How to Cut Your Energy Use And Save Money

Solar Panel Systems: Solar Thermal vs Solar Electric Panels

by Edward Robertson

Had it with the expensive electricity or gas bills you keep getting every month? Going solar can be a great way to reduce the cost of running your home. With solar panel installation, you can use the sun's energy to produce all the power that you need and say goodbye to those high energy bills. 

Before you invest in solar panels, you should know that they're not created the same. The two primary types of solar panels available today are solar thermal panels and solar electric panels.

Here's what to know about each solar panel type so you can make an informed choice.

Solar Thermal Panels 

Of the two main types of solar panels found on the market today, these panels have been used longer, especially in homes located in colder climates. Solar thermal panels are primarily used for water heating purposes. They use sunlight to generate heat used to heat up water, providing users with a reliable hot water supply.

Once installed, solar hot water heaters eliminate monthly electricity or gas expenses completely. However, these hot water systems still require regular and periodic maintenance to keep functioning reliably. The number of solar panels you'll need to heat your water depends on the size of your household. The larger the size of your household, the more the panels required and vice versa.

The most obvious drawback of solar thermal panels is that their use is limited to water heating only.

Solar Electric Panels

Want to become energy-independent? Also referred to as solar photovoltaic panels, solar electric panels allow you to produce your own electricity. 

Unlike solar thermal panels, which convert sunlight to heat, these panels use sunlight to generate electricity. The electricity can be used to provide lighting for your home, but also operate electronics and domestic appliances, including an electric water heater (if you have installed one).

The electricity that is produced is stored in high-voltage batteries and distributed throughout the home. This set up comes in handy during the nighttime when there is no sunlight to tap into as a source of energy.

Keep in mind that solar panels rely on the sun's light and not heat, to heat water (for solar thermal panels) and produce electricity (for solar electric panels). Summertime is when these panels deliver maximum performance. This is not because temperatures peak during this time of the year but because the days are longer and the nights are shorter.

For more information on solar panels, reach out to a local solar power company.

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