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Rustic Wooden House With Residential Solar Panels On Roof

Understanding the Solar Panel Anatomy and Efficiency 

Have you ever wondered how residential solar panels work? Thanks to the grid-like pattern of tiny photovoltaic (PV) cells on their surface, these devices can efficiently convert sunlight into usable electricity. Let’s take a closer look at what comprises your home’s solar power system and the factors that affect its ability to generate electrical energy.

sunlight hitting Residential Solar panels

Solar Panels: Understanding their Anatomy and Efficiency

Did you know that sand is the raw ingredient of semi-conductive materials used in producing monocrystalline silicon layers for PV cells? The process of creating each PV cell is both labor- and energy-intensive.

It starts with applying heat to sand to turn it into a molten liquid. The molten substance goes through a purification process until it grows into a silicon ingot. Next, silicon ingots are sliced into thin layers that facilitate energy flow.

Solar panels work like large semiconductors that channel the electrons from sunlight through layers of glass, metal, and electrically charged silicon layers.

Critical Parts of a Solar Panel

A layer of transparent tempered glass is placed over the grid-like pattern of silicon cells to protect them from the elements. Additionally, this protective glass traps more sunlight and allows it to pass through the front contact grid.

Front Contact Grid

The silicon panel’s front contact grid pattern channels light energy down to the solar cell’s positive silicon layer.

Anti-Reflective Layers

Each solar cell is topped with an anti-reflective coating of silicon nitride or titanium oxide. This coating enhances solar cell efficiency by reducing the amount of sunlight lost to glare.

Silicon Layers

Electrons move back and forth at the junction of two layers of semiconductor silicon: the N-type and the P-Type layers. The N-Type semiconductor silicon layer is filled with negatively charged electrons. This layer absorbs light energy and passes it down to the P-type semiconductor silicon layer holes.

P-N Junction

The P-N junction is found between the P-Type and N-Type silicon layers. As electrons move at this junction, they create an electrical field.

Back Contact Grid

Solar panels are usually comprised of 60 or 72 interconnecting silicon solar cells. These solar cells are assembled with metal backing and conductive metal strips connected to the front contact grid.

These components act as receivers and transporters of an electrical current originating from the electrons released in the silicon layers. Furthermore, electricity flows between the front and back contact grid through an external circuit before traveling toward the AC/DC converter or battery storage.

Residential Solar power system

Factors that Affect Solar Panel Efficiency

The solar panel’s output relative to the space it occupies is called solar panel efficiency. Although solar panel efficiency generally depends on sunlight converted into electricity, you must consider several factors.

Weather Conditions

Weather conditions can significantly impact your solar panels’ performance. If you think that high temperatures increase their efficiency, think again. Besides reducing their ability to generate power, the hottest summer days may even cause considerable damage to your solar panels.

Alternatively, heavy snowfall may decrease your solar power system’s total output if your solar panels are completely covered with snow and ice. However, if they aren’t, snow may improve solar panel efficiency. Since snow is white in appearance, it increases the amount of sunlight that strikes the solar panels.


When trees and other objects cast shadows on your solar panels, they reduce your solar panels’ ability to generate electricity. If a shadow falls on even a tiny area of a solar panel’s surface, it limits the power output of an entire string of solar cells.

Unless you’re willing to run the risk of experiencing lower electrical output and power losses, it’s best to avoid solar shading. You can do this by cutting tree branches and removing objects encroaching your roof. Consulting professional solar installers can also help you determine your solar panels’ best location and placement.

Roof Orientation and Angle

The sun is always along the southern part of the sky to those living in the Northern Hemisphere. For this reason, solar panels capture the maximum amount of sunlight if they’re positioned facing south. Additionally, the panels produce more energy when they’re tilted between a 30- and 40- degree angle because the light hits the panels at a perpendicular angle.

Solar experts assess roof orientation to identify the solar power system’s ideal placement. However, if your roof orientation and angle aren’t suitable for solar panel installation, you may have to consider redesigning your roof.

Roofing Material and Color

Irradiance refers to solar power measurement, defined as the rate at which solar energy falls onto a specific surface. Since roofing materials such as iron sheets feature high irradiance, they increase solar power efficiency. Additionally, dark-colored roofing materials reduce your solar power system’s output because they absorb more heat and increase the temperature.

Type of Solar Panel

Solar panels come in four main types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, Passive Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC), and thin-film solar panels. Among all panel types, crystalline solar panels feature the highest efficiency. While monocrystalline panels have an efficiency rating of more than 20%, PERC panels have 5% efficiency, and polycrystalline panel efficiency is between 15% and 17%.

The Efficiency of Solar Accessories

Your energy controls, solar inverters, and cables can influence the performance of your solar power system. Unless you’re willing to run the risk of prolonging your payback period, it’s best to purchase quality accessories that are compatible with your solar panels.

Additionally, you should also avoid excessive resistance that reduces the system’s output by considering your appliances’ cable sizes. For instance, a 220V device will negatively affect the efficiency of a 48V solar panel system.


Solar panels produce less energy as they increase in age. Research shows that their performance decreases by 0.5% per year.

Maintenance Practice

Since the buildup of dust, dirt, pollen, leaves and other debris blocks light from reaching the solar cells, they reduce your system’s ability to generate power. Additionally, you’ll want to keep your solar panels functioning at peak performance by ensuring regular professional solar panel cleaning.

worker installing a Residential Solar power system on roof

Do You Want to Learn More About Residential Solar Power Systems?

SuperGreen Solutions harnesses the power of the Earth’s most powerful renewable resource with residential solar energy systems. We offer solar solutions such as energy savings audits, solar panel cleaning, and solar panel design and installation. Call us now to learn more about our products and what we can do for you.


16A Bel Air South Parkway

Bel Air, Maryland 21015


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