What’s The Difference Between Solar PV Panels and Solar Thermal Panels?

What’s The Difference Between Solar PV Panels and Solar Thermal Panels?

Last updated on June 4, 2024

The renewable energy market has recently shifted from a growing industry slowly gaining traction into a mature full-blown industry standing on its own. 

Solar energy is one of  the main green alternative energy sources that have successfully been harnessed. Others include wind, waves, and tidal production systems.

Direct solar energy that reaches the earth’s surface is harnessed in two ways namely: solar photovoltaics (solar PV) and solar thermal systems.

Understanding the differences between these two solar energy-harvesting techniques and the surrounding factors is essential to help you decide  which system to adopt for your home or work.

What’s the difference between solar PV panels and solar thermal panels?

solar thermal panel vs solar pv panels

The main difference between the two systems is how they work.

Solar PV uses photovoltaic technology to capture the sun’s rays which it then converts to electricity.  Solar thermal systems harness sunlight that is used to heat water or other fluids.

Solar thermal is used mainly for water heating where panels harness heat from the sunlight to heat  the liquid in tubes,which is then transferred into cylinders.

Solar thermal panels


  • They are more efficient in collecting solar rays when compared to solar PV and  it is estimated that they can achieve up to 70% efficiency.
  • Solar thermal technology is relatively simple compared to solar PV which makes it easier to use.
  • For water heating needs, solar thermal panels are a great solution.
  • Considered in an investment and business context, solar thermal panels are a great value for money. They have an estimated average cost of $3903.
solar thermal panel system


  • They are not as effective in low sunlight, for instance during  winter, although this can be combated by using thermodynamic panels.
  • Compared to solar PV panels, the solar thermal panels are less versatile and have shorter lifespans.
  • It is also quite difficult to find a good supplier of solar thermal panels.

Solar PV panels

This system is typically an improvement on thermal solar systems. It is also available in a variety of panel sizes and types which allows for greater choice based on needs and budget. Sunlight that is harnessed is transformed into electricity that is readily available for use.

Why solar PV panels?

  • They have a longer operating life which means you are guaranteed clean energy for at least 30 years.
  • They are efficient and provide sufficient energy to meet most of the household demands. This is especially true during  the summer when there is plenty of sunshine.
  • Solar PV panels energy production is sufficient to meet high energy demands for appliances like dryers or refrigerators.
  • Solar PV panels are widely available on the market for people to research and buy them. Furthermore, it is possible to get free solar pv panels for installation without incurring any costs.
Solar PV panels


  • They are quite costly especially at the initial stages of acquisition. In the United States, the average cost of a solar PV panel is $16,000.
  • They use more space compared to solar thermal panels.


Both solar thermal panel and solar PV panel systems are great sources of green energy and the choice between them should be based on needs and circumstances, including a combination of one or more of the following factors: the availability of the technology, the amount of energy the house consumes, the energy needs of the house, and the budget available for investment. 

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E-Green Electrical

E-Green Electrical is a top tier energy efficiency company based in Sydney. We focus on utilising government rebates to help reduce our clients energy consumption by installing energy efficient solutions. E-Green boasts a rich heritage within the realm of energy efficiency, consistently staying up to date with cutting-edge technologies to deliver optimal results for our valued customers.

We don't just sell products and services; we also provides tips and information on how to help reduce energy consumption. We believe in using energy wisely and teaching others how to do the same. For E-Green, it’s important to share knowledge with the community. That's why we regularly write articles about saving energy, new government rebates available and increasing sustainability.

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