How do solar panels actually work?

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If you have solar panels, or are thinking about getting them, this blog is a guide to help you understand a little bit more about this incredible renewable technology.

Here’s our bitesize guide to better understand all things solar.

Simply put, solar panels absorb energy from the sun and convert it into Direct Current (DC) electricity. An inverter then converts this to Alternating Current (AC) electricity - which is what is used in most homes.

This electricity then flows through your home, powering electronic appliances and devices. It can even be set up to heat your hot water or charge your electric vehicle. Any unused electricity produced by the solar panels is fed back to the electric grid, unless you have battery storage to save it for a rainy day.

But how do solar panels generate electricity?

A photovoltaic cell absorbs incoming energy in the form of sunlight. Photons (the particles of light energy) pass through a semiconductor, such as silicon, knocking off electrons. The electrons begin to flow through the electrical circuit, generating an electrical current. Wiring captures the electrical current and combines it with power from other solar cells. This electricity is then used to power your home.

And the benefits are huge.

  • Renewable energy. Solar energy is accessible for as long as we have the sun, which scientists reckon will be at least five billion years.*
  • Cost saving. A 12 panel solar system and battery could see savings of up to £904 a year^^ on your home's electricity bill.
  • Set up and sit back. Solar panels are generally low maintenance. For optimal performance, they just need cleaning a couple times a year - and the rain often does it for you.
  • We’ve got you covered. You can enjoy some peace of mind thanks to our 10 year product warranty and a 25 year performance guarantee. Get a quote for your own solar panel installation and if you're a E.ON Next energy customer you could enjoy up to £200 off. T&Cs apply.
  • Earn with your energy. If you generate more electricity than you use in your home or business, and export it back to the grid, you could receive export payments through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). Find out if you could earn with SEG at E.ON Next.

Feel the Community power.

The E.ON Next Community is a space for customers just like you, sharing their experiences to offer a helping hand. Find support about solar panels or suggest your own unique topics, plus get involved in discussions of all the latest news. Join the conversation now.


^^ These are example figures only, based on standardised MCS calculations. Savings are based on property fitted with a south-facing solar array in central England on a roof with a 35-degree tilt and no shading, with electricity consumption of 4,800 kWh per year (with the customer at home all day), at a tariff rate of 30.0p/kWh. The solar array contains 12 x 405W panels (4.86 kWp) generating 4,544 kWh/year, fitted with a 5.2 kWh (4.2 kWh usable) battery.

Blog updated: 04/07/23