A record number of Americans installed residential solar panels in the last decade. And for good reason: the reduced dependence on the local grid, coupled with lower utility costs and carbon footprints, make solar an extremely attractive option.
However, despite the rise in interest, very few homeowners know how the various components of a solar panel work. How does a panel draw energy from the sun? And how does it convert this into energy our appliances can use?
Knowing the answers to these questions doesn’t just satisfy our curiosity but also helps us make smarter decisions when purchasing panels of our own.
So, let’s take a closer look at the parts of a solar panel and how they work together.
Before we understand how solar panels work, here is a brief look at the solar panel parts and components that this blog will discuss:
Each of these solar panel parts plays an essential role in the systems. Let’s take a closer look:
Solar cells are the main components of a solar panel. Also known as photovoltaic (PV) cells, they are made up of a semiconducting material, often silicon. They do not trigger chemical reactions like batteries and do not require fuel to create energy. Instead, they use the photovoltaic effect to produce electric charges from sunlight.
Several solar cells—which are usually rectangular or hexagonal in shape—are strung together and mounted on a metal frame to create a singular panel.
These cells come in different sizes, designs, and configurations, each determining how well a panel will perform. Previously, domestic solar cells could only convert about 20% of the sunlight gathered into electricity. However, newer solar systems with more efficient cells have increased this figure considerably.
Another factor that differentiates the efficiency of solar cells is their cost. With a solar panel cost calculator, you can get a better estimate of how much energy you will need to power your home and how much this will set you back.
Another critical part of a solar panel is the EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) film. This transparent sheet is laminated over both sides of the solar cells.
It acts as protection that blocks the entry of air and moisture while letting sunlight through. Because the material is naturally resistant to degradation, it can withstand high temperatures and humidity. It also softens the impact of shocks and vibrations.
If the EVA film is of low quality, the silicon solar cells will react to oxygen in the air. This leads to oxidation, which appears as yellow or brownish patches.
Along with the EVA sheet, a sturdy layer of tempered glass protects the delicate PV cells. This transparent glass barrier is usually between 3 and 4mm thick and keeps out wind, snow, rain, dirt, and debris.
Some solar cells reflect sunlight that falls on them, making them less efficient. So, this glass may be coated in an anti-reflective chemical. All these factors make solar glass one of the most crucial components of a solar panel.
Of all parts of a solar panel, the back sheet plays the most important role in preventing overheating. This sheet connects the back of a solar panel to the mounting surface and ensures the system's structural integrity.
It also shields panels from moisture and insulates the solar module so that the cells last as long as possible.
The frame holds the laminated solar cells in place. It is usually made from aluminum—the lightweight material is extremely sturdy and can withstand extreme pressure and harsh weather conditions.
This frame could be silver or anodized black and is one of the most important components of solar panels as it helps maximize energy absorption.
The junction box is where the cables that connect different panels are attached. It is a crucial stop in the transfer of energy from the PV cells to the inverter. The box also prevents energy from feeding back into the panels.
These connect two solar panels to one another and collect and transport electrons generated by solar cells to the inverter. They act as a crucial link among all solar panel parts and accessories.
Apart from these components of a solar panel, several accessories help make the panels more efficient.
Some important solar panel parts and accessories include:
How do all the parts of a solar panel come together?
First, photons from the sun are absorbed by the solar cells and converted into an electrical current. The film, glass, and back sheets protect the cells from dirt and debris, thus maximizing the amount of sunlight that hits the surface.
The energy produced by the PV cells is then sent through the connectors to the inverters. These solar panel components convert the DC current into AC that can be used to power our homes.
From there, the energy can be used in appliances or sent to a solar energy storage system. Depending on the battery storage capacity, excess energy can be used on days without sunlight or sent back to the local utility grid as part of a net-metering agreement.
This is, of course, a simplified version of how various components of solar panels work together to power up homes.
For more questions about solar panel installation in California, don’t hesitate to reach out to the AMECO team. As a leading solar company in California, AMECO has helped thousands of clients understand how various solar panel parts and components work. Contact our experts and make your switch to solar go as smoothly as possible.