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Solar panels produce power for you

Solar panels harness the sun’s power so you can generate clean energy. This means that you can have the electricity you need without the negative side effects that come with other energy production methods, such as burning fossil fuels that let off harmful gasses. On top of that, any extra watts your solar panel system produces is sent to your utility grid to provide clean energy to the city. Your system automatically exports your excess power to the public utility grid, which means you may become eligible to receive credits for all that extra power your solar energy system generates. It could also mean you’ll see a lower average power bill from your current energy provider.

This exchange of excess solar energy for utility credits is often referred to as Net Energy Metering or NEM, and it’s a major benefit to anyone thinking of making the switch from traditional energy providers to clean solar power. But we’ll talk more about that below.

Solar panels produce power for you - Vivint Solar

Types of Panels

Whether on a home, a business, or attached to an RV, you’ve probably noticed most solar panels look pretty similar. A typical panel is rectangular, dark blue or black, and often has a visible grid within it. But not all solar panels are the same so we’ll give you a quick rundown of the options out there.

Solar panels - Vivint Solar

The first thing to know is that there are two different types of solar panels: photovoltaic (often abbreviated to “PV”) and thermal. Thermal solar panels are a little more “Raiders of the Lost Ark” than PV panels, which are much more common. Thermal panels act like mirrors that redirect sunlight to generate heat. Photovoltaic, on the other hand, is the name for converting sunlight into electrical power to charge your solar power battery, power your home, or energize your workplace.

So, unless your neighbor has large, shiny, brass reflectors directing sunlight onto their water basin for a hot bath, you'll most likely be looking at the photovoltaic variant. And within PV panels, there are two subtypes: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Both subtypes are made using silicone, which is a highly durable chemical element that converts energy from the sun into electrical energy can use to power your gadgets.


Monocrystalline is the more efficient of the two subtypes, and therefore most common. To make it, manufacturers take a vat of melted silicone and add crystalline “seed” to solidify it into bars, which are then cut into “wafers.” These wafers are the basic unit of your solar panel, and a bunch of these make a single pane.


By making one large sheet and cutting that into individual wafers, the manufacturer can make sure that each wafer shares a nearly identical crystalline structure. Hence the “mono” in monocrystalline. This keeps the wafers consistent and efficient.

These monocrystalline panels are often paired with solar cells that have cut off corners. “Cutting the corners” in solar energy doesn’t mean quite what it would in any other scenario. It helps to make the energy flow more efficiently. Solar panels have a silver lining between the cells that electrons travel along called a “bus bar.” Cutting off the corners creates a shortcut, making it so the electrons don’t have as far to travel.

Another difference you’ll spot among panels is their color. They alternate between black and blue, but the darker the color the more sunlight they absorb—which means more energy.


Polycrystalline is made in a very similar manner to monocrystalline but with fewer steps, and the crystals that are used to solidify the silicon aren’t made at the same quality or consistency. The solar cells are also square cut, forfeiting the benefit of the more efficient “cut-corners” approach. One of the problems with polycrystalline panels is that they can have gaps where the crystals meet or overlap, which means electrons can get trapped between the crystals. These panels are cheaper because they are less efficient, but are still capable of producing sufficient power for most situations.


How solar panels work

Our sun is the originator of almost all energy on the planet, and by using solar panels, you're simply cutting out the “middle-men.” We talked about how silicon can turn sunlight into electrical energy, but it doesn’t simply happen by magic. Or it does, but it’s “magic” that we at least somewhat understand.

The photovoltaic effect is a naturally occurring phenomenon where voltage and electrical current are created from exposure to light.

As we said, each solar panel contains photovoltaic (PV) cells. These cells convert photons into solar electricity by producing a direct current when sunlight hits the panels. But this is only the beginning. DC electricity can’t simply power your home. Some systems have one inverter for the entire setup or a microinverter for every panel. Either way, these inverters convert that direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) to power your home.

Your newly generated electricity then runs through your net meter to power your appliances. It functions just like electricity would from your utility, but without all of the negative side effects on the environment. Even so, you’ll still be connected to the local grid so you can automatically use traditional power should the need arise. Staying connected to the grid comes with a few advantages, such as potential to share your clean energy and, if you don’t have a solar battery, tapping into traditional energy sources once the sun goes down. Depending on where you live, you might even be given a credit from your utility for sending your extra power to the grid.

How much do solar panels cost?

For many people, solar seems almost to be a mysterious sci-fi technology, and one of the most common questions we hear is how much does this space-age machinery cost? The difficulty in getting a straight answer is that the question depends entirely on your home and your needs. But there are a few specific factors that can help you get an idea of what affects your average solar cost.

Choose the solar plan that works best for you

How you decide to pay for your solar energy system is one of the biggest factors that decide what solar is going to cost you. The good news is, we offer different options so you can find the one that works best for you.

*Warranty refers to solar panels. Refer to your customer agreement for all warranty terms and conditions. Plan availability varies by area and utility.


System size and location

The size of your system is dependent on your energy needs, the size of your roof, and the average sun hours in your area. The more average sunlight you get, the fewer panels you need. Less average sunlight means more panels so you can make the most of those shiny hours of the day.

Net Metering

The availability of net metering in your area can have an impact on your final cost. Net Metering is a billing method that allows you to sell your excess solar energy to your utility by transferring it to the grid. Net metering rules are different across the states, but you will generally receive some sort of credit from your utility company for providing power from your energy system, which will cut down on your personal costs.

Self-consumption and home battery storage

A home battery is an investment that could save you a bundle down the road because it allows you to store your excess watts to use later. Talk about a bright idea!

Depending on where you live, this can completely change the way you pay for energy. With excess power in your battery, you’re able to utilize power from times of the day when you use less energy for use during peak energy usage times. This is a complete game-changer for time-of-use states where the cost of energy spikes significantly during the evening, but it’s also just smart energy practice for any home. And a battery gives you comfort and peace of mind during power outages.

No need to waste money on a loud generator that creates harmful fumes and needs to be constantly monitored. With a solar battery, you might not even notice right when the power goes out—and it will recharge with each new day. That saves you money and time. And you can’t really put a price on peace of mind. Check out our solar energy systems to learn how producing clean energy can benefit you and your household.

Vivint Solar makes it simple

We're with you every step of the way, from the initial plans to the permits and paperwork.
Save Money
Solar often costs less than energy from your average utilities, so you can save money.
We only use Tier 1 panels (the best of the best) and our 25-year operation and monitoring warranty means your power comes with peace of mind.*
Our crew has the experience and expertise to make sure your system is installed correctly.

*Warranty refers to solar panels. Refer to your customer agreement for all warranty terms and conditions.

Meet other homeowners that are already powering their home their way

“It’s been a phenomenal experience. In one day they managed to put the entire system on in about a three-hour time frame. My neighbors are switching over to Vivint Solar as a result of my good experience.”
Chaz B.
"We've had solar panels for about six months now, and they've really taken care of all our power needs. In fact, our bill has only been five or six dollars, which is about what they charge you just to send you a bill, so...we've been thrilled with it. It's been a good deal for us."
Ray S.
“I've been a Vivint customer for two years now, and I just wanted to say how happy I am with my system. I've saved up quite a lot of money, and I'm very happy. Couldn't recommend such a better company.”
Richard P.
New Mexico
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See how much solar could save you!

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