When people are talking about solar panels they are often referring to a photoelectric panel that is designed to capture solar radiation and convert it into electricity. What most people don’t realize is that PV panels are just one of the many different types of solar panels in use today.
I’m really excited about today’s topic of discussion because I get to introduce you to some technologies that you might not be familiar with. Anytime I get the chance to teach people about new and interesting ways to harness the power that the earth freely gives us is an exciting time for me.
The purpose of this article isn’t really to discuss each of these different technologies in great detail. I’d rather introduce you to the different types of solar panels that are available for use and then in some future articles I’ll discuss each type in much more detail.
Photoelectric or PV Panels
This is the type of solar panel that most people are already familiar with. Even if you’ve never installed a solar panel on your house, I’m sure you’ve used a solar panel before. Practically everyone has used a type of a solar panel at one time or another; even if it was only on a cheap solar powered pocket calculator.
There are many different ways that photovoltaic panels can be constructed. Some technologies produce solar panels that are much more efficient than others but the price is usually more expensive for these as well. Even though they are constructed in different ways, they’ll perform essentially the same. Expose them to sunlight and they will generate electricity. If you are interested in learning more about PV panels, I encourage you to read my article called, How Solar Panels Work but make sure you finish reading this article first. I wouldn’t want you to miss out!
Solar Water Heating Panels
The next type of solar panel that I’ll be talking about is less popular and less well known than photoelectric panels. This is the solar hot water heating panel. Many people don’t realize that a substantial portion of their energy bill goes to just heating the water that is used in their house and solar energy is perfect for heating water.
There are several different types of solar water heating panels that one can choose from but the basic principle is the same regardless of how they are made. Heat from the sun is harnessed in such a way that it is able to heat up water. Some systems are designed very efficiently and can actually heat the water enough that a stand alone water heater isn’t even necessary. Others simply preheat the water to reduce the amount of energy that a water heater in the home has to consume to bring the water up to acceptable temperatures.
I’ve actually done a little bit of experimenting with this myself. A few years ago, we built a homemade solar hot water heater and although it wasn’t as efficient as it probably could have been, it was a fun experiment and we got a lot of good use out of it. If you would like to read about that experiment you can read about it in my article that is called, “Our Homemade Solar Powered Water Heater Experiment” but like I mentioned above, don’t read that article just yet or you’ll miss out on the rest of the goodies in this one.
Here’s a video that shows solar heating panels in use. It even shows this technology being used in the dead of winter when there’s snow on them and they are still able to heat up water!
Solar Space Heating Panels
Now let’s talk about a type of solar panel that is even more obscure. There’s no reason that the heat that is freely available from the sun should be limited to just heating water. In many homes, the energy to heat the home during those chilly days makes up the bulk of its energy usage. If the sun is capable of heating water, it just stands to reason that it would also be good for heating air. In some very efficient systems, water is actually heated to a high enough temperature that it can be circulated through radiators in the home. This type of a system pulls double duty as both a solar hot water heater and a solar space heater.
There are less elaborate systems that simply collect the heat from the sun and circulate it into the air. If you’ve ever spent an afternoon reading a good book curled up in a bay window, you know all too well how effective the sun can be at heating living spaces. With a little ingenuity it’s possible to create solar heating panels that are much more efficient than a simple glass window.
Here’s a video that shows a solar air heating panel that someone made with beer cans in his garage. His simple system is actually blowing air into his house that is 132° F when there is snow on the ground!
Solar Cooking Panels
This is one of the types of solar power that is probably utilized the least of any of the types that we’ve talked about today. You’ve probably heard that old expression that says, “The inside of our car was so hot that we could have cooked an egg on the dashboard”. An automobile is a perfect example of how efficient a well designed solar collector can be. It’s probably a better way to explain how one might harness the power from the sun to heat air, but it does point out that people have been thinking about cooking with the power of the sun for many years.
With a little bit of creativity, some reflective surfaces, and maybe even a Fresnel lens, You can do everything with a solar cooking panel from baking a cake to actually frying that proverbial egg that everyone has been talking about for decades.
Summary of The Different Types Of Solar Energy
As you can see, there are many other types of solar panels that can be utilized to perform a wide variety of important tasks. We all need hot water, we all need heat in our homes, and we all need to cook our food. I think that people can learn a lot from this article. It’s important to not be narrow minded when it comes to how it might be possible to utilize alternative energy. Before reading this article, you may have thought that there was only one type of solar panel but I’ve just introduced you to four different types of solar power. If we are going to bring alternative energy to the masses, we need free thinkers to invent new and exciting methods of creating free energy!
Before I sign off for the day, I’d like to send out a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to stop by and read this article. If you’re interested in learning a little bit more about this type of thing, you might want to read my article that is called, “What Is A Fresnel Lens“. In that article you will be introduced to an incredibly powerful lens that is often utilized when people are designing devices to heat water, air, or even cook with.