Small Solar Panels - Introduction to the Types of Solar Energy in Your Home
By Shannon Esposito
Arguably, do-it-yourself solar panels are one of the easiest projects you have ever done for the home, not to mention that it is also the most beneficial of the bunch. After all, what other DIY project can you think of that will achieve the three-pronged benefit of helping your pockets, your economy and your environment?
With that being said, the discussion on the ways with which residential solar panels work will center on three categories: 1) panels as used in the generation of electricity; 2) of heat; and 3) of heating water. Once you understand these specific uses of solar panels, then you are in better position to understand the technology behind them.
- Electricity Generation - Also known as photovoltaic cells, solar cells are the most common examples of the device used for electricity generation. But first, a clarification - a collection of photovoltaic cells forms a photovoltaic module that, when tied together using wire and designed with other modules, are then known as solar panels. These solar panels are hen mounted in such a way as to catch direct sunlight either in parallel rows or even as installations mimicking the outlines of natural trees.
With these solar panels, solar radiation is converted into direct current electricity. This is achieved together with the other components of the system, namely, the inverter and the battery, all of which are linked together by wire. At present, solar panels are made of materials like polycrystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, microcrystalline silicon, copper indium selenide/sulfide and cadmium telluride.
- Heat Generation - This time, the heat of the sun is harnessed to provide heat to the household. These panels are more appropriately called solar thermal collectors, which are definitely more complex than simple hot water panels although the appearance is almost similar.
Keep in mind that the heat energy generated by these types of panels is ultimately converted into electrical energy. In the case of solar power plants, the heat energy is used to heat water that, in turn, produces steam used to drive the turbine in an electrical generator setup.
There are many types of solar thermal collectors used in solar power plants - solar trough, solar parabolic and solar towers. For residential uses, either the box type or the flat plate panels are used although there are other types like the parabolic dish, evacuated tube and unglazed panels that are also popular. Regardless of the panels used, you are likely to enjoy the benefits of wide area coverage and higher electricity generation efficiency on a very affordable DIY installation.
- Water Heating Purposes - The simpler installation than solar thermal collectors is the solar water system in the homes. Such a system is usually composed of solar collectors, a well-insulated storage tank and an inlet and outlet systems. In homes with a two-tank system, the solar water heater will preheat the water before it enters the house's present gas, electric or fuel-powered heater.
Amongst other types of installation, the passive and active heating systems are the most notable. In a passive system, the water is heated using thermosyphon action while in an active system, pumps are used to circulate water throughout the home.
So, now that you know about the different types of solar power options, which one would you choose in your home - electricity generation, heat generation, or water heating? Better yet, try to go solar all the way!
About the author: He's an expert at the creation and installation of many different types of renewable energy resources, such as solar power and wind power generators. See more of his articles at his site: Small Solar Panels.
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