Solar Collectors

Types of Solar Energy Collection Systems

Solar collectors are devices such as mirrors, solar dishes or even inflatable balloons that collect the energy of the sun and concentrate it so that the energy can be used for heating purposes.
Solar Air Heat Collector, Flat Plate Air Collector, Solar Powered Furnace, installed on a house roof

They are generally mounted on a wall or rooftop, facing the equator.

It is difficult to concentrate the energy of the sun enough to produce heat, because solar energy is spread out over a very large area.

If you think of a greenhouse, or a car that is heating up in the sun, you'll have an idea of how a solar collector can produce heat.

Solar thermal collectors are collectors that are used specifically for home heating systems. They work by either storing heat or circulating a heated fluid such as water.

Solar power technologies can be classified broadly as two different types depending on how they collect and distribute solar energy. These types are passive solar and active solar.

  • Passive solar technologies use solar energy in a way in which no mechanical device is necessary to convert the energy. An example of this would be to use special glass in a sunroom to help capture and hold heat energy in the room.

    This in turn would help in heating the house as a whole. No mechanical devices are necessary in this simple collection of heat energy from the sun.

  • Active solar technologies are means of using solar energy in a way in which some mechanical device is needed to either store or convert the energy for use. An example of this would be photovoltaic cells (PVC's).

    Simply stated, PVC's are able to capture individual photons of light that in turn excite the silicon and other elemental layers of the PVC to cause the release of electrons. These electrons gain energy from the photons and as they move produce an electric current.

    This electricity can either be used directly to operate some other device, such as a traffic light, or be stored in a battery or series of batteries for later use.

a large solar collector assembly

Passive solar technologies tend to be considerably more economical for most than active solar technologies. There are simple things that can be done in and around the home or workplace that can take advantage of passive solar energy.

Simply evaluating the types of materials being placed into a new construction or altering some things such as the color of your curtains or blinds can have a dramatic and economic impact on your energy bills.

A combination of conservation and passive solar technologies is normally the easiest way to begin using solar energy in your home, although those with greater ambitions may opt for using DIY solar collectors or more active solar technologies to supplement their energy needs.


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