Did you know that there are two types of solar power technology? Solar thermal and Solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies both collect sunlight and convert it into energy, but how they do it, and what that energy is used for, differs dramatically. Solar PV systems take the sunlight and turn it into electricity, while a solar thermal system uses the energy it creates from sunlight to heat your home or water. If you are considering a solar energy system, it is important to know the difference, and which will suit your needs, so you can purchase the right one for your home or business.
Solar PV Systems
As we mentioned above, solar PV systems are made up of panels on your roof that capture sunlight, which they convert into electricity to power your home or business. The PV energy is created through the photovoltaic effect, which is when photons hit a panel composed of semiconductors, causing the release of electrons which begin to flow, generating electricity. That means PV panels are only operational during daylight hours.
There are different types of solar PV panels to choose from, including:
- Monocrystalline Solar Panels– Single crystalline silicon is formed into bars and then cut into wafers to make solar cells. Using a single crystal allows electrons more room to generate a flow of electricity. Typically these panels are more efficient than polycrystalline panels.
- Polycrystalline Solar Panels– These panels are also made of silicon, but instead of being made from a single crystal, they are made from several silicons that are melted together to form wafers. This produces a panel with less room for electrons to move.
Solar Thermal Systems
Solar thermal power is used for heating water, although it can also be used to heat your home or business. As with solar PV systems, the panels are installed on your roof, but with solar thermal systems, sunlight heats up fluid that circulates in the tubes of your solar panels, which is then released into the water heating system of your home or business through pumps. These systems can heat your water and your home/business through insulated floors, walls, ceilings, and roof piping.
The great thing about solar thermal energy is that it is highly efficient: it can turn almost 90% of radiation into heat. In addition, these systems can have efficiency levels of up to 70%, which is more than that of solar PV systems, which generally have efficiency ratings between 15% and 20%.
There are a few drawbacks to solar thermal energy, though: the panels become less efficient in the cold weather, and their lifespan is shorter than that of solar PV panels.
Which Should You Get?
While solar thermal is a great solution for heating water and your home or business, solar PV is the latest technology and has more advantages. Solar PV systems are cheaper than solar thermal systems because the government helps offset prices with multiple incentives, like the 26% federal tax credit (ITC). They also generate electricity, which can power your whole home, and so can save you hundreds of dollars a year. You will also be able to sell excess power back to the grid, saving you even more money. Even though thermal solar energy might reduce your heating costs, the cost savings from PV solar energy far outweigh the savings from thermal solar.
The bottom line is: when deciding what type of system you want, it is important to weigh your options and think about exactly what you are looking for. Do you want to save money on your electric bills or are you looking for a way to save money on your heating and hot water bills?
And if you’re thinking of going solar, the best way to find a great plan with a long warranty that will cover every aspect of your solar energy system is to work with a Go Solar Energy agent. Our agents work with the top-rated companies in the nation and will compare plans in minutes, for free. To get free instant quotes, simply enter your zip code on our homepage, or to speak with an agent, call 888-290-3112.