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How Does Solar Power Work?


Sunlight, the most abundant, clean, reliable and free source of energy bathes the earth with its grandeur every day. Abundant in that it is all around us. Clean in that it supplies power through solar panels with no gaseous emissions. Reliable in that, well, it's going to be there today, tomorrow, and every day after. And free in that once solar panels and storage are in place, the collection and conversion into electricity is absolutely free from all constraints and factors that burden us every day in the form of electricity bills.

There are several ways that solar energy can be used in your home and the workplace. It can be converted into electricity to power all of your appliances directly through DC circuitry. It can be stored in batteries to be used at night or times of low sun intensities (ie: cloudy days) through AC circuitry. Solar energy may also be used to heat your hot water needs, such as pool heating or general hot water usage throughout your home/office.

Sometimes, a solar panel system will produce so much energy that you will actually have a surplus of electricity. In this case, the surplus may be sold back to your local utility grid. With an efficiently designed solar powered home, anywhere from 75% to 100% of your required energy needs may be achieved. In such a case, you would never need to pay for electricity again. In fact, with the surplus your system generates, you could actually make money with your electricity generation!

Many homes already are utilizing the sun's energy by using garden lighting systems and individual lights. With well-designed fixtures, you can beautify your home with attractive garden / accent lighting and save money on electricity bills (calculate an average savings using our solar calculator). Garden lights are the easiest to install, as they generally have no wiring and are therefore safe for use around children and pets. This makes them appealing to many home owners and is a practical means of getting off the local electrical grid one step at a time.

How does it work?

So how is sunlight collected and transferred to power a garden light, blender, etc.? In the simplest terms as pertaining to a solar garden light, sunlight hits solar cells on the light fixture during the day. An electric field is produced via a photo-reactive substrate (in most cases, a silicon-based substrate). This electricity is then delivered to a rechargeable battery for storage. Once conditions outside darken and no other light source shines on the light fixture, a photoresistor switches on an LED (or several LED's, depending on the desirable brightness to be produced by the fixture), and you have light! Please see our video above for a brief demonstration and visual explanation of this process.

A similar process is involved for producing electricity for your home, however the solar cells and batteries are much larger and an inverter is needed if you wish to connect directly to your existing wiring for your home. And remember, always consult with a trained and licensed electrician before attempting to wire your home with a high-wattage solar panel system.