How Do Home Solar Panels Work?
Have questions about residential solar?
Here’s your solar power guide from SEM Power.
If you’re looking for a beginner’s guide to how solar power works, you’ve come to the right place. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about going solar in Florida that we receive during our solar installation projects. In this guide, you will learn how solar panels generate electricity, how much they typically cost, and how much money you could save by having SEM Power install solar panels on your home!
What is solar power?
The sun doesn’t just provide warmth and light – it’s also a source of energy.
Solar energy (or solar power) is the energy we generate from sunlight. A process known as the photovoltaic effect creates an electrical charge in a conductive solar panel. The panels deliver this electric charge into solar inverters, which change it from direct current (DC) into alternate current (AC) electricity. AC electricity is used to power homes or entire commercial and industrial businesses.
How much sunlight is required to get the highest return on a solar investment?
Two homeowners in different regions of the country can pay about equal prices for their solar installations. The homeowner in a sunnier climate will see their investment grow faster thanks to increased energy production. Tampa has an average of 246 sunny days per year – it’s the 22nd sunniest city in the US! This makes it an excellent city for homeowners and business owners to save through professional solar panel installations with SEM Power.
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What are solar panels?
Solar Panels have an easy definition: They are structures composed of silicon glass wires and silicon tubes which convert sunlight into electrical energy. Photovoltaic cells are an important component to the Solar Panel. The panels are composed of interconnected PV panels. The solar panel contains modules that form grouped panels. A 60 cell residential panel is approximately 40 inches wide and about 66 inches long, and looks like little reflective windows. The quantity of solar cells needed is dependent upon the module size.
What are solar panels made of?
How do they work?
Solar, or photovoltaic cells are made primarily from silicon, a chemical element with conductive properties. Exposure to light changes silicon’s electrical characteristics, which generates electrical energy. It takes multiple panels to provide power to a typical home or business. A collection of panels in your system is called a solar array. Panels wired into the same inverter are known collectively as a string of panels. (Inverters have a maximum string size – an upper limit to the number of panels they can support.)
How do solar panels convert the sun’s energy?
If you put a silicon cell in the sunbeam’s path, the cell catches the energetic photons and turns them into a flow of electrons. These electrons can be forced to flow around an electric circuit when combined with other electrical components. This process will produce electricity to power your home or business.
What are the parts of a solar energy system?
There are other key components to solar power systems aside from the panels themselves.
To generate your own energy, you need a complete solar power system. The essential solar technology components are:
- Solar Panel, to capture light energy from the sun
- A solar inverter, to convert that energy to a format like AC power that you use in your home
- Racking, the foundation on which you mount your system
You also need a method to store the energy generated by the panels. If you have access to the power grid, this doesn’t require additional equipment. It can simply be fed into the utility grid and used later. SEM Power includes solar monitoring equipment for our customers to be able to actively view system performance and energy demand offset.
We strongly encourage our customers to add a battery system with any new solar installation to offset financial burden and to keep power available even when the grid is not in service.
How Does Solar Battery Storage Work?
Until this point in time we had only discussed one common type of solar in the U.S. Grid connected solar systems have been used extensively throughout history. This system operates without batteries. When the grid can be reached, as is usually the case for the majority of us, battery installation on solar systems is optional. But solar battery storage systems are increasingly becoming popular, as are flexible batteries such as the Tesla powerwall. These critical battery backup systems store your excess energy and turn on when the power goes out in order to keep your critical power systems running.
How much do solar panels cost?
For decades, people have used solar panels to generate electricity. These devices are not only low-cost investments but also can save you money on your electric bill in a number of ways: firstly by generating power during the day when it’s sunny and there is no need for artificial lighting; secondly through rebates offered by local authorities that could make up as much of 60% off the cost if installation costs; thirdly lowering energy bills due to lower electric rates for those using renewable energies compared so traditional brownouts which result from peak hours. The great news is that Florida has one of the lowest average costs for solar panel systems in the U.S.
How much do solar panels save on your electric bill?
In the words of Nikola Tesla, “The question is not ‘how much can this save me?’ but rather how would my life be different without it?”
When considering investing in a solar panel system, remember that you are locking in your utility costs for the life of your system.
The cost of residential electricity has increased 30% over the last 10 years. As these rates continue to rise, so will the potential savings! Solar essentially helps to lock in your energy prices; protecting yourself from utility rate increases by generating your own power.
Solar panel systems generate energy that can last decades. While calculating your potential solar savings, it’s important to take into account both short term advantages (year 1) and long-term considerations such as life expectancy on each individual component in order to truly appreciate what these systems have done for consumers who now enjoy renewable pricing.
How long do solar energy systems last for?
A solar energy system built with high quality materials and proper construction techniques, that also receives proper maintenance, can last for 25 years or more. There will be some planned maintenance during the life of the system. SEM Power provides our residential customers with Solar Monitoring Solutions to track their home solar panel system performance.
For our commercial customers, our Solar Operations and Management Services, provides visibility to their system performance and solar energy production
How much roof space do I need?
Our energy team will review your energy bills to evaluate how much solar you need and how much can be placed on your roof, land, or carport. A 500kW system requires approximately 50,000 square feet of roof.
Do I own the solar energy system?
Yes. Systems are purchased by the customer. SEM Power will work with you to determine the right financial approach to your new energy solution.
What are the typical warranty periods?
A solar project should include equipment warranties from the equipment manufacturers and workmanship warranties from SEM Power who does the installation.
What information is required to get an accurate solar quote?
Once you contact SEM Power and request a quote, we’ll need your address, where you plan to install solar (roof, ground mount, etc) and will need to see copies of the past 12 months energy bill. SEM Power will handle asking you all the questions needed to execute a successful solar project. Once we understand your goals, we will process the information necessary to design an energy solution that performs and meets your expectations.
How Do I Know If There’s a Problem With My System?
Each system is able to send data to a monitoring platform that will be included with your solar system.
SEM Power’s Solar Operations and Management Service, offered outside of the standard installation package, monitors installed systems to detect long term and short-term changes in system production that might indicate a problem. The data helps us quickly diagnose the issue when scheduling a service call.
Customers can also track system production and set up system alerts on their mobile device.
How much system maintenance is needed?
Once a solar panel system is installed, we recommend that system be inspected on an annual basis. This will ensure any potential issues can proactively be mitigated saving the owner from lost production and more costly repairs if nothing is done. Your SEM Power professional can answer additional inquiries.
What are the ways to finance my solar / Battery storage project?
Solar and battery projects can be purchased directly outright or through our solar financing solutions.
SEM Power will work with you to determine which financial solution will work best to solve your energy needs.
What are the benefits of a Solar / Battery system to be purchased outright?
An outright capital investment will provide the greatest savings for a Solar and Battery storage system owner. The system owner can also utilize all the available tax credits. In Florida there is currently a federal investment tax credit (ITC) of 30% There are additional state, municipal, and tax incentives that your SEM Power professional will work with you to take advantage of. Our goal is focused on maximizing your financial benefit.
What is the deadline for the Federal Investment Tax Credit?
Thanks to the recent Inflation Reduction Act, the federal investment tax credit (ITC) is now worth 30% of the system value until 12/31/2032. After that, it is scheduled to decline in value over several years.
- 12/31/2032: Credit is reduced from 30% to 26%
- 12/31/2033: Credit is reduced from 26% to 22%
Now is the time to take advantage of Solar and Battery energy storage systems before valuable tax incentives disappear.