Solar panels (also called modules) are most commonly installed on the homeowner's roof, however they can also be installed as a ground mount or as carports. Solar Panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into usable DC electricity (direct current). These panels are connected to the inverter, which converts the electricity from DC power to AC power (alternating current). AC power is the standard electrical current used in your home. The AC power travels from the inverter to the main electrical panel and is then ready to be used in your home.
The word 'photo' pertains to light, while 'voltaic' refers to electricity. Photovoltaics, or 'PV', is a method which is used for converting sunlight into electricity. A typical PV cell is made from silicon because it conducts electricity. Boron, phosphorus, and other impurities are also added as they create an environment for electrons to be freed as sunlight hits the PV panel. As this light hits the cell, the impurities free up the electrons, which causes them to "bounce" around creating an electrical charge.
The number of applications for solar are growing every day. Today, solar power is mainly being used to power homes and businesses. Other applications include gadgets and lighting products such as wirelessly lit gardens, landscapes, decks/patios, driveways, campsites, flashlights, radios, phones, fans, clothing, luggage, etc.
The number of solar panels needed is determined by the amount of electricity used. This is partially determined by the size of the house, number of people living in the home, and types of appliances. A good rule of thumb is that you can always add on more panels later (so long as there is space to do so), but it is much harder to downsize later.
The basis of qualification relies on if you have the space to install solar panels and enough sun exposure to power them. What does this mean? If you are looking for a roof installation, is there enough roof space to install the necessary solar panels? Depending on where you live, there may be additional requirements set forth by the state, city, or county such as fire setbacks, which restrict how close to the ridge of the roof these solar panels can be installed. The angle and positioning of the solar panels is also very important in order to fully utilize the best sunlight and will vary based off location. For example, within the northern hemisphere, solar panels should face South or West to produce the most electricity. Shading from nearby structures or trees can also play a part in qualification, so it is best to speak to a solar professional. There may also be a credit requirement associated with a lease or power purchase agreement option.
A backup generator or battery backup should be used when you are solely relying on solar energy for your home, but you want to avoid this as they can be very costly. Most homes circumvent this by connecting to the power grid, which allows them to "store" the extra electricity and give it back to you when you need it.