Active and Passive Solar Energy – What’s the difference?

When it comes to heating your home, it is important to understand the different types of energy that you can utilize. To boil it down, there are two: Active and Passive energy. Most of the different types of energy fall can be categorized into one or the other of these. For a more detailed explanation, we have covered the following topics:

What is Active Solar Energy?

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When we use the word active, we are referring to the active elements or more moving parts that are involved in creating power. It is the process of heating air or water to generate electricity with the help of photovoltaic panels. These panels are placed in areas where it can gather the most sunlight, most likely your roof, and collect heat to generate electricity.

The easy way to understand this is with an example of a heat pump or a water heater. For instance, let’s take air collectors. They work by heating the hot air that is trapped inside and then blowing this air indoors. Liquid heating is more or less the same. The water collects inside a collector, and then solar energy is used to heat the collected water. Both of these options can be used to heat a home.

Similarly, using active solar energy is to employ external sources of energy to power air blowers, air pumps, etc. The whole idea is to create a system that can collect, store and convert solar energy. It is much more complex than using active solar energy.

Advantages of Active Solar Energy

  • Solar panel technology is getting very advanced as well as efficient.
  • It is highly economical as it uses solar energy for electrical output.
  • The panels require very low-maintenance.
  • It reduces heating bills as well as your carbon footprint.
  • No harm is done to the environment despite using environmental resources.
  • It needs external sources of energy to power it.
  • It is more effective than passive solar energy.

Disadvantages of Active Solar Energy

  • It requires external equipment
  • It does not require operational costs but starting cost can be expensive
  • It might not be aesthetically pleasing.

What is Passive Solar Energy?

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The main idea behind passive solar heating is in the name itself. It involves no moving parts or controls and relies on natural heat absorption. The concept sounds very simple, but there is still quite a bit that goes into bringing this energy to fruition.

The main hurdle with this kind of energy is that it has to be considered during construction itself. If you want your house to retain the solar heat, then certain materials will need to go into the build of the house itself. This will include using materials with high thermal mass. Some materials that can capture heat better include ceramic tiles, stones, bricks, and concrete. These materials are excellent at heat retention, and once night falls, they slowly radiate the stored heat.

This method is highly beneficial in relieving the pressure off your heating system during winters. You will, however, need to ensure that your house is located in an area where it can receive tons of sunlight so that you can get the best out of this system.

Advantages of Passive Solar Energy

  • It is clean energy that reduces your carbon footprint.
  • Using it is much cheaper than using active solar technology.
  • It does not involve any moving parts so it is extremely easy to use.
  • It requires very low maintenance.
  • It reduces utility bills and requires no external power usage.
  • There is no problem with aesthetics.

Disadvantages of Passive Solar Energy

  • The efficiency is lower compared to active solar energy.
  • It needs to be built into the structure itself and cannot be retrofitted into a pre-existing building.
  • It requires adequate sunlight to reach the windows.

Which Type of Solar Energy is Best For Me?

As you may have browsed through the various advantages and disadvantages, you must have developed a good idea regarding what each type of energy offers. With this in mind, choosing which system is more suited to you depends solely on your purpose.

If you live in a relatively warm area and do not require much internal heating, then passive energy is the way to go. However, if you are somebody who needs a more efficient and reliable heating system for your house, then you will need to invest in active solar energy. Keep in mind that passive energy will only work if it is built into the structure.

These days houses are built with a solar design in mind, so there should already be passive heating elements that are working to keep your house warm. Similarly, there is no reason that you have to go for one or the other. You can use both in conjunction to create highly efficient and eco-friendly heating for your house.

Understanding the different types of solar energy allows you to utilize both to the max. Learn about functioning, advantages, disadvantages, and comparisons.