Solar Power – The Basics
Have you wondered how solar power works? Solar power converts sunlight into usable electricity for your home. By utilizing a solar power system, you have the opportunity to become the proud owner of a miniature power plant, right on your property. By producing electricity onsite, solar power has the ability to reduce your electricity bills or provide power in locations off of the utility grid.
On this page we will discuss the basic components of solar power and the common types of installtion.
The image to the left shows how the basic solar power components work together.
Two Main Components of a Solar Power System
Our modern solar power systems are composed of two main components: photovoltaic solar panels and solar power inverters. More on these below.
How Solar Power Works – Photovoltaic Solar Panels
Modern solar panels are made of photovoltaic (PV) cells that are able to convert sunlight into direct-current (DC) power. Panels can be mounted on your roof or on the ground, wherever there is ample sunlight away from tree coverage. In Georgia, solar panels facing South will generate the most electricity, although East and West facing panels will still capture plenty of sunlight. For additional information see this page.
The Second Necessary Component – Solar Power Inverters
The DC power from your solar panels is sent through a device called an inverter, which converts the direct current into alternating current (AC). This power is sent to your electric panel, which sends usable electricity throughout your home. For additional details please see this page.
The 3 Basic Types of Solar Power Installation
We will briefly explain the 3 types of solar power installions. For additional information, please follow the links to the individual pages.
When the sun is out, most homes with solar panels will generate more power than they consume. When this is the case, the excess electricity will flow into the utility power grid and your electric meter will measure the amount of energy sent back the to grid! Depending on your provider, you may be credited for this excess energy production, as your electric provider will actually pay you for the electricity produced by your solar power system. This is called net metering.
At night, your home’s electricity will function normally, as you will be using electricity from the utility grid to power your home. In some cases, homeowners will add a battery to their solar power system. The added bit of battery can further help reduce electricity costs and can power the home during a utility grid black out.
Learn more about Grid-tie Solar Systems.
Off-grid solar systems make it possible to generate electricity away from the power grid. Whether this is a simple light post on your property or the main source of energy for your off-grid cabin, off-grid solar systems bring renewable electricity without a power bill.
Learn more about Off-Grid Solar.
An increasingly popular option is installing a grid-tie solar system with a battery backup called hybrid solar. This complex system allows for the excess energy produced by the solar panels to be stored in a battery for later use. When the battery has reached its capacity, you can sell the energy back into the grid, as you would in a normal grid-tie solar system.
Learn more about Hybrid Solar.
We hope this page has helped you understand how solar power works.
If you are not sure what kind of solar power is best for you, you can contact one of our solar pros for a free consultation for your solar power system.
Below are some of our customers most frequently asked questions. Our solar FAQ section is designed to answer those most common questions.
For additional questions, please click the button below.
Why should I get solar power?
Almost any major purchasing decision has its pros and cons, but there are many financial and environmental benefits in choosing solar to power your home. You can get a system installed on your home for zero down and immediately benefit from a greatly reduced electric bill. And if you’re concerned about both the environment and your budget, solar power is also one of the greenest sources of electricity. For adittional information about solar power see this government site.
Is my home a good candidate for solar?
Do you own your home? Does your roof get direct sunlight for most of the day? If you answer “yes” to both of these, you’re probably a good candidate for solar.
Such factors as your home’s location, the amount of shade your roof receives, your roof type and its total square footage all need to be considered in your decision of whether or not to go solar, because all these factors will affect the amount of electricity your solar system is able to produce. Ideally, you will want to install a solar electrical system in a location free of shade due to overhanging trees or other structures that are taller than your roof.
Even if your home does not completely meet these conditions, you may still see huge benefits from going solar. For more information about how this applies to your home or business contact us.
Can I afford to purchase a solar system, and if so, how?
Going solar can be done on almost any budget. A Solar Pro will custom design your system with your financial goals in mind. When you decide to make the switch and go solar we offer 2 purchasing options:
Option 1: Cash purchase
A cash purchase is the simplest option and allows for the largest financial returns. A solar installation purchased with cash can pay for itself in 10 years or less, well within the system’s 25-year warrantied lifetime. In fact, during its lifetime your system may produce tens of thousands of dollars in savings even after it is paid for. A 26 percent federal tax credit and rising electricity rates can both help to save you even more money by going solar
Option 2: Using a loan to pay for solar
We partner with the Clean Energy Credit Union to provide an option to finance your solar system through their easy to use Community 1st Credit Union.
Financing your solar system is a great option if you are looking to go solar for zero down. You’ll receive a 26 percent federal tax credit and your electric bill savings will start right away. In the beginning your loan payments could be slightly more than your electricity bill, but as the electricity provider raises their rates and electricity bills rise your loan payment will stay the same, saving you money in the long run.
What is the solar quote?
Your first contact with a Solar Pro will be over the phone. The Solar Pro will analyze your roof and verify details about you and your home. Often, the Solar Pro will be able to provide you a complete estimate without coming to your house. Your quote will contain the information about the following details:
- System size – System size isn’t just about the square footage the panels will occupy on your roof. In the context of solar systems, size refers to the number of watts your system can produce in full sunlight. The average solar panel puts out 300 watts at a time, so your installer would call a system of 20 panels a “6kW system.” (300 watts times 20 = 6000 watts = 6 kilowatts.)
- Energy production –Solar panel’s energy production is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), exactly as electricity usage is measured by utility companies.
- Cost and incentives – Our solar system prices are quoted as “total installed cost.” Through the end of 2020 a 26% federal tax credit is available toward your solar system purchase. After 2020 the tax credit is set to step down and gradually be phased out over the next few years. To receive the most financial savings from the tax credit make the switch, and go solar by the end of 2020.
- Equipment – Not all solar panels are created equal and some will produce more solar power than others, but all of our panels come with manufacturer warranties, most up to 25 years. At any given time, we will have a number of different panels and equipment options available for your installation and can provide quotes based on your personal preferences. Panels made in the USA, advanced battery storage, and advanced system monitoring options may all be available.
I’m ready to go solar! Now what?
There are a number of processes that need to be completed before any solar system is installed. Fortunately, we will handle them all for you.
First, we will schedule a site inspection. A Solar Pro will evaluate your main circuit panel and wiring, as well as do a detailed analysis of your roof, determine the best placement for the panels and examine the structural integrity of your roof. We will also discuss the equipment options currently available for your installation.
Design and permitting
Following the site inspections, the Solar Pro will work on a digital design for your system by finalizing the design and components and giving you a final price for approval. Once you’ve authorized the final design and signed a contract for installation, your Solar Pro will finalize the documents and submit them to your locality for permitting.
Installation, Inspection & Interconnection
In most cases, your solar system can be installed within a day or two. Once the racking, panels, and wiring are installed an inspection is scheduled. Depending on where your home is located, the inspection may take a few days to a few weeks. When the inspection is completed your home can be connected to the grid and officially powered by the sun.
My solar array is installed. What happens now?
Your solar system is installed and it’s working properly. Now what? To be honest, not very much. Solar panels require very little maintenance.
How do I maintain my solar panels?
Solar panels require very little maintenance. They are designed to handle rain, wind, snow, hail and other extreme weather for 25 years or more. All the maintenance a solar panel system needs is a yearly rinse and squeegee to take off extra dust and grime; you may need to do this twice or three times yearly if you live in a very dusty place.
In most cases, we will include monitoring software as part of your installation, either on a screen attached to your system or digitally through a website or app on your smart phone. The monitoring software will tell you if the system is functioning properly and show you the overall energy production.
How do I claim the federal tax credit for solar?
The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is claimed by you or your accountant by filling out a special schedule, Form 5695, to be included with your tax return. See your accounting professional for further information.
As no two rooftops or electricity bills are the same, every grid-tie solar system starts with a fully customized solar design. This includes piecing together the best solar panels and inverter options for the project.
Installation of Solar Components
The solar panels are racked and mounted on your roof or the ground. The system is fully wired through several microinverters or one large solar inverter to convert the DC solar energy to usable AC solar power.
Net Meter Replacement
Once the solar system is fully installed and ready to begin sending electricity to the grid, a technician from the utility will replace your current electric meter with a special “net meter.”
The net meter is the crux of a grid-tie solar system. Your net meter is able to track the amount of solar power that is being fed into the grid as well as the amount of electricity you use from the grid during times when your solar is not producing power (like at night). When your solar array is producing more than it is using, the net meter will actually dial backwards and credit your electricity bill as the utility essentially “buys back” the excess power being produced.
We partner with the Clean Energy Credit Union.
Clean Energy Credit Union is focused solely on providing loans that help people afford clean energy. This helps to mitigate the negative impact of pollution which is resulting in climate change. Demand for clean energy is growing rapidly. We are making it easier for people to afford clean energy by providing loans with amazing terms.
We also make it easier for people to invest in the clean energy movement through our financial services programs. Savings, checking, CDs, IRA and Money Market, all of which are federally insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF).
We are a not-for-profit financial services cooperative. We serve our members and not stockholders.
We are on-line only in order to keep overhead low.
For more information please see their web-site.