Solar panels are used to convert sunlight into electricity or heat.
Photovoltaic (PV) technology generates electricity from sunlight. In a solar-powered home, PV cells are configured together into a series of modules, or solar panels, which absorb fractions of the sun’s energy. Each PV cell is made from a semiconductor, usually silicon, which frees electrons once photons from light enter. The free electrons create an electrical current that can be harvested by metal borders around each PV cell.
The solar panel is connected to a grid tie inverter in order to connect to the home’s power grid. When they are not connected to the home’s power grid, solar panels usually power equipment or store energy in rechargeable batteries. In larger systems, PV panels can be mounted to the ground. In homes, they are traditionally integrated to the roof. They can be mounted easily on sloping rooftops using metal frames with covered glazing and are assembled perpendicular to the sun’s rays for maximum effectiveness.
Solar water panels are different in that they use the sun’s energy to heat fluid, primarily water. In the home, this is most often done with flat-plate thermal collectors that are mounted to the roof with attached circulation tubes. Circulation tubes are attached to absorber plates that absorb and convert solar radiation into heat. The plates transfer the heat to the fluid flowing through the tubes, which carries it to a storage tank or heat exchanger. Once the heat is released, the transfer fluid returns to the collectors for re-heating.
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