How Do Solar Panels Work?

by | Nov 3, 2023

How Do Solar Panels Work

Ever pondered how solar panels power your home? Indeed, we’ve found ourselves scratching our heads too. We got curious, so we looked more into this topic.

In this article, we’re going to unpack the complicated science behind solar panels and translate it into simple language that’s a piece of cake for anyone to grasp. So, fancy embarking on an enlightening journey from sunlight to electricity at your fingertips?

Key Takeaways

  • Solar panels generate electricity by using photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electrical energy.
  • The different types of solar panels include thin film panels, monocrystalline panels, and polycrystalline panels.
  • Solar power is a clean and renewable energy source that offers advantages such as government incentives and low maintenance costs.
  • Solar panels work by absorbing photons from sunlight, which creates an electric current that can be used to power our homes and appliances.

How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity?

Solar panels generate electricity by using photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electrical energy. These cells are made of materials, such as silicon, which can absorb photons from sunlight and release electrons to create a flow of electricity.

This direct current (DC) is then converted into alternating current (AC) through an inverter, making it suitable for powering homes and businesses.

Photovoltaic cells

Photovoltaic cells are the heart of a solar panel. They turn sunlight into electricity. We call them “PV cells”. Each PV cell is like a sandwich made out of two slices of semi-conducting material, usually silicon.

The top layer gets loaded with some extra electrons. When sunlight hits these electrons, it gives them the energy to move. This movement creates an electric current that we can use in our homes!

Single-string inverter

A single-string inverter is an important component of a solar power system. It converts the direct current (DC) electricity generated by the photovoltaic cells in solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used to power our homes and appliances.

The inverter takes the DC electricity produced by multiple solar panels connected together in a series, known as a string, and changes it into AC electricity for use on our electrical grid.

This conversion process allows us to make the most of the clean energy generated by our solar panels and use it to meet our daily energy needs.

Hybrid inverter

Hybrid inverters are an important part of solar power systems. They help convert the direct current (DC) electricity produced by your solar panels into usable alternating current (AC) electricity for your household appliances.

But what makes hybrid inverters special is that they also have a built-in battery storage system. This means that any excess electricity generated during the day can be stored in the batteries and used at night when there isn’t enough sunlight to generate power.

It’s a great way to make sure you always have electricity, even when the sun isn’t shining!

What Are the Different Types of Solar Panels?

There are three main types of solar panels: thin film panels, monocrystalline panels, and polycrystalline panels.

Thin film panels

Thin film panels are one of the different types of solar panels available. They are made by depositing a thin layer of photovoltaic material onto a substrate, such as glass or metal.

These panels are lightweight and flexible, making them easier to install on various surfaces. Thin film panels can also perform better in low-light conditions compared to other types of solar panels.

However, they generally have lower efficiency levels than monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels, which means they may require more space to generate the same amount of electricity.

Monocrystalline panels

Monocrystalline panels are one of the types of solar panels commonly used in homes. They are made from a single crystal structure, which gives them a uniform appearance. Monocrystalline panels have a high efficiency rate, meaning they can convert more sunlight into electricity compared to other panel types.

Alothought, This is because the single-crystal structure allows for better electron flow and conductivity. So, even on cloudy days or when there’s less sunlight available, monocrystalline panels can still generate electricity.

These panels are also durable and long-lasting, with an average lifespan of around 25 to 30 years. However, they can be more expensive than other panel options, such as polycrystalline or thin film panels.

Polycrystalline panels

Polycrystalline panels are another type of solar panel that you can use to generate electricity. These panels are made up of multiple silicon crystals, which give them their unique blue colour.

When sunlight hits the polycrystalline panel, the silicon cells inside capture the energy from the photons in the sunlight and convert it into electrical energy. This electrical energy is then sent to an inverter, which converts it from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), making it usable for your home’s appliances and electronics.

Polycrystalline panels are known for being less expensive than monocrystalline panels but slightly less efficient. However, they still provide a great source of clean and renewable energy for your home.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Power

Solar power is a clean and renewable energy source that offers various advantages, such as government incentives and low maintenance costs. However, it also has some drawbacks worth considering.

But let’s dive deeper into these to fully understand the benefits and challenges of solar power.

Clean and renewable energy

Solar panels provide clean and renewable energy by harnessing the power of sunlight. They work by using photovoltaic cells made of special materials, such as silicon, to convert sunlight into electricity.

When photons from the sun’s rays hit the surface of these cells, they knock loose electrons, creating an electrical current. This direct current (DC) flows through wires to an inverter, which converts it into alternating current (AC) that can be used to power our homes and appliances.

The process is entirely sustainable and does not produce any harmful emissions of pollutants like traditional fossil fuels do. Solar panels offer a way for Irish homeowners to generate their own electricity while reducing their environmental impact at the same time.

Government incentives

The government offers incentives to encourage the use of solar panels in homes. These incentives can help you save money and make solar power more affordable. One incentive is a grant that provides financial assistance for installing solar panels.

This can help offset the upfront costs associated with purchasing and installing the panels. Another incentive is a feed-in tariff, which allows homeowners to earn money by selling excess electricity generated by their solar panels back to the grid.

The government also offers tax credits or deductions for those who install solar panels, providing further financial benefits. Taking advantage of these government incentives can make going solar a smart choice for homeowners in Ireland.

Cost and maintenance

Solar panels require an initial investment, but the long-term benefits outweigh the costs. In terms of maintenance, they are relatively low-maintenance as there are no moving parts to worry about.

The main cost is the installation itself, which can vary depending on factors such as the size of your solar system and any additional equipment needed. However, there are government incentives available that can help offset these costs.

It’s also important to keep in mind that solar panels have a long lifespan, typically around 25–30 years or more, so you won’t have to worry about replacing them frequently. Overall, while there may be some upfront expenses and occasional cleaning requirements for proper efficiency, solar panels offer a cost-effective energy solution with minimal ongoing maintenance needs.

Common Questions About Solar Panels

Common questions about solar panels often include inquiries about their functionality at night, performance on cloudy days, and lifespan.

How do solar panels work at night?

At night, solar panels do not generate electricity because there is no sunlight. Solar panels need sunlight to produce electrical energy. When the sun shines on the panels during the day, the photovoltaic (PV) cells inside them capture photons from the sunlight and convert them into electrons.

These electrons flow through wires in the panels as direct current (DC) electricity. However, at night, without sunlight, this process cannot happen. So if you are relying solely on solar power for your energy needs, you may need an alternative source of electricity after dark.

Do they work on cloudy days?

Solar panels can still generate electricity on cloudy days, although their efficiency may be reduced compared to sunny days. While direct sunlight is optimal for maximum energy production, solar panels can still absorb diffuse light from the clouds.

This means that even though there may not be as much sunlight available, the panels can still convert it into electricity. However, it’s important to note that the amount of power generated on cloudy days will be less than on clear and sunny days.

So while they do work on cloudy days, their efficiency may be lower.

How long do they last?

Solar panels are designed to be durable and long-lasting. On average, solar panels can last for 25 to 30 years or even longer with proper maintenance. This means that once you install solar panels on your home, they can continue generating electricity for many years to come.

It’s important to note that the performance of solar panels may slightly decrease over time, but it is usually a gradual decline. Regular cleaning and inspection can help ensure their longevity.

So, you can enjoy the benefits of clean and renewable energy for decades with solar panels on your roof!


In conclusion, solar panels generate electricity using photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into direct current (DC). This DC is then converted to alternating current (AC) by an inverter, which can be used to power our homes.

Understanding how solar panels work is important, as it helps us make informed decisions about renewable energy and its benefits for the environment.


What is the meaning of Photovoltaic (PV)?

Photovoltaic, or PV, means turning light into power. This term refers to how solar panels work. How do Solar PV systems use daylight? Solar PV systems catch daylight and turn it into power. Sunny days make more power, but even on cloudy days, they still produce energy.

What are Photovoltaic cells?

Photovoltaic cells, or PV cells, are what make up a solar panel. These small squares take in sunlight and turn it into electricity.

Does solar technology only need sunlight?

No, solar technology uses more than just bright sun rays! It uses all kinds of light from the day to generate power.

Can solar panels store energy for later use?

Solar panels themselves don’t store energy. However, with a solar battery storage system, excess energy produced during the day can be stored and used later, when the sun isn’t shining.

How often should solar panels be cleaned?

It’s typically suggested to clean solar panels at least once or twice a year. However, the frequency might vary depending on your location and the amount of dust, debris, or bird droppings you’re exposed to. Clean panels can operate at maximum efficiency.

Building your dream home?

Trust Coastal Homes to make it a reality! Our experienced team of professionals is dedicated to providing top-quality construction services that meet your unique needs. Contact us today to learn more about our services.