Solar energy has been the frontier of green living with many homeowners installing solar panels to provide electricity for their appliances as well as for lighting and heating. The effectiveness of a solar panel system will depend on a number of factors including your exposure to the sun, where you live, the much you pay for heating fuel, and your commitment to drawing on solar energy instead of the alternative energy sources.
The collector is the heart of a solar system. This is also called the module or panel. Passive solar systems simply rely on natural forces during operation including the movement of heat from cold to hot. On the other hand, active solar systems require other equipment such as pumps, blowers, and inverters so as to utilize the energy captured from the sun.
Types of Solar Collectors
There are two main types of solar collectors which are thermal and electric. Thermal collectors convert solar energy to heat while electric collectors convert the rays of the sun into electricity. Both of them are mounted on the roof. Below are some of the common residential solar electric collectors.
Crystalline PV Modules
These are the majority in the market and they are made by slicing silicon crystal ingots into wafers each one carrying a negative and positive electron. When these wafers are struck by sun’s rays, an electric current is generated and runs from the front contacts all the way to the back contacts thus distributing the charge from one module to the next.
Thin Film Modules and Laminates
These collectors are made by depositing semiconductor materials in very thin layers on a number of substrates which include flexible backings and glass. Because of the fact that these collectors require close to 4 times more roof space if they are to produce the same output as the crystalline PV modules, their popularity is somewhat lower.
Solar thermal collectors are basically used for heating applications and are much bulkier. The common types of thermal collectors include:
Thermal Flat Plate Collectors
These have thick rectangular enclosures and covered by glass on top. The blackened absorber sheet located in the enclosure has a liquid that draws away heat from the sun. it is this liquid that is then used for space or domestic water heating.
Evacuated Tube Collectors
This is a much newer type of collector and consists of evacuated tubes each having an absorber plate and tubing. The liquid then removes heat from the absorber plate and transmits it through the tubing for heating purposes.
Other types of thermal collectors you may want to consider include unglazed thermal collectors and hot air collectors.