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Ultimate Guide: How Do Solar Panels Work?

Keeping your home efficient, affordable and green doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. In fact, did you know that with the advances in technology, we are able to make solar energy alternatives cheaper than ever?

That’s right! We have made so much progress through research and development that now solar panel options for your home are very affordable and is an extremely reliable alternative to traditional energy plans.

Most people believe they have an idea of how solar panels work, but do they really?

On the surface, we can observe light hitting the solar panel and then providing energy from where ever it is being stored.

Are you satisfied with such a bland and generic explanation and prefer not to know the real deets to answer the real question, “how do solar panels work?”

Then STOP reading; you’ve learned as much as you want to know and had no interest in how solar panels produce electricity.

However, for those of you who genuinely want to know the science behind this energy-transforming technology, then buckle up and let’s get down to the good stuff.

Firstly, why is it even important to understand how solar panels work?

I mean, who cares?

You’re just wanting affordable energy, so why does it matter?

Nothing is as depressing as having general conversations with you mentioning your sweet solar panels that were just installed, and have no clue how they work or what they really do.

No one wants to be that guy. Trust me, awkward silence is never fun, and when you’re the one causing it. Forget about it.

I know you’re probably like, “Stop downing how much I know and help me understand already!”

Much like solar energy, it takes time to implement, gather, store and use, so why rush to get to the finish line of such a complex topic?

I’m going to provide you with the ins and outs of solar panels, their energy, and deliver a comprehensive guide to understanding how solar panels work step by step!

Sounds great, right?

Enough with the intros, let’s jump in!

What is a solar panel and how is it made?

Here is another piece of general information that many people believe they already know the answer to, so…

Let’s have it!

What is a solar panel and what is it made of?

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.


It sounds super simple as an overall idea, but the specifics are still fuzzy to most, but you’ll be ready by the time you’re done reading this.

A standard solar panel consists of a metal frame to keep everything properly in place, while a glass panel encases the real panels to protect them from external damages. Inside this metal/glass contraption sits wires and a conductive material, usually silicon or cadmium telluride.

The conductive element Silicon, number 14 on the periodic table and Cadmium Tellurite, a crystalline compound are used for their capitalization of the phenomenon known as the photovoltaic effect.

All of those big words basically mean, these elements are able to convert light into energy, which can be harvested and used as electricity through the wiring system.

Did you know that solar panels are made in a specific way so that they can optimize the light intake and efficiently store energy that can be used at a later time or as it is collected?

The frame is the basic part and is used to house the components, but the silicon or cadmium photovoltaic cells are positioned in a way with the wiring that allows the light energy to be converted and stored within the photovoltaic cells.

Okay, now that we got the basics out of the way, are you ready to know how solar panels work step by step?

Wait a minute! Think about this for a moment:

Do solar panels need the sun or just light?

Didn’t mean to blow a fuse, but isn’t it fascinating to know what type of light do solar panels need?

How do Solar Panels Produce Energy?

This is a great question actually because solar energy stems from what we know as solar radiation, a certain wavelength in the light spectrum.

This means that solar panels use photons contained within the light wave to convert into energy, however, does the light have to come from the sun?

Well, yes and no. Smaller solar cells are designed to operate indoors under incandescent and fluorescent lighting using the minimalist amount of available light. This is used for powering very small and simple devices like calculators and other non-energy heavy devices.

However, these lights do not produce enough energy photons to generate enough power to operate things like a house for instance.

This is why you typically see solar panels placed outside so they can maximize the natural light photons and store enough power to operate large machines and houses.

So, exactly how do solar panels work step by step?

How Do Solar Panels Work Step by Step?

By now you should have a general understanding of how solar panels work, how solar panels make electricity and what type of lighting is efficient for what solar-powered projects you need it for.

Why don’t we break it all down in a nice easy to digest step by step instructional on how solar panels work.

Step One: Set Up to Collect and Farm Sunlight

If you’re trying to power your home, then you have probably seen photovoltaic cells or PV cells on top of homeowner’s roofs. This is the first step. You can’t get any precious electricity this way without solar panels.

It’s a no brainer, but these solar panels collect photon energy from sunlight and then store it within the silicon or cadmium cells to be used later as electricity.

Step Two: Converting Light Into a Direct Current

The photons collected from the sunlight enter the cells and generate movement, which creates the energy that can be harnessed and used to power devices and other items.

During this step, the collected light photons are converted into stored energy. So what type of energy do solar panels make?

Step Three: Transitioning from Direct Current to Usable Grid-compatible Power

Here is where it can get complicated. Inverters are used to help convert the DC current or Direct Current into a usable Alternating Current or AC current.

In addition to converting DC to AC, inverters can also be used to track certain metrics like energy production and other system stats.

Now that we have some usable energy, what’s next?

Step Four: Net Meters Take in Generate AC Electricity

What happens to all of that electricity you generate from your solar panels?

I mean, they are sitting there all day collecting energy to be used at some point, so where does it go?

Simply put, a Net Meter is used to determine how much energy is collected, as well as, how much electricity is used.

When your home is not using any energy, it feeds a grid and can be drawn on for energy at a later time.

And cloudy days?

Those are not going to slow you down, especially when you’ve got saved up electricity.

So energy runs through a Net Meter, now what?

Step Five: How Do I Know if My Solar Panels are Working?

Once your electricity has been generated and is flowing through your Net meter, your home and appliances are now receiving electricity to be powered on and used.

Oftentimes, homeowners and those who own solar panel systems ask how can they tell if their solar system is working.

This is one of the ways the inverters and Net Meters come handy. You get the benefits of notifications and data on how your system is collecting and storing energy. Dips and spikes in this data could mean your system is acting faulty, which could lead to it not functioning properly.

Skip the Hassle: Efficiency Through IoT

We get it. Not everyone has the time or drive to want to get out there can check their solar panels, observe their energy usage and collection to figure out if their solar panels system is working efficiently.

There is a lot there to do, but you can bypass these steps and use the Solarimon Solar Panels System App.

Aside from checking your system performance, you can also see a visual representation of each panel and their operating efficiency.

Fortunately, it does get better. This powerful app allows you to view graphical panel performance for the whole system or observe individual panels to narrow down where the inefficiency could be.

Going outside, checking equipment, and viewing your bill can interrupt your daily activities, however, after a few clicks and swipes, you are able to see everything you need to from the comfort of your phone.

Are My Solar Panels Working?

Here is a simple 5-item checklist you can follow to make sure your system is working properly:

  1. Check outside to make sure the weather is adequate enough to generate energy.

  2. Observe your inverter to make sure they are not red-lighted or turned off.

  3. Is your Solar Meter or Net Meter working and online? Check the total energy generated.

  4. Make sure your bill reflects what you use and generate.

  5. If all else fails, contact your Solar company.

Now that you are armed with all you need to know about how solar panels work, the next time you overhear someone ask how do solar panels work?

You’ll be able to jump in and give them the low-down.

For any additional information or if you just want to say, feel free to leave us a comment. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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