How does solar energy work? Understand the basics of Solar Power Systems
Home solar power systems can be broken down into either solar heating systems or solar electric systems.
To understand how both types of solar power systems work, you will need to understand the following topics discussed on this page...
At it's simplest, solar energy is the light produced by the Sun. Sunlight is a form of radiant energy that travels to the earth as electromagnetic waves.
In reality, the light we see is just a small part of the energy we receive from the Sun. The radiant energy from the Sun covers the full breadth of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Using solar technology, we are able to "capture" the Sun's radiant energy and convert it to either heat or electricity.
Find out more: What is Solar Energy?
Solar heating systems perform three basic functions...
Find out more: Solar Heating
Solar electric systems use solar cells to convert the Sun's radiant energy into electricity. This is done using a principle known as the photovoltaic effect.
Since a solar cell only generates about 1-2 Watts of power, it is necessary to combine them into solar power panels in order to generate more power. Solar panels are in turn combined to form solar arrays.
These solar panels and arrays are the key component of all residential solar energy systems. The other components of the system convert the generated DC electricity into AC electricity so it can be used by the electrical appliances in your home.
Find out more: Solar Electricity
So, how does solar energy work?
Simply put, home solar power systems work by converting the Sun's electromagnetic energy into either solar thermal energy or solar electricity.
Solar heating systems create solar thermal energy using solar collectors. The heat generated by the solar collectors is used for solar water heating, solar space heating, or solar pool heating.
Solar electric systems create solar electricity using solar power panels. The DC electricity generated by the solar panels is converted to AC current and can be used by all of your household appliances.