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    THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SOLAR POWER SYSTEMS

     

    Discover our guide to solar power systems with expert advice for going solar:

    A guide to solar power systems - How to build a solar power system - Calculate my energy consumption

     

    1. What’s the difference between Solar PV and Solar Thermal?

     

    Solar panel system

    Solar Photovoltaic (PV) converts light into electricity that can be used for numerous applications.

    Solar Thermal converts light into heat and is therefore ideal for heating air or water.

     

    These two types of solar panel require different, incompatible equipment.

     

    2. How can solar energy be used?

     

    • Heating
    • Cooking
    • Indoor lighting
    • Outdoor lighting
    • Charging batteries
    • Garden sheds
    • Emergency systems
    • Electric gates
    • Swimming pool pumps
    • Electric garage doors

     

    3. What are the disadvantages of solar energy?

     

    Despite its many advantages, solar energy also has a number of disadvantages. If you’re thinking about installing solar panels, you will need to carefully choose and calibrate any electric appliances you wish to power using solar energy. Solar energy also has certain disadvantages in terms of the types of appliances it can power.

    For example, old TVs made with cathodic tubes or standard refrigerators (household electrical appliances with a high energy consumption) are incompatible with solar energy. No need to worry though, a number of alternatives exist including 12V refrigerators and LED TVs.

     

    4/ Should I choose a 12V or 220V system?

     

    If this is your first time installing a solar power system, it can be hard to decide whether to buy a 12V or a 220V system.

    Choosing a12V solar power system will significantly reduce your initial investment as 12V systems do not require a DC/AC inverter.

    12V systems do, however, have certain disadvantages - they require constant current, which can cause to the cables and wires to overheat. This can result in a loss of power proportional to the cable/wire length. A solar power system over a short distance is therefore highly recommended.

    Solar power systems should be built using high-quality materials and carefully maintained in order to reduce the risks of short circuits and fire, which are present even when electrical appliances are not switched on.

     

    5. What are the different types of Photovoltaic solar panels?

     

    There are 3 main types of PV solar panels which not only differ in terms of technology, but also in terms of efficiency.

     

    AMORPHOUS Solar Panels

    amorphous solar panel

    Amorphous solar panels are easily recognisable due to their dark grey colouring. Amorphous panels are the cheapest solar panels on the market, but also the least efficient (2 to 3 times less efficient than monocrystalline solar panels, for example).

    Amorphous solar panels are the only type of solar panel capable of producing energy from an artificial light source or from very weak natural sunlight (cloudy skies, shade).

    Amorphous solar panels are less sensitive to external factors such as heat and have a wide range of operating temperatures.

    POLYCRYSTALLINE Solar Panels (cSi)

    Polycrystalline solar panel

    Polycrystalline solar panels are made up of many small crystals, making them easily recognisable.

    As the name suggests, the crystals that make up polycrystalline solar panels are easily visible and give this type of solar panel a distinctive blue colour. Polycrystalline solar panels are less efficient than monocrystalline solar panels (11-15% less efficient), yet remain nonetheless highly efficient in areas with high levels of sunlight.

    Monocrystalline Solar Panels (cSi)

    moncrystalline solar panel

    Made from the purest silicon crystals, monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient solar panel on the market (13-17%). Unsurprisingly, monocrystalline solar panels are also the most expensive solar panel. They can be easily identified by their identical cells and vary from grey to dark blue in colour.

    Monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient solar panel around, producing the most energy for the smallest surface area.

    In "Back-contact" monocrystalline solar panels, cells are soldered together on the underside of the solar panel to provide a larger surface area for sunlight than standard monocrystalline solar panels, making them up to 10% more efficient than standard monocrystalline solar panels.

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