Whether you are looking for a complex explanation or a definition for your kids, the answer to how solar panels work is actually pretty simple.

So, what we’ll do in this article is go through the basics, step by step, of how solar panels create energy from the sun.

We’ll also explain why solar energy is such a good alternative energy source and how it reduces your carbon footprint.

How Solar Panels Work Step By Step


Each panel is made out of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, a glass casing with a special film around it, and wiring.

The panels are grouped together into “arrays” (a series that has been ordered) and installed on roofs or in large outdoor spaces for optimum impact.

During daylight hours, the solar cells, also known as photovoltaic cells, convert sunlight to energy.


Within each solar cell is a tiny, light-sensitive wafer made of two layers of silicon. One layer is positively charged, while the other is negatively charged, creating an electrical field.

When light from the sun strikes a photovoltaic solar cell, it charges the cell and causes electrons to jump from atoms within the semiconductor wafer.

The electric field surrounding the wafer pushes those free electrons into motion, and their movement generates an electrical current.


Solar panels have now been able to convert sunlight into electricity, but the power produced is direct current (or DC) electricity, which is not the form of energy that most homes use.

Fortunately, by using a device called an inverter, DC electricity may be changed into AC electricity with ease.

Modern solar systems usually include this component as part of the overall installation.

AC electricity is the type of power that your home relies on to operate lights, appliances, and other electronics.


Your solar energy is converted from DC to AC power by your electrical panels and distributed throughout the house to run your appliances.

It works in the same way as electricity generated through the grid by your electric utility firm, so there’s nothing you need to do differently inside.

You can instantly draw extra power if needed because you are still linked to your traditional energy provider.


On overcast or cloudy days and overnight, your solar shingles or panels may not be able to capture enough sunshine to run your house; conversely, they may accumulate excess energy in the middle of the day when no one is home.

This is why a meter is used to measure electricity flowing both ways—toward and from your home. credits for any surplus power you send back to the grid are often provided by your utility company.

Net metering is the process by which this happens.

Related: How long do Solar Panels Last?

The Different Types Of Solar Energy Systems

Now that you know how solar panels work to create electricity, it’s time to learn about the different types of solar energy systems.

The two main types are photovoltaic (PV) systems and concentrated solar power (CSP) systems:

Photovoltaic (PV) systems

Photovoltaic (PV) systems use sunlight to generate electricity directly in the form of DC power.

Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems

Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems use mirrors or lenses to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a small area, which is then used to heat water or some other fluid.

The steam generated by this heat is used to drive turbines that generate electricity.

While both types of systems have their pros and cons, PV systems are much more common in households.

How Do Solar Panels Work On A House?

The first step is for sunlight to strike a solar panel on the roof. The panels convert the energy from DC to AC, which is then sent to an inverter.

The inverter converts the electricity from DC to AC, allowing you to use it to power your house.

It’s both beautiful and simple, and it’s getting more efficient and inexpensive all the time.

How do solar panels connect together?

When you join the positive terminal of one solar panel to the negative terminal of another, they are connected in series. When solar panels are linked in series, their voltage adds up, but the amperage does not change.

What happens when you connect solar panels in parallel?

When solar panels are connected in parallel, the total voltage output is the same as it would be for a single panel, but the output current is the sum of the amperages of each panel. As a result of parallel wiring, therefore, the voltage stays constant while the amperage adds up.

Can you combine solar panels of different wattages?

It’s not recommended to mix different solar panels, but it isn’t forbidden; as long as each panel’s electrical specs (voltage, wattage, amps) are well thought out, things would be fine. When you want to connect two panels from different manufacturers together, the problem isn’t with the vendors.

How Do Solar Panels Work With Your Electric Bill?

The fact of the matter is, that by having solar panels installed on your roof, you are effectively becoming your own electric company.

You are producing your own electricity, and any excess that you generate is sent back to the grid (and you are given credits for it).

In some cases, you may even be able to sell your excess power back to the utility company. This is how solar panels can save you money on your electric bill.

Battery storage

Instead of selling all of your energy back to the grid, you can store some of it in batteries for use at night or during a power outage.

Many homeowners are choosing to do this, as it allows them to be completely independent of the grid.

The stored energy can also be used to power your home in the event of an emergency, such as a hurricane or severe weather.

This is an increasingly popular option for those who want to be prepared for anything.

There are many new battery storage systems coming onto the market. A well-known supplier of battery storage units in Tesla. They make a product called the Powerwall, which is a wall-mounted battery that can store 6.4 kWh of energy.

This is enough to power a small home for about 4 hours. There are also larger units available for commercial applications.

Other companies, such as LG and Samsung, are also making battery storage units for the home market.

The cost of these batteries has come down significantly in recent years, and they are expected to continue to fall.

In the near future, it is likely that most homes will have some form of battery storage system installed.

How Do Solar Panels Work In The Winter?

The wintertime is actually when solar panels are most efficient! In the winter, the sun’s rays are more direct, meaning they have a shorter distance to travel through the atmosphere before reaching Earth.

This results in more energy being absorbed by the panel, making them ideal for use in the winter months.

Some panels can now be installed with heating elements that prevent them from becoming covered in snow or ice.

This allows them to maintain a high level of efficiency, even in the coldest months.

Can A House Run On Solar Energy Alone?

Unfortunately, the current technology does not allow for a house to run completely on solar energy alone.

This is because the sun only shines during the daytime, and we need electricity at night.

Battery storage systems are getting better and better, but they are still not able to store enough energy to power a home for an entire day.

For now, solar panels must be used in conjunction with the grid, or with a backup generator.

The power output of a solar panel is determined by two main elements: the panel’s efficiency rating and its various components, as well as the amount of sunlight it receives.

As solar panel technology continues to improve, we are getting closer and closer to the point where homes can be powered entirely by solar energy.


When do solar panels work best?

As the day goes on and the sunlight’s intensity rises, so does your solar system’s output. Most solar panels yield the most power between late mornings and early afternoons, with energy production plummeting to zero at night.
That’s why you should have a combination of solar panels and battery storage. Solar panels produce the most energy during the day, while batteries store energy for use at night or during a power outage.

How do solar panels work in space?

The basic concept of space-based solar power (SBSP, SSP) is a solar power satellite, which is an enormous spacecraft with solar panels. These panels convert sunshine into electricity, which is then sent to Earth using high-frequency radio waves.
A space-based solar power station in orbit is able to be illuminated by the sun 24 hours a day, which means it may generate energy continuously. In comparison to ground-based solar power systems (systems on Earth), which can create electricity only during the day and are reliant on weather conditions, this is advantageous.

How do solar panels work when it snows?

Solar panels work well when it snows because the cold temperature is typically beneficial to solar panel performance. The only time they don’t perform well is when the panels are covered in snow.

How do solar panels attach to roof?

The panels are secured to the rails with brackets and bolts.
The rails are joined to the panels using special fasteners/clips that attach to the edges.
The cable is run under a tile and into the roof space, where it is connected to the inverter.
The roof installation is complete.

How do solar panels and batteries work together?

The solar panels absorb sunshine and transform it into DC power. The electricity enters the battery and is stored as DC energy. The DC electricity then leaves the battery and enters the inverter. The inverter transforms the DC power into AC power, which is then sent to the home’s electrical panel and distributed throughout the house.

How do solar panels work with the grid?

Solar panels are connected to the grid through an inverter. The inverter transforms the DC power from the solar panels into AC power, which is then sent to the grid.
The grid is essentially a large battery that stores excess electricity and provides it to homes and businesses when needed. Solar panels help to supplement the grid by providing clean, renewable energy.

How do solar panels reduce carbon emissions?

Solar power is a clean, environmentally friendly energy source. Solar PV systems don’t emit any harmful carbon dioxide or other pollutants and can save hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
So there you have it, this is how solar panels work!
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About the Author

Passionate about helping households transition to sustainable energy with helpful information and resources.

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