Solar Power Systems

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Solar power systems - PV cells on balconies in Finland

Solar PV cell balconies in Finland

Solar power systems have been on the       market for about quarter of a century! During this time methods have been developed to convert energy from the sun into either hot water for your home or living space heat. There are many solar power systems and combinations of systems to choose from.

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Below are some of the more popular:
This has a number of moving parts to make sure it keeps running under all conditions. This is important for homes that don’t get a lot of sun during some times of the year or that have freezing winters. Without an active system you may lose hot water completely or damage the mechanisms.
The active solar system comes in 2 forms:
This circulatory form simply heats the water in a collector and moves it through your home using a series of pumps.

solar system direct

Direct systems: (A) Passive CHS system with tank above collector. (B) Active system with pump and controller driven by a photovoltaic panel

This circulatory system uses a special coolant that can be transported between the solar collector and a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger will transport the heat to the water for later use.
If you get freezing winters the indirect system using the coolant liquid is essential to avoid the pipes freezing in the collector.

Solar system Indirect active

Indirect active systems: (C) Indirect system with heat exchanger in tank; (D) Drainback system with drainback reservoir. In these schematics the controller and pump are driven by mains electricity


The second type of solar power system is the:

This is a very much simpler system than the active system as it uses conventional plumbing and gravity to move the hot water between the solar collector and the hot water taps (faucets). This is a great system for warm climates.


solar passive batch system


The thermosyphon system can be a good option where freezing temperatures are occasionally experienced. This is the way it works: Cold water rises naturally in the tank as it heats up. It then rises into the collector and runs into a higher pipe that goes to the hot water heater or storage tank. It can be a bit pricey due to the need for new plumbing and installation by a professional.

Thermosyphon solar passive system

Thermosyphon system on rooftop Jerusalem



The photovoltaics are also known as solar cells. They use the power of the sun to generate electricity for use throughout your home. A solar panel is a package of PV cells. The electricity produced by each panel varies from 100 to 320 Watts. This is by far the most expensive solar system as the number of PV cells needed for average household use can be many, not to mention the extras needed like inverters, regulators, cables and connectors and, most of the time, professional installation.


Photovoltaic system

From a solar cells to a PV system Diagram of possible components of a photovoltaic system

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Very simple systems exist which use simple ‘greenhouse’ technology. Everything depends on how much heat you want to generate.
Very simple and inexpensive as it takes advantage of south-facing windows, insulation and sun spaces to gather and retain heat during the day. There are 2 common forms:
This stores the heat from the sunlight through the windows and releases it slowly even after sunset. The disadvantage is that there is no real way to regulate the heat.

solar passive direct gain setup
This utilizes special building materials to insulate your home and hold the heat in. The building materials create a barrier to reduce direct heat in the living space but still maintaining a slow release.

indirect gain setup

Indirect gain setup using special insulating methods


You need to determine how much electricity you use and how much your chosen system will produce. Get averages of yearly sunshine from the national weather agency in your country. Also good to check is whether your local government electricity provider has a setup in place where you could stay on the grid in winter months while in sunny months, when you are using solar energy, you could sell your electricity back to the electricity or gas provider for credit.