Solar heating panels differ from Solar pv (or photovoltaic) panels.
Solar thermal energy harnesses the sun’s light to create heat, which it then uses to operate a heat engine. This makes electricity from a generator. The fluid heated by the sun can be either gas or liquid, and may be oil, water, salt, nitrogen, air, helium, among others. The engine type used can be gas, steam, Stirling etc. The engines used in solar thermal energy are efficient, with the impressive capability of producing 100s of megawatts of harnessed power.
Solar thermal panels are made in amorphous silicon, such as is used in toys, consumer electronics and calculators. They are made using polycrystalline, with molten silicon which is poured into a suitable mould and sliced up into cells. Monocrystalline can also be used, in which cells are crystalline silicon slices.
PV, or photovoltaic, energy works by converting sunlight directly into electricity. These solar panels are effective in the daylight, when they can harness the sun’s power. Electricity is not stored effectively or efficiently, meaning that PV panels only work with direct light.
With solar thermal panels, heat is able to be stored during the daylight hours and then is converted into electricity during the night. This makes it extremely efficient and easy to use and also makes it appealing for large energy production. Thermal plants are able to store power, resulting in a great economical improvement.
Solar thermal heating is very useful for households that might spend a great deal of energy on water heating, as it works so effectively. This type of system is much more efficient in the percentage of the sun’s energy it uses. It can typically use 75% of the sun’s rays to convert into hot water or air.
The two types of solar thermal collectors are flat plate panels and evacuated tube collectors. Within the tubes or panel, these collectors harness energy from the sun to heat the liquid. A controller is then used to control the temperature in the panel and the water temperature within the tank. When the panel liquid is hotter than the tank water temperature, it is pumped through an exchanger and this will increase the temperature of the tank water.
It makes perfect sense to use the sun’s power to heat up your water; this is why more and more people are using solar thermal energy for this purpose. A typical solar thermal system will provide up to 70% of your house’s hot water and this might mean savings of around £80 for a family of four’s heating bills each year. Your boiler or immersion heater will generate hot water if the temperature required is not reached.
Between 2 and 4 panels will need between 3 and 4 square metres of roof space for installation of your solar thermal panels. You should position your panels in a southerly aspect to take advantage of the day’s sunshine.
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