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Differences between photovoltaic and thermal solar panels

Many people confuse photovoltaic solar panels with thermal solar panels, both types of panels were created for completely different functions. Photovoltaic panels were created to generate electricity using sunlight through a process called the photovoltaic effect and solar thermal panels were created to heat water using the sun’s rays.

Differences between photovoltaic and thermal solar panels

When you are looking for information on photovoltaic solar panels, many times, if you are not familiar with the subject, you may have doubts about the types of panels that exist and their differences.

Panel types:

At the application level, there are two  types of solar panels :

  1. Solar panels/thermal solar panels.
  2. Solar panels / photovoltaic solar panels.

Both types are called the same, “solar panels”, or simply panels, but their operation and applications are very different.


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Thermal Solar Panels:

Its operation is simple: They have inside some tubes through which liquid circulates (depending on the type of model, it can be water, water with antifreeze, alcohol…) and when sunlight falls on them, the internal liquid heats up and transmits that heat to a tank, exchanger… etc.

Solar  thermal energy  mainly for heating and domestic hot water.

Photovoltaic Solar Panels:

As we have already explained on several occasions, the  photovoltaic panels that are installed on roofs  are made up of silicon cells ( monocrystalline  or polycrystalline) and transform solar energy into electricity.

You can use  photovoltaic solar panels  for all types of systems that serve to power any type of application that needs electrical energy.

Advantages and disadvantages of thermal panels:

Advantages of thermal panels Disadvantages of thermal panels
They can take advantage of up to 70% of the incident solar energy In winter months you may have freezing problems
Very simple and robust technology Its applications are very limited, only for heating water
Excellent for heating water Less durability than photovoltaic panels
Easy installation
Minimum maintenance

Advantages and disadvantages of photovoltaic panels:

Advantages of photovoltaic panels Disadvantages of photovoltaic panels
If they are of good quality, they can work for 30 years or more The initial investment is important
It can represent an energy saving in a house of 50-60% Excess supply in the market with very different quality levels
no freezing problems
Valid for any type of electrical application
Minimum maintenance

Due to the lower prices that photovoltaic technology has experienced in recent years, thermal panels are used less and more photovoltaics every day.

You can also get more information from the point of view of its application in a home at:  Price of solar panels for a house  .

About us:

SunFields is a  solar energy company  with more than 10 years of experience in the distribution of photovoltaic equipment. If you are a photovoltaic installer, contact us and we will be delighted to help you.


Visit the other sections of our products where you can request a quote for  photovoltaic solar panels , inverters and other elements for your photovoltaic system.

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