What is Solar Energy?

Solar Energy, or often referred to as Solar Power, is radiant photonic energy from the sun that is harnessed in a variety of ways to provide both thermal and electrical energy for consumption. This clean, renewable resource can be used for a variety of domestic uses that include generating electricity, providing indoor heating, natural lighting, and hot water systems for homes and businesses.

Is Buying a Solar System Worth It?

For the consumer looking for home solar, this would depend on a number of factors such as current electricity cost, system price, financing, and how soon you plan to sell your home. The main idea behind getting a solar system installed in your home is oftentimes more financially motivated than environmentally motivated.

What is a Semiconductor?

A semiconductor is a type of material that can absorb some energy and convert it to an electrical current, but not other types of energy. It is this ability of controlling the electricity that makes semiconductors useful in a wide variety of applications, including solar power. 

What Materials Are Commonly Used in a Photovoltaic Cell Semiconductor?

There are a variety of materials that are used as semiconductors for photovoltaic cells due to the type of energy it absorbs and the cost of the material. The most common type of semiconductor materials used are:
Silicone (Si) – This is the most popular option in photovoltaic panels due in part to its abundance and lower cost of production. They have an efficiency between 14% – 20% depending on whether they are monocrystalline or polycrystalline in structure.
Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) – This material has a high absorption rate, but has an issue related to the Cadmium which is a pollutant. They have an efficiency between 10% – 11%.
Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) – This material has an extremely high rate of absorption and while it contains some Cadmium, it is in small amounts. A disadvantage is the higher cost. They have an efficiency higher than 20% in laboratory testing.
Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) – This material is costly to make due to the rarity of Gallium. It has a very high absorption rate and is not affected by heat making this material perfect for space applications. These solar panels are primarily used on satellites.

How does Photovoltaic Technology Work?

As the sunlight hits the photovoltaic cell, the semiconductor material it is made of either reflects light, absorbs the light or it just lets the light pass through. The light that is absorbed ionizes the semiconductor material causing the electrons to become more energized and it is in this state that the electrons are freed and forced to move in a single direction through the semiconductive material as a current towards a positively charged junction. This is referred to as the photovoltaic effect.

What is Solar Heating and Cooling?

Solar heating and cooling technology collects heat or thermal energy from the sun and uses it for hot water heating, pool heating, and space heating. It can be used for both residential and commercial properties.

What Are the Types of Solar Heating and Cooling Systems?

There are six different types of solar heating and cooling systems, including passive solar heating and various collector systems. These systems are:
Passive Solar Heating
Unglazed Solar Collectors
Transpired Solar Air Collectors
Flat-Plate Solar Collectors
Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors
Concentrating Solar Systems

How Does a Solar Heating and Cooling System Work?

Solar heating and cooling systems collect thermal energy from the sun to use it for heating and cooling. They can also be used for heating hot water and pools.

How Do You Store Thermal Energy for a Solar Heating and Cooling System?

Thermal energy can be stored for later use for a heating and cooling system. It is similar to how a battery stores energy for later use. It can store thermal energy in the form of chilled water, ice, and hot water. Chilled water and ice are used for cooling and hot water is used for heating.

What Is the Best Material for Collecting Thermal Energy?

Metals, including copper and aluminum, have high thermal conductivity, so heat spreads quickly through them. They also have very high melting points, which makes them well suited to collect thermal energy. They are able to absorb and transfer heat without melting.

How Long Does Thermal Energy Last?

Thermal energy can be stored for different periods of time depending on how it is stored. Some systems store energy for use just a few hours later, and others store it for days, weeks, or months.

Where Is Thermal Energy Used?

Thermal energy is used anytime something is heated. It can be used for cooking, heating your home, heating hot water, and much more.

What Are the Benefits of Thermal Energy?

There are a number of benefits to using thermal energy. First of all, it is less expensive than using natural gas. It is a free and clean renewable resource, and it can be harnessed from the sun and converted to power to operate appliances or be used with solar heating and cooling systems. In addition, it has nearly zero emissions, which is beneficial to the environment. It helps to reduce pollution and does not impact global warming.

What Are the Dangers of Thermal Energy?

The real danger in using thermal energy is the risk of being burned by contact with the pipes or material that is storing the heat. However, when it is collected and stored correctly, it can be used to heat hot water and homes and it can cool them and be converted to power as well.

Are Solar Heating and Cooling Systems Efficient?

Solar heating and cooling systems are efficient. They are affordable, and they can significantly reduce both your utility bills and your contribution to pollution. Solar energy is renewable, and it is a clean source of energy.

How Much Does Solar Heating and Cooling Cost?

Residential solar heating and cooling systems cost between $6,000 and $10,000 to install, but there are often credits available from local municipalities. In addition, close to 47% of energy consumption in the home is for heating and air conditioning use. The solar heating and cooling system often will pay for itself in three to four years in terms of the improved home value and savings on your utility bills.

What is a Solar Shower?

A solar shower is a portable piece of solar gear that gives you the freedom to take warm showers in the great outdoors such as when you are camping or washing off after a day on the beach.

How Hot Do Solar Showers Get?

With exposure to full sunlight and ambient temperatures of the air exceeding 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the water can heat up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. At these temperatures the risk of scalding increases greatly. Because of this, we strongly recommend you get a solar shower that has a built-in temperature gauge for your safety.

How Long Do Portable Solar Showers Last?

A gravity-fed shower you will have around 2.5 minutes for 5-gallon showers and around 5 minutes with a 10-gallon shower.
A pressurized shower gives you around 7 minutes of shower time with a 5-gallon and 14 minutes with a 10-gallon.
The water pump shower will give you around 11 minutes with a 5-gallon container and 20 minutes with a 10-gallon container.

Do Solar Showers Work on Cloudy Days?

This would depend on your definition of cloudy. If it is partly cloudy then it can heat up the water, but it will take a lot longer for this to happen. Completely cloudy days will not work because you need at least a little bit of direct sunlight to heat the water.

Do Solar Showers Work in the Winter?

Solar showers can work in the winter, but the practicality and safety of using a shower or any type of water source to wash off while in winter weather is something that needs to be discussed. While direct exposure to the sun can heat the water over time, the ambient air temperature around you will have a negative impact on your health.

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