How is solar energy used?

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There are basically two ways solar energy is converted into usable energy.

Firstly – Solar thermal panels- direct heat from the suns rays for solar hot water systems. These systems may, or may not use electric power as backup.

How is solar energy used

Thermal panels use a tube system through which, most of the time, water flows. The suns rays heats the pipes and in turn the water is heated!

The hot water is then used for swimming pools or is stored in a tank for domestic use. They are commonly called solar water heaters.

Some heaters use convection to make the water circulate through the system(passive systems) and others use a electric pump to pump the water through the system(active systems).

Obviously the passive system saves more electric power!

These panels may save u up to 70% of your electric bill used for heating purposes.

How is solar energy used?

Secondly – silicon based panels called photovoltaic or pv panels to generate electric power.


Photovoltaic or pv panels

These panels use a silicon based material. When the sun shines on the panel,it generates a small voltage.

They are relatively small so lots of them are connected together to form a larger panel to generate a usable voltage.

This voltage and consequently – current, is then used to charge battery’s. The charged up battery is the source of power!

Direct current(DC) can be used straight from the battery or/and it can be converted to alternating current(AC) which we normally use in our homes!How is solar energy usedThe three types of pv panels

Polycrystalline: Molten silicon is poured into moulds and allowed to cool.It looks like shattered glass. It’s less than 20% effective but also less expensive than Mono crystalline panels.

Mono crystalline: Made from single silicon crystals with an efficiency of 25% – the most efficient and expensive of the 3 types.

Amorphous type : Thin layer or film of silicon deposited on material such as plastic or glass to create the solar panel. Also called thin film solar panel.

It is much cheaper, but their energy efficiency is also much less – about 10%. It is easily manufactured and used in many applications.


It is better to invest in Mono crystalline panels as they are little more expensive than Polycrystalline but more efficient, but there is nothing wrong with the latter.

Amorphous solar panels for residential use are much larger and heavier compared to the other two types because you will need more of them to generate sufficient power.