Solar Water Heaters vs Solar Panels: What is the Difference?

Fri, 29 Jan 2021

solarmate solar panel on the roof

If you are looking to utilize renewable energy to generate electricity for your home, you will come across two common options: a solar water heater or a solar photovoltaic (PV) panel. 

Harnessing the sun to produce green energy has become popular. With the need to reduce our carbon footprint and energy bills, alternative forms of producing electricity are growing in popularity.

In Malaysia, solar technology has been a game-changer for households. Through government initiatives, many households can now afford solar technology to meet their electricity generation needs and reduce carbon footprints. This programme has gone on to enable them to cut energy costs. 

Solar water heaters and PV panels are technological forms of generating renewable energy that may appear the same, yet they are different. The only similarity lies between them is that they absorb sunlight. 

Without further ado, let’s look at the differences that define these sources of renewable energy. 


Solar Water Heaters

As the name suggests, solar water heaters heat a home’s water supply. Also known as solar thermal systems, they absorb sunlight and turn it into heat energy to raise the temperature of water. The thermal panels are mounted on rooftops, and the storage tanks may be mounted on the ground or above the collectors. 

Solar water heater panels have copper pipes channel water that runs through them. The water absorbs solar energy from the sun and converts it into heat energy, which is transferred and stored in a storage tank as hot water supply.

Solar water heaters are not designed to generate electricity to power home appliances. They serve to provide heat energy to heat a water system

Despite the promises that solar water heaters come with, they do have their shortcomings. They do not generate electricity, so you will still need electricity to power the water pump driving the water towards the heater.

Furthermore, solar water heaters do not function optimally during the winter because there is less sun, and the weather is often cloudier. On the other hand, they generate more hot water than is needed during the summer season. 

Solar water heaters’ advantage over solar PV panels is that they take up less space. Also, solar thermal technology tends to be up to 70% more efficient in collecting heat energy from the sun than solar PV technology. Finally, they are not complex, making them easy to install. 

All in all, the solar water heating systems in Malaysia are good technology, which promotes less dependency on fossil fuels to produce hot water and extend your water boilers’ lifespan. 


Solar Panels

Solar panels are different from solar water heaters. They are used to generate electricity for residential households. Unlike solar water heaters, which have copper lines, the surface of solar panels is lined with solar cells. 

Made of semiconductor materials such as silicon, the solar cells absorb light particles, extracting electrons in the process and leading them to a conductor through which they travel to inverters to generate a free flow of electricity.

If you do not have a solar water heater, you can heat water via the electricity generated by solar PV panels. This option makes them more versatile than solar water heaters. However, unlike the solar thermal system, solar PV panels take up much space on rooftops.  

Still, they provide clean energy that can last up to 50 years. They are highly efficient in the summer and winter to cover your energy requirements.


Go Green

Did you know that adopting green energy is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and the environment safe to live in? 

When you invest in solar thermal and solar PV technologies, you will help the environment, increase your home’s value, and save tons on utility bills. 

In a Nutshell  

Both solar heater systems and solar PV panels are great forms of generating green energy. Choosing between the two depends on your solar energy needs. 

If you are looking to exclusively produce hot water using solar energy, solar thermal technology is a fitting option. If you want to power your home and depend less on fossil fuels to generate electricity, solar PV panels are your best bet.

If you want to know which of these sources of renewable energy you should invest in, please feel free to get in touch with our specialists.