What are the pros and cons
of solar cells?

Solar cells are used in various solar energy applications.

Solar cells are used in photovoltaic (PV) systems to produce electricity and they are used in solar heating systems to produce hot water and heat.

A PV system utilizes these cells to convert sunlight into electricity. There are several types of cells available. The traditional type uses large solar collection panels. These panels do a good job of capturing and converting energy. The downside is that these panels are large and bulky. This creates a problem in certain neighborhoods with adhering to the neighborhood's covenants/restrictions.

The best alternative to these large collection panels is solar shingles. These shingles incorporate thin cell solar technology that allows the shingles to act as a solar collector. These shingles offer an unobtrusive alternative for many applications. The downside of these shingles is that they are less efficient than a typical collector, so they require more roof surface.

Solar cells are also used to heat our homes. There are two types of home solar heating systems.

One system is a liquid-based system. This system operates by circulating a heat-transfer fluid through an array of hoses. These hoses go from circulating in an enclosed solar collector where the fluid is heated by the sun, to hoses that are installed in your floor (either cement or traditional wood floors). The heat then radiates out of the fluid and heats the floor. This heat then rises and warms the room. This is called radiant floor heating.
Another use of these cells for heat is hot air systems. These systems do not use fluids or pumps. Instead, they use a space in the solar collector as an "air collector." The air in this enclosed space is heated by the sun's rays going through a glass panel (glazing). Once this air reaches a certain temperature, a fan automatically turns on and circulates it in your living space. The liquid-based system is more efficient, but it is also more complex and more expensive to purchase and maintain.

Domestic hot water is one of the popular uses for these cells. The heating of water is done with two different types of systems. One system utilizes a heat transfer fluid. This fluid is circulated through the solar collector, where it is heated. It is then pumped through coils that are submerged in water and housed in an insulated storage tank.

The other system uses a solar collector and storage tank. With this system, the storage tank is installed above the solar collector. The water (not heating fluid) is heated in the solar collector and as it warms, it naturally rises into the insulated storage tank.

All of these systems are best suited to particular climates, so always consult your local solar professional to see which one is best for you. These cells are a versatile way to harvest the sun's energy for a variety of domestic and commercial applications.


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