What they do
Solar electric generates an electrical charge by trapping the energy within the sunlight absorbed by the solar panels. Solar thermal captures the energy generated by the sun and uses it to generate heat, which can be used to heat water or for radiant space heating.
Solar heat technology is far more advanced than solar electric technology at this time. While solar photovoltaic systems are only about fourteen to twenty percent efficient, solar hot water systems are eighty percent efficient or more. Solar water heating systems are proven to be a much more efficient use of solar energy.
Solar electric systems and solar thermal systems both utilize collection panels to capture the sun’s energy. Each system uses a different type of panel. Solar electric systems utilize photovoltaic cells which make up the solar panels used by these systems. The panels which capture the sun’s energy for electric use have a shiny appearance. Solar heat panels look similar, but they do not appear shiny like photovoltaic panels. Another difference between the two is that a solar thermal system has plumbing connected to the solar heat panels, while a solar electric system has wiring connected to its panels.
When considering solar energy solutions for your home or business, remember that solar power can also provide heat for your home needs, not just electricity. Solar hot water systems offer a highly-efficient way to heat water for your shower, laundry, and dishwashing needs. To discuss installing a solar water heating system for your home, contact Smith Sustainable Design.