Solar Energy

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Gexa Energy
April 26, 2023
minutes read
Gexa Energy
Publication Date:
June 1, 2023
Last updated:
April 26, 2024

Solar is the most plentiful source of energy on our planet, and homeowners across Texas, the United States, and the world are harnessing and converting it into electricity for their homes. By installing residential solar panels, you can reduce your dependence on fossil fuels by generating your own green energy to power your home.  

At Gexa, we are committed to providing Texans with home electricity plans powered by 100% renewable energy*. Our affordable plans are the smart choice for you, your family, and Texas.

Solar Panels 101

Solar technologies absorb and convert the Sun’s radiation into energy to power homes. But how exactly does this technology work?  

What Is Photovoltaic Technology?

The most popular solar panel systems rely on photovoltaic (PV) technology to convert sunlight into electrical power. These solar panels consist of PV cells, created from semiconductor materials, such as silicon. They consist of both a positive and negative layer, creating an electric circuit. Because these panels are often outdoors, the PV cells are protected by a layer of glass and plastic.

When PV cells are grouped together to boost energy output, this is known as a panel or module. A group of interconnected solar panels is known as a solar array. This modular setup allows for customization of PV systems to handle any energy need, big or small.

How Do Solar Panels Create Electricity?

When sunlight reaches a solar panel, the photons inside of it become electrons. These electrons then flow through the electric circuit created by the PV cell, generating electricity—specifically direct-current (DC) energy.  

So, how does a solar panel connect to the electric grid to power home appliances, which rely on alternating-current (AC) energy?

In order to hook up a solar panel system to the electrical grid, you need an inverter to convert DC electricity into AC electricity. Inverters also provide ground-fault protection and usage statistics related to voltages, currents, and energy production. Inverters can also be connected to net meters to feed unused energy back to the grid.  
Some systems have a single central inverter, while others rely on several microinverters for each individual panel, resulting in increased solar panel efficiency.

Understanding Solar Panels for Texas Homes

Here’s a step-by-step overview of how residential solar panels work:

  • Solar panels are installed on the rooftop of a home to capture sunlight and use it to create DC electricity.
  • The solar panel inverter converts DC energy into AC energy.
  • Electricity passes through the house, powering connected appliances and devices.
  • Any excess electricity is transferred back to the power grid.

Powering your home with solar energy is simple, clean, and efficient. Homeowners can improve solar efficiency and cost-effectiveness with a net meter or solar battery.

What Happens to Unused Solar Energy?

Homeowners with solar energy plans are often curious about the concept of unused energy transferring to the grid. During daylight hours, solar panels often generate more electricity than a home needs. This extra energy goes back to the grid to be utilized elsewhere.

There are two solutions for homeowners to utilize this unused energy: solar batteries, and a process called “net metering.” While solar panel batteries store extra energy, customers who sign up for a plan with net metering may receive credits for any extra energy produced during off-peak hours.  

How Do Solar Panel Batteries and Net Metering Work?

Put simply, a solar panel battery absorbs extra solar energy for later use. This energy can be used during off-peak hours, such as nighttime or during storms. Using this stored energy can help homeowners save money on their energy costs.

A net meter device records how much of your home’s solar energy goes unused so that it can be credited back to you. With a net-metered home, you are only charged for your “net” energy use.  

Why Should I Switch to Solar Energy?

Texas is the 4th sunniest state in the country. According to data about each state’s sunlight exposure from the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, Texas receives 5,137 kilojoules per square meter (kJ/m²) in annual sunlight each year, just behind Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona.  

However, the benefits of installing solar panels go far beyond having plenty of sunlight to power your Texas home.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy, the cost of solar energy is going down every year, causing millions of Americans to invest in roof solar panels. Along with the likelihood of reducing monthly energy charges, eligible homeowners may qualify for tax credits and Texas solar incentives, including:

  • The federal solar tax credit for homeowners
  • 30% credit for eligible systems installed between 2022 and 2032
  • 26% credit for eligible systems installed in 2033
  • 22% credit for eligible systems installed in 2034
  • A Texas property tax exemption on added home value from installing residential solar panels  
  • Local incentives from utility companies, such as net metering credits or rebates

Ready to make the change? Check out our in-depth guide on making the switch to solar energy.

Is My Home Ready for Solar Panels?

Before you invest in residential solar panels, consider the following questions to determine if your home is suitable:

  • Are there trees near your home that will block the sun from reaching your solar panels?
  • Can you install solar panels in an ideal south-facing position?
  • Does your roof slope or is it flat? (Both can work with solar panels, but the angle of your roof may impact installation requirements.)
  • How new is your roof? Will it need to be repaired or replaced soon?

As you can see, there are a variety of different factors that may impact whether your home is ready for solar panels, or what exact benefits you will enjoy from powering your home with solar energy.


FAQs About Solar Panels

How much do solar panels cost?

The price of residential solar panels varies, depending on the type and number of panels needed. Additional costs may include installation labor, sales tax, permitting, and financing. Search for Gexa solar energy plans in your area or contact us for individual pricing information.

Are solar panels worth it?

Many homeowners with solar panels can take advantage of tax credits, state and local incentives, and reduced energy charges. Solar panels may also increase home value without additional property taxes in Texas. Learn more about the cost-effectiveness of solar energy in our guide: Are Solar Panels Worth It?

Can I install solar panels myself?

The best method for equipping your home with solar energy is through a qualified professional. Gexa partners with certified solar installers to help with the installation process.

How many roof solar panels do I need?

The exact number of solar panels you need will depend on your geographic location, the size of your home, and how much power you need. On average, most homes require approximately 20 solar panels, although this number varies for each project. Contact Gexa to get an estimate for your home.  

What is the environmental impact of solar energy?

Solar energy is truly renewable, with scientists estimating the sun will keep producing radiation for more than five billion years. Unlike fossil fuels, using solar energy doesn’t result in any gas emissions or water pollution. Solar energy can have a positive impact on your neighborhood, your city, and the world. Choosing renewable energy means all of us will be on our way to a cleaner, greener future.

Get a free rooftop solar quote for your home today and partner with Gexa to create a greener Texas.

Choose The 100% Green Electricity Plan That's Right For You.
Choose The 100% Green Electricity Plan That's Right For You.
Find the right electricity plan for your business
Save on Nighttime EV Charging
Interested In Solar? We Can Help With A Free, No Obligation Quote.
Request a Quote
Interested In Solar? We Can Help With A Free, No Obligation Quote.
Request a Quote
Pick your best Electricity plan
Shop Plans
Save on Nighttime EV Charging
Interested In Solar? We Can Help With A Free, No Obligation Quote.
Request a Quote
Save Up To 23% On Heating And Cooling Costs With Sensi™ Smart Thermostats.
Save Up To 23% On Heating And Cooling Costs With Sensi™ Smart Thermostats.
Earn unlimited solar credits to pay off your energy bill with our buyback plan!

More Solar Energy recommended articles

Explore other categories

Gexa Energy purchases renewable energy credits (RECs) from renewable generation resources throughout North America to match 100% of the energy sold under your electric plan. The RECs Gexa purchases represent the renewable attributes of power generated from a variety of renewable energy sources, including, but not limited to, the sun, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, wave or tidal energy, and biomass or biomass-based waste products, including landfill gas.