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In this post we find out how solar panels convert light into electricity for your outdoor space.  The idea behind the solar panel is simple but not cheap.  Look at the explanations below.

Solar Panel and WireScientific version

All direct sunlight produces heat when it hits an object.  Feel your car when it is sunny outside and it will be quite a bit warmer on the sunny side.  This heat is what causes the action in a solar panel.  We will explain why this happens.

A solar panel is made of flat panels called semiconductors made with crystals of a silicon material.  These are called Photovoltaic cells. The heat from the sun makes the electrons inside the atoms in the crystal move. Instead of just moving in place, the silicon material will have an electric field to make sure they will move in a guided direction of the crystal. This will create a conveyor of electrons moving inside the panel.

This movement induces current much like turning on a switch at your house. The size and number of layers of silicon will dictate how much electricity is made by this movement.  Each cell or layer will have a entrance and exit point for the current.  These will be series together to make the amount of current that is required by the system.

Once you have electricity made it will go to a battery or directly to something that will only work when the sun shines. Somewhere in the line will be a diode.  This diode will only let the current flow in one direction.  This will keep the battery from discharging to the solar panel after dark.

The cost of producing Silicon crystals has gone down in recent years.  This has made it more economic for use in the out door lighting and pond pumps.

Solar light panel

Photovoltaic cell and Photo resister

Plain English version

The sun produces heat that produces electrical current inside the solar panel.  The solar panel charges batteries that store electricity. Solar systems that do not have batteries will only operate during the time they have sufficient sunshine.

Keeping your solar panel clean and properly aligned to get the most of the daily sun will give you the best results.


After the initial cost of the solar panel, your power will be dependent on the amount of sunshine your location receives.  Your items that are powered by the solar panel will depend on storage of the electricity that you have produced.

Rechargeable batteries will last several years. Some items like a solar pond pump will only operate when there is sufficient sunshine, as they do not have a battery backup.

Most of what is talked about here is for solar lights and solar pond pumps.  The larger whole house solar panels work on the same principle.

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