The difference between solar panels and solar collectors

Views: 350     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2021-07-13      Origin: Site


The difference between solar panels and solar collectors

A solar panel is made up of a pack of photovoltaic cells. It can be used in larger photovoltaic systems to generate and supply electricity for residential and other commercial applications. The solar radiation falling directly on the solar panel is converted into direct current electricity.

On the other hand, a solar collector collects heat by directly absorbing sunlight. It consists of a collector that converts the energy from sunlight into a more usable form of energy. Solar collectors can be referred to as solar parabolic devices for more complex installations and solar air thermal for less complex installations. More complex collectors are used in solar power plants to heat water to produce steam, which in turn drives a turbine connected to a generator to produce electricity. Less complex collectors, however, are used for supplemental space heating in commercial and residential buildings.


Most solar panels have an efficiency of about 11-15%. Panel efficiency is measured by the amount of sunlight that hits the panel, which in turn is converted into electricity. Solar panels with a small surface area are highly efficient. The efficiency of the panels is also affected by the orientation of the panels, the pitch or tilt of the roof and panels, the temperature and the shading of the roof.

The performance of a solar collector depends on the following criteria.

Area of the solar collector

The total amount of solar radiation incident on the collector

The tilted position of the collector and the orientation of the collector.

However, the efficiency of a solar collector is influenced by several factors such as heat gain, surface area, conversion factor and heat loss through conduction and convection. The low temperature solar collector model operates at high efficiency levels when the temperature difference is between 5 and 30°C (41 and 86°F), while the medium temperature model operates when the temperature difference is between 15 and 200°C (59 and 392°F).


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Key benefits of solar panels include the following.

Environmentally friendly

No noise and no moving parts

Low maintenance costs

Easy to install

Promotes energy independence

Operates effectively even in the presence of beam or diffuse solar radiation

The main advantages of solar collectors include the following.

It is sustainable for high temperatures

High efficiency

Utilizes a larger area through the use of inexpensive mirrors

Redirects concentrated light through fiber optics

It can store heat for power generation during overnight and cloudy conditions


The following are some of the disadvantages involved when utilizing solar panels

High initial cost

High cost of repairing damaged solar panel installations

It does not generate electricity at night or under adverse weather conditions

The efficiency of solar panels may be affected by pollution

Some disadvantages of solar thermal collectors include.

It cannot generate electricity in diffuse light conditions

It requires sunlight tracking to keep the sunlight in focus


Some of the applications of solar panels include the following.

Solar powered radios

Solar powered fans

Solar powered flashlights

Solar night lights

Charging batteries.

Solar collectors have applications in the following areas.

Solar-assisted cooling, especially for commercial buildings and offices with central air conditioning systems

Swimming pool heating - Swimming pools use more energy to maintain the required temperature. By using flat plate solar collectors, the amount of energy used to heat a swimming pool can be greatly reduced.

Supplemental heating - Solar collectors can store heat in the summer for use in the winter.

It can also be used for domestic purposes, such as heating hot water for washing clothes and showers.

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