How Solar Roof Systems Work

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Solar shingles are a new solar energy technology that functions like traditional solar panels but looks less noticeable in your home. These shingles seamlessly integrate with your roof to generate clean power and save homeowners on their electricity bills.

Here is how they work: Sunlight hits solar cells and turns them into electrons of direct current (DC) electricity. These are then sent to a solar inverter to change to AC electricity that can power homes.

Photovoltaic Cells

Photovoltaic cells, commonly known as solar panels, generate electricity directly from sunlight. When photons from the Sun strike silicon in a solar cell, they cause electrons to loosen up. These loosened electrons move around, looking for a place to “hitch a ride” and create electricity. Metal plates outside a solar panel collect these electrons and transfer them as electricity to wires. This electricity can power appliances in your home during the day or be stored for later use (nights, cloudy days) when paired with a battery.

Each solar panel contains many photovoltaic cells linked to form a module. The efficiency of these solar cells, measured by fill factor, determines how much power they can make. Silicon solar cells can achieve high fill factors, but CdTe and CIGS solar cells have been making strides in performance. Also, bifacial solar panels are being developed to capture light from both sides of the solar panel to increase energy yield.


This is converting the DC produced by solar panels into usable AC power. Depending on the Solar Roof Systems, this can be done either at the panel level through microinverters or centrally with a single-string inverter.

The inverter’s output voltage waveform can be shaped by adjusting the width of the pulses that drive the power semiconductors. This is often referred to as “pulse-width modulation,” and it can reduce or eliminate harmonics that occur in the power supply.

An inverter can also provide frequency conversion, converting a 50 Hz signal to 60 Hz or vice versa. This is helpful for equipment that requires a specific frequency, like many small motors and electronics.

Grid-tied inverters have built-in protections that disconnect the PV inverter from the grid if the utility line frequency or voltage goes outside pre-scribed windows. This prevents PV inverters from back-feeding into a utility transformer or other electrical infrastructure that could create hazardous conditions for utility personnel.

Solar Panels

Solar panels (also known as photovoltaic cells) and solar shingles use the same technology to capture the power of sunlight. Both are composed of a double-layered semiconductor material, often monocrystalline silicon, topped with glass or metal. Each cell only generates a few watts, so multiple cells are grouped into modules or solar panels. They are then connected in arrays to achieve higher voltage and current levels, with the most efficient panels usually being placed at the front of a solar panel system or solar roof.

Most solar energy systems are also compatible with battery storage, saving electricity for cloudy days and nighttime usage. Any unused electricity is then sold back to the grid, by local net metering guidelines, for a credit. While solar energy may seem complex it is simple and elegant, making it an ideal clean energy solution for homes. Many credentialed solar installers even offer no-money-down solar installation options, in which they front the cost of the system and install it on your roof while you buy the energy at a discount.

Battery Storage

As fossil fuels become increasingly seen as a non-sustainable source of energy, more and more homeowners are turning to solar. A solar roof system with battery storage provides additional benefits.

Solar battery storage is essential because most homes don’t consume all the energy their rooftop solar systems generate at the exact moment it is produced. It also helps during power outages, especially in densely populated areas with frequent brownouts.

A battery system can provide you with electricity even when the grid goes down, and it can back up less energy-intensive loads like lights, appliances, refrigerators, wall outlets, pumps, and fans. A Rooftop Solar team can help you determine your specific load and goals for a battery storage solution that fits your home.