid at night.
Solar Power and the Grid
The real beauty of the solar power system is that in many areas during the day when you are producing more power than you are using the, excess power is fed back into the grid and the power company has to pay you for the extra energy or give you power credits. Not only is it clean energy, it saves you money as well.