How do solar panels work?

Simply put, UK solar panels work by capturing the sun’s energy and turning it into electricity for your home. This 4-part guide explains each component of a solar panel system in a little more detail.

1. Solar panels

Solar panels, either installed on a roof or mounted in nearby land, turn ambient daylight into DC electricity. Photovoltaic cells within solar panels consist of two thin layers of semiconducting materials, usually silicon, that have been finished with specific chemicals. These cells energise when sunlight hits, absorbing solar radiation to create a current which produces DC (direct current) electricity.

2. Solar panel inverter

Direct current (DC) needs to be converted into alternating current (AC) so that it can be used within your home to power appliances. This is done by the inverter which has two main functions;

  1. maximise the available energy being generated from the solar panels.
  2. change the DC current from the panels into the alternating current (AC) so that it is compatible with everyday appliances and can be exported to the UK National Grid.

Before reaching the inverter, solar energy will go through a DC isolator switch, located next to the inverter. It is required to provide a means of manually isolating the entire solar panel array during system installation or any subsequent maintenance.

After passing through the inverter, energy will pass through an AC isolator switch, located between the inverter and fuse box. Most UK solar panel systems will have 2 AC isolator switches so that there is 1 more easily accessible switch for safety purposes.

The AC current then flows through the generation meter, which clearly records how much energy has been generated by the solar panel system.

3. The fusebox

AC electricity then flows to the fusebox, in the UK known as the consumer board or garage board, where the electricity is fed into the property. If the property is using electricity at that moment, for example, a television is on, or the kettle is boiling, the electricity will flow straight to these appliances. If more power is needed, energy will be drawn from the UK National Grid as a top-up.

4. Exporting energy

If there are no appliances running and the generated energy is not being used, it will be sent to the UK National Grid, essentially for somebody else to use. Each home in the UK generating solar energy is, therefore, its own miniature power station.

If you decide to include a solar panel battery with your system, you will then be able to store any excess solar energy you generate in the day to use at night when your solar panels are not working.

SolarTherm is an award-winning UK solar panel installer, with a team of experts to ensure that your solar panel installation is safe, secure and designed to work for your home and requirements. Get in touch today for a completely free consultation!

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