Understanding the Facts of How Solar Energy Works

This article was updated on 07 June 2023

Chances are you have wondered “how does solar energy work?”, and it’s a completely reasonable question.

Solar energy has exploded throughout the U.S. in recent years, and it has become a viable solution for powering both homes and commercial buildings all over.

This energy source is completely renewable and has tremendous potential for helping millions of people. If you are interested in solar power for your own home, you will first need to learn exactly how it works.

Types of Solar Energy Systems

There are two main types of solar energy systems—Photovoltaic (PV) and Solar Thermal. If you want to understand how solar energy works, it will be necessary to learn about the differences between these two types.

  • Photovoltaic:

    This type of solar energy converts radiant energy given off by the sun into electricity to power homes and commercial buildings. These setups started being used in space back in the 1950s for the purpose of powering satellites. This technology is now used in solar-powered calculators, rooftop solar panels and even charging stations for electric or hybrid vehicles.
  • Solar Thermal systems:

    These solar energy systems turn solar energy into heat that can be used in houses, businesses and even industrial structures. Solar water heat utilizes solar energy for the purpose of heating up water for homes and businesses.

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Solar Panels

The panels that are used to convert solar energy to electricity are a crucial component, and there are a few things that you should know about them.

Solar panels allow particles of light to separate electrons from atoms, which in turn leads to electricity being generated. Each panel is made up of numerous smaller units known as photovoltaic cells. These cells are all connected to make up a panel.

how solar energy works

In order to work properly, the cells have to create an electric field. This is similar to a magnetic field, except that an electric field is established when opposite charges are pulled apart.

These panels come in a variety of sizes, brands and designs. If you are planning on using solar energy to power your home, you will need to find quality panels that will last a very long time and work efficiently. Some brands of these panels are better than others, so you will have to do your research before deciding on anything in particular.

Those who are on a tight budget or just want to save some money will find that there are solar panels available from China and other places for fairly low prices. There are mono and polycrystalline solar panels, and the kind you get will depend on where you live. It is particularly important for those who live in areas that get extreme weather to spring for very durable solar panels that can take the onslaught of the elements.

Researchers have been exploring ultra thin, flexible solar cells that are extremely thin and light.

These cells could very well revolutionize the solar energy industry, and work just as efficiently as traditional cells if not more so. This technology is still being developed and improved to solve some of the minor and major issues that are associated with solar energy. It widely believed by experts that it won’t take long before we perfect this type of renewable energy so that it works perfectly for just about everyone.

These cells could very well revolutionize the solar energy industry, and work just as efficiently as traditional cells if not more so.


The Inverter

It’s also important that you understand how the inverter works, as it is another crucial component of the systems that utilize solar energy.

Inverters are installed on a wall and each panel in the system connects directly to it. There are also micro-inverters, which are generally more efficient and a bit different in their design. This component converts the DC electricity that a standard solar panel produces to AC electricity, which is what everything in your home needs to function properly.

SMA Sunny Boy Solar Inverter
SMA Sunny Boy Solar Inverter

Without an inverter, none of the appliances in your home would work. The inverter is usually the first part that has to be fixed or replaced within 10-15 years after the entire system is installed.

Measuring Your Electricity

One of the most important things to consider prior to getting a solar power system for your home is how much electricity you typically use and when you use it. The electricity that the system produces will be used by your appliances at home, and anything that is left over will be sent back to the grid.

1Kw solar power system for home
1Kw solar power system for home

It’s always ideal to use the power that your system generates rather than exporting it to the grid. If you are usually at home during the day, your energy consumption will be much higher. You will definitely need to keep this in mind before making the switch to solar at home.

Off-Grid Solar Power Systems

While traditional solar power systems tie into the electric grid, there are also setups that do not, and they are known as “off-grid solar systems”. Off-grid solar power systems are typically used by those who live in more isolated areas where access to an electric grid is not a possibility or simply not worth the outrageous expense.

Solar power system for home use off-grid system
Solar power system for home use off-grid system source: elavoenergy.com

These systems allow homeowners to be completely independent, though there are some drawbacks associated with them. Off-grid solar power systems use battery backups and sometimes generators to ensure that the homes that use them do not lose power suddenly. Even those who live in urban areas can still choose to go off-grid if they wish.


When you take the time to learn about solar energy, you will be able to make the right decision as to whether or not to utilize it and how to go about doing it.

Each year thousands of people get solar power systems setup for their homes and businesses because it is such an efficient and viable option as a whole. If you want to save lots of money on your utilities while going green, this is a great way to do so. Solar energy is definitely the future, and there are a lot of things about it to appreciate.