Understanding Solar Energy: How It Works And Why We Need To Use It

residential solar panels

The facts on climate change are in, and they’re not promising. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the effects of climate change are already palpable. There have been a record number of global “intense rainfall events,” and ocean acidity levels have spiked by as much as 30% since the Industrial Revolution.

The good news is that there are actions nearly every U.S. household can take to help reverse the effects of climate change. Residential solar panels, in particular, have the potential to dramatically help. Learn more below.

Why Solar?

There are many advantages to solar energy systems.

First, solar energy is plentiful–more plentiful than any other energy resource on the planet. At any given time, the sun emits 173,000 terawatts of solar energy. To put that into perspective, 173,000 terawatts is greater than 10,000 times of the world’s cumulative energy use. 173,000 terawatts of energy is the same amount of energy that would be released in 2.7 million earthquakes the same size and magnitude of Japan’s infamous Tohoku earthquake. The Tohoku earthquake shook the Earth’s surface for more than six minutes and resulted in at least 15,500 deaths.

In addition to being a highly abundant resource, using solar energy releases zero greenhouse gases and does not pollute the air or water.

If you need convincing about solar power’s potential to last, look no further than the Vanguard 1. The Vanguard 1 is a man-made satellite orbiting Earth. It is entirely powered by solar panels, and it has been making its rounds for 6 billion miles and counting!

How Does It Work?

Solar panels have been around for a long time, and chances are you may have seen them used to great effect without even knowing it. For example, many calculators do not use batteries, just small, fitted solar panels. How does this same technology apply to larger panels? How do residential solar panels work?

Typically, residential solar panels are made from photovoltaic (PV) cells and semiconducting materials, usually silicon. When the sunlight strikes these panels, it shakes electrons free from atoms and ultimately produces electricity.

What Are The Steps To Get Solar Panels For Your Home?

  • 1. Determine your solar potential. In many cases, you should be just fine. Solar panels work by absorbing direct and indirect sunlight, making them a reasonable option even in less likely climates.
  • 2. Have an energy audit. This step helps pindown your energy needs and identifies areas for opportunity or improvement.
  • 3. Use past electricity bills to assess your monthly and annual energy usage. Most bills will show these measurements in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Keep this information handy for quotes or estimates.
  • 4. Pick an installer you trust. An installer can be an invaluable asset when installing residential solar panels. The right company will help you select properly sized panels and position and tilt panels just so in order to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight.
  • 5. Get connected to the grid. A city official will come to your house, inspect your solar system, and grant their official approval for your panels to be connected to the grid.

In the future, you may be able to harness solar energy by painting the exterior of your home with special solar paint. According to Futurism, the paint–one that is currently in the works–would absorb energy from the sun’s rays as well as energy from humidity or water vapor in the air. Years from now, it may be an option to paint just about any outdoor surface, including homes, sheds, dog houses, and fences.

Until then, do your part for the planet–and lower your energy bills!–with professionally installed solar power panels.