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How Solar Panels Work

As we all know, the sun produces light and heat. However, some of the sun’s energy can go to produce electricity. The term solar photovoltaic (PV) primarily refers to a basic physical process through which sunlight is converted into electricity. Sunlight is composed of photons or particles of solar energy. As shown in the diagram, when sunlight reaches the solar panels, some of the sunlight’s energy is absorbed. Only the absorbed photons generate electricity. The solar panels are made of individual cells, each of which has a positive and negative layer. When the sun’s photons collide with the semiconductor surface of these cells, it frees electrons. Essentially, these cells generate an electric field, very similar to an electric battery. This electric current is then harnessed by wires that are connected to the negative and positive sides of the semiconductor cells.

The electricity generated from the solar cells is called direct current (DC). Your home uses alternating current (AC). Before the electricity can enter your home or business via the main electric panel, it has to be converted to AC by a device called the grid-tie inverter. In the diagram, there are a couple of disconnect switches, one a DC disconnect switch and the other an outdoor AC disconnect switch. These are required for safety purposes. Your outdoor AC electrical meter will be replaced with a meter that will spin in both directions. By owning a solar array you will reduce your energy costs in a couples of ways. We design solar arrays to offset a percentage of a client’s electricity requirements or in some cases it can cover their entire needs. Any electricity your solar array produces that is not utilized would be transferred to your utility provider, thus a bi-directional meter.  We call this a grid-tie solar electric system. After installation, your electricity bills will show the amount of electricity used minus the amount your system produced and you pay the difference.


Solar Features and Benefits

Adds Value to Your Home or Business

Recently the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) recently released an analysis that found solar panels add between 3% and 4% to the value of your home. In fact evidence suggests that similar to other home investments such as new kitchen, installing a solar energy system adds both investment value and consumption value for the home owner.


As long as the sun is shining, it can provide an unlimited supply of energy and reduce your dependence on fossil fuels.


After the initial expense of installing a solar system, solar energy is free. There are no moving parts and there is essentially no maintenance.

Environmental Protection

Solar does not pollute the air or use up natural resources. It is one of the cleanest ways to produce energy. It will reduce your carbon footprint

Seven Things to Think About When Considering Solar Energy...

A. What are your energy needs? The best way to determine your energy needs is by checking your utility bills. We will ask to see your utility bills on our first site visit. Sometimes there are limiting factors that will dictate the size of a solar array...amount of roof space required or budgetary reasons. If so, we will be able to provide you with the percentage of utility cost offset you would gain from installing a solar energy system.

B. You may be living in a subdivision with bi-laws that restrict installing things to your roof. In some cases, a waiver can be obtained. 

C. During our first on-site visit, we look at the direction your home or business is oriented on the property. The building should have as much of a SOUTHERLY exposure as possible to maximize the energy output of the solar panels.

D. Are there any trees or other buildings that would shade the sun during certain times of the day? Sometimes trees need to be trimmed back around the building.

E. Do you want the solar panels mounted on the roof or be ground mounted? (Most of our installations are roof mounted.)

F. If the solar panels would be roof mounted, we always ask about the age of the roof. If your roof is over 15 years old, we recommend that the roof be replaced before installing the solar panels.

G. The age of the building is also an important consideration when looking to do a roof mount. We need to determine if the roof can support the added weight of the solar panels. A structural engineer report is sometimes needed.

As part of our service, we will provide a customized overview of your property and make recommendations as to how best to install your solar energy system that will meet your needs for years to come. Also, Heartland Alternative Energy will obtain all the permits and utility (Net-Metering) approvals.

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