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How Does Solar Energy Work

So how does Solar Energy work?

Many people are familiar with solar energy applications, such as solar panels, portable generators powered by sun, water heaters charged by sun or solar furnaces, but only few of them actually wonder how solar energy works and what is the technology that makes it possible for these equipments to turn sun rays into electricity.

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And although this question seems pretty simple at first sight, understanding how solar power works involves complex and serious knowledge of physics and chemistry. Moreover, the answer depends on the purpose for which solar energy is used - heating or electricity production.

How Does Solar Energy Work in Passive Water Heaters?

Before answering to this question, let's take a look at the basic structure of water or air heater powered by sunlight. Whether we talk about passive or active heating, the system must include some panels or pipes made of special materials and destined to capture the sun rays.

Most of the times, for water heating people use passive solar energy, because it is more reliable for this purpose. The system includes the interconnected tubes or pipes which are named solar collectors and a water tank.

These solar collectors are mounted on the roof of the building that needs to be turned into a solar efficient one. During daytime, sunrays warm up the tubes and as a consequence, the water that passes through them.

All the water within the tank is passed or circulated through these collectors by a pump, so all the liquid inside the tank is heated each day. The only problem with this passive system is that it usually fails in keeping the water warm during nighttime as well.

So how does solar energy work in passive heating systems? The water is directly heated by sunlight when it passes through the solar collectors exposed to the sun during daytime. Now let's go on and see what happens in case of air heating systems!

How Does Solar Energy Work in Passive Air Heating?

Things are a little different when it comes to passive air heating. In this situation, the solar system must be placed in an area that faces the sun most of the time, for proper and long lasting results.

Passive air heating devices don't require solar collectors shaped as tubes or pipes, but windows made of a special type of glass or even regular glass. Also, passive air heating may be done through solar curtains. So let's analyze each of these equipments and see how they work.

Solar heating through windows is used ever since Antiquity! It only involves placing the windows or some solar skylights in the part of the house or building that is more exposed to sunlight during daytime.

As sunrays pass through these windows the air inside the house is heated and kept warm for a pretty long time. In the second case, some special tubes named skylights are placed on the roof of the building; thanks to some built-in mirrors placed at certain angles, they reflect solar light and pass it inside the rooms.

Although this light is mainly used for illuminating, a part of it also manages to heat the indoor air, but the results are less impressive than in case of solar heating through windows. So assuming we managed to show you how does solar energy work in passive systems, we'll go on and see what happens in case of active solar equipments.

How Does Solar Energy Work in Photovoltaic Systems?

Active solar systems usually use photovoltaic cells or panels, as they require a more complex technology for converting sunrays into electrical current for regular use. These photovoltaic panels can be used for powering any electronic appliance, to charge car batteries, to run water filters and pumps and in many other applications!

Each photovoltaic or solar cell is made of a special material - silicon most of the times, which allows the cell to capture sunlight. Once solar rays reach the surface of these cells, they become excited and an electron movement is generated inside them.

This continuous movement and transmission of electrical charges from one point to another inside the cell leads to the form of electricity known as direct current. But this is used only by a few appliances therefore it needs to be converted into a more usable form.

For this purpose, photovoltaic cells are usually connected to some power inverters or converters which have the ability of turning DC power into AC or alternative current, the form of electricity required by most household equipments.

How does solar energy work in this case? Besides the photovoltaic panels, the system requires a battery which, depending on the producer, may have a variable storage capacity. This battery is the component that actually stores the electricity produced by the panels and makes it available when the system is activated.

The larger the panel is, the more sunlight it captures therefore the more electricity it produces. And this is an aspect that should be considered seriously by anyone who intents to install photovoltaic panels on the home's roof.

So let's conclude and give the final answer to this question: how does solar energy work in photovoltaic systems? Sunlight is captured by silicon cells, is turned into electrical current which is then converted into alternative power by an inverted.

The energy is stored and supplied from a rechargeable battery and the system may also include filters, pumps or other features, depending on the purpose for which it is installed and used.

Now you're familiar with passive and active sun powered systems and you surely have an idea on how does solar energy work in water or air heaters and photovoltaic equipments.

But besides the technique that allows these devices to turn sun rays into electricity or heat, the advantages of solar equipments are also very important to know before deciding to purchase such a system.

So we can affirm that someone who's interested in turning his house into an energy efficient one by using sun powered equipments should understand not only how does solar energy work but also which are the pluses and the drawbacks of this technology!

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