Solar Power for Homes: How Does a Solar Panel System Work in 2021?

How Do Solar Panels Work?

how a solar power system works
How a home solar panel system works in 4 steps
  1. Solar cells convert photons to electricity: All photovoltaic solar power systems like the traditional solar panels, BiPV solar shingles and tiles, and thin-film solar laminates contain photovoltaic solar cells designed to convert solar energy to electricity. When the sun shines, the energy carried by the photons gets absorbed by the solar cells that convert it to direct current (DC) electricity.
  2. Inverter converts direct (DC) current to alternating current (AC): All rooftop solar panel systems are normally connected to an inverter by a licensed electrician during the installation. The inverter inverts (converts) the direct current (DC) electricity generated by the solar cells to alternating current (AC), which is the kind of electricity people use in their homes.
  3. Alternating current flows through the electric panel into your home: Alternating current from the inverter flows through the electric panel (circuit breaker box) into your home, powering things like home lighting and appliances.
  4. Any unused electricity gets sent back to the electric grid: Any excess electricity that is not used domestically, passes through the electric meter and gets sent back to the grid, usually for electricity credits via net metering.

Net Metering: If you live in one of the 41 states that have adopted Net Metering rules, you can sell any excess solar-generated electricity back to the local electric grid for credits.

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Solar Panel Pros and Cons – Are Solar Panels Worth the Cost?

If you are one of the many homeowners considering the installation of solar panels on your home’s rooftop, then undoubtedly one of the burning questions on your mind is whether the pros of solar energy outweigh the cons when it comes to residential solar power systems for homes.

A new asphalt shingle roof with PV solar panels

Let’s examine the main benefits and drawbacks of solar energy systems to help you make a well-informed decision.


  1. Dramatic Reduction in the Price per Watt Installed: One of the strongest benefits of solar energy today is that the solar price per watt (PPV) installed has come down from almost $9.00 per watt installed in 2008, to the current average cost ranging from $2.78 to $3.22 per watt installed, before the 26% federal solar investment tax credits (ITC) that apply to the full amount paid for a new solar system.
    Did you know? Homeowners going solar today are paying almost 66% less than they used to pay for solar energy just a little over a decade ago! That’s a very significant reduction in the upfront cost of investment in solar, especially if you take into account the rate of inflation since 2008.
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Top 15 Green Home Improvements: Costs in 2021 – Home Energy Efficiency

All major home remodeling efforts demand careful consideration and planning. When tackling an energy efficient home upgrade, that task can truly expand exponentially. It is imperative that you utilize a whole-house system approach to the project to wring the most value from your efforts.

Did you know? Home Energy savings realized in one segment of your property can easily be gobbled up by neglecting to pay attention to other energy-sapping culprits — With that in mind, let’s look at some of the popular energy-saving home improvement projects and take a stab at evaluating their value…

1. Smart Home Energy Audit

energy-audit-thermal-image via Henges Insulation

Your first step is to engage a professional energy audit of your house ($300-$500 by a trained energy expert although you may be able to wrangle one for less – or even free – from your local utility eager to reduce its power burden). This will factor into your home remodel plans such vital actors as site conditions, your local climate, your home’s micro-climate, the state of your current heating and cooling environment versus your required needs and so on.

Hey, this is already the middle of 2021, so much of this work can be accomplished by a computer simulation! 😉 Once the energy audit is complete, you will not only have specific goals for the reduced utility and home maintenance costs, but also ideas for a healthier and safer interior living environment that will increase the physical comfort, energy efficiency, and dampen noise levels.

A professional home energy audit should also include any local state incentives and tax breaks you are in line to receive for embarking on energy-saving projects.

A typical home energy audit will uncover opportunities to improve energy efficiency and comfort of your home by sealing the air leaks and drafts and upgrading the level of insulation in critical areas such as crawl spaces, wall cavities, and attic where there might be thermal energy loss due to inadequate insulation.

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