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The differences between solar PV, Solar Thermal and PVT?

Solar PV

Okay, let’s start with solar PV, as this is the most common of the three seen in the UK today. These are the types of solar panels that you are likely to see in every town and city in the country, attached to the slopes of roofs. In a nutshell, they use the natural light found during the day to generate electricity, which is then available for a household to use – essentially, they mean that households are able to create free electricity.

One extra advantage to Solar PV panels is that they can actually make a home money. This is because it is often the case that solar PV panels generate more electricity than a home actually needs, therefore meaning that this excess can be fed back into the National Grid. The homeowner will then receive a nice sum of money thanks to the feed-in tariff overseen by the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Solar Thermal

Solar thermal is not as common around the UK as solar PV, although it is seen occasionally around the country. These types of panels use the sunlight to heat water, unlike the solar PV panels, which create electricity instead. This means that, instead of making savings on electricity, a household with solar thermal panels will make savings on their heating bill instead. This means that, in the right circumstances, a homeowner can choose between the two and still make substantial savings on their outgoings.

“In the right circumstances” is an important phrase though, as many houses in the UK simply don’t have the ability to use solar thermal panels. This is because they require direct sunlight (unlike PV which can work on a cloudy day) – meaning that north facing roofs are not suitable for them. This explains why they are so popular around the Mediterranean region; a region that gets a huge amount of sunshine every year.


The final one to look at is PVT, and these are a combination of solar PV panels and solar thermal panels. They work by having the PV panel at the top, but then underneath they also incorporate a solar thermal panel as well. This means that they get the best of both worlds and, providing they are positioned correctly, they will generate both hot water and electricity for the home. They are slightly more expensive, but this is made up for by the fact that they can save more money in the long run.


Author: Adrienne Harries

This article was published by Adrienne Harries on 04.04.2016.