There are two different types of solar panels for home use, photovoltaic and solar thermal. Whilst both will save you money and enhance your green image, they both work very differently and are not system interchangeable. Let me explain:
One sort makes electricity and the other will very effectively heat your water.
Photovoltaic – the electricity generating kind – generates DC current. Typically they are manufactured of a semi-conductor material like silicon which interacts with the sunlight that shines on it to create electricity. You can use this electricity to power up computers and other appliances or, if the system is big enough, the whole house.
Bit of a downside here though, these solar panels for home use only generate electricity whilst the sun shines; if it’s cloudy then the panels are less efficient and may not generate a useable amount of power.
Solar thermal collectors heat up fluid – water or oil typically-by using the suns energy shining on panels with hoses or coils inside them. The sun heats up the liquid in the coils or tubes and this liquid is usually circulated around the system by a pump of some kind.
These solar panels can heat building interiors by circulating through an under floor system as well as providing for domestic hot water, swimming pools and spas.
How to Store up the energy for later use.
In order to make the most out of the energy that the solar panels for home use have generated, we will need some storage system.
For the photovoltaic this usually is a battery storage set up. You can use lead acid batteries like those found in cars or more expensive sealed units that require little or no maintenance.
There other more specialized batteries like Gel Batteries that are great for the colder climates and are freeze resistant.
Both home use solar panel set ups typically use glass or plastic to encase the collection systems, and will require direct access to sunlight. Ideally they will need a place that is facing south to maximize the amount of sun on them during the day.
Even if you have constant sunshine, it’s best to have some sort of back up for both systems. Either a generator or connection to the grid. This will keep you powered up if the weather turns cloudy for a few days.