What distinguishes solar thermal from photovoltaic?

Everyone talks about solar energy but few really know about it. We would like to briefly introduce you to the difference between solar thermal and photovoltaic systems.

Solar thermal energy (sol = sun) converts solar energy into heat (thermie = heat). Solar thermal energy is mostly used for heating water or for heating. Whether it makes sense to replace the previously used heating system depends, for example, on the location and structural substance of the property. For hot water, it is assumed that about 60 percent of the annual demand can be covered by solar thermal energy.

Functionality of solar thermal energy

To obtain heat from the sun’s rays, you need solar collectors. These absorb solar energy and transfer it to the hot water tank by means of a fluid that runs in pipes. The heat is then transferred to the water in the storage tank via the heat exchanger. From this storage tank, the heat can then be used as needed, even when the sun is not shining. Cooled liquid flows back to the collectors to be heated again by the sun.

What is the difference with photovoltaics?

The name already tells us the most important thing: The word “photovoltaic” is derived from the Greek Phos = light and the physicist Alessandro Volta. After Volta, the unit for electrical voltage was named “Volt”. While solar thermal energy extracts heat from solar energy, photovoltaics converts the sun’s rays into electricity.

Photovoltaics also rely on equipping as large a roof area as possible to capture as much sun as possible. In contrast to solar thermal collectors, in photovoltaics we speak of solar modules, in which the solar cells are grouped together. These cells generate electricity directly from solar radiation, so technically they cannot be compared with solar thermal energy.

If you would like more information about solar thermal or photovoltaics or need expert advice, please contact us. We will name possible partners.

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