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How Solar Works

If you look at the roofs around you, you will see that more and more people are installing solar but what is it all about and how does it work? The point of installing solar is to save money, but that is the end result and we should start this story at the beginning. 

The solar panels are officially called photovoltaic modules. Photovoltaic is really hard to say, so most people call them PV modules or just go with the commonly accepted and less technical name “solar panels”. The solar panels should be installed at a good angle to the sun which is generally going to be south. East or west also works with west having an advantage of producing more energy in the afternoons which is desirable if you are on a Time-of-Use electric rate (you can see our other articles for more details on that). Most people install the solar panels on the roof but if you have the space, you can install them on a ground-mount rack. 

Roof vs ground mounted solar

When the sun hits the solar panels, they produce DC electricity. When you buy the solar panels, you will also want to get an inverter (or microinverters) to convert the DC power to AC power. In a Grid-tied system (which is the kind you want for your house unless you are not hooked up to the electric company), that inverter (or microinverters) will be connected to the main service panel of your house. 

The power from the solar will flow to all the lights and appliances in the house and any excess power that you don’t use will flow out to the grid, spinning your meter backwards. Your electric company will give you credits for that energy that you give them and apply those credits to the energy that you use at night when the solar isn’t producing. 

The amount of credit that you get for the energy you feed into the grid depends on your utility company. In some places customers get full credit, so for every kilowatt hour (kwh) you feed in, you get a kwh back later. In other places, you get less than full credit, but it is still a worthwhile amount. In the end, no matter where you are, every solar panel will lower your electric bill a little bit more which is why solar is a great investment.

But, there is a limit to the savings. You can only save the amount of your electric bill. Except for very unusual circumstances, you will not be paid more than a few pennies, if anything, for excess energy generated over the period of a year. So if you were thinking you were going to fill your roof with solar and make enough money to quit your job, sorry to disappoint you.

Solar is usually installed by contractors, but it can be a do-it-yourself project if you have construction skills. Installing your own PV system can save you a lot of money but it can be challenging, so it is important to work with a distributor like who will help you through the job every step of the way. 

Once the solar is installed, there isn’t anything else you need to do. Solar power systems are practically maintenance free, with the solar panels warrantied to last at least 25 years. If you live in a very dusty area with no rain, you may have to wash your solar panels once in a while. But in most places, the rain will clean your system often enough that you won’t have to worry about it. 

Another thing to note about grid-tied solar is that it will not provide power during power outages unless you have installed a battery system. The batteries are getting more popular, but in general, they are still very expensive so most solar is installed without batteries.    

So that is the basics on solar and how it works. If you have more questions, feel free to contact the experts at for more information.      

Author: Harold Tan

I believe clean, renewable energy is key to the evolution of society as a whole. Solar powers our planet, why not harness it to power humanity? Let's power our homes, our work, and our vehicles with solar energy. It begins with raising awareness and encouraging those around us to go green.

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