February 2014

Solar Panel Heating: Past and Future

In the past, heating a home with solar panels was generally a matter of heating water and distributing it throughout the house, passing it through the walls and under the floorboards. Solar panels used the heat produced by sunlight and the principles of convection to heat a home.

Black tubing or hose was weaved back and forth across a black board and secured in position, and a glass casing was placed over the board and tubing. That constituted a solar panel. The panel was placed upright at a slight angle, and the sun heated the tubes. The tube heated the water, and the hot water that rose to the top of the cell as a result of convection spilled into tubing that ran around the house.

By today's standards, yesterday's means of heating a home with solar panels is rudimentary.

Today's Panels

The solar heating panels of today don't use water or convection. In fact, they don't even use the heat produced by sunlight directly to heat a home. Instead, today's solar panels use micro-mirrors that direct and concentrate light onto photovoltaic cells. The photovoltaic cells convert the sunlight into electricity, and the electricity is used to generate heat. The electricity is saved in batteries and when called upon, the batteries heat the furnace.

In other words, today's solar panels produce electricity, which is converted into heat as opposed to absorbing the heat of the sun directly and distributing it throughout the house. This method gives homeowners the ability to heat their homes to much higher temperatures than the old system allowed.

Heating and Cooling

Another big advantage of today's electricity-generating solar panels is that not only can people heat their homes with the electricity. They can also cool their homes. In other words, solar panels can be used to regulate the temperature of a home year-round by producing electricity for both heating and cooling.

Advancing Technology

Just 10 years ago, solar panels that produced electricity were little more than science projects used to power electric cars. Today, however, solar panels are one of the leading alternative energy sources on the market, home heating and cooling. The prospect of being able to heat their homes without needing to pay the electric company for the utility is very appealing for many people.