Your Photovoltaic System: Terms You Should KnowOver the long term, solar photovoltaic systems are a great money saver, but they’re quite different from a traditional residential electrical system. Learning a few photovoltaic system terms can help you understand more about your system and better determine when maintenance is necessary.

Photovoltaic System Terms

  • Photovoltaic effect: The process by which solar energy is absorbed and converted into electricity by certain materials.
  • Photovoltaic cell: An assembly that generates electricity using photovoltaic materials.
  • Photovoltaic module: A group of photovoltaic cells wired together to create a finished panel at a desired wattage.
  • Photovoltaic array: A group of photovoltaic modules wired together to create a larger photovoltaic system.
  • Grid-connected or grid-tied: A home connected to the local or regional electrical grid, with a photovoltaic system used to reduce grid usage. In these homes, surplus power can usually be sold back to the electric company.
  • Stand-alone or off-grid: A house that uses only a photovoltaic system for electricity and which isn’t connected to the grid. These houses can power themselves even in an electrical outage.
  • Battery: The storage medium for the electricity generated. Typically, deep-cycle batteries are used.
  • Charge controller or charge regulator: A device that monitors battery voltage, and disconnects the photovoltaic array when the batteries are full.
  • Inverter: Converts the DC power from the photovoltaic array into AC power for household use.  The inverter typically incorporates a circuit to shut the power off when the voltage at the batteries becomes too low.
  • Load: The total electrical usage of devices connected to the system.
  • Voltage: The amount of force exerted upon the electrons in an electrical circuit, measured in volts.
  • Amperage: The volume of electrons flowing through an electric circuit, measured in amperes.
  • Wattage: The rate of energy transfer in an electric circuit, measured in watts. To find the wattage of an appliance, multiply volts by amperes.
  • Alternating current or AC: Electric current that flows in one direction, then reverses direction at a regular frequency. The power grid uses alternating current.
  • Direct Current or DC: Electric current that flows from positive to negative. The batteries and photovoltaic system operate on direct current.

If you have any questions about how these photovoltaic system terms apply to your home or if you require service, Wolff Mechanical will be happy to help. Wolff Mechanical has been serving Central Arizona homeowners for more than 20 years.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Phoenix Valley area of Arizona about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). 

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