Solar electricity panels, also known as photovoltaics (PV), capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity that you can use in your home.
By installing solar panels, you can generate your own renewable electricity.
How do solar panels work?
A solar PV panel consists of many cells made from layers of semi-conducting material, most commonly silicon. When light shines on this material, a flow of electricity is created.
The cells don’t need direct sunlight to work and can even work on cloudy days. However, the stronger the sunshine, the more electricity generated.
Solar PV systems are made up of several panels, with each panel generating around 395W of energy in strong sunlight. Typical systems contain around 14 panels and generate direct current (DC) electricity. Because the electricity used for household appliances is alternating current (AC), an inverter is installed along with the system to convert DC electricity to AC. This electricity can be used throughout your home, or exported to the grid.
During daylight hours, you’ll be generating electricity even on cloudy days, but if you’re using more power around your home than your panels are generating, or during the evening when your panels are not generating any electricity, you’ll be supplementing this by importing electricity from the grid.
Instead of sending surplus electricity to the grid, a PV diverter switch can power the immersion heater in your hot water tank, storing hot water for you to use later. On its own, excess solar energy is unlikely to meet all your hot water needs, but it can help reduce your bills.
Solar panels generate the most energy throughout the day when, traditionally, homes use the least amount of electricity. This means your solar PV system will be producing a lot of surplus energy which would otherwise be wasted. Adding a battery allows you to store this extra electricity to use as and when you want.
You could choose to use the excess energy stored in your battery to power your home in the evening, making you even more independent from the grid or you could charge your electric vehicle, increasing the amount of clean energy used by your family.
Adding a battery could mean that the bulk of the electricity used by your home is low-carbon energy generated from the sun, meaning you’ll import less electricity from the grid, saving you money on your energy bills.
You don’t need to have a battery for your solar PV panels to work. However, energy storage allows you to use more of the eco-friendly energy you generate in your home rather than exporting it back to the grid.