When venturing into the world of solar energy, it can be daunting to hear or read technical words or terminology that you might need to familiarize yourself with. We’ve compiled a list of the most important solar terms. Solar companies and installers commonly use these terms, and familiarizing yourself with them can help when researching your solar system.
Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC) refer to the different types of energy customers use with their solar generators. Direct Current is the type of power your solar panels receive and accrue from the sun; you can also find Direct Currents in batteries and generators. Alternating Currents, on the other hand, are the form of electricity used in the appliances and outlets in your home.
An array (sometimes referred to as a “solar array”) is a collection of solar panels. In residential solar systems, companies typically install solar arrays on the property’s roof; however, they may also mount them straight into the ground.
An electrical grid connects individual homes to their utility company. The electrical grid routes all power from various sources to the properties included within its parameters. Homes with solar systems remain on the electrical grid to still receive power at night.
An inverter is a device that converts the energy received from your solar panels (DC) to power you can then use and consume in your home (AC). You can also use your inverter to monitor the energy output of your solar system. There are several different types of inverters, each with unique pros and cons.
A Kilowatt (kW) is a unit of measurement used to measure power in electrical and solar systems. A Kilowatt is equal to one thousand watts of electrical power. Manufacturers will define solar panels by the number of Kilowatts they produce. Similarly, a Kilowatt-Hour (kWh) refers to power consumption rather than power generation. kWh, more specifically, refers to the amount of power consumed within an hour in terms of Kilowatts. Solar companies often use Kilowatt-Hours to determine how many panels a property or homeowner will require.
Unlike a traditional inverter, which converts the electrical current received by the entire solar system, a micro-inverter transforms the power received from a single solar panel or module.
Monocrystalline and polycrystalline refer to the two main kinds of solar panels. Monocrystalline panels are made of a single silicon crystal, making them more efficient but expensive. Polycrystalline panels, on the other hand, are comprised of multiple silicon crystals, and while less efficient, they are the more affordable option.
Net metering is an agreement between a homeowner and their utility company that allows the homeowner to sell their electricity to the grid. This is a popular option for homeowners who want to take advantage of the excess electricity that their solar system produces. This process often reduces and sometimes eliminates homeowners’ utility bills.
Photovoltaic (or PV) is the process of transforming sunlight into energy. We consider solar panels photovoltaic devices because they convert the sun’s rays into Direct Current (DC) electricity.
The last of our solar terms is a solar cell. This term refers to a single unit within a solar panel that captures light. Depending on the size of your panel, your panels can contain up to 72 solar cells.