There are four main types of solar panels
Generate electricity to run appliances in the home.
Create heat for hot water, heating and swimming pools.
Produce hot water using a heat pump which runs on electricity.
Hybrid solar panels
Combines solar electricity and solar hot water in the same system.
Solar electricity panels are also known as solar photovoltaic, solar PV or simply “solar panels”.
These panels generate electricity that can be used in your home. If the electricity is not used, it is automatically sent to the grid. The electricity can be stored in batteries or in hot water cylinders (using an immersion heater).
Solar hot water
Solar hot water systems, also known as solar thermal panels, use solar panels to convert the sun’s energy into hot water. They offer a virtually carbon free solution to generating solar hot water.
This technology has very limited government support. Therefore, they are generally only used for very small roofs, for swimming pools, for environmental reasons, or as a cost effective way to meet building control and planning conditions.
Thermodynamic panels use the heat from solar panels. This heat is then increased in temperature using a heat pump running on electricity.
They are also known as solar assisted heat pumps as they use the sun’s energy as an initial source of heat and then use a heat pump. Independent research has shown that these systems are not a cost effective or environmental solution to heat hot water or for heating. However, it will be interesting to see how this technology develops.
Hybrid solar panels
These are a combined solar electricity and solar hot water system. They are not the same as hybrid solar electricity systems.
Solar electricity panels become less efficient when they increase in temperature. Therefore this system was designed to reduce the temperature of the solar electricity panels by taking the heat away for use in a solar thermal system that is integrated into the same panel. A separate PV and thermal system is probably a better idea.
The term hybrid is also used in the following cases:
Hybrid batteries – refers to a solar system being linked to the grid and also to batteries.
Hybrid panels – solar panels that use technologies in the same panel. For example, the Panasonic HIT panels include mono crystalline and thin film technologies.