Anatomy of a Solar System

Wondering how residential solar works in New York City? Residential solar system design in NYC is surprisingly simple, consisting of only a few main components located on the roof and in the basement. Brooklyn SolarWorks’s experienced installation team can complete a typical project in just one day with minimal disruption to your home and routine.

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Components of a Solar Panel

A single solar panel consists of just a few main components working to create solar energy.



Layers of glass encapsulate and protect the solar cells. In addition to shielding the cells from damage, the glass sheet’s anti-reflective coating helps to reduce glare and capture more energy.

Silicon Solar Cells


A solar cell, or photovoltaic cell, is primarily made of silicon, which works to convert the sun’s rays into electricity using the photovoltaic effect. The solar cells in the panel are primarily wired together in series.



The final layer of the solar panel, the backsheet plays an essential role in protecting the panel as a whole. Highly resistant polymers ensure electrical insulation and protection against environmental damage.

Junction Box


A solar PV’s junction box is where all of its electrical components are housed. Bypass diodes in the junction box keep power flowing outward, preventing it from feeding back into the panel.



A solar panel’s aluminum frame functions as a layer of protection against weather and other potential damage, and also aids in the panel mounting process.


Solar Power Mounting Options in NYC

With two racking solutions at our disposal, we create custom system designs to fit your home’s unique needs.

Solar Canopy

Our patented Brooklyn Solar Canopy elevates solar arrays 9 feet above the flat roof surface, obstructions, fire paths, shade & amenities. Canopies maximize solar performance in the urban environment without sacrificing valuable roof space.

Tilt Rack

A tilt rack splits solar arrays into separate sections that are installed around obstructions & fire paths. Mounted close to the roof surface, tilt racks can be installed with zero visibility from street level.

Components of a Residential Solar System

Solar Panels

Mounted on top of your roof, solar panels absorb the sun’s light and convert it into DC electricity. Brooklyn SolarWorks uses top-of-the-line solar panels offering the best performance for the long term.


The inverter converts Direct Current (DC) electricity generated by solar panels into Alternating Current (AC), and distributes it for direct consumption.

The inverter is also “the brain” of the solar system, logging and reporting performance data via the internet throughout the day. If a system is not functioning properly, the inverter lets us know.

Net Meter

When your system is installed, a simple software change to your existing smart utility meter will enable Con Edison to track the energy flowing in and out of your home. The electricity that your solar system exports will be credited to your future electric bills – an arrangement called net metering.


The solar panels’ wiring is combined and linked to the electrical service area in the basement via a ¾” aluminum conduit run. The location of the conduit run is determined by conditions of your house, but will always be the least intrusive path possible – whether that’s down the front, side, or back of your home.

On-Grid vs. Off-Grid Solar

If you’re looking into solar energy for your home, you may be wondering what types of storage options are available and whether you’ll be able to go completely off-grid. Unfortunately, as it stands right now, New York City fire code currently makes it impossible to obtain a permit for a residential solar battery installation.

However, New York’s net metering program allows you to still take full advantage of all of your excess energy. As a solar owner, you’ll remain on-grid and Con Edison will track the energy flowing in and out of your home.

Whenever your system produces in excess, all of your unused electricity will get exported into the grid. Con Edison will compensate you for the electricity your system exports in retail energy credits applied to your electric bills.

Solar for NYC’s Brownstone Homes

New York City’s residential neighborhoods are known for their blocks lined with row houses and their unique, ornate architecture – particularly that of the iconic brownstone house. Popularized in the 1800s and no longer actively being built, these grand homes are still in high demand for their coveted, classic look.

It’s sometimes assumed that completing a home improvement project like rooftop solar may be out of reach for today’s brownstone owners. However, installing solar on centuries-old homes is totally possible; in fact, it’s our specialty.

Choosing the Right Solar Partner for You

If you’re looking to upgrade your brownstone with rooftop solar, it’s important that you choose the right contractor for the job. Renovating and upgrading a brownstone home requires expertise and attention to detail that not all solar installers can provide.

At Brooklyn SolarWorks, our sole mission is to extend to local homeowners the financial and environmental benefits of renewable energy. With years of experience, we’ve mastered the art of installing solar on New York City rooftops – even those originally constructed back in the 1800s. Whether you own a brownstone, row house, or townhouse in NYC, we’ll help you reduce your carbon footprint with solar.

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How Does Residential Solar Work FAQs

How do solar panels work?


Solar panels use the photovoltaic effect to absorb energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. When photons from sunlight hit solar cells, DC electricity is generated. This is converted into AC electricity by an inverter, which is usable in a home.

How many solar panels to power a house?


A typical home in New York City can be powered by around 15 solar panels if mounted to a roof in a tilt rack system. An average solar canopy system, however, will be 21 or more panels, offering greater power production for the home. The amount of panels required to fully meet a home’s needs are dependent on individual usage habits and electrical appliances. Assessing those needs is one of the first steps in considering solar.

How does net metering work?


Net metering is a system in which excess electricity generated by a solar system is exported into the power grid, and excess energy produced is recorded by the utility company at the end of each month and used to offset the home’s consumption in future months. Credits cannot be sold to the utility or other entities, but do retain their full value for the entire 20 year period of the net metering agreement.

What happens to excess energy?


When you get solar installed in New York City, you’ll remain connected to the grid. Excess solar energy that your system produces is exported back to the grid, powering neighboring houses and businesses. Con Edison will credit you for it through a program called net metering.

Why do you need a solar inverter?


Since solar panels produce DC electricity but your home and the utility grid run on AC electricity, the inverter plays the important role of converting that DC into AC and distributing it to the main circuit breaker for use within the home. Often called the “brains” of the system, it also logs and reports system performance data via Wi-Fi connection. If something is not functioning properly, the inverter will alert us.

Do solar panels work in bad weather conditions?


Solar panels function well on partly cloudy days, but their output is greatly reduced during periods of heavy rain or snow. Though energy production may be less than it would be on a sunny and clear day, residential solar panels will continue to generate electricity in other weather conditions. However, despite daily weather variability, the net metering system and decades of historical weather data make the performance and benefit of a solar array highly predictable on a monthly and annual basis.

Should I replace my roof before going solar?


Roof condition is typically not an obstacle to going solar on a flat roof. In the case that your roof needs repairs or replacement, you have options that do not prevent you from proceeding with your solar panel installation.

Are there solar incentives available in NY?


Rich tax incentives and rebates make New York City one of the best places in the country for homeowners to go solar. Through federal, state, and local incentives, 75% or more of the cost of an average installation is covered.

Get Started Working with Local Experts

If you’re going solar in NYC, choose an expert. Brooklyn SolarWorks was founded with one goal: to make solar appealing and accessible for NYC’s homeowners.

Our focus is hyperlocal – we’ve mastered the City’s permitting rules and building codes and developed unique solar power system designs that make solar a reality in our community.

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