The sun shines on your house and you can make some toast and a cup of tea.
As well as powering your toaster and kettle, you can run your TV, fridge, computer, vacuum cleaner, washing machine other household appliances.
No wonder rooftop solar is an attractive proposition to many Australians. So much so that, as we outlined in our previous blog post, Everything you need to know about solar energy, nearly one in six Aussie homes have rooftop solar installed. That’s about 1.5 million households.
Some people who install solar panels on their roof don’t really care how they work, as long as they work, but most people do ask us at least a few questions, so here are some answers.
How does sunlight become electricity?
The solar cells are made from silicon and other conductive materials. As the particles of sunlight (photons) hit the panels, chemical reactions release electrons, generating electric current.
Is the electricity instantly available?
The conversion of sunlight to electrical current is immediate, however that’s DC, or direct current. That needs to be fed through a device called an inverter, which converts it to 240-volt AC (alternating current) which can be used by the household.
How much sunlight does it need?
It’s all about maximising the amount of sunlight that hits the panels. In Australia, this usually means installing the panels facing north at an angle which ensures that the glass face of the modules is positioned at 90 degrees to the sun for most of the day.
How big does the system need to be?
This depends on the size of the household and its energy consumption. For example, if there are two of you, a two-kilowatt system will likely supply most of your needs, and will definitely save you a lot of money, while a four-person household might need something that produces closer to 5kW.
Will I need to maintain the system?
Not only are all of the components used in rooftop solar systems manufactured to strict standards of durability, so that they can withstand the elements, there are no moving parts, so a system can typically last for 25-30 years with little to no maintenance.
What happens to the electricity I don’t use?
The inverter is connected to both your house and the grid and is smart enough to know how much electricity to supply to the property and what is surplus to your immediate needs. That surplus is then fed into the grid and you get credits on your bill (against any electricity you use from the grid).
Read How to get paid more for solar to find out how GloBird Energy’s SOLAR PLUS pays the highest feed-in tariff around!
Can I store the surplus energy instead?
Not instead, but as well. You can add batteries to your system, so that when your panels do produce surplus energy it is sent to them first, until they’re fully charged, then any further surplus goes into the grid.
Installing and making the most of rooftop solar panels is not difficult, but if you decide to do it, it certainly pays to do it right.
We’re always happy to answer any questions and point you in the right direction.
Now you know how rooftop solar systems actually work. Knowledge is power … although, unlike the power of the sun, you can’t toast bread or turn cold water hot with it!