Photovoltaic solar panels generate electricity using direct sunlight, the sun’s rays called photons.

On the other hand, solar thermal panels transform sunlight into heat to produce hot water and heating for homes and this is achieved at low cost.



In case you still did not know, not all panels are the same, much less do the same. There are many who call our phone every day asking for information about solar panels and they go blank when we ask them what the solar panel in question is for.

Oh! Can that also be done with a solar panel? How many types of solar panels exist then?

Yes, indeed, “that” can also be done with a solar panel. And yes, indeed,  not all solar panels do the same . Electricity, domestic hot water (DHW), … Depending on what the panel can produce, the name it has is one or the other.

To this day, generally,  there are 3 TYPE OF SOLAR PANELS:

  • Photovoltaic solar panels
  • Thermal solar panels
  • Hybrid solar panels (photovoltaic + thermal)

Next we will explain to you briefly and in a simple way what each of them consists of and what it is with each one of them that can be done:

Photovoltaic solar panel

The first type of panel we are going to talk about is the  photovoltaic solar panel ; the person in charge of transforming the  energy coming from the sun into electricity directly .

And yes, also this type of panel is the one that was subject to the so-called sun tax and on which all the controversy about the legislation in this regard revolved. 

With a growing reduction, photovoltaic modules are presented as a great clean alternative to generate electricity (or part of it) in our homes, hospitals, shops, schools, etc.

Photovoltaic solar panel

In general, this type of panels are composed of silicon photovoltaic cells (with symbol Si, if among our readers there is a chemical), through a process called photoelectric effect, they can  transform light energy into electrical energy.

In a simple and summarized way, this process occurs when photons (one of “the particles that make up” light) impact on the solar panel, specifically, against the silicon of which it is composed.

Upon impact, the photons bombard the silicon atoms, breaking the electrons and releasing some of them that will generate the electric current. (The process is much more complex than this, but for beginners, this explanation is more than enough to understand how it works).

Similarly, within the photovoltaic solar panels there are several types, depending on how the photovoltaic cells are composed. The explanation of each of them will come in later articles; for obvious reasons, understanding the operation and specifications of each type ceases to be the subject of «dummies». Also, to introduce them and that you do not remain with the doubt, to day of today, the most common photovoltaic solar panels are:

  • Monocrystalline  (silicon)
  • Polycrystalline  (silicon)
  • Others not composed of silicon  as Thin Film or Organic.

Read about which solar panel choose poly or monkey ?

Thermal solar panel

The second type of solar panel with which we can find, is the  solar thermal panel  (also called  solar collector ). This panel allows the  transformation of the energy coming from the sun into thermal energy, that is, in heat.

Regardless of whether they are used domestically or on an industrial level, thermal panels have  multiple uses,  such as the air conditioning of swimming pools, the preparation of water for sanitary use (ACS = hot sanitary water), the creation of steam, etc.

As expected, solar collectors also exist in different types, although we can group them into three large groups:

  • Low temperature  collector or flat solar collector not protected. Reaching up to a maximum of 50ºC, this type of panels are used mainly for heating and for domestic hot water systems.
  • Medium temperature collector . These collectors are, basically, the same as the previous ones but incorporating a transparent cover that avoids the heat loss of the panel. Thanks to this cover, the panel can reach up to 90ºC.
  • High temperature collector.  By adding another cover between the previous one and the converter (a key element in the thermal panel), a vacuum is generated between the two covers, so that, likewise, the temperature can reach up to 150ºC. They are generally used to produce steam capable of moving turbines that allow electrical generation.

Beyond this distinction, depending on the components that form the thermal panel, we can make new divisions of them (flat solar collector, vacuum tube panel, …), but also, we leave for later. Explain how they are trained and, above all, how they work, it is too big to be explained in this first article of “Solar energy for dummies”.

Hybrid solar panel

Finally, the third panel we want to talk about in this article is the result of crossing the concepts that define the two previous panels; The  hybrid solar panel  is nothing more than a mixture of a photovoltaic panel with a thermal one. With the two technologies combined in a single panel, this type of technology  allows to produce electricity and heat simultaneously.

While it is true that it is still a type of solar panel unknown to many, the  evolution they have had in recent years has been very positive  given the advantages they have compared to photovoltaic and thermal panels separately.

The main advantage that these panels present is the  reduction of the space necessary  to take advantage of solar energy; As it is obvious, assembling two panels in only one, makes the space where to place the panels is half. Therefore, this type of panels is presented as the perfect alternative for all those places where, in addition to demanding sanitary hot water, the space on deck is reduced, such as a hotel, a heated pool or a residence among others.

If you want to get even more information about these innovative solar panels, in this  link on hybrid solar panels you will  find an extensive article dedicated exclusively to them.

Although we are still few manufacturers of this type of panels, the increase in the number of companies specializing in solar energy that are beginning to bet on development is increasing; to date,  in Spain there is only one company dedicated to this type of panel with more than one model developed and marketed under the ECOMESH brand  . And if … it’s us and that’s our brand.


Therefore, although the existing panels are many, depending on what they allow us to achieve, we must differentiate between 3: photovoltaic, thermal or hybrid.

With this we conclude our first article in the series «Solar energy for beginners». Knowing already the panels available in the market,  for the second episode we have prepared a new article about the legislation and the so-called “sun tax” ; There are many beliefs and false rumors about it that, in one way or another, must be cut.


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