move beyond
solar thermal vs. solar photovoltaic

Brief Summary: In this video we define the term solar thermal and solar photovoltaic. These two different technologies are widely used in solar energy applications for residential homes and businesses. Zonbak sells solar thermal panels

Keywords: solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, insolation, efficiency, BTUs, KW/h, solar absorption, inverter.

Detailed Description: Solar thermal and solar photovoltaic both thave the same goals: capture solar radiation and convert it into useful power. They have two different ouputs, however. Solar thermal panels generate power in the form of heat, while solar photovoltaic panels generate power in the form of a dc electrical current. An electric inverter converts the dc power into an ac voltage to power appliances and lighting in a home. While they both produce power they do it vastly different ways. A solar thermal panel converts solar radiation to heat via a process called absorption. Materials with high absorption convert approximately 66% of the incident solar radiation into heat. The most common is a thin aluminum coated with specialized black coatings. Photovoltaic panels use a material called polysilicon (same material used in computer chips) to capture " photons" of light and generate electrons which then flow through a conductor to produce electricity. The best PV panels can only convert about 15% of the incident radiation into useful power.

heat capacity

With PV systems energy storage requires expensive batteries. The best storage device for solar generated heat is simply water due to its high heat capacity. The greater the volume of water the more heat you can store.

The other key difference between PV panels and solar thermal panels is power storage. Although you can store electricity in batteries, it is extremely expensive to do so. As an example, the cost of the batteries in a hybrid car or electric car add $2,000 to $10,000 to the cost of the vehicle. However, for low-power applications battery storage is viable. With PV applications, therefore, power is generally used immediately or purchased by an electric utility to be sold to elsewhere. With solar thermal, heat can be stored in just about an material. All materials have the ability to store heat which is known as its heat capacity. A thermal storage battery can be something simple as a cement or even a barrel of water. The stored heat is then released after sunset. If enough heat capture capability and heat storage are combined, then a house or other building can be solely heated by the sun, even the coldest climates. To see more on this subject view our passive solar heat video or read our passive solar design guide.

availabel soon screen

solar efficiency

solar thermal design with rooftop panels


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