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What Is The Difference Between Solar PV And Solar Thermal Systems?

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Looking to install a solar system in your home? The demand for solar systems in the residential market segment has risen in recent decades, thanks to rapidly advancing solar technology and reduced solar system installation prices.  

That said, the primary purpose of solar installation in homes hasn't changed over the years. Solar systems are still used mainly for producing electricity or hot water for domestic use. Of course, they accomplish this in different ways.

Before installing a solar system in your home, it helps to understand which type is right for your needs. That way, you can avoid the costly mistake of spending money on a system you don't need.

Solar PV and solar thermal systems are the two leading types of solar systems available for domestic use. Read along to learn the facts about each type.   

Solar PV System

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems derive their name from their construction. These solar systems consist of smaller units called photovoltaic cells (or solar cells) that convert sunlight directly into electricity.

Photovoltaics only work when the sun is shining. These specialized semiconductor diodes allow light particles to release electrons from atoms, producing direct current (DC). The generated DC gets transmitted to an inverter, which turns it into alternating current (AC), producing electricity. 

The electricity can be used to power all appliances and devices within your home, stored in a solar battery for later use (if excess power is generated), or exported to the utility grid, making the home greener and lowering the carbon footprint of the grid.

Solar Thermal System

A solar thermal system uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and turn it into heat, which is then used directly for water heating or to power a heat cycle that produces electricity. The solar thermal systems used in homes are primarily used for water heating purposes. Usage of these systems for power generation is currently limited to large industrial and commercial facilities. 

With the advent of solar thermal energy storage technology, solar thermal systems can produce and store energy for later use, just like their solar PV counterparts. 

Solar PV and solar thermal systems serve different purposes at every scale, so any comparison between them is only a point of interest. If you need a solar system for electricity generation, install a solar PV system. If you wish to heat your domestic water with solar energy, a solar thermal system fits the bill.

Contact a solar installation company, such as Evergreen Renewables, to learn more.