You’ve seen the gleaming solar panels on houses in your neighborhood or on buildings downtown.
And you may have thought about joining the renewable energy movement.
You can quickly convert your home into a more environmentally-conscious structure with solar panel components.
This guide will help you understand how residential solar energy works and decide whether to add solar panels to your home design.
How Do Solar Panel Components Generate Power?
Solar radiation is light emitted by the Sun.
And solar technologies convert this electromagnetic radiation (EMR) to energy. You can use solar energy to power your home, and communities can integrate solar power to improve energy efficiency and cut carbon emissions.
Standard residential solar panels use photovoltaic cells to gather EMR as photons, creating electric charges. The charge knocks electrons within the solar panel components free from their atoms, called the “photovoltaic effect.” The photovoltaic effect generates an electrical field within the cell, sending electricity to the system and powering your home.
Municipalities may use concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP), usually set up as large arrays of mirrors to reflect solar energy onto receivers. The receivers collect and convert the solar power into heat for energy. CSP technology takes up significant space, and therefore, only large power plants use them.
How Exactly Does the Photovoltaic Effect in Solar Panel Components Work?
When EMR meets a photovoltaic cell, the photovoltaic effect generates an electric current in the cell. The PV effect is how solar panel components convert the Sun’s rays to electrical energy.
Two types of semiconductors comprise solar cells: p-type and n-type. The two varieties join to create a p-n junction, forming an electric field whereby the electrons move to the p-side and holes move to the n-side.
Panels’ photovoltaic cells transfer photon energy to the electrons in the p-n junction. These electrons “jump” to a higher energy state called the conduction band, leaving a hole in the valence band. This movement, resulting from added energy, creates voltage for electrical power.
What Are Solar Cells Made of?
Most solar panels, about 95%, use solar cells made of silicon, a non-metal semiconductor that can absorb and transform sunlight into electrical power. Emerging solar technologies use other solar panels and construction materials, notably thin-film solar cells.
Organic Solar Cells
Organic photovoltaics – also called polymer solar cells or plastic solar cells – are produced when organic compounds are dissolved in ink and printed on thin plastic materials. They are thin-film solar cells using carbon-based materials as a semiconductor.
Perovskite Solar Cells
Produced with the same technique printers use to print newspapers, perovskite cells are solar components made from artificial materials. The crystallographic structure of the solar cells ensures the highly efficient conversion of photons into usable energy.
Chemical Thin-Film Solar Cells
Chemical thin-film types include:
- Amorphous silicon
- Gallium arsenide
- Cadmium telluride
- Copper indium gallium selenide
These solar cells are made from flexible, lightweight components and are 350 times smaller than silicon cells.
What Are the Other Components of Solar Panels?
Solar modules have two other primary parts that convert sunlight into electricity: the glass casing and the insulation layer. The panel’s exterior glass casing provides protection and long-term PV cell durability. The glass casing also has an anti-reflective coating to provide the best sunlight exposure for the cells and improve EMR absorption.
The insulation layer and back sheet prevent condensation from humidity and heat dissipation. Temperature increases decrease panel component efficiency, so a more stable environment improves panel performance.
American homes use AC power to run their electrical systems. Therefore, solar power systems also use an inverter to convert DC to AC power.
Does Solar Power Work at Night?
While you cannot use solar power to generate energy at night, the system you install will still work at night and on cloudy days, as long as you are grid-tied or have a solar storage system. While many solar users remain connected to their local power grids for the sunless hours, you can also free yourself from the electric company with a battery backup system.
Residential solar users have two options to manage both the excess and the lack of power collected from the solar panel components.
Net Metering Programs
Net metering programs apply to homeowners who connect to the electrical grid.
Under this arrangement, net metering programs send any surplus solar power from your system to the grid. The utility company provides you with credits you can use to offset power costs on cloudy days or at night. While net metering has the potential to lower your electricity bill, not all electric companies offer this program, and you may still see a statement for power not covered by your credits.
As solar panels generate electricity from the Sun and the inverter converts the power from DC to AC, the electricity runs your appliances. Any excess energy charges the batteries so that the battery provides power to your home during sub-optimal times, like nighttime or cloudy days.
Back-up batteries add expense at the outset, and the number of units you need to purchase depends on your energy use and home size. But the great news is that batteries allow you to break free of the utility company.
Will the Power Go Out?
Grid-tied homes may still lose power, as solar panel components can’t generate power without sunlight. However, if you have a solar-plus-storage system, you always have power. You and your family can relax in front of the fire and watch TV, confident that your fully-charged batteries will keep everyone cozy.
What Kinds of Homes Can Have Solar Power?
If you’re considering adding solar panels to your home, take a careful look at your home’s roof. Solar panels can work almost anywhere, but tree shade will block energy collection.
South-facing roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees offer the ideal angle for panels, but others might still work. Consider the age of your roof. If a replacement is due in the next few years, you may want to wait and complete both projects at once.
Other variables include:
- Roof construction materials and quality
- Home size
- Number and efficiency of appliances
- Homeowner association rules
Does My Home’s Location Matter When Installing Solar Panels?
Check the meteorological data for your area for monthly sun and rain averages. Also, review your utility bills for your annual power use. Your appliances account for only a portion of your service, with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning making up a significant chunk of your overall number.
Your local climate contributes to your HVAC use, as warmer areas see longer days and more sunshine than northern climates. The balance of sunny versus overcast days plays a part, too. If you have more cloudy days, you’ll use more power and need a more robust system, even if those days last longer.
How Much Does Solar Cost?
The cost of adding solar to your home varies depending on several factors, such as:
- Your home’s location
- Your community’s regulations
- The solar panel components you choose
As for the last point, most panels are monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Unlike silicon fragments that make up polycrystalline cells, monocrystalline solar cells consist of a single silicon crystal, giving electrons more room to respond to sunlight. They tend to be more expensive, but they’re more efficient.
Other costs include the “soft costs” of getting local permits and home inspections. Your solar panel company can guide you through the steps to plan your installation. You can also find a general cost and savings estimate with an online solar calculator.
Meanwhile, community solar allows homeowners whose homes aren’t a good fit for panels to benefit from a shared solar array. A neighborhood or community shares the system purchase and installation costs. And participants can buy into the shared system based on their budgets.
Why Add Solar Panel Components to Your Home?
Deciding to switch to solar energy seems easy, especially when you consider the plummeting costs to install and manufacture solar panel components. Although the process is complicated, your values combine with financial sense to make a straightforward personal decision.
However, you may need to convince others, like your immediate family or neighborhood. You could even affect policy decisions in your larger community. Here are some points to share with decision-makers and policymakers about joining the renewable and sustainable energy trend.
Preserving the Environment
Solar power lets consumers actively join the renewable energy movement. Solar panel components decrease your reliance on coal-powered electrical plants and the amount of carbon your energy use releases into the environment.
Although your electricity use may seem insignificant when there are countless utility customers, your decision to add solar to your home makes a powerful statement about your values. Your gleaming, solar-paneled roof leads by example for others.
Protecting Your Investment
Your home is an investment. And updating your electrical system with solar power can increase your home’s value.
Building a new home with solar power can be expensive. But the long-term benefits outweigh the initial complexity. Depending on your local regulations, you may opt to connect your new home to the grid without turning it on, so your future buyers have two options for power.
Empowering Your Family
Homeowners who choose solar with battery backup protect against the billing practices and scheduled power outages of billing companies. You empower yourself to make decisions about your home’s resources based on your values, not the whims of a corporation.
With properly installed and maintained solar equipment, your family and neighbors can stay safe and comfortable during storms. You oversee the decisions about your customized solar power system; it’s your home.
How to Get Started with Solar Power Components for Your Home
You can be a part of the change you want to see in the world when you decide to incorporate solar power into your home’s design.
Whether you’re building a new home or updating your current one, think about your values regarding the environment, your community, and your family. The cost of manufacturing solar panel components has dramatically decreased over the past decade, which means that the price of installation is lower than ever.
Explore your options by reviewing your home’s location, surrounding features, and energy needs. Then, contact us at Unbound Solar to go over your solar options!
You can take action to protect and empower the people you love and the world you enjoy by taking part in the rapidly growing movement in favor of renewable energy sources!