In 1839 French physicist, Antoine-Cesar Becquerel, discovered the potential of photovoltaics - the process of converting the sun’s energy into power we can use. You may hear a solar panel referred to as a photovoltaic panel and the reality is that thousands and thousands of people have started using them on their homes to generate their own electricity, eventually make some money and, most importantly, help the world become more environmentally friendly.

Solar panel kits have taken what was once a complex science, and turned it into a home improvement project. With time, planning, and a certain level of do-it-yourself skill, you can install your own solar panels and generate enough electricity to power your home.

Solar panels installed on your roof will collect sunlight and convert it into electricity. This charge is stored in a DC battery. When you need the energy the DC charge passes through a separate unit called an inverter. The inverter converts the charge into AC electricity, which can be used to power all your household appliances.

Installing a solar energy system large enough to power your entire home is possible, but it will require planning, and plenty of physical work.

As a practice run, try installing a small solar energy panel outside your home to power something like a gate opener, or fountain. This will help you learn the principles behind the technology and the process of installation. You can also use solar panels on an RV, or install marine solar panels on a boat.

Next, get quotes from at least two reputable solar panel installation companies. Do this even if you plan on doing the work yourself, as you will find out a lot of information such as:

- How to calculate the amount of energy your home uses, and what solar panels you will need to meet this demand;

- Where on your home the solar panels should be installed;

- How complex, or easy, the job will be;

- How much a professional company will charge. They may be able to source solar panels at a lower cost than you, so you may decide to bring in the experts instead of doing it yourself.

If you decide to complete your own installation, there are many good books available to guide you through the process.

Once you have a solar panel system installed, it is possible to add extra panels to meet your home’s growing energy needs.

Getting quotes is normally a lot more expensive but, of course, saves you a lot of time and hassle. The most important thing to consider is that the biggest cost to get the work done privately is the installation fee - it is often possible to negotiate the installation fee. You might also consider the option of renting solar panels - a practice that is becoming more popular and allows you to get free energy whilst supplying the excess back to the installer along with a small fee.