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Last updated: 25 July 2019

Solar Panels vs Solar Thermal

A closer look at Solar Thermal and Solar PV and their advantages and disadvantages.

Solar Thermal or Solar Panels?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that solar thermal and solar PV are two very different technologies. As the name suggests, solar thermal technology is used to collect sunlight and transform it into heat that is stored and later on transformed into electricity. Solar panels, on the other hand, utilise PV technology to capture sun rays and directly convert the sunlight into electricity.

Solar Thermal

Solar thermal power is usually used for water heating. It’s a simple technology: the panels on your roof are the collectors of sunlight, thus heating up the liquid in the tubes which is then transported into your cylinder ready for use.

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Let’s take a closer look at solar thermal advantages:

  • Solar thermal is more space efficient than solar PV
  • They can be up to 70% more efficient in collecting heat from sun rays than solar PV
  • The technology itself is less complex than solar PV
  • Perfect solution for heating up water
  • They also have great value for businesses

And now let’s move to the downsides:

  • Solar thermal is less effective in winter months when sunlight is not so strong, except for thermodynamic panels
  • Solar PV systems are more versatile than solar thermal ones
  • Shorter lifespan than solar panels
  • It can be very time consuming to find the right supplier

If you choose this option you are going to enjoy an energy solution that is superior compared to other sources of green energy. However, solar thermal is still considered to be an option exclusively for water heating, as that is its best function.

Solar PV

Solar PV panels are a relatively newer technology compared to thermal. There are few types of them - Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline and Thin-film solar panels. They absorb sunlight and transform it into electricity by utilising a silicon based technology.

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Solar PV’s advantages include:

      • They can provide you with clean green energy for about 30 years
      • Their lifespan is incredibly long
      • They can cover around 60% of your household’s energy needs
      • They are incredibly efficient in summer time
      • They can’t freeze in winter time
      • They also cover the needs of appliances with high energy consumption, such as refrigerator, dryer and so on.

Impressive, but let’s look at some of the disadvantages now.

        • The initial investment is quite hefty
        • They require larger area of space for installation than solar thermal
        • It can be very time consuming to find the right supplier

Just like with solar thermal, if you choose solar PV you are also going to enjoy having a superior green energy solution.

Final Verdict

Both solar PV panels and solar thermal are great technologies that can provide you with clean green energy. However, deciding which one to choose can be quite difficult. Solar PV is by far the newest technology and is set for big success in the future. Still it matters what you need exactly, as solar thermal is your perfect solution for water heating.

When buying solar PV for your home, it's best to compare various offers. To get up to 4 tailored offers, all you have to do is fill in the contact form and GreenMatch will be in touch with quotes from trusted suppliers in your area. This service is completely free and non-binding!

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