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How do Solar Panels Work?

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In a solar system, solar panels contain numerous photovoltaic cells, working together to generate higher currents and therefore more energy. A panel also acts as a protective case for cells to work in, making them less susceptible to damage by external factors, severe weather conditions such as hail. The DC electricity generated by your solar panels is then directed to your central inverter, where it is converted into AC electricity your home and appliances can use.

The number of cells in your panel will depend on the specific brand and size you choose, another term you may have come across, a photovoltaic array, is simply used to describe a system that is composed of multiple PV panels.

 

Photovoltaic Cells

Solar Panels utilize photovoltaic cells, which produce electricity from sunlight by knocking outer electrons lose in certain materials. Generally made from either monocrystalline or polycrystalline material, they consist of layers of semi-conductors. Cells can be made from a single crystal of silicon or have cells made from many silicon fragments melted together.

When sunlight hits the top semiconductor, the loose electrons become excited, are knocked loose, and then attracted to the positive layer beneath. A barrier between the two layers is formed, as conductors on both layers force the electrons to travel around the cell, forming direct current (DC) electricity. The conductors then forces the DC current out of the cell and into an electrical load, which captures the energy your photovoltaic cell has produced. The electrons eventually re-enter the cell, and the process repeats.

While a single photovoltaic cell is able to convert sunlight into electricity on its own, the panel is essential to combine and direct the energy output of numerous cells to your inverter and home.

 

How many panels should I get?

Going Solar, it would be best to use the minimal amount of energy as possible, to optimise your energy savings and save more. The number of solar panels you should use, would depend on your current energy usage and energy goals. There are two keys aspects to consider when thinking of what size of system is suitable for your home:

 

Energy Usage

Your electricity usage varies depends on your habits and how many people are in your household. These numbers are only estimates, it largely depends on how many appliances you use and how often; not the size of your house. Best to look at your power bills to know your average energy use in kilowatt-hours (kWh), and it changes over the months and seasons. Refer to our Estimating Energy Usage Guide for more info.

Examples:

  • A regional home with two adults and two kids, might use between 30 to 50 kWh a day depending on how many appliances you use.
  • An adult couple with no kids might use between 15 kWh to 30 kWh a day.

A single adult in an apartment might use a minimum of 10kWh a day.

 

When do you most often use electricity?

Using your electricity during the day or night may influence the size of the solar system you need. The time of day you use energy also influences the best location to install your solar panels onto your roof. You might want to add a battery to your system; if you produce more energy than you use, you can store the energy with the battery, and even sell energy back to the grid or even just use it at a later date.

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