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Solar 101

How Does Solar Work?


How does solar work, what is solar electricity, and how can it run your refrigerator? While there are some technical terms involved (see our glossary of solar terms for clarification), it’s actually pretty simple.

How does solar work?

  1. Solar panels instantly convert the solar radiation that strikes them into low-voltage DC electricity.
  2. That DC electricity travels to a solar power inverter, where it is converted into the 120-volt AC electricity used by household outlets and appliances.
  3. From the inverter, the AC electricity heads to your electrical panel, where it is distributed through your house as needed.
  4. Any excess electricity is sent through your utility meter and into the electrical grid, and you receive credit for it through net metering.

Solar system performance data is stored and viewable online through a solar system monitoring service.


Real Goods Solar founder John Schaeffer explains how a home solar system works in the video below.