Residential Solar Panels – The Basics

These days it seems like everyone is talking about finding ways to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, lower our energy bills, and cut back on our carbon emissions. One of the solutions gaining renewed interest is small-scale solar power for our homes. Before you make the decision to install solar panels, it’s a good idea to learn some of the basic information regarding residential solar panels and how they connect to your existing system.

Photovoltaic (PV) systems convert sunlight to electric current. There are many current applications you’re familiar with, such as calculators and wristwatches that use similar technology on a smaller scale. More complicated systems provide power for communications satellites, water pumps, and the lights, appliances, and machines in homes and workplaces. Many road and traffic signs along highways are now powered by PV.

Residential electrical services in Hampton Roads

While solar thermal systems use heat from the sun to heat water or air, PV does not use the sun’s heat to make electricity. PV systems produce some electric current any time the sun is shining, but more power is produced when rays of sunlight are perpendicular to the PV panels. Electrons freed by the interaction of sunlight with semiconductor materials in PV cells create an electric current Business Power Plans.

Types of Residential PV Systems

If you are considering adding a PV system to your current home, you should know that it can be metered in such a way as to allow you to get credit for electric energy produced by your PV system. Currently, 42 states plus the District of Columbia have net-metering regulations that may allow you to sell the extra power you produce back to the utility company. In effect, net-metered PV systems use the existing utility grid as storage. Before you buy or install any solar power generation equipment to be net metered, you should call your electric utility service provider, and find out from them all of the utility requirements and rules for installing and interconnecting a generator.

PV systems that are not connected to the utility grid are called remote, stand-alone, or off-grid systems. In remote areas where existing utility lines are a considerable distance away, PV is often the least expensive way to provide electricity to a building.

Off-grid systems have the same components as grid-connected systems, except that they need storage batteries to supply electricity when the sun is not shining, and do not need an inverter to tie into the grid. Also, off-grid PV systems may need additional components such as an auxiliary generator, or even a wind turbine.

How Residential Solar Panels Work

The material that converts solar energy into electricity is called a semiconductor. There are two types, one of which has a positive electrical charge, and the other a negative charge. When the two are placed together, an electrical current is produced, much like a battery with its positive and negative poles.

The device that holds these semiconductors together is called a PV cell. Cells produce electricity through a process called the photoelectric effect. The sunlight that is absorbed in the cell transfers its energy to the electrons in the cell’s atoms. This extra energy knocks some electrons out of their normal position, and they join the flow in the electrical circuit.

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