Solar PV vs Solar Thermal Everything You Need to know(2023) | A Reliable Information

Solar PV vs Solar Thermal Everything You Need to know
Solar PV vs Solar Thermal Everything You Need to know

Let’s find out which one is better? Solar PV vs Solar Thermal which one worth for you? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of these two-

For those of you who have heard the term Solar Energy, I can recommend this article on the different reading experiences. The topics are enjoyable, about solar energy technology; Solar PV vs Solar Thermal, and the last few sections provide a useful overview list of Emerging Type of Renewable Energy to Watch Out For in 2021. It’s a little bit older and not exhaustive, but a good fell thought.

The sun produces enough energy every second that covers earth’s needs for 500,000 years.  Enough power reaches the earth in one hour to power all of society of that energy for a year. The average solar production across the United States would require around 21,250 square miles of solar panels to meet the whole country’s electric needs. That’s almost 0.5% of American land and nearly half of the 40,223 square miles leased by oil and gas.  The fact is that 40% of total U.S. electricity could be supplied by solar on rooftops alone.

We generally know two main types of solar panel available: the Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panel and the Solar Thermal Panel. If we consider the scientific context, it might not be straightforward, but the difference between these two technologies is relatively simple.

The main principle of the Solar PV System is quite simple where it converts sunlight energy into electricity. Generally, a Solar PV System creates electricity but is sufficient to generate more electricity than needed, such as in the summertime. Solar thermal System is different than solar PV. It captures heat from the light and uses it for heating purposes and sometimes electricity.

In this article, let’s find out which one is better for you, is it Solar PV or Solar thermal?

Some factors directly play major role to differentiate Solar PV vs Solar thermal and also it indicate which one worth for you. Factors are-

  1. Efficiency level of solar power output.
  2. Size and Dimensions of solar panel.
  3. Uses and Purpose to use.
  4. Price and initial Cost.
  5. Advantages and Disadvantages.
  6. Available space &
  7. Working principles, how the work to produce electricity.

Two Types of Solar Panels:

By and large, two kinds of solar panels perform to a great extent.

  • Photovoltaic solar panels
  • Solar thermal panels

Solar energy is perfect for a homeowner. It helps to be green in everyday life. Also, it’s money-saving in many ways. Recently, many excellent ways came out to activate solar energy in households. Lights, water heating, fans, and charging mobile or laptop are now very possible.

You may have realized there are two types of solar panels – solar PV and solar thermal. Both of those panels work on the principle of taking energy from the sun and using for generating a form of power for your home.

While both are often rooftop panels, that’s where the similarities end. Let’s break down solar PV vs solar thermal to see which is best for you.  The efficiency of PV cells of those panels is important also & it is essential to know the fill factor and efficiency of a solar cell.

Before jump to the topics of difference between solar photovoltaic vs solar thermal, lets encounter some basic of these two solar panel-

Working Principle of Solar PV vs Solar Thermal:

Basic working principle of Solar PV- What is solar PV panel and How it works?

The solar photovoltaic system converts sunlight energy into electricity. The mechanism of the system makes up following this process. The main principle is quite simple. When light falls on semiconductor materials like silicon, electricity is produced there as an atomic process. The particles or energy packets (photons) hits the electrons of the semiconductor material. The sunlight- receivers are called panels, and each panel produces a small amount of current. But these can be connected with other panels directly.  Solar cells are the smallest units of solar panels. Again, several panels form up an array.

Basic of working principle Solar PV- What is solar thermal and how it works?

Solar thermal is different than solar PV. It captures heat from the light and use it for heating purpose and sometimes electricity. Unlike solar PV, it uses solar collectors, which collect heat from sun rays and transfer it to fluid, usually water and glycol. This mixture performs to prevent water from freezing in the winter. The heated fluids were then moved to the heat exchanger to use the collected heat. After releasing the heat, the fluid will go back towards the collectors and renew the cycle.

Common Uses of Solar PV vs Solar Thermal:

Significant uses of solar PV and solar thermal

Solar PV mainly works to produce electricity. It is easier to convert electric energy into other forms of energy.

You can turn it into mechanical energy, thermal energy, magnetic energy very efficiently. So you can get various potential energy forms in the form of electricity.

On the other hand, solar thermal mainly focuses on gathering heat from the sun. That heat can transfer to heat water, raise the room temperature, and in cases of other fields where heat is necessary. But PV is more efficient as electricity can produce thermal energy very efficiently.

Significant uses of Solar PV

  • Solar PV primarily performs for generating electricity.
  • Nowadays, very commonly used for powerhouse appliances.
  • It can be work as a source of backup power supply to ensure continuous electricity.
  • It can heat water using water heaters that run on electricity.
  • Very commonly used to power home thermostats in colder areas.
  • Can work to power up vehicles such as cars, bicycles, bikes, etc.
  • The new generation of RVs relies on solar PVs for power supply.
  • It can work while camping.
  • It has applications in agriculture sectors such as solar pumps for irrigation, a solar condenser in dairy farms, etc.
  • It started seeing mass deployment in commercial sectors.
  • It can work to charge up devices such as phones, laptops, etc.
  • Can provide electricity in remote areas where grid systems are unavailable.

Significant uses of Solar thermal

  • Solar thermal mainly works to collect thermal energy from the sun.
  • Most commonly used to heat water for both indoor and outdoor purposes.
  • It can use to gain room temperature in colder regions.
  • It can be used in textile industries to knit and dye, heat wash, etc.
  • It can be used in dairy farms to pasteurize and gain a different form of milk, such as yogurt or milk powder etc.
  • It can work in farms as paste control measures, which is an ancient but effective measure.
  • It can also generate electricity by making water steam, which will run through turbines to produce electricity.

Efficiency level of Solar PV Vs Solar Thermal: Which One is Most Efficient?

Efficiency influence for differentiating between Solar PV or Solar Thermal, any Solar System’s efficiency influence to determine the best between Solar PV or Solar Thermal.

Solar PV and solar thermal both serve different purposes. PV is primarily used to generate electricity, and solar thermal generate thermal energy. But we know that energy can change itself in various forms. Electricity can move to other types, even into thermal energy. And the ways are more established because technology is somewhat relying on electrical power. But PV may cost a little more.

On the other hand, transforming thermal energy into other forms is complicated. You have to convert it to electrical power first because, as we said, our technologies are biased to electricity. But initially, solar thermal systems can be cheaper than PVs. But who wouldn’t want to pay a little extra for a more significant benefit! That is why solar PV is more efficient, at least in terms of cost-benefit efficiency.

The average cost of solar PV VS solar thermal

Both solar PV and solar thermal may cost a little more money at the beginning. It occurs because the equipment required for both of them is still not very cheap.

But if you have a long-term plan, solar technologies can save you more money than the grid system does.

A recent study shows that in 2020, the cost of generating a kWh electricity may come at around o.38 USD on average. That will be about 380$ for a megawatt-hour. But the initial price is a little high, say for a medium-sized house of 2 floors requires 4500-6500 USD.

On the other hand, solar thermal equipment will cost from 3000 to 5000 USD. As long as used for thermal energy, solar thermal may require up to 179$ for each megawatt-hour. But if you use solar thermal for electricity-generating purposes, the cost may increase.

Cost of Solar PV – How Much it Costs?

The cost of solar PV depends upon the demand for power. Usually, a nuclear family of 3-4 members will need a 3Kw solar PV system.

For a 3Kw system, 10-12 panels are generally regular, each of which will generate 300 watts of power. It will cost from 4500 USD up to 6500 USD. A single group may cost about 500$-600$. Here is a chart that may help you fix your demand and then costs accordingly:

Solar PV system size

Number of PV panels

Average cost (USD) Space required Annual output
1 kW 4-6 2000-3000 8 m2 850


2 kW 8—10 3500-5000 14 m2 1700


3 kW 10-12 5000-6000 21 m2 2550


4 kW 14-16 7000-8500 28 m2 3800 kWh

Cost of Solar Thermal: how much it costs?

Solar thermal systems are a bit cheaper than solar PV systems. You may have to pay about 4000-5000 USD for a solar system suitable for your home.

But the cost may rise on other occasions. Compared to PV systems, thermal systems have more maintenance costs. Your thermal systems will have to go under maintenance every 3-5 years. Solar PV systems have a lifespan of up to 35 years. But thermal will reduce costs in other ways. Such as:

Boiler System of home Annual Savings if replaced with solar thermal
Gas 60 USD
Oil 75 USD
Coal 70 USD
Electricity 70 USD


Pros and Cons of solar PV VS solar Thermal :

Solar PV and solar thermal have a distinct advantage; that they provide sustainable and eco-friendly energy. But nothing in this world comes with convenience only. Let’s see some advantages and disadvantages of solar PV and solar thermal systems.

Pros and Cons of Solar Thermal Systems-



Reduces energy bills, saves more money Still, boilers are required to transfer heat
Maintenance cost is low compared to conventional ways Only a few pots are compatible with this system
Reduces carbon footprints Is dependent on the season
Cheaper than PV cells The initial cost is higher than traditional systems
Comes with 5-10 years of warranty


Pros and Cons of Solar PV systems-



Provides the most common form of energy, electricity Initial installation cost is high
Renewable source of electricity Less effective on cloudy days
Cheaper than grid electricity Requires more space
Lower maintenance cost

Comes with up to 35 years of warranty

Will not generate any electricity at night
Reduces pollution significantly  


Solar Thermal or Solar PV : Which one is worth for you?

Solar thermal and solar PV has different usage; primarily, PV generates electricity and thermal captures heat. But both are forms of energy. Although energy can be transformed easily from one way to another, the transformation process reduces efficiency. So, it is better to decide first which form of energy you need.

If you prefer electricity, then PV will be the right choice. If you need thermal energy, you better use solar thermal.

Suppose you want both electricity and thermal energy. In that case, you should choose PV over solar thermal because electrical power quickly transforms into any other form of energy with the technology available. Also, PV systems are getting more efficient every day.

Since 2009, the price of PV panels has dropped by 80%. In contrast, technology has provided fewer improvements in solar thermal sectors.

Solar PV vs Solar Thermal – What’s The Best Way to Heat Your Water?

Solar thermal used to be the best option for boil water until the PV panels’ price dropped drastically. Generating electricity is a lot easier using solar power than ever. Also, current technologies have designs to run on electricity, even water boilers.

Only a specific type of pots, called solar boilers, are compatible with solar thermal systems. But there are many types of boilers that run on electricity. So, today solar PV is the best way of heating water. This is only in terms of use efficiency. If seen from an economic angle, solar thermal may provide a bit more cost-effectiveness.

Isn’t it beautiful that solar PV and solar thermal comes together- New solar hybrid technology!!

Imagine a system where you can get both electricity and thermal energy at the same time. Yes! It is possible and is called Solar Hybrid. The idea is simple, combine PV and thermal panels in a single system. But the real work is not as simple as it sounds. This technology is still in the prototype phase.

Although engineers have made it possible, the efficiency is less than the technologies we have today. To gain more ability, a new generation of converters and inverters are necessary, which will have the capacity to store both electrical and thermal energy. But that day is not very far when we will achieve that because men always have achieved what they wanted devotedly.

Advantages of Solar PV and Thermal Systems Together!!

  • Both solar PV and solar thermal are sources of renewable energy.
  • Both reduce costs and provide more efficiency than traditional ways.
  • Both of them are eco-friendly and reduce carbon footprints.
  • Both come with accessible home applications.
  • Reduce reliance on the grid systems and encourages personal sources of energy.
  • Both provide low maintenance costs than traditional ways.
  • May make valuable industry sectors in the future.

Final Wrap Up of solar PV Vs Solar Thermal

In the age of scientific wonder, we can harness the unlimited power of the sun. There are two significant ways to do that—using solar energy to capture heat and generate electricity. Solar thermal panels allow us to capture and use energy and solar PV lets us generate electricity. Both thermal and PV enable us to create sustainable energy.

Solar PV works using the principles of the photovoltaic effect. If sunray falls upon certain elements such as silicon, it produces electricity. PV panels are made of such features, and when a sunray hits them, they generate electricity.

Solar thermal captures heat from sunray using a different panel called the collector. To work, both panels need sunray. They do not work in the night time. PV is more popular between the two because electricity can easily be transformed to other forms of energy. But to convert thermal energy into other forms is a bit harder process.

Thermal is mainly used to heat up water, regulate house temperature, etc. Though both thermal and PV help reduce energy generation, the initial installation of thermal and PV systems is a bit costly.

But it can be overlooked as they provide more savings than grid systems. Both are renewable, environmentally friendly systems. They help the environment by reducing carbon emissions. The main drawback of the systems is that they do not work at night, but our current technology allows us to store the energy they produce. Scientists and engineers are continuously trying to improve the systems, and maybe one day, they shall be able to combine both systems for a comprehensive energy source.

After discussing a different aspect of the Solar PV vs Solar Thermal, we can conclude that both are clean, renewable energy sources that can play a significant role in bringing sustainability. Those systems enable us to create sustainable energy; both are renewable, environmentally friendly. They help the environment by reducing carbon emissions and saving us from global warming as they help reduce energy generation.

Using both the Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System and the Solar Thermal System, we can achieve sustainability.

In this sustainable era, it’s essential to practice such kind of green eco-friendly activity. Already many corporate and many big companies started their renewable, sustainable way to achieve their sustainable goal.

On the other hand, it’s time to tackle climate change by adopting environmentally friendly green living activities at home & office. Our small steps can bring sustainability to a different sector.

Lets going green in daily life and save the environment.

Do you want to know More about the sustainable energy practice like solar generator? The Check these article Right now:


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