Solar PV vs Solar Thermal: What’s the difference?

By Dynamic Solar PV

Solar PV vs Solar Thermal

Converting your property’s energy source to solar power brings a host of benefits. Not just to the environment, but to your pocket as well in the long run as you save money on electricity bills. If you’re considering having solar panels installed at your home or business, you’ll need to decide what type you’re after – solar PV or solar thermal. 

Both types of panel make use of the sun’s energy, but they produce different results. Solar PV generates electricity, whereas solar thermal uses the sun’s energy to heat up water. 

Solar Thermal

Solar Thermal

As the name suggests, solar thermal is all about heat. Solar thermal panels convert the sun’s energy into heat. The panels contain a water-based solution which warms up while the sun’s out and is then pumped through the water container cylinder, continuously heating the water supply during the day. 

What are the advantages of solar thermal?

  • Saves on electric and gas bills as solar thermal can provide at least 90% of your hot water usage during the summer (though less in the winter).
  • Solar thermal panels take up less roof space than a solar PV system. 
  • They are more efficient at converting the sun’s energy, collecting 70% of the sun’s rays (whereas solar PV panels convert only 25%).

What are the disadvantages of solar thermal?

  • Solar thermal is a lot less efficient during the winter, meaning you’ll need a back-up energy supply to heat your water boiler – gas or electric. 
  • Solar thermal panels have a shorter lifespan than solar PV and need more upkeep.
  • The heating system takes up space inside the property, rather than just the panels on the roof. 

Solar PV

Solar PV

Unlike solar thermal panels, solar PV doesn’t need the heat of the sun to work. Solar PV (Photovoltaic) panels generate electricity as long as there’s sunlight. Electricity production does slow down when there’s cloud cover, but solar PV panels continually provide a reliable source of renewable energy, enough to cover at least 60% of your energy consumption (more if you have batteries installed). 

What are the advantages of solar PV?

  • You make money back on your solar panels through selling back renewable energy to the grid
  • Solar PV panels produce free electricity, saving you money on your electric bills
  • The electricity produced can be put to multiple use compared to solar thermal that is limited to storing hot water. 
  • They last much longer than solar thermal panels and can produce electricity for up to 30 years.
  • Solar PV can be linked to the Sunamp Heat battery to provide you with a hot water system. 

What are the disadvantages of solar PV?

  • The cost of solar PV panels and their installation is expensive. Even though you make savings from your utility bills, it takes a few years to cover the initial cost. 
  • Solar PV panels take up a lot of roof space in comparison to solar thermal.
  • Unless you invest in battery storage, your energy consumption at night will come from the national grid as your panels can’t produce electricity when the sun goes down.

Which is the best choice of solar panel?

If you are looking for a renewable alternative to heat your hot water only, then solar thermal might be the solution for your scenario. Solar thermal will greatly reduce what you spend on heating your water supply.

However, solar PV is the most versatile system and covers more uses – not just your water heating. Selling unused electricity back to the grid is a huge incentive with SEG (smart export guarantee) benefits, on top of the money saved on electric bills. You’re a lot more likely to see returns on your investment with solar PV. 

What’s the best solar panel system for me?

It depends on what your expectations are for your renewable energy supply. We can help plan a system that will deliver exactly what you’re after – whether to cover your heating or to make you money off the solar export tariff. At Dynamic Solar, we specialise in solar PV solutions – covering not just the panels themselves. To completely cover your energy needs, we also supply solar batteries and heat batteries to get the most out of a solar PV system. 

We quote every job on an individual basis as so much factors into the cost of the installation. That’s why we offer a free quote service. If you’d like a better idea of the costs for having solar PV installed at your home or business, you can get a free quote here.

If you’re interested in starting your journey towards greener living, feel free to give us a call on 01202 985325. You can also receive a free quote