Solar Thermal Panels for Heating & Cooling: What You Need to Know

Solar Thermal Panels for Heating & Cooling
Solar Thermal Panels for Heating & Cooling

Solar heating and cooling technology work by collecting thermal energy from the sun and using the heat collected to provide space heating, cooling, and other electrical power to your home. The main way that energy is collected using solar thermal heating is through roof-mounted solar panels. These panels absorb heat which is then sent to a boiler, heat collector, or an immersion heater. What’s great about these systems is that they can usually be designed to be automated – meaning, that once the system detects that the temperature has dropped below a certain level, the heat controller will start pumping heat into the home.

By using solar-powered thermal panels, you reduce the amount of natural gas and electricity that your home requires in order to heat and cool your home. Therefore, solar heating and cooling is a great way to reduce your electricity bills and your carbon footprint all while still providing enough electrical power to your home.

Another amazing feature of solar heating and cooling is that it’s affordable for most families and can be installed in almost all homes. In fact, most families who install solar heating systems find that they see a return on their investment in as little as 3-6 years after installation. Plus, you’ll feel great knowing that you’re reducing the number of fossil fuels being burned to create electricity to power your home.

Now that we understand what solar heating systems are and a couple of benefits to installing one, let’s talk about how the system works.

Solar thermal panels, which look like flat reflective panels, are installed onto the roof of your home or other location of your home where they will be able to absorb energy from the sun. These panels will then collect energy throughout the day and sends it to the panel to a pump that will deliver the heat to a solar-ready heater or cooler. The heater or cooler than you have in your home will store the pre-fed solar energy until you decide that you need your home heated or cooled. By doing this, your heater is turned on, or activated, less often than with normal electricity thus reducing the amount of energy being wasted.

There are a few different types of solar thermal panels that you can have installed, in this next section we’re going to discuss each to help you pick the best one for you.


Solar Thermal Panels for Heating & Cooling

These panels are the stereotypical solar panels that you see everywhere. They consist of a flat plate panel that is dark in color that absorbs sunlight; the flat plate is designed to increase the surface area available for the sun to hit. Inside the panel, there is heat transferring liquid that usually contains antifreeze that will transfer the absorbed heat to a solar-ready heater.

The average amount of energy a flat solar thermal panel can generate equates to about one square foot panel generating one gallon of one day’s hot water. The design of the panel is less compact and less efficient than other solar systems, for example, an evacuated tube system. However, it is a cheaper option. The flat solar thermal panels are designed to work in all climates and have an estimated life of over 25 years.


Solar Thermal Panels for Heating & Cooling

Thermodynamic panels are a newer design in the solar power sector. They are designed to be similar to air source heat pumps, but they are installed on roofs. These panels work like a reverse freezer and are very different from other solar panels.

These panels have a refrigerant that goes through the panes that will absorb heat. The heat that is trapped and passed through the panels are then turned into a gas that is then compressed to increase the temperature of the home. Thermodynamic solar panels can produce up to 100% of a homes heating needs.

These panels are able to be used year-round because it does not depend on perfect climate conditions to reach maximum output potential. These systems have been found to work well even in 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius), which is perfect for homes that are in areas that have long, cold winters.


Solar Thermal Panels for Heating & Cooling

Solar air heaters are used most often for space heating and are one of the most efficient and economical solar technologies available. These air collectors are available in both glazed and unglazed: glazed systems feature a transparent top layer with an insulated back layer to trap heat and prevent it from being lost to the surrounding air; unglazed systems use an absorber plate that allows air to pass over it while absorbing heat from the air.

When you’re thinking/looking into installing a solar thermal system, make sure to contact professionals to make sure that you are picking the correct system setup for you and your home.

Let’s talk about reasons that you should consider using a solar heating system.

  • Energy Independence

After installing and using a solar heating system for a couple of years, you might begin to see some rewards coming your way. These come in the form of refunds from your utility company because your system produces more energy than is being used for your home needs. It helps reduce your families’ reliance on fossil fuel, thus helping make a greener environment, plus, you’ll never have to worry about having energy because as long as the sun is shining your system will be producing and storing energy for your home usage.

  • Financial Benefits

Overall, when using a solar heating system, you’ll notice that the amount of money you spend to supply heat and energy to your home will decrease. In fact, it is easy to see around 50-100% savings on your utility bill, which helps you make up for the big investment that comes with installing the panels. Also, in some cases, you might find that you can get government credits for having a solar panel installed.

  • Renewable Energy and Abundant

As mentioned above, solar energy is a renewable energy source. Therefore, we’ll never run out of solar energy – as long as there is heat being produced from the sun you’ll be able to generate solar power. There is sunshine everywhere, even in areas where it doesn’t seem like it. Because of this, solar thermal panels will always be able to absorb some energy to convert to heat.

  • Many Applications

Solar thermal panels can be used for many energy purposes throughout your home; it doesn’t just have to be used for heating and cooling. If you decide to, you can use solar power to heat your water, generate energy to be used to charge phones and turn on lights; they’re even used in Africa to distill water! As long as you have the proper solar power connectors, there are many applications that you can use solar power for.

  • Low Maintenance

While solar panels might be expensive to install at first, overall, they don’t require much maintenance afterward. Most solar panel users have found that they only need to perform routine maintenance, which is usually just cleaning, a couple times a year. Plus, if anything major happens to the panel (i.e., one-panel breaks) most solar panel manufacturers provide 20- or 25-year warranties.

With all of these advantages, you’re probably guessing that there are some disadvantages – and you would be correct. Here is a list of some of the disadvantages that you’ll want to consider when looking into solar power.

  • Expensive

You already know that installing solar panels can be expensive, but did you know that energy storage can also be expensive? Energy storage systems, such as batteries, can help store and smooth out the demand and load of energy for your home. But in order to get one of these systems that are big enough for your home can be expensive.

Luckily, there is a correspondence between access to solar energy and the times during the day when humans require the most energy. Electricity demand has been shown to peak in the middle of the day, this is usually when people are charging phones, turning on lights, etc. in their homes, but this is also when the sun is shining the most. Because of this correspondence, a lot of the energy being absorbed into your home will potentially be used.

  • Association with Pollution

Solar power produces less pollution than fossil fuels, but it has been associated with creating greenhouse gas emissions. There are plenty of reasons as to why solar power might be associated with pollution; you must realize that there is nothing in the energy world that is risk-free when it comes to pollution.

  • Requires Space

In order to find a solar power system that will be able to supply energy to the entirety of your home, you have to have a place to put it. Solar panels are quite large, and if there isn’t enough room to install them, you won’t be able to have solar power. This ideology in solar power is called “Power Density” and is described as watt per square meter. This is an essential component when considering solar power systems because if an area is deemed to be of low power density, it means that too much room is required to provide the power demanded at a reasonable price.

Overall, solar thermal panels and solar power, in general, is a great way to supply energy to your home. While it requires start-up costs that are hefty, and space to place the panels, the benefits are enormous. Who wouldn’t want to reduce their utility bills, with the probability of receiving a refund? Plus, they help protect the environment in order to create a healthier world for us to live on.

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