We know that panels transform sunlight into usable electricity. But, very few of us know the science behind this. This makes us wonder how solar panels work. To solve this query here we will explain the step-by-step process.

How Solar Panels Work Step By Step

These panels work as a conversion medium. They convert sunlight composed of photon particles into electricity, which is then used to power electrical loads. But their basic function is much more complex to fit in a two-line description, thus below we have described how solar panels work step by step:

basic function and working process of solar panels

Step 1: Solar Cells Capture Sunlight

Your panels are typically made from materials like monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, or thin-film solar cells. Whenever sunlight hits the panel, the electrons in this material start moving around. This movement creates an electric current and this process is referred to as the photovoltaic effect. All this generates electricity that can be used to power your home.

More sunlight is equivalent to more energy production. The panels receive the maximum sunlight and produce the most electricity during the peak sun hours. This is how solar energy works.

Step 2: Inverters Convert DC to AC Electricity

The appliances in a house use alternating current electricity (AC) whereas panels produce direct current (DC) electricity. An inverter is employed to convert the panel’s DC electricity into usable AC electricity. After this conversion, you’ll be easily able to power any devices and appliances.

For a better understanding, take a look at our guide- How to Wire Solar Panels to Inverter: Complete Guide

Step 3: Your Home’s Electrical Panel Distributes Electricity

It has a circuit breaker whose job is to stop electricity flow if there’s a problem, like a surge. It protects against damage from overloaded electrical lines.

Even though your PV panels are producing electricity, they are not the ones connected to your appliances. They send the electricity to the electrical panel, which then directs it to different circuits in your home. This is how everything is powered.

Step 4: Your Utility Meter Measures Electricity Consumption

The utility company also relies on these meters while making your monthly bill. Many homes with solar power use smart meters. These meters track your electricity usage in real-time. They then send this data to the utility company and eliminate the need for estimated bills by accurately measuring your actual electricity consumption.

If solar net metering is available in your area, it also helps you bear its benefits.

Step 5: Solar Batteries Stores Extra Energy

They are used to store extra electricity or energy generated by panels. This stored energy can be used during peak demand hours or when the apt sunlight isn’t available.

Do Solar Panels Work at Night?

No, they do not work at night. They need sunlight to generate power and since that’s missing at night, they won’t generate any power. However, using stored energy they can still supply electricity to your house during these dark hours.

Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

Yes, they do. Amazingly, they can generate electricity during any period of indirect sunlight, the catch here is—just not as efficiently. Their efficiency is at the top under direct sunlight but they generate less electricity under clouds.

Cross-reference: What happens to solar panels when it’s cloudy or raining?

Can You Run Your Whole House on Solar Power?

Yes, it is possible, and more so in places with enough sunlight all year around. Installing residential solar systems in such places can be convenient as well as beneficial.

This idea, however, comes with its fair share of pros and cons. The positive points are that it’s pollution free and you don’t need to pay any cost for generating electricity. However, the problem here is its high initial cost (based on your energy needs). And, you can’t trust the weather, it’s not sunny every day, and in case solar panels are your only source of power, it can be a bit problematic.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Panels

They are as follows:

Reduces electric bill.Relatively high initial cost.
Provides energy independence.Efficiency drops during cloudy/rainy days and at night.
PV panels increase home values.Installation can be difficult and creates space constraints.
Long-term savings and low maintenance costs.Solar energy storage is expensive.
Constant technological advancements in the industry.Associated with some pollution during transportation and installation.
Diverse applications including electricity and heat.Difficulty with relocation.
Benefits the community.Limited disposal or recycling options.

How Many Solar Panels Does it Take to Power a House?

run your whole house on solar power

As a general guideline, a typical home in the U.S. needs around 17 to 25 panels to fully power it.

The number varies according to a multitude of factors including your home’s location, size, and energy usage. Its size dictates what space is available for your panels, while the location impacts the sunlight received. Your household’s energy usage determines the needed power generation.

Also, check out How Many Panels in a 4kW Solar System are Required?

Are they Worth It?

Yes, solar panels are worth it due to their potential energy cost stability and long term financial benefits. Although they have a high upfront cost, their financing options, tax credits, and subsidies make them accessible. Additionally, if they align with your green living goals, you should give this investment a shot.


Olivia is committed to green energy and works to help ensure our planet's long-term habitability. She takes part in environmental conservation by recycling and avoiding single-use plastic.

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