For individual home owners, sun power technology has settled into a range of affordability for installation in our homes. We can have what amounts to our own mini power plant providing energy needs for the home and even banking the rest of the energy for future use or rebate back to the utility for grid use.
This isn’t science fiction. We’re seeing these systems pop up all around the country with an increasingly accelerated foothold in the sun-drenched west and southwest.
Within the election to convert to home solar power capability, there are variations and choices on technology which is left up to you in most cases. Fundamentally, there are solar thermal systems and photovoltaic systems.
You might be like many and didn’t know there is a difference let alone what the differences mean on a practical level as a home owner. This article will hopefully give you the basics about these systems to find the best fit as you make your decision.
Primer on Solar Thermal and Photovoltaic Power
Solar thermal, known also as solar hot water, uses energy from the sun to heat up your hot water supply. These are the basics: an antifreeze solution flows through collectors mounted on or near your house. The solution is pumped to a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger transfers the heat to your domestic hot water supply. The heated water is then kept in an insulated storage tank until you’re ready to use it. The hot water can also be utilized in a space heating capacity.
Photovoltaic power is more commonly known solar panel power; and also known also as solar electric systems. These systems are designed to power the entire house by direct conversion of solar energy to power.
Important differences between Solar Thermal and Photovoltaic home energy systems
Well, the upfront costs aren’t a lot different. A solar thermal system is superior by providing you get greater efficiency than with a photovoltaic system. Some estimates place the return at 10 times greater per $1 invested with solar thermal.
With that in mind, is solar thermal the best choice for a first-time buyer? The answer is probably; especially if a lot of hot water is used in your home. Once the cost savings recoup and then dwarf your investment, the next step might be to get a home solar electric system (photovoltaic). It is the photovoltaic system that carries with it the benefit of being able store and resell power back onto the public grid.
As you undertake these home improvements, your savings deepen and your return on investment grows. Also remember a top notch solar installation contractor for either system will help you line up the energy tax credits for which you may qualify to defray some of the up-front installation costs.
The Energy Team is a “one-stop-shop” for energy efficiency products and services. They are Energy Star contractors participating with the NJ Office of Clean Energy making homes and businesses more comfortable and efficient. The team specializes in the “whole building approach” to include home energy audits, weatherization, insulation, spray foam, LED lighting, solar water heating, solar electric, water conservation, and other sustainable solutions. Located in Southampton, NJ, their 5,000 square foot facility boasts a large showroom, training center, and product warehouse. The Energy Team is the region’s leading group of independent energy efficiency experts.