How Solar Works

The science behind 100% renewable energy for your home.

How homes generate, use, and store excess electricity after switching to solar power

Solar panels are made up of solar cells; multiple panels can be wired together to create a solar array. When sunlight hits a solar cell, the photons knock electrons loose from their atoms. These free electrons are converted into a DC current – the basis of electricity – which then flows into an inverter, transforming the current from DC to AC. This AC current is utilized to power your home.

During peak hours, solar panels will typically produce more electricity than your home actively requires. This excess energy is stored in a battery for later use, such as overnight or on cloudy days. Alternatively, excess energy can be funneled back into the electrical grid, collected by your utility supplier as a “credit” for you to draw from later on (a process called net metering). The more panels you use, the more electricity you can generate and store. Thankfully, solar power is becoming more affordable, accessible, and resilient due to recent technological advancements – so it’s likely you can make 100% clean, renewable energy a reality for your home.

How much homeowners save after switching to solar

Utility costs have been rising steadily in recent years, prompting many homeowners to search for alternatives to traditional energy sources. Since solar power relies on sunlight, a free and universal resource, the right solar panel setup can ultimately reduce your electricity spending to zero. It’s important to note, however, that the installation of solar panels does require an up-front investment – but if you plan to stay in your home for many years, you will likely recoup those costs via long-term savings on your utility bills (or via the increase in your home’s overall value should you decide to sell).

There are several factors, ranging from the size and orientation of your home to the pitch of your roof and local climate, that will impact the exact amount of money you could save. If you know how much you currently spend on electricity per year, we can help you calculate your savings potential by providing a quote for installation costs and estimated solar system output. We’ve found that the “average” home will save anywhere from 5 – 15% right away, with savings increasing year after year.

How to find out if solar is right for your home

Not every home is set up for solar panels. However, with the right modifications, most homes can be altered to accommodate at least a small solar array to offset carbon emissions and save money on utilities. When we perform an initial solar inspection for our clients, we ask questions about the size and orientation of your home, the amount of tree cover, and the type and pitch of your roof. If you have too much shade due to tree cover, we may suggest either trimming or removing trees to make your investment worthwhile. On the other hand, if you get enough hours of sunlight on your east-, west-, or south-facing roof sections, you are likely a good candidate for solar.

How to find out if you qualify for solar incentives

There are a number of incentives offered by both state and federal governments that are designed to encourage businesses and homeowners to pursue renewable energy – including solar. At the federal level, homeowners currently qualify for a tax credit equal to 26 percent of the cost of their solar panel system (minus any cash rebates). State tax credits are also available but vary widely from state to state.

Cash rebate programs are frequently offered by states, municipalities, utility companies, or other organizations that want to promote solar energy use. You may also be able to qualify for a subsidized solar loan with a reduced interest rate to help you pay for your solar installation; qualification is typically based on credit score, bankruptcy history, and the title status of your home. To learn more about state and federal incentives for solar, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency® website

How to schedule an inspection to find out eligibility, installation cost, incentives, monthly savings, and more

If you’re interested in installing solar panels at your home, contact us to schedule a free initial consultation with our team of specialists. This conversation should only take about 5 minutes: We’ll ask basic questions about your current electricity usage, long-term goals, and any concerns you may have. We’ll also need to know about the type, condition, and orientation of your roof and the amount of daily shade versus sun hours.

Next, we’ll schedule an in-home or virtual (Zoom or Skype) appointment to perform a more in-depth evaluation of your home and go over equipment, costs, logistics, and next steps. We’ll discuss relevant state and federal incentive programs and how to qualify, providing a realistic estimate of the costs and potential long-term savings. Our goal is to help you learn as much as possible about solar technology so you can get the most out of your system, saving you money – and contributing to a greener planet – in the long run.

Solar Power FAQ's

Many different factors will influence the number of solar panels you need to power your home. The average American household consumes 10,400 kWh of electricity per year. Depending on your climate and your home’s sun exposure, you may need more (or fewer) panels to reach that annual minimum consumption mark. In general, the “average” home will need somewhere between 28-34 panels to cover 100% of your electricity consumption.

Solar panels do not produce electricity at night – but that doesn’t mean your system as a whole stops working. Excess electricity generated during the daytime is either stored in a battery or sent back to the electric grid via a net metering process. At night, when you need power but are not actively generating electricity through your solar panels, your home can access that stored power from the connection to the electric grid or from the battery.

While the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, it’s important to be aware of all of the pros and cons when considering installing solar panels at your home. Perhaps the most commonly cited disadvantage of solar panels is the up-front cost associated with installation. However, there are a number of government-sponsored incentives and low-interest loans available to help homeowners manage these costs – and it’s getting more and more affordable each year. Another disadvantage is the fact that solar panels require a significant amount of space, especially if you want to cover 100% of your home’s electricity consumption. The square footage of your roof may not be enough to hold the amount of panels you’d ideally want to install. However, if you have enough open land and don’t mind taking up some of that space, it’s also possible to install solar panels in your yard.

Solar panels won’t produce as much electricity on a cloudy or rainy day as they would on a bright, sunny day. Of course, solar rays do still penetrate clouds, and your panels will not stop working altogether – even in the middle of a snowstorm. In general, you can expect your panels to produce somewhere between 10-25% of their normal output on a cloudy day.