Grid-tie systemsHybrid systemsOff-grid systemsBurning questions

How are solar panels connected to your house?

“OK, so you’re telling me to put solar panels on my roof, right? What are they going to do up there? How is energy from sunlight going to end up lighting up my TV?” is what you may think when looking at ads for home PV systems. Let’s look at how solar panels connect to your house and what you need for it.

Connection differs with setups

Let’s do a quick overview of how solar panels for home work. First, the panels absorb sunlight and generate direct current. This current travels through the wires and either charges your batteries or gets to the inverter. The inverter converts DC into AC — alternating current — which can be used for your appliances. It sends AC further to an electrical panel of your house. From there AC either travels to your appliances or goes into the grid.

The exact way of how to hook up solar panels to your house depends on the configuration of your system. There are three ways to set up your PV system.

Grid-tie system

A grid-tie setup is the majority of home solar installations. You can use either solar energy or electricity from the grid. The extras of your solar production can be sent into the grid to make your electric meter go backward.

Here is how solar panels connect to the house in a grid-tie system: the wires from solar panels go to grid-tie inverter. There is a DC disconnect in between which can stop the flow of DC to the inverter. From the inverter, the wires go to the main electrical panel of the house. The electrical panel sends the electricity to the outlets. It is also connected to a bidirectional meter and commercial grid.

Off-grid system

An off-grid system is where your home relies solely on solar power and batteries. It is common for houses in remote locations where a grid connection is unavailable.

In an off-grid setup, to wire solar panels to the house's electric panel you have to connect solar panels to the charge controller which is wired to a battery bank. Batteries are connected to an inverter. An inverter is connected to a breaker box or electric panel and from there electricity travels to outlets and your appliances.

Hybrid system

A hybrid system combines the perks of off-grid and grid-tie setups in itself. You have a grid connection but you also have a battery bank. When a power outage happens in the grid, hybrid switches your home to battery support.

Just like in a grid-tie system, solar panels are connected to the inverter with a DC disconnect switch in between. Hybrid inverter usually has a built-in charge controller and it is wired to batteries. Sometimes these inverters have built-in energy storage. The inverter also gets connected to an electric panel in your home. The inverter also interacts with the grid and there is an electric meter in between.

DIY installation is only for professionals

Your solar installer takes full care of connecting solar panels to the house and prepares the system to be interconnected with the grid. A utility then sends their professional to greenlight the operation of your solar system.

Some of our customers ask: “Can I connect solar panels to my home's electrical system myself?” Unless you are a certified electrician, we wouldn’t recommend it — and if you were, you wouldn’t need our advice anyway. Grid-connected systems in particular aren’t DIY-friendly — you have to know the laws and regulations in your area and be familiar with the National Electric Code (NEC). For this reason, another common question “Do I need a special type of inverter to connect solar panels to my home?” should be answered “Yes, and it depends on where you live and what kind of system you’re planning”.

With an off-grid system, you’re on your own and even if your setup is not following all the regulations, it’s likely that no one will ever know. Still, mistakes made while wiring solar panels to houses can be dangerous and lead to system failure and potentially a fire.

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Andrey Gorichenski
Senior Editor

Andrey had been a news editor and freelance writer for a number of medias before joining A1SolarStore team. Climate change and its impact on people's lives has always been among his interests and it partially explains his degree in Philosophy and Ethics.

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