It's an amazing concept to convert the power of the sun to usable, green energy in your home, but terms that describe how solar power works, such as photovoltaic, semiconductor and irradiance, can be daunting. How residential solar power works is actually simple: the energy is gathered, transferred to electricity and used (and sometimes stored) for your home energy needs. Once installed, it needs no supplemental fossil fuel to perform, produces no toxins, works silently and requires very little maintenance. Here's a more detailed description of the elements of residential solar power:
Capturing the sun
It all starts with a photovoltaic (PV) cell, or solar cell like the strip you see on a solar calculator. It's generally made of a semiconductor material such as silicon that absorbs the sun's heat energy. A number of PV cells connected together in a frame forms a photovoltaic module or solar panel. The placement of solar panels on a roof or other unshaded area for maximum exposure to the sun is a solar array. The number of panels in the array determines, along with other factors, the amount of wattage generated.
Using the absorbed heat energy, properties of each semiconductor create a flow of electrons, or current, that can then be drawn from the cell at metal contact points. That direct current (DC) is stored and distributed to batteries and then transferred to the alternating current (AC) of electricity used in your home.
Using the sun's energy
PV cells cannot draw 100 percent of the sun's energy. There is some loss due to reflection and heat transfer. Irradiance is a measurement of electrical power that tells you how much solar energy lands on a surface, such as a solar cell, over time. A cell's efficiency, however, is measured by the percentage of solar energy that is actually converted into usable electrical energy.
For more expert advice about how residential solar power works and information on available tax credits and rebates for solar systems, please contact the professionals at Joe Behr Plumbing & Heating, Inc. We have been helping customers in the Mid-Ohio area with their home comfort needs since 1965.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Mid-Ohio area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about solar products and services and other HVAC topics, visit our website.