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Solar radiation today allows a multitude of uses. Among them, there are two technologies: solar photovoltaic panels and solar thermal panels. Although they may look similar, they have totally different goals.

Combined installation of photovoltaic and thermal panels

Combined installation of photovoltaic and thermal panels

Photovoltaic / Thermal: their objectives

The purpose of both facilities is very different. One produces electrical energy, the other produces hot water.

Photovoltaic solar panels capture sunlight and then transform it into electricity that can be used throughout the house and on the electricity grid. Their utility is multiple, they allow to operate any electrical device.

The solar thermal panels capture the heat diffused by the sun to transmit it to a reserve of usable water especially to heat the sanitary water of the house. Their utility is more limited because it is confined to the supply of hot water.

Their operating principle

The operation of solar thermal panels is very simple. They are limited to absorbing sunlight or external heat by thermal sensors. The heat energy is transferred to a fluid that will feed a solar water heater to provide hot water or a heated floor to heat a home.

The system of photovoltaic solar panels is more complex. They are composed of semiconductor materials (silicon). The photons emitted by the sun, when they come into contact with the photoconductive cell, set in motion the electrons that compose it. This has the effect of producing an electric current. This electricity will pass several stages (inverter, meters) before being injected into the public or internal network. This technique implies that photovoltaic solar panels must be properly placed on the roofs in order to function properly.

Which panel prefer? What to choose?

Whether you are a couple with or without children, retired, single, your needs are different. A retired couple will not have the same hot water needs as a couple with two children. Be aware, however, that it is entirely possible to combine these two facilities.

Video Instruction: Solar PV vs. Solar Thermal