Is Solar Hot Water And Solar Electricity/Power The Same Thing?

If you’re looking to cut costs and go green, solar water heating may be the answer. But will it work for you? Let’s see if I can help…

Some customers who have never thought about solar don’t know there is actually a difference in solar power and solar hot water. They just know they have bought this house that has solar panels on the roof. They don’t know if they are for hot water or for power. So how do you tell the difference? 

Easy. It’s very simple. If the sun doesn’t heat up the panels (they are black) then they are for generating electricity. If it does, then they are for generating hot water. There are a few things you should know about this. First, you cannot use any kind of thermal sensor on the inside of your home to determine if the panels are generating hot water or electricity.

About Solar Hot Water

Solar hot water generally will be a flat panel with copper pipes running through it with a glass cover. Your hot water tank will either be on the ground or on the roof-mounted where the tank will be sitting above the panels. The copper pipes go from your panels where the water is being heated up into your tank and then into your house.

The only electricity they have running to them is to the pump to circulate the water if your tank is down on the ground and also power running to the circuit board and thermostat. The tank also will have a booster that turns on when the solar panels aren’t quite doing their job and the water temperature drops.

Usually, a solar hot water system only has 1,2, or three panels for larger systems. Solar hot water systems can also have tubes instead of glass copper pipe-style panels. They still are in the shape of a panel but the glass tubes are exposed. 

Solar hot water systems work by absorbing the sun’s heat and transferring it to a medium such as water. This medium is called the working fluid. Once the sun’s heat is transferred to the working fluid, the working fluid is stored in a large tank that is called the heat bank.

About Solar power panels

We will do a further detailed post on the solar hot water at later date also if interested in learning more about solar hot water or you can give us a call. Solar power panels usually are not as thick and have black with either squares or lines running across depending on the brand.

You’ll also have an inverter somewhere in the house if you have a solar power system which is a box that converts the power generated from the panels on the roof into usable power for your household. There should also be a PV sticker in your meter box showing that you have a solar electricity system at your property. 

If this is not the case, or if you don’t understand what all this means, call your electric company and ask them to show you your bill. Then call SolarCity and tell them you need to speak with a customer service representative about your account. Tell the rep you will call back in x amount of time. Do this immediately! Don’t wait until the end of the month when your electric bill is due. If you do that, it will be too late. The company will have already shut off your power for non-payment.


It may be a good idea to go over your electricity bill to see if you have any solar gain and also check what rates your electricity provider is giving you for your excess power. We will go into this in detail in a further post. Generally, solar hot water and solar power panels are on the same roof space so if you are thinking of going for both it is best to have a plan in place as all the panels will be competing for roof space and the best direction in relation to the sun.

If you do find that you have some solar gain, then there is an easy way to correct this situation. And If you are getting your energy from the grid, all you need to do is get yourself a large enough capacitor to store up the extra energy you are getting during the day. Have you are generating your own electricity, then what you need to do is install another solar panel or two on your roof which will generate even more electricity. Now, let’s say you don’t have solar gain but you want to go solar anyway.

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