Solar panels are the beating heart of virtually every solar energy system out there, and it’s important that they work proficiently. Whether you’re talking about a SunPump for home and hot water heating or a full-scale solar power plant for generating electricity, the efficiency of the solar panels used will largely define the efficiency of the system as a whole. The ideal solar panel would convert 100% of the solar energy it absorbs into heat or electricity. Of course, as anyone familiar with solar power will tell you, 100% efficiency is a lot easier said than done. In fact, if you take a close look at the marvellously complex process of converting photons to electricity, it’s kind of amazing that solar PV panels function at all!
Solar Thermal Vs. Solar P.V.
This leads us to the big divide between different types of solar panels. Solar thermal panels, (often matt black in colour) are used to generate heat, while solar P.V. panels (typically a glassy dark blue colour) are used to generate electricity. The differences between the two go far beyond colour though; as we said earlier, it’s all about efficiency. With the recent explosion in popularity of solar PV panels, it’s somewhat surprising to some people when they learn that solar PV efficiency is typically as low as 15%. This means that only 15% of the energy hitting the panel is being converted into usable electricity. While this level of efficiency hasn’t stopped the spread of solar PV in recent years (after all, the most important thing for the spread of solar is to compete with fossil fuels in terms of cost-effectiveness) it does mean that there is a whole world of efficiency in solar PV panels just waiting to be unlocked with newer and more efficient technology. These developments happen like baby steps, with efficiency increasing point by point. The latest record for solar PV efficiency stands at an impressive 34.5%, a fantastic achievement (although it could be a while before we see those figures outside of a laboratory).
Solar Panels: Solar Thermal The King Of Efficiency
Some people think of solar thermal panels as the baby brother to solar PV. Solar PV is certainly more common these days than solar thermal, but when you start to actually compare solar thermal with solar PV directly, you start to see that solar thermal is a much more efficient, robust source of energy. Just look at efficiency levels; if 15% efficiency is a fair ballpark figure for solar PV, for solar thermal you will be looking at efficiency levels of around 80%. This means that a single pair of solar thermal panels could outperforms 4 or 5 times as many solar PV panels.
Why should homeowners care about solar panel efficiency? Efficient systems are more cost-effective. The more efficient a system is, the fewer panels you need, lessening installation costs. You also get a lot more bang for your buck; while most solar PV systems installed at home can handle a portion of a family’s electricity needs, a solar thermal heating system like SunPump is a primary heating system. This means that it can heat entire homes 24 hours a day without needing help from another heating system. This will massively reduce space and hot water heating bills for the homeowner, as your home goes from a fuel-burning boiler or furnace to green, free solar energy. Solar thermal might not get quite the same attention that solar PV does, but it’s quietly becoming the greenest and most cost-effective way of heating your home and hot water. If you want to learn more about SunPump and how it can drastically reduce your heating bills, click here to get a free brochure.